If you’ve ever revealed information about yourself to someone else intentionally, you’ve experienced self disclosure. This information can be anything from your fears and dreams to your favorite color. It doesn’t have to be verbal either. For instance, you could intentionally wear all pink for your first coffee date with a new friend to let them know it’s your favorite color. Ultimately, self disclosure means letting someone else in on who you are and what you’re about.
Some forms of self disclosure, like revealing your favorite color to someone, aren’t overly meaningful but can be helpful in initiating your relationship with another person. If you share the same hometown with someone, for example, you may use that to further your bond throughout your relationship.
Self Disclosure and the Manual
When you believe you would be happier if someone in your life behaved a certain way, you’re adhering to a manual. This is an instruction guide we have for that person and how we’d like them to behave. Most people don’t even realize they have a manual and feel like the other person in the relationship should just know how to act.
When someone discloses information to you (or vice versa), it’s likely that you already have a manual for them and how you want them to behave. If the information they share doesn’t align with your manual, it’s easy to let it affect the relationship. But when you understand that making the relationship amazing only requires you to change, your relationship will grow stronger.
When you’re able to let go of a manual, you can just love people and enjoy who they are, which can be a very freeing way to live. By embracing this concept, you make it easy for others to self disclose to you and for you to self disclose to others. This is when you start to see a big impact on your relationships. Your intimacy with those around you will grow. Learn more about the Manual and how it can help your relationships by clicking here.
How Does Self Disclosure Impact a Relationship?
Once you learn to let go of a manual, you’ll see massive changes in your relationships as you begin to share personal information with other people in your life. There is a trickle-down effect when you self disclose to someone. First, you share the information. The other person in the relationship will react to this information and it’s then up to you to process the reaction.
If you’ve already developed a relationship with someone, self disclosure can affect how you see that person. If you have a friend at work who is constantly disclosing what she thinks about your co-workers, it may cause you to think she’s inappropriate for the workplace or immature in general. Remember: This is your manual for her.
Avoiding work gossip may be very important to you, but that doesn’t mean it’s important to someone else. You could have an honest conversation with your co-worker. Say, “ Hey, I love talking to you, but discussing our co-workers makes me feel uncomfortable. I love you and still want to talk to you, but I won’t take part in the conversation if it goes that way.” This way, they can still do whatever they choose to do, and you can take action based on what you want to do and love them no matter what.
On the other hand, if you are able to continue the cycle of disclosure, with each person sharing personal information about themselves that is received by the other in a positive way, it is likely the level of intimacy in the relationship will increase. This is one of the best ways to build a stronger relationship with a friend, family member, or significant other.
Risks of Self Disclosure
No matter what the relationship, it’s important to decide what’s right to share for you and what’s not. Using your best judgment on a case-by-case basis is key. But you should also remember that you cannot predict someone’s response to the information you share. But no matter how they respond, you always get to decide how that makes you feel. It’s possible that their reaction may lead you to think thoughts that create feelings of embarrassment and upset. Click here to learn more about feeling on purpose.
If this happens, remember that embarrassed and upset are just that: feelings. And the only reason you feel these things is because of your thoughts about the other person’s reaction. When you can learn how to manage your thoughts, you can control how you feel. This is a concept explained in detail through the Self Coaching Model, which you can learn more about by clicking here.
Benefits of Self Disclosure
Although it’s possible that disclosing information to someone can cause an unexpected reaction, it’s more likely that it will strengthen your relationship and increase the level of intimacy you experience with that other person. Sharing personal information with a friend, family member, coworkers, etc. can build trust, form stronger bonds, and even help you to resolve conflict.
When you’re disclosing information to someone, it’s important that you consider your motives before sharing. Never disclose information in an effort to steal the spotlight, take attention from others, or speak badly of someone else. You should also never expect that the other person will disclose information from you just because you’ve shared with them.
If someone’s disclosing information to you, be sure to listen carefully and respond with care. Throw out your manual for them. By releasing all the rules and expectations you have, listening to the other person, and hearing what’s going on for them, your relationships will change for the better. You can start understanding them from a different perspective that isn’t clouded by our own thinking and expectations.
Keep your reaction respectful and be careful not to elicit advice that may not be wanted. When someone’s sharing personal information with you, they’re putting a certain level of trust in you that you should take consideration of.
To learn more about the skill of communicating with others and about manuals you may have that are impacting your relationships, join Self Coaching Scholars today.
Brooke Castillo is the CEO and founder of The Life Coach School. Brooke has coached thousands of clients individually and in groups to improve their lives, their weight, their businesses, and their careers. She is a Master Certified Life and Weight Coach who provides an example of what is possible. She also hosts one of the most highly rated podcasts on iTunes: The Life Coach School Podcast.