What do Alcoholics Anonymous, a suicide prevention hotline, and confession have in common? They all entail telling your problems to people you don't know (or know well).
But isn't that what friendships are for? Your friends turn to you and you to them in times of need? As the song goes,
"Lean on me, when you're not strong.
I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on.
For it won't be long 'Til I'm gonna need somebody to lean on."
Yes, talking to friends or a trusted therapist is important, but talking to a stranger has some surprising advantages that friends and family can't match.
Here are some of the positive aspects of telling your troubles to an unknown party:
You can be more honest and open because you have nothing to hide and there's a greater sense of confidentiality: Sometimes personal problems involve details that are too personal to tell friends or family about because you don't want them to know something about you or your situation. One man couldn't tell his best friend about the woman he was romantically involved with because she was the friend's co-worker and she wanted to keep her private life private. He could tell a stranger because there was no chance of the word getting out at her office.
You don't fear being judged by this stranger: A stranger may judge you but who cares? You may never talk to that person again so whatever criticism they have of you won't impact you the way it might with a friend or someone in your social circles.
The anonymous person is not emotionally involved so they can give clearer feedback: A common tale is the acrimonious dynamic between a woman's husband and her best friend because the woman complains to her husband about the bone-head things the best friend says or does and complains to the best friend about the things her husband does that are not okay. The best friend can't understand why the woman is married to such a jerk, and the husband can't understand why the woman can call the other woman her "best friend." When you talk to an anonymous party, you don't need to worry about the alienation of these two important people in your life.
The unbiased opinion can be helpful: Knowing that someone is making a decision solely based on the facts presented can be very helpful. Those close to you can't be unbiased. Perhaps they have seen the previous trials and tribulations and they "just want you to feel better," so they tell you what they think is helpful: "Just leave." But that's not really helpful because it's not so easy to do.
A stranger is less likely to pry when you're telling them your problems: A stranger may ask clarifying questions but he or she is less likely to poke her nose where it doesn't belong like a protective sister or friend might. And a stranger may have more of a "just the facts, Ma'am" attitude which can help focus the issues for you.
Strangers won't pressure you to follow their advice: A friend might say, "have you called that attorney I told you about?" If you say, "No," they may get indignant or frustrated and say something like, "What are you waiting for?" or "What's the problem?" whereas a stranger would not have the same judgment and would not likely feel insulted if you weren't able to incorporate the feedback.
There is no hidden agenda: A stranger will not usually engage in politics, guilt trips, schemes, or pushiness. It's inappropriate for anyone to prey on your vulnerabilities in order to advance their agenda or make you feel bad about your choices, but friends and family tend to take more liberties with telling you what you "should" do (or "should have done"). Strangers will never say, "I told you so."
You are more likely to get a new perspective you never thought of: Going to the same people for advice will often render the same types of feedback or information. Seeking the support of someone completely outside your realm may provide you with a refreshing outlook on your situation that you and your loved ones are too steeped in to see.
Due to the success of this model, I'll be hosting a call for women who are divorcing or contemplating divorce on Monday, April 22 at 6 pm PST (9 pm EST). The title of the call is, "The Divorcing Woman's Guide to: "What Keeps You Up at Night." The call is free but you must register. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get your name on the list and get registration details.
Any men who are interested in this type of call, please email me as well and if there is enough interest, I'll schedule a call just for men at the end of April.