DEAR ABBY: This has always puzzled me. Why do people who are virtual strangers tell you their deepest secrets?
I was on a first date not long ago with "Phil." Before the evening was over, he'd told me about his father's attempted suicide, the fact that he hasn't spoken to his mother in more than 18 years, and his sister's many bad habits -- all of which were described in detail.
On another occasion, the woman seated next to me at a seminar told me more than I ever wanted to know about her struggle with infertility. What gives? -- OFFENDED IN OTHELLO, WASH.
DEAR OFFENDED: Phil may have been talking to mask his first-date jitters. Many people use nervous chatter to hide their feelings. Or perhaps he mistook you for a sympathetic listener. You could have gently stopped his recitation by turning the conversation to another subject, or lightly suggesting that it wasn't necessary for you to learn everything about him in one night.
Some people confide in strangers because it's "safe." They are able to express their emotions and lighten their emotional burden without worrying about the other's reaction, or living with the consequences of what they have disclosed.