Truth or TMI?

At a conference last week, I walked out of the restroom with my hands dripping wet because I hate pulling out multiple hand towels, and I don’t like hand dryers any better. And I immediately met a stranger who proffered her hand in greeting.  I confessed “My hands are pretty wet,” and she went on to shake my hand anyway, saying, “I prefer that when someone comes out of the restroom.  It scares me if their hands are too dry.”  We laughed, and I knew I liked this person just because she had jumped in with a potentially awkward comment.

It got me thinking about how much truth we generally exchange in conversation.

Obviously the baseline is, “How ya doin’?” followed by “Fine” or — if we are really jumping outside the conversational box — perhaps a more expansive “Fine.  Busy.  Real busy.”  Exchange over.

I was thinking about the verse in Philippians that says, “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”  And although I know it’s advocating a more noble sort of truth, again it made me wonder, “How much truth does anyone want?” Is Paul in any way advocating more truth be exchanged?

We know that “the truth sets us free,” so when is there value in telling more of what we are feeling or thinking than “fine” would communicate?

Obviously it depends on the audience and the context.  And obviously there are times when the truth is TMI (or “too much information”).

I once decided that the only way to stem the tide of conversation about a trip to Hooters that six men on an airplane were engaged in (very loudly) was to stand up, lean over towards their row of seats, give them a big smile and say, simply, “Too much information!”  They were kindly apologetic that I’d had to listen to SO MANY DETAILS about the women they’d encountered on their golfing trip, and we laughed.  But it had been, truly, “too much information” and information that I hoped wasn’t true, if only for the sake of their wives.

So I’m not offering an answer to this.  I’m just wondering what you think: should people err on the side of “Fine. Busy.  Real busy” or do you want to know that today was the day they finally had their vasectomy?

What do you think?

~ by Cary on May 20, 2011.

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