Do You Reveal More To Strangers Than Friends?

Do you ever find it easier to talk to strangers than to friends?

I’m not talking about therapists. Just strangers.

As you know, I spend a lot of my working hours at a coffee shop. I like being something of a fly on the wall there. I often overhear long heart-to-heart talks between friends, (it’s overhearing, not eavesdropping. I swear. Usually) but just as often I’ll catch a snippet of a chat between strangers. These two people will be meeting for the first time, but their chatter can sometimes get personal really quickly.

The other day a woman next to me was talking (loudly, which is why I have all this information) about coming out, and being a devout catholic, and how her parents think her religiousness is a passing phase. She says otherwise, and was telling her coffee companion about her unique role in both the church groups and the gay rights groups of which she is a member.

The conversation went on, and the woman continued to open up more and more. It seemed obvious to me, given her volume as she revealed all this in a public place, that this woman wasn’t especially private. But it struck me that she seemed to be giving this new friend a lot of information about herself. Information that someone might not as easily share with close friends who are entrenched in her life.

I’m a talker. (Surprise!) When something is on my mind, it’s hard for me to keep it to myself. Even if I want to. I process my thoughts by speaking them aloud, and I value input from other people. Most of the time, I’ll talk to my besties. I want the advice of people who know me best. But then there are sometimes when I find myself revealing things to new friends that I might not necessarily tell my BFFs.

Asking advice of a relatively new friend can feel less loaded. They don’t have as big an interest in all the players in your life. They might give you a totally straightforward answer without weighing all the things they know about you and your history first.

I think the best part about talking to a relative stranger over a friend every now and then is that the question won’t come back to haunt you. If you want another’s input on an issue, but then you want to let it go, never to revisit it again, that can’t always happen with a BFF. Your friend, good pal that she is, will likely follow up. See how you’re doing a week later. This is a good thing. This caring is what makes her your best friend. But when you want to try and let something go, friends can make that tough.

So, there’s my long thought process all to get at the question: Do you ever find it easier to talk to relative strangers or new friends than to your besties?

I was really thrilled to contribute to Krystle Klein’s awesome web series “The FatNoMoSho” last week. I weighed in about how friendships influence our body image. Watch it here!


Filed under The Search

16 responses to “Do You Reveal More To Strangers Than Friends?

  1. luckygurl

    I think one of the most enjoyable parts of opening up to strangers is that they take you at your word. They don’t know anything except what you tell them, and they pretty much take you to be a reliable source–if you say you’re madly in love, then you are, despite possible evidence to the contrary… But doesn’t that make talking to strangers an echo-chamber of the stories I tell myself about myself… be they true or false?

  2. i do think i tell SOME strangers things that I haven’t even processed internally myself! i would say strangers may at TIMES get some juicy deets that best friends don’t… but not too often.
    Also, i’m not the biggest fan of loud talkers:)

  3. Honestly, it is much easier for me to talk to strangers because they’re (hopefully) less judgmental. Of course, I like to think I have a good gut feeling so I will only spill if I feel some trust and willingness to reciprocate from the other person.

  4. PS those strangers have turned into some of my best friends 🙂

  5. I can rarely keep myself from talking to anyone, about anything…and what I find really funny is the stuff that total strangers will tell me! I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that I am an open book…so maybe people get that vibe off of me. But I definitely think it is easier to talk to strangers sometimes- there’s no investment, you can have a frank conversation and like you said, that’s it. Nothing more to it than that! I enjoyed your post!

  6. I definitely think it’s easier to talk to strangers, and helpful as well. Which is part of the reason I have two twitter accounts, one for “real life” and the other that no one in my real life knows the handle too. I’ve built up a community of strangers, some who have become real life friends, I can vent to, get feedback from, etc, without having to worry about what that means in ‘real life.’ I call them my imaginary friends and value them SO much. Yay for technology!

  7. I’m with Stacy above. With everyone I know knowing everything about everyone we all know on facebook including what their insides look like with the craze of posting an ultrasound picture, I am developing a paranoia around my privacy. I shut down my old blog everyone knew about a year ago because I felt that I couldn’t write freely without hearing about it. I had a filter, which beat the point of the blog in the first place.

    Your post hits on why I started my anonymous blog….so I could say what I wanted to and share with strangers. I guess I don’t worry about my privacy being sacrificed when know one knows who I am!

  8. Susan

    I recently made an inquiry to join a religious social group. I emailed someone and the response, tell me about yourself, so I told her about my current life and how it needed a change and I hoped the group would be a window for me, and I never heard back. Guess I spilled to the wrong stranger, but I do get your point.

  9. I love this question and think about it often in terms of what we share in the blogosphere before -and with less angst- we share in our real lives.

    Feels less loaded and less personal maybe?

    (Great post topic!)

  10. Sue

    I have had intimate conversations with strangers who are having similar life experiences- like chats with other diabetic moms- I can let the fearful side of me out, partly because they get it at a level friends cannot and partly because for a few moments I do not have to be strong as I do not care about these strangers’ opnions.

    I am off to buy your book- am a returnee to a city & also looking for BFFs!

    • Thank you for buying the book Sue, and for weighing in on this topic! I used to think that being a “returnee” would present a person with a million BFFs, but I’ve heard plenty that it’s hard to go home again!

  11. My husband and I can’t have children. For some reason it is so much easier to tell strangers that then friends. With strangers the emotional reaction, the one that lends you to feeling pitied or judged isn’t there…hasn’t been formed yet and therefore it’s perceived more as statement then a comment in need of some support or advice.

    • Aerisa

      Out of curiousity, what kind of comments would you get from a stranger when you tell them that you can’t have children? Would they be surprised or taken aback or uncomfortable or unsure how to respond?

  12. Anonymous

    I reveal a lot to strangers and new friends all the time. I think it’s partly due to my over calculating mind that seems dead set on making it hard for me to reveal “big” things to my friends. Whether they know it or not I care a lot about the people I’m friends with and I hate to say it but their opinion matters to me to the pint where there are decisions I don’t make in my life because I’m not sure of the response I will get from my friends and family. This gets supper stressful at times but a quick chat with a stranger on a bus or train can help get all those thoughts and feelings all out into the open and make them much easier to deal with.

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