Are you willing to self-disclose
One of the best books I have ever read on the subject of self-disclosure is The Transparent Self by Sidney Jourard. In it he explains in simple terms the importance of understanding and integrating this valuable skill into all of our communication.
What exactly is self-disclosure?
We all have varying degrees of self-knowledge and understanding. We also have our little secrets about who we are, what we believe, what we feel and when—as well as opinions and values and the varying degrees of comfort of sharing them with friends, strangers or family members.
Self-disclosure is when you are willing to let others into your personal zone of attitudes, beliefs and values that express who you really are and what you really feel or believe.
Simply put, self-disclosure is communicating often-private information about yourself to others.
The thing to remember is that too little or too much self-disclosure builds barriers in relationships, while balanced self-disclosure builds bridges.
Let’s say that I were to share with you all of my fears, frustrations, failures, problems, concerns and shortcomings. I can hear you now: “I don’t need that much information about you to get value from this book. I don’t enjoy pitying others, especially when I paid twenty bucks for this book.”
Or the opposite: What if I shared with you all of my successes, achievements, highs, accomplishments, etc.? I can also hear you now, “You arrogant SOB, who do you think you are, better than me?!”
You see, in both of these cases, too much self-disclosure did not contribute to a mutually beneficial relationship between us.
Balanced self-disclosure is when I share enough (the appropriate amount about myself, given the nature of our relationship) to create a connection where we have some common ground.
For example, let’s say I told you that I have had my share of communication breakdowns with others or that I have said things I didn’t mean. This simple disclosure sends the message that I am no different than you, as we all do this from time to time. If I had said I have never done this, well, you might just become a bit suspicious of me and my motives, thinking, “Man, have you got an out-of-control ego, thinking you are perfect in this area!”
Well, I’m not perfect at all. I struggle every day with creating consistency between my words and actions. There, I’ve said it: I’m normal. I’m just like everyone else and I, too, struggle with communication breakdowns.
My point is that I have tried to create common ground between us, a connection where we are both normal and similar when it comes to this issue. With this simple self-disclosure, I have prepared the way for a sort of bond between us where you will tend to be more willing to learn from my mistakes and counsel. But, what if I had gone on for a few pages, sharing story after story where I have screwed up in this area. Again, I can hear you say, “How do you feel you have the right to write a book about this stuff when you haven’t even figured it out yourself?”
Bottom line: Self-disclosure takes courage, understanding, compassion and a willingness to be real and vulnerable. (From Blah, Blah, Blah)