Some people are natural "sharers". They have no qualms about giving the most intimate details of their lives, diseases, relationships, etc., to even casual acquaintances.

One example was a colleague who was telling rather graphic details of an argument she had had with her partner (who I have never met), and with the further complication that she implied repeatedly that I should take her side.

In a one-on-one conversation, how do you convey to them that this is more information or detail than you are comfortable with, without coming across as uninterested in them, or uncaring more generally?

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  • Do these conversations typically happen in a group (i.e. where you're not the only person they're sharing this information with?) – Crafter0800 Jun 30 '17 at 9:51
  • I have now narrowed this to one-on-one conversations as this is more common to my particular experience. – r m Jul 1 '17 at 17:08
  • If this still seems too broad, please give me some suggestions to tighten it up. – r m Jul 1 '17 at 20:06
  • try providing an example in your question, it will definitely help make it more specific. While I understand why you want to keep it broad limiting it to 1 example allows for more accurate answers and also allows more questions to be asked, helping keep the site running. – Crafter0800 Jul 2 '17 at 8:54
  • I added the acquaintance tag to narrow the scope - sorry I thought it would be a suggested edit and you would be able to look at it. Just edit it out if you don't like it – user57 Jul 4 '17 at 0:16

I think TMI usually relates to either the sharer's lack of a social filter or their overestimation of affinity. Basically they will tend to blurt things out to just about anyone or they consider you to be a very close friend that they can talk to about such matters.

I think that's why the term "TMI" was created. It gives people a short gentle way of saying that they're being given information that's inappropriate​, or inappropriate for the context.

So simply saying "Whoa, TMI." works in most situations.

If you want to convey that you're open to listening to them, but you don't need the graphic details, just say so.

"If you need to talk, I'm listening, but the graphic details are TMI"

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  • 2
    Other equally informal alternatives to "Whoa, TMI" would be "Duuude" (elongate the "u" based on severity), a raised eyebrow, or the good old-fashioned spit take. – Flater Nov 28 '17 at 16:41

Convey to them your interest in their story, your willingness to listen and that you don't need that many details, for example by looking at them and saying

I get the gist of your story, you needn't go that much into detail. It's okay. Sorry for interrupting you! So they were...? (This question signals them that you want them to go on telling you about it.)

Depending on how close they are to you, you may even lightly put your hand on their hand or arm to reassure them of your interest, before saying the above.

Another way, that also proves that you are listening to them, is to first give a short summary of what they told you

They had ...? I understand (or nod). I don't need to know all the details. Sorry for interrupting you, please go on!

If the circumstances allow it, you may say "Please spare me the details" with a laugh, after you made clear that you listened and then signal them to go on. Possible when the mood is more light-hearted, demonstrating that you can vividly imagine what it must have been (e. g. perhaps you know those involved).

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