January 14, 2011 § 5 Comments

I must look like someone who wants to hear everyone’s deepest feelings and issues. Virtual strangers open up to me on a fairly regular basis about things that I don’t feel qualified (or any desire) to know.

There is a woman who works on the same floor as I do, for a different company. We see each other in the halls and the bathrooms, we have exchanged names and greetings and even once walked down the block together making small talk when we left the office at the same time. She seems like a very nice woman & I would pause to say hello if I saw her on the street, but we are not friends.

Last year she began treatment for breast cancer. I discovered this very recently, as she decided to confide in me about her treatment, prognosis, her experience having a partial mastectomy the same week that she buried her father. She’s had a hell of a year, to say the least. When she sees me in the hall she comes over to whisper all the newest developments to me, developments that I really have no business knowing. It must give her comfort to talk with me about it, but it is incredibly hard for me to assume that role; not knowing her on any level beyond the completely superficial, I don’t feel like I can offer much. I listen and I try to hide my discomfort in the listener role, but aside from that my hands feel tied. On an admittedly selfish level, it’s a heavy burden to carry on behalf of (basically) a total stranger.

I saw her this morning as I walked out of my office. Her back was turned, and before I knew what I was doing I had started running behind a wall to wait for her to go into her office so I didn’t get cornered. Before I made it all the way I caught myself and started walking the way I was headed, ashamed of myself for having had that reaction. Really, though, I have no idea how to handle the situation. What would you do?


§ 5 Responses to Oversharing

  • Holly Roberts says:

    Glad I’m not alone… I am full of little secrets.

    But in all seriousness, this woman obviously NEEDS someone to confide in. When we’re overburdened with stress in life, we want to talk about it, and we desperately need someone to listen. She may not have anyone else to listen to her. Sometimes, it seems like a horrible burden and yeah, it’s probably a bit inappropriate to confide such things to almost a virtual stranger, but… if you’re offering her some way to relieve her anxiety, you’ll be paid back in spades. Really.

    I speak from experience. I spent 8 years in Seattle volunteering at an AIDS Hospice. People in dire times need consistency (someone they see on a consistent basis) and they need someone to listen to them. That’s it. :o)

  • anonomouse says:

    just listen. that’s all she wants. cancer is hard.

    someday when/if you’re sick or have some issue, it’ll help to just talk about it. and you’ll be dosing the same thing.

  • EB says:

    I suppose it’s nice to have someone far removed from your life to listen to you, like a therapist, because you don’t really care about maintaining normal interaction with a person you’re not at all close to anyway. Forced intimacy just makes me really uncomfortable.

  • Undeniably believe that which you said. Your favorite reason seemed to be on the web the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get irked while people think about worries that they just do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people can take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

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