Conversations with others - at work, at church, at social events - those can be the hardest of all. It's tough to measure the degree of honesty we should use, the level of revelation to offer each individual. People are trained to ask 'How are you?', but not to really care about the answer. Other people really do care, but we still aren't sure how much we want to tell them.
With the advent of blogging, twitter, facebook, even the old MySpace, the opportunities for written conversations to complicate our verbal conversations has increased a thousand-fold.
We all have our problems with finances, relationships, medical issues, or just the cruddy ride to work that day. How we filter that when communicating to the world says a lot about who we are, how we view our lives, and what our trust levels are with others.
I believe Speaking Honestly is the best way to go. Trying to remember which version of which truth you put out into the world simply isn't worth it. But you can still bring in the preparation, and to some degree, encapsulation of message, to your regular conversations that you use on stage.
Have a Purpose - on your way to your next interaction with people, decide what your purpose is going in. Does anybody need to hear about your husband's drinking problem for you to accomplish your goal?
Listen More - the less you say, the less chance you'll have of talking about your annoying neighbor, his barking dog, and the insurance hassle you're having with State Farm. Conversely, the more you listen, the more you'll know about the people around you, and how you can be of value to them. Of course, if everybody did this, social situations would be very quiet - but let's face it - everybody doesn't do this!
Answer Honestly - there are people who will ask you questions about your life and how you're feeling. Answer honestly, but don't let yourself go beyond the question. They usually just want to know you're ok so that they can feel good about themselves for asking. The more specific the question, the more specific your answer can be, without crossing into territory neither of you meant to get into.
Right Time, Right Place - sometimes, questions come up from people you really want to give the whole story to in places that you don't really want to be when the story comes out. Just because you ran into your best friend at the chamber party doesn't mean that's the place for you to break down your last big fight with your wife. Arrange for another time and place for a deeper discussion, and stay true to your purpose in the moment.
By setting boundaries on your conversations, you'll find yourself more able to be comfortable in social settings even if your personal life is in turmoil. It will also signal those people you do talk to that boundaries are important to you, and you don't want your life spread throughout the social web, online or otherwise.
By Speaking Honestly within those boundaries, you'll never have to worry about being deemed shifty, inauthentic, or non-communicative - at least among reasonable people. Be yourself, but be prepared...to Speak & Deliver.