“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” – C.S. Lewis
Whether positive or negative, we have all had many experiences in life. These experiences have shaped us into the people we are today, and the beautiful thing about them is that they can be shared. When you share your experiences with other people, they become more meaningful and memorable. You get to learn from them and heal old wounds you did not even know existed. You also get to help other people when you tell your stories. And above all, you get to consolidate new friendships.
There are, however, some past experiences which you need to keep to yourself or share only with your inner circle.
1. Traumatic past experiences
As we have already established, sharing past experiences (both positive and negative) is one of the best ways to create new friendships. But as we all know, there is always an exception to the rule. If you have gone through a traumatic experience such as war, rape, death of a new-born, or a fatal accident that was your fault, you will often hear that sharing such an experience is going to help you heal. This, however, is not the type of advice you should blindly follow because there are some factors which need to be considered.
Sharing a traumatic experience with a stranger to consolidate a new friendship might not really be wise, because that person might not have a supportive response (or know how to respond). This could make you feel worse than before or ruin any chances of you becoming friends. That said, you might want to share your experience about positive or less traumatic events until you feel comfortable enough to divulge more negative events. Additionally, waiting to get to know the person, will give you the opportunity to figure out if this is someone you can trust with this sensitive information. Furthermore, it will give you the chance to figure out if you think the person will view you in a negative way, once you have shared your experience.
2. Other people’s private experiences
Whenever you are in an interesting conversation with someone, it is often easy to be tempted to share other people’s private experiences. When that urge arises, make sure you fight it. Remember that trust is easy to lose but difficult to build and even harder to regain once lost. Those people shared their secrets with you because they trust you. By sharing that with someone else, you are not only breaking that trust, but you are also sending an unconscious message to your potential friend – that you cannot be trusted!
3. Past experiences that expose your weaknesses
You really do not want to share past experiences that expose your weaknesses to people you barely know. Though this might actually help you build genuine friendships with honest people, you won’t be able to know if someone is sincerely honest “at first blush”.
Exposing your weaknesses to people you don’t yet know is giving them power over you. For example, telling a story about how you cried when a classmate made fun of your weight is potentially giving that person the opportunity to do the same at some future date (especially if you have not resolved the issue yet). Again, it might be in your best interest to get to know someone well before sharing experiences that depict your weaknesses. And it is not too far-fetched to think that for some people, being an “open-book” soon after meeting them is a weakness – and could be a non-starter in terms of becoming friends.
4. Health-related experiences
You must not share details of appointments between you and your doctor, especially to people you just met – it might even be good practice to always consider this doctor-patient confidentiality even with good friends. There are a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions around many diagnoses. And people who don’t know you are often quick to make judgements about you and decisions to avoid you. Sharing such experiences is, therefore, not always the right thing to do. The same goes for health-related experiences that have affected your family. If you do feel the need share, consider this privileged information only for your innermost circle.
5. Past sexual experiences
Sharing your sexual history with a stranger is not always a good idea. Some people call it honesty, which it is in some cases, but it can also be revealing too much information about your private life to someone you do not know. There are advantages to sharing your sexual experiences (e.g., putting a new sexual partner at ease). However, regardless of your intentions for sharing your experience, it is important to note that you cannot predict how the other person will react.
Sharing relatable life experiences is one of the most efficient ways to build lasting friendships. But it is important to think well before you share your experience with someone you hardly know. Before you share, filter the information. Share only experiences that someone cannot use to harm you and keep the rest to yourself. Remember, if someone is a new friend or even an old friend, you do not have to share everything. There are some experiences/secrets “you should take to the grave with you”.