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Published on March 23, 2020

7 Ways Self-Disclosure Helps You Connect Deeper with Others

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

More by this author

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 August 12, 2020

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

How to Listen to Your Gut

The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

1. Tune Into Your Body

Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

5. Challenge Your Assumptions

When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

7. Trust Yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The Bottom Line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
[3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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