There are many reasons people choose to not share personal information, feelings and stories with others. We all control what we share to varying degrees. Things like the nature of the relationship usually impact that. For example, you may share more with a loved one than a co-worker. Although there are valid reasons to not share, sharing is important. It is one of the bases of connection, of forming important relationships.
Unfortunately what I sometimes see are people that choose to not share in their most important relationships. And those relationships suffer because of it. When one person is looking to connect through sharing and the other person doesn’t share, that can make the first person feel rejected. That can often have disastrous results.
Ironically, often the person not sharing is doing so with the best of intentions. How can that be? It is because they misunderstand sharing…they confuse it with dumping. You’ve probably known a “dumper”. When you talk to them on the phone or meet them for coffee all they do is tell you about all the things that have gone wrong, how their life is so terrible or how others mistreat them so badly. There isn’t room for you to say much, if anything. And there is only once acceptable response from you. You are supposed to agree with them about how bad they have it. You are supposed to console them. But you are never to suggest that it may not be as bad as they say or that someone else may have it bad as well.
Recognize someone like that? That person isn’t sharing, they are dumping. Sharing is when you let a person into your life by telling them about it…the good, the bad, the ugly. Dumping is when you shove all of your bad stuff onto someone whether they want it or not. Sharing is inviting, dumping is a forced unloading. Sharing is about getting help with burdens, dumping is about trying to make someone else carry your burdens.
For some people distinguishing sharing from dumping is confusing. This confusion can come from having grown up with a dumper. This dumper, maybe a family member, spent their time pushing all of their burdens onto everyone else. And it was seldom, if ever, the good stuff. It was all of the bad things, the hard things, the challenging things. It wasn’t an invitation to connect, it was a mandate to take on the burden. And they probably left little room for anyone else to share or dump. Everyone was just a receptacle for the dumper’s troubles. The result is that the person doesn’t get to experience learn about sharing.
Given this perspective, this lack of exposure to, this lack of understanding of sharing, it is no wonder that a person would want to avoid “sharing”. The only thing they know is dumping and why would they want to do that to someone they cared about? They wouldn’t, so they don’t. Unable to distinguish sharing from dumping they do what seems like the caring, responsible thing. They don’t talk…at least not about anything meaningful. And certainly not about things like hard emotions or difficult issues. This means they miss out on an important part of inviting someone important into their life, of building connection.
But that is exactly what is needed. Learning to share those issues and topics will build deep, meaningful connection. It allows us to feel safe with people that care about us because we learn that those people handle us with care and love and concern. It magnifies the joy and happiness when there is someone there to experience it with us. It helps lighten the burden of difficult emotions or experiences when someone can help us lift them. And the key is “help lift” not “take them from” us.
If someone important to you has been asking you to share, maybe it is time to try. You can even ask for their help. If you aren’t used to sharing, tell them so. Ask them to guide you. and ask them to be gentle. Pick something…anything really. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be everything. Just one little piece of you to share. Try it. See if you don’t feel just a little bit closer.