Well bred men and women are oriented from early childhood about certain things that are better left unsaid. –Luella Cuming, The Luella Cuming Studio Course in Social Awareness, Poise, and Gracious Living, 1965.
Dear Dr. Julie-Ann,
Help! I have a colleague at work who shares EVERYTHING! It’s as if she doesn’t have any filters regarding what is okay to talk about. Really, I’d rather not know about some of the things she is sharing. On top of her oversharing, she asks personal questions I’d rather not discuss with her because I know she will share the information with others–under the guise of being concerned. Am I making a big thing out of nothing or is she really guilty of violating social taboos?
I’ll admit that your letter hits a little too close to home for me. Alas, I have been guilty of being an over-sharer and am guilty of violating social taboos. Some people tell me how they love that I’m not afraid to talk about anything but when I think about some conversations, I know that I’ve made some people uncomfortable.
The Impact of Violating Social Taboos
In her book, The Luella Cuming Studio Course in Social Awareness, Poise, and Gracious Living, our mid-century mentor, Luella Cuming, points out that well-bred men and women understand that certain things are better left unsaid. These taboo topics include, but are not limited to, revealing the amount of your income, state of health, bodily functions, age, love affairs, sex habits, and the rattling of family skeletons. She notes that people would be appalled at the thought of getting undressed in public but that they are undressing mentally in highly conspicuous ways. And violating social taboos can seriously damage any positive image people have of you.
Ms. Cumings identifies three reasons why violating social taboos is bad manners: