Do you give TMI on First Dates?

by | Aug 23, 2012

Too much information can put you at risk—or make a bad impression

Are you providing detailed, personal, even intimate information on every topic that comes up on your first dates with a new person? If so, you might be sending the wrong signals. Some people will feel uncomfortable hearing these details and wonder why you feel compelled to offer them to a person who is still essentially a stranger. And you could put yourself at risk by offering information that could lead to nuisance or even more uncomfortable behavior from the other party when the dating process does not go well.

Yet some people do talk too much about their personal lives early in the dating process and without a reasonable context. Here are some common motivations for this behavior:

  • Neediness. Emotional yearning for something good to happen in your life can compel you to reveal too much too quickly. The thought of not getting what you are hoping for can keep the words and the inappropriate details flowing like water from a faucet. Be aware of an important truth: Few things worth having come quickly. And keep in mind: It\’s a better strategy to leave your date wanting to know more about you and thinking of spending more time with you. So be in the moment on a date, have fun, let your personality and interests shine through—but there is no need to reveal the more personal details of your life.
  • Unclear boundaries. Did you grow up in a family where personalities, wishes, personal space, and opinions were not respected? A family in which you were not recognized as a distinct person, but one who was constantly asked to think like someone else—your parents or siblings, for example? When unclear boundaries between people are ingrained from childhood, one expression of that is to dump your intimate details onto someone else as if they were requesting the information. In fact, among the kind of people you want to associate with, few people want to hear those details without knowing you better and without an appropriate context for such a conversation.
  • Anxiety. Anxiety can lead to nervous, thoughtless talking, which in turn can lead to revealing too much personal detail before it\’s appropriate. The first step in taking control of anxiety is to be aware of it. If you are in therapy for anxiety, work to develop a strategy that helps you relate to people more comfortably. Effective strategies include a greater focus on listening instead of talking compulsively; sticking to topics that are fun and relaxing for you; setting up your dates in advance to be shorter; including a physical activity, such as a walk in a safe area, with people around; or silently reciting a “mantra” every so often, such as “keep it in the moment.” And don\’t forget, there may be some personal facts, such as where you went to college, that are appropriate to relate. But let your date ask questions about those and keep your answers short on the background questions. Stick to here-and-now and fun topics, such as current events, movies, books, art, sports, and other topics that can sustain a conversation and provide opportunities to voice opinions and reveal personality. Look for opportunities to share humor, to break the ice, and to be relaxed together,
  • Depression. The dark cloud of depression can undermine judgment. It\’s one thing to talk about personal issues with a tried and true friend, a trusted family member, or a counselor. It\’s another to dump your stuff on a stranger. Ironically, if you are in counseling or therapy for depression, TMI can be a side effect of that process. While therapy often makes a positive difference in a person\’s life, the process can feel new and all-absorbing, especially the one-on-one talking. Some people seeing a counselor or therapist can take the process out beyond the therapy room and begin to treat others, from old friends to new acquaintances, as confidantes, much like their therapist. If you notice this going on, alert your counselor and make that a point for you two to work on. I am sensitive to that process and can help you develop strategies for relating to others appropriately at the same time as we address the depression.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you might start exploring two new strategies to help you relate more effectively:

  • Analyze your motivations. Start with some of the more common motivations I referred to above, but look for others. What elements in your childhood and teenage development are relevant to this behavior? Is there something in your recent life that has prompted the inappropriate talking?
  • Seek help. If you are having the kind trouble relating to people described here, look for help in addressing the issue in more depth and developing strategies that can last a lifetime—and begin improving your life in the short term. My Orange Count counseling service offers counseling and talk therapy in the areas of relationships, anxiety, and depression, among other areas.

One of our first interpersonal defenses is privacy, when appropriate. I recommend that you only let people across the drawbridge and into your castle when they have identified themselves clearly and you know for certain that they are friends, not foes. Be aware on dates that you have every right to withhold information about yourself, even when you are asked for it. “Sorry, but I don\’t feel comfortable revealing that,” is a completely legitimate reply that can win you respect. You may be with someone who has asked an inappropriate question in a thoughtless moment. Your firm answer may earn you admiration for clear boundaries and strength of personality. In fact, if you get an argument over that answer, you have valuable information on whether to continue dating the person.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.  If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.  You can reach her here:


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