Self-Disclosure

Connecting With Honest, Personal Communication

Open book

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Anna is meeting with her team to talk about possible cutbacks. When she looks around, she can see that her team members are anxious and angry, and that they are scared they might lose their jobs.

Anna plans to preserve every job on her team, so she shares a personal story to help calm her team members' fears: several years earlier, she was a victim of a layoff. She tells them how upset she felt, and about the promise she made to herself – to do everything she could to make sure that no team member of hers ever felt this way.

Anna could have given her team members reassurances that they wouldn't lose their jobs. But when she opened up and shared this personal story, she convinced her people that she would do her very best for them.

If we do it right, self-disclosure can change minds, strengthen relationships, and build trust. But, if we make unwise, inappropriate, or untimely disclosures, it can have the opposite effect.

In this article, we'll look at the advantages of self-disclosure, and we'll offer strategies that you can use to share personal information in an appropriate, measured way.

What is Self-Disclosure?

Researchers Kathryn Greene, Valerian Derlega, and Alicia Mathews define self-disclosure as "... an interaction between at least two individuals, where one intends to deliberately divulge something personal to another."

Self-disclosure can involve superficial information, such as your favorite food or television show, through to deeply personal information, such as your history or religious beliefs. All types of disclosure are important when you want to develop relationships and move them to a more intimate level.

Self-disclosure can be verbal and nonverbal. For instance, people verbally self-disclose when they tell another person about their thoughts, emotions, intentions, fears, dreams, goals, failures, successes, likes, and dislikes. People disclose non-verbally with things like tattoos, jewelry, and clothes, which often reveal personal or hidden information.

Advantages of Self-Disclosure

You can use self-disclosure to...

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