It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“Female friendships and girl talk, particularly among adolescents, has drawn growing interest from psychologists and researchers examining the question of how much talking is too much talking. Some studies have found that excessive talking about problems can contribute to emotional difficulties, including anxiety and depression. The term researchers use is ‘co-rumination’ to describe frequently or obsessively discussing the same problem. … And, psychologists say, it has intensified significantly with email, text messaging and Facebook.” (“Girl Talk Has Its Limits”, New York Times, 9/10/2008)
Matt is going to love this. Finally, science to back him up when he begs me to stop obsessing about the subtext of a friend’s email or the stress of looming deadlines. He’s plenty supportive the first time, maybe even the second, but he can’t stand to talk things to death. I might hypothesize that the majority of our fights have included the phrases, “I can’t keep repeating myself” and “You’re my husband, you’re supposed to listen and let me talk through things.”
When it comes to overanalyzing, I am classic girl. I could—and do—dissect my personal dilemmas with anyone who will listen. I want to get everyone’s input, but also to voice my thoughts aloud, again and again, in hopes that a new solution might spout from my brain via my mouth.
One of the primary reasons I want to find a new local BFF is to have a sounding board for some hard-core girl talk. It’s better for my marriage, and my sanity, to have a lady-friend to listen to me vent. Also, she can unload her baggage on me. As much as I enjoy scrutinizing my issues, I equally adore evaluating a friend’s. Turns out, though, that time with my new BFF could be better spent. Too much analysis will only lead to more emotional angst. Like when friends get together to complain about work or a mutual friend who’s getting on their nerves. When the bitchfest is over, you rarely feel better, just reinvigorated with whichever negative emotion you had to begin with. But there’s a better way! “With co-rumination, psychologists studying it say, one way for parents, and friends, to avoid the negative consequences is to focus on problem-solving, rather than on problem-dwelling.” In other words, instead of complaining to a friend about deadlines, I should be asking her advice on how to realistically meet them.
One important point: This research does not mean you should stop opening up to pals. “The research distinguished between sharing or ‘self-disclosure,’ which is associated with positive friendships and positive feelings, and dwelling on problems, concerns, and frustrations.” Telling secrets? Yes. Never shutting up about how much you can’t stand an in-law? Probably not.
Do you feel better or worse when you have a venting session with a friend?