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Self-Disclosure

Self-disclosure is seen as a useful strategy for sharing information with others. By sharing information, we become more intimate with other people and our interpersonal relationships are strengthened. Read about self-disclosure and then complete the learning activity and take a short quiz to test your understanding of the concept.

Definition

Self-disclosure is not simply providing information to another person. Instead, scholars define self-disclosure as sharing information with others that they would not normally know or discover. Self-disclosure involves risk and vulnerability on the part of the person sharing the information.

The Johari Window

A useful way of viewing self-disclosure is the Johari window. The Johari window is a way of showing how much information you know about yourself and how much others know about you. The window contains four panes, as shown below. Known to self Unknown to self Known to others Open Pane known to self and others Blind Pane blind to self, seen by others Unknown to others Hidden Pane open to self, hidden from others Unknown Pane unknown to self and others The Open Pane includes information such as hair colour, occupation, and physical appearance. The Blind Pane includes information that others can see in you, but you a poor leader, but others think you exhibit strong leadership skills. The Hidden Pane contains information you wish to keep private, such as dreams or ambitions. The Unknown Pane includes everything that you and others do not know about yourself. You may have hidden talents, for example, that you have not explored. Through self-disclosure, we open and close panes so that we may become more intimate with others.

Functions of Self-Disclosure

Self-disclosure performs several functions. It is a way of gaining information about another person. We want to be able to predict the thoughts and actions of people we know. Self-disclosure is one way to learn about how another person thinks and feels. Once one person engages in self-disclosure, it is implied that the other person will also disclose personal information. This is known as the norm of reciprocity. Mutual disclosure deepens trust in the relationships and helps both people understand each other more. You also come to feel better about yourself and your relationship when the other person accepts what you tell them.

Risks of Self-Disclosure

While there are several advantages to self-disclosure, there are also risks. One risk is that the person will not respond favourably to the information. Self-disclosure does not automatically lead to favourable impressions. Another risk is that the other person will gain power in the relationship because of the information they possess. Finally, too much self-disclosure or self-disclosure that comes too early in a relationship can damage the relationship. Thus, while self-disclosure is useful, it can also be damaging to a relationship.






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