Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In Social Situations, Avoid Putting This Sock in Your Mouth

Social situations are ripe with the possibility of crossing all sorts of boundaries and getting inappropriate in a multitude of ways. As adults, the hope is that we have dealt with a lot of our issues and have learned how to respect one another. Some social situations can get a little provocative, particularly ones that involve political debate, opinions about how to raise children, and other sensitive subjects.

Everyone saw the passion engendered across America in the last presidential election. Politics is something many people feel strongly about, and this is one of the reasons why Human Resources divisions always recommend that employees not discuss politics with their coworkers. However, politics is just one of the issues that can boil someone’s blood and cause things to get a little personal.

In social situations in which you’re discussing something you feel strongly about, you may recall a time or two when you or someone else has divulged someone else's personal information that went a step too far. Often when two people are close and they trust one another, one may share extremely private details about his or her past with the hope that this information will be closely guarded and respected as confidential. When the two of you find yourselves in a larger group discussing a topic that gets a little heated, make an extra effort to remember what information is confidential.

You may be able to think of a time when you were in a group setting and someone shared some information about another person present, and that other person felt uncomfortable with that information being shared. No matter how personal a discussion may be or how heated a debate may get, always respect that person’s privacy and let that person be the dispenser of that information.

One of the situations that can particularly provoke the tendency to share someone’s private information is in a situation in which he or she makes an argument that another person knows confidential information that contradicts his or her argument. In this type of discussion when things get personal, the discussion often turns to a battle in which someone wants to emerge as the winner. In such situations, resist all attempts to emerge as the winner and respect the privacy of those around you. While a friend may have shared something with you in private, that friend may have no interest in sharing such information with a larger group. This is a tricky but important life lesson – one that we must all learn in on order to socialize with each other respectfully and peaceably.

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