When we are feeling down in the dumps over something, it’s incredibly powerful to have someone in our lives who is willing to listen and be there for us. We all have times in our lives when things are tough, when we feel very much like we are on a lonely island. It’s at times like these when we are able to talk to someone who has gone through something similar that helps us feel not nearly as lonely.
We see that other people have gone through the same situation and have come out on the other side, helping us feel connected. This is where self-disclosure can help to create those connections and deepen those you already have.
What Is Self-Disclosure?
Self-disclosure refers to the process of revealing personal, intimate information about oneself to others.((Psychology: Self-Disclosure)) The shared information can include thoughts, feelings, aspirations, goals, failures, successes, fears, and dreams. Self-disclosure is a necessary ingredient when building intimacy with another person. Most self-disclosure occurs early in relational development, but more intimate self-disclosure occurs later.
Why Is Self-Disclosure Important?
Self-disclosure is vitally important in relationships and, indeed, in overall communication. In regards to a relationship, whether that’s romantic or friendly in nature, self-disclosure is the mutual process of give and take. We go back and forth over time, sharing things about ourselves with the other person in a relationship. This effectively lays the building blocks of trust and connection in that relationship.
A big part of why people grow closer and more involved over time is that they become more and more open to sharing things about themselves in that relationship or situation. This holds true in all relationships, whether it be with the person we are dating, a new circle of friends, or people in the workplace.((Norwegian Business School: A Quantum of Self: A Study on Self-Quantification and Self-Disclosure))
Self-Disclosure and Relationships with Others
Self-disclosure is the foundation and the glue in your relationships with other people. It is through self-disclosure that we build the level of intimacy and trust that is absolutely critical to a strong relationship.
The level of self-disclosure you share with others will depend on the relationship and the context of that relationship. For instance, there are things I will share with my wife that I should probably not share with my work associates. You probably have things you share, or self-disclose, with your best friends that you aren’t going to tell your mom or dad about. I’m sure my daughters share things with each other that my wife and I never hear about. And that’s the way it should be. Each of these situations will dictate what level of self-disclosure we choose to share.
Self-disclosure in our most personal relationships is what defines the level of intimacy we will have in that relationship.
7 Ways Self-Disclosure Helps You Connect Deeper with Others
1. Promotes Attraction
We all tend to feel a sense of closeness to others when they reveal their personal story. I’ve seen many a speaker who has shared a personal, intimate story about themselves or their lives and felt myself drawn to them. I find myself wanting to know more, to hear more about the story, and most importantly, to know how it turned out.
When other people share their vulnerabilities, we are attracted and drawn to them. This feeling of attraction is greater if the information is more emotional in nature vs. factual.
2. Builds Trust
Mutual self-disclosure builds trust. As the term might suggest, mutual self-disclosure is when one person shares something about themselves to another. The person they shared the information with then chooses to share something about themselves back, creating a back and forth ebb and flow of sharing. This helps create and build trust, which is of course incredibly important in connecting on a deeper level with someone.
Someone who makes a personal disclosure about themselves is becoming vulnerable to the person they are disclosing to. Mutual self-disclosure also creates a safety zone because each person has made themselves vulnerable to the other. The two people then tend to protect the disclosures to avoid mutual embarrassment that would result from a breach of the trust.
3. Makes You Feel Special
When someone discloses something to us, it makes us feel special. It makes us feel like they like us and, of course, trust us enough to share this piece of their life with us. Obviously, they wouldn’t share something personal or a vulnerability with us unless they liked us and trusted us, right?
The fact that they do this makes us feel special and makes them more attractive to us as a person. It pulls us in deeper and helps us feel willing to share more of our own story, struggle, or vulnerability and deepens the level of trust. It goes along with the rest to continue to deepen and strengthen the relationship.
4. Determines How a Relationship Develops
Think about when you’ve started a new relationship. This can be a romantic relationship, a friendship, or even a work relationship with a new manager. The pace at which we self-disclose in these relationships goes a long way towards determining how the relationship develops.
In the early stages of a relationship, people tend to be more cautious about how much they share with others. Whether you are at the early stages of a friendship, a working partnership, or a romantic one, you will probably be more reticent about sharing your feelings, hopes, thoughts, memories, dreams, vulnerabilities, etc.
As the relationship goes further, as you begin to share more and more with the other person, your level of self-disclosure will increase as well. There tends to be a fairly mutual back and forth display of self-disclosure.
Most of us have had relationships where mutual self-disclosure does not occur as it should. I know I’ve opened up about something only to have it lay hang uncomfortably in the air. When the other person doesn’t self-disclose anything back, it is likely to stunt the relationship.
5. Helps Lengthen Relationships
When we open up to someone and are accepted, it helps us feel closer to the other person. It also helps us develop deeper trust in the person as we know they both accept us as a person and will keep our secrets. All of these things are some of key foundational pieces to a healthy relationship, and healthy relationships, of course, tend to last longer than unhealthy ones.
Couples who are more open to sharing their thoughts, dreams, fears, memories, and experiences will, in general, have longer and healthier relationships.
6. Helps You Gain Self-Acceptance
Self-acceptance can be tough to come by. How often have we beaten ourselves up for something we’ve done and felt guilty about? Or about something we do on an ongoing basis that we feel like we shouldn’t?
I personally carried around a big burden for years because I was not able to accept the way I acted in a certain situation. It took someone bringing it to my attention to realize what I was doing to myself, which was beating myself up over and over again. Once I accepted that I acted the best way I knew how to in the situation, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. A wave of self-acceptance washed over me, and I felt better than I had in years.
When we self-disclose to someone about something we are ashamed of or feel guilty about and they accept us, the results are amazing. Being given the green light to feel the way we do by a person we are in a close relationship with is incredibly uplifting. As you might imagine, this also helps us connect even deeper with that person.
7. Gives You a Go-To Person
When you are able to self-disclose your hopes, dreams, fears, experiences, memories, and other things to someone intimate in your life, you’ve got “your person.” This is someone that you feel very comfortable going to and sharing information with. Whether it’s to celebrate something great happening at work or something that made you sad, this is invaluable.
Knowing that there is someone there who will have your back and offer support is incredibly comforting. This is the type of relationship that has developed with the ability to self-disclose on a progressive scale. It progresses to the point where you feel you can share just about anything with the other person. This, in turn, leads to a deep feeling of connection with the other person.
Self-disclosure is an important component in many relationships in our lives. This includes our work associates, our family, friends, children, and significant others. Different relationships will dictate the level of self-disclosure that occurs in each one. In all of the situations the ability to self-disclose comfortably will help develop and deepen the relationship. This is especially true of our closest relationships.
We’ve looked at 7 ways self-disclosure helps you connect deeper with others. Don’t be afraid to self-disclose as your relationships will naturally receive the benefits.