Aug 202013

The flip side of trying to find out what life feels like to another person is to facilitate that other person’s understanding what life feels like to you. Part of the value of self-awareness is to be able to describe our perspective to someone else.

The tension I struggle with is how to give the right amount of information about myself. Too little and we risk misunderstanding; too much and I risk both overloading the other person and feeling exposed. I’ve talked before about how I used to feel compelled to regurgitate the accumulated traumas and shame I carried around with me all over anyone who stood still long enough (see Judicious use of self-disclosure). This was not the way to go and I have since over-compensated by becoming very cagey about my private life until I get to know someone pretty well.

I feel I have over-compensated because it doesn’t feel natural. I’m a naturally open person but I’ve regretted opening up to people so often over the years that it feels safer to err on the side of caginess. Well, it is safer. Safe isn’t always the best or most important thing a course of action can be but for the moment, at least, it suits me. And if you have a tendency to feel over-exposed, I recommend you train yourself to be more circumspect about baring your soul to people you don’t know well enough.

But the point I want to make today is that once you do get to know someone well enough, if you want to have a fulfilling relationship with them – of whatever type – it will help a lot if you can give that person the information they need to be able to understand you. This, of course, is a huge and ongoing task and its success depends also upon the other person’s willingness to listen and capacity to comprehend, but in the same way as you need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, you have to be prepared to lend your shoes for them to try on if they’re going to get a sense of how you see the world.

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