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7 Ways Self-Disclosure Helps You Connect Deeper with Others

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7 Ways Self-Disclosure Helps You Connect Deeper with Others

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

Reference

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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 November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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