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7 Ways Self-Disclosure Helps You Connect Deeper with Others

7 Ways Self-Disclosure Helps You Connect Deeper with Others
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Connecting with other people is critical to our well-being. Humans are social creatures, and whether we admit it or not, most of us crave feeling supported, valued, and connected to others. I am perfectly fine doing many things on my own and even work from home most of the time. That being said, I thoroughly enjoy getting to interact with my wife at the end of the work day and catching up. I like to share my wins and my challenges with her.

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.[1] 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.[2]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Conclusion

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.

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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Mat Apodaca

On a mission to share about how communication in the workplace and personal relationships plays a large role in your happiness

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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