The Hard Facts: You Talk Too Much

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?

10 Comments

Filed under The Hard Facts

10 responses to “The Hard Facts: You Talk Too Much

  1. hb

    ” …focus on problem-solving, rather than on problem-dwelling.” That is interesting. Everything you read about the differences in male and female communication says that women need to talk about feelings and problems and men want to fix things. They always say that men need to understand that women don’t want everything fixed, just to express their feelings. This seems to imply that women should move more into the male model.

  2. pamela

    Isn’t problem analyzing an innate female quality b/c we are scientifically the emotional gender? I can understand how dwelling can (and has been for me) an issue but maybe there’s a way to decipher when enough is enough instead of cutting the dwelling process out altogether?

  3. reminds me of a joke sent to me by a man last week:

    JOKE OF THE YEAR

    Two women were sitting quietly together, minding their own business.

    Love your blog!

  4. Fanfan

    I feel lucky after I read about your fights with your hubby. My bf doesn’t mind me obssessing with my problems. He likes working out and I like talking, so basically we talk on the treadmill and got each other’s need met. However, we’ve only been dating for one year. Maybe things will change once he becomes my husband.

    I don’t believe in a lot of these researches since I have studied tons of researches in college. One of my professors who is a leading neuroscientist said it was not true that women talk more than men according to the latest researches. At the same time, there are tons of researches are done based on the fact that women talk more than men. Can we talk those researches too serious? I don’t know.

  5. I do think men sometimes don’t even LISTEN to the problem before they start trying to “fix” it. I guess the answer is probably somewhere in between, eh?

  6. I want a friendship to revolve around ideas and good conversation. I rarely am interested in talking about other people. There are times that I want to vent, but I usually direct those vent sessions to my husband. I know it will stay in his vault. He also reminds me that what I am focused is so unimportant that it really doesn’t even need to be discussed. Most of the time he is right.

    I am a little skeptical about women keeping secrets especially when it is about another women. I’ve seen people get hurt over it, so I will take friendship minus all of the gossip.

  7. Suzannah

    I am in the same position. I am looking for a bff to share, on a very candid level…over coffee or margaritas….I have many close friendships but I feel if you share too much with just a “close friend” that you risk pushing the person away…bbf venting is a different sort of conversation altogether….you know some of the things you maybe feeling are irrational but Hell you just got to express…..
    But I have had ladies express to me, a certain friend has drain them….and made them choose to distance themselves….
    As ladies, we are strong believers that listening means you care….so that makes it Damn near impossible to tell a girlfriend ” enough already!”..
    Rachel, another great post:-)…..

  8. I have realized something about myself over the last several years…I am usually the one listening to others (I’m a very good listener), but rarely do much of the talking in detail. I guess I always wonder if the other person is really interested. Other people’s stories always seem more interesting than mine…and I feel important to be the one chosen to listen to them.

  9. Research Shmeesearch. If it weren’t for my two bffs I talk to at least once a week (who sadly each live/work about an hour away), sharing stories about how stupid our husbands/boyfriends or other peoples husbands/boyfriends are…I would not survive. They know I love my husband and wouldn’t trade him for the world, same with them. And we know these stories will never be shared with anyone else. But who else are they going to b*tch to when their hubs blatantly lies about heating up the nacho cheese in microwave using their brand spanking new wedding gift fancy everydayware after being told not to?

    On a more serious note, as a 14 year survivor of sexual assault, I feel empowered every time I tell my story to a new person. The more I talk about bad stuff that’s happened to me, whether serious or the more mundane nacho cheese variety, the better I feel. I know a lot of women that feel that way too.

    Supposedly, I read some “research” somewhere that said that’s why women live longer than men…they hold everything in and we let everything out. :)

  10. I have an ex who told me once that I shouldn’t ever vent to him without finishing my vent with “and here’s how I’m going to solve it.” It was always a big sore point with us because I’m one of those people who needs to talk about my problems and stress a lot — that’s how I think through and work out problems. And sometimes there isn’t always a ready solution! Fortunately, my current boy is fine with me venting, and he knows he can do the same for me.

    As for women friends… I think it’s the mark of a strong friendship when I feel comfortable venting about problems. Usually when I’m with potential new friends I try very hard to stay positive so they don’t think I’m a whiner. If I can talk through problems with someone, though, that means I feel comfortable enough to let my guard down, which is important for strengthening friendships.

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