Building rapport is important for communication. Starting a conversation with small talk surfaces commonalities that exist. Finding commonalities gives people a better ground upon which to communicate. But, as of late the trend has gone to the extreme. There is an epidemic of oversharing.
Bloomberg BusinessWeek article “Enough with the Enemas: Why People Overshare at Work” lists many examples, from enemas, to third nipples, to men’s sizes. Two reasons for oversharing are suggested. The first is lack of privacy filters, when people share too much with everyone; the second is a false sense of intimacy, when people feel they are closer to co-workers than they actually are.
“Thank You for Sharing. But Why at the Office?” in the New York Times blames the trend on the continuation of online behavior. People share so much on social sites that they get in the habit of sharing personal information that others may not want to hear.
Since younger generations have grown up sharing on social media, it may be harder to learn the skill of office small talk without TMI (too much information). In a blog for Community College Transfer Students, career management specialist Carol Sand acknowledges that “Knowing where to draw the line is a learned skill that sometimes has to be learned the hard way.”
The New York Times article gives practical advice worth passing along, suggesting questions you should ask yourself before you share in the workplace. I am passing along three key questions:
Who’s listening to me (a boss, a client, a colleague or a friend)?
Why am I sharing this? What is the point?
Does what I am sharing benefit my career or the quality of my relationships?
As soon as you ask these questions, you become aware of your communication intentions and can adjust your behavior. Being mindful of your communication is the basis for a good interchange. If you know your audience and your purpose and adjust your message accordingly, you are communicating effectively.
So share, but share mindfully.