Show and Tell: How much to share during those first encounters.

It’s a conundrum.  As touted by Brene Brown, we are supposed to be in the new age of vulnerability.   Yet, if we share too much of our vulnerability too early, we may scare away the person we are trying to attract.  Every turn of phrase is being judged for adequacy on that first and second date.  So how much should we really share, and when?  In other words, what is the tipping point when a person moves from intrigued to uninterested?

In my dating days, I considered my three children (triplets no less!) and my two ex-husbands to be my biggest liabilities.  I mean, really, who in their right mind would choose to step into a world where three teenagers ruled?  And, that was just the liabilities on the surface.  What about my dirty car, my orange plaid pajamas, my ridiculous bed head and all the real secrets I harbor?  What do you share and what do you save for later?  Think of it like this.  Everyone likes a good story; you are going to tell a story over time, laying down one chapter at a time.  Lay down a chapter per date.

5 steps to sharing just the right amount on your date

1. Give a little.

A date without any of yourself is bound to be boring.  We all have intense stories of tragedies and triumphs.  So, be real.  Share lots of fun, upbeat stories and maybe one or two reality-check stories to give a sense of the full package.   Just, don’t dive too deep right away.

2. Listen and Relate. 

Stop for a moment.  Listen to what your date is sharing.  Is she sticking to work and family, or favorite vacations?  Or, is she going deeper into her life philosophy?  Match your date.  If she want to keep it light, keep it light.  There will be time enough for late night sharing if the relationship progresses.   People tend to be overly judgmental in that first date or two.  She is looking for red flags or anything off-putting.  Don’t give her a reason to jump ship.

3. Look on the bright side of life.

Stick to positive stories that emphasize your strengths.  When your date bids you adieu, he will take away, maybe, 50% of what you were laying down during the date.  And, many people walk away having heard more of the negative than the positive (triplets! 13 year old triplets!) so don’t give him any bait for doubt.

4. Know when to hold ‘em

An acquaintance I had for a brief while (read: misguided date) used to lay out his sexual history and STD status on the first date and then wonder why the girls ran.  He considered it his duty, his responsibility to inform them.  People are not usually sticking anything where the sun don’t shine for a couple hours into a date, so take it easy on the early disclosure.

5. Be aware of what is compelling you to share.

Are you an over-sharer?  Do you find yourself continually motoring your mouth when across the table from a potential partner?  Explore why that might be.  Are you trying to get out your whole story on the first date?  Do you talk too much when you are nervous?  Do you feel like you are trying to prove yourself?  From personal experience, when I am talking too much, I am trying to justify something in my life, something I feel some shame around (like, my second divorce).   I have also observed that I like to challenge others with my overt honesty.   I want to know upfront if someone likes me despite all my faults.  I want him to know the full me so he can make an informed decision about whether to jump in.   Once you are aware of why you are talking, you can make good choices about whether to continue the monologue.

The Take-Away

You know that saying – if it is meant to be, it will be.  And, in the adult world of dating, where we are all a little gun shy, you want to stay on the positive side to see if the simmering heats up to a boil.   Carefully lay one piece of your story down at a time so the listener can pick it up.   I make sure more of my charm is on the table than my ex-husbands or my many children.  I make light so they can make light.   I don’t treat my children like a burden so they won’t.  Share what you want them to know about you.

Think about the structure of a well written tale.   Desire to turn the page to ingest the next chapter comes from mystery and intrigue.   In the screen writing world, they say you want to reveal yourself like an intravenous drip – let little bits of you seep into their soul.  Tell your story one chapter at a time.  Leave your listener enraptured; leave a little mystery for next time.


Authored by Erin Oldham, Ph.D.

Erin is a researcher, relationship & divorce coach, and mediator.  Erin works with people as they navigate getting into, sustaining and getting out of relationships.  She also works with people as they negotiate divorce and the post-divorce world.  Erin has a Ph.D. in Psychology and has been researching child wellbeing and the formation of healthy relationships among children and adults for 20 years.  She is approachable, pragmatic, empathic and effective.  She facilitates intriguing, engaging workshops on these topics as well.  Contact her now at or 207-200-3970.  More information here.

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