In North America, self disclosure is both very common and a direct sign of trust and friendship. Self disclosure is measured in terms of 1. how common knowledge of the information is, and 2. how personal the information is. Although self disclosure can bring us closer to people and allow us to connect with them on a deeper level, it also has its downsides.
On a test that I recently took in my Human Communication and Interaction class, there was a quote that read: “. . . when you permit yourself to be known, you expose yourself not only to a lover’s balm, but also to a hater’s bombs. When he knows you, he knows just where to plant them for maximum effect.”
Let that sink in.
Opening up to someone that you trust can either be a significantly rewarding and comforting feeling, or one of absolute regret and embarrassment. I’m sure that we have all been in both situations, hopefully the positive one more than the other.
I, myself, am a very open person, and find that sharing my personal experience can often help people in some way, whether that be inspiring them to do something amazing, discouraging them from doing something stupid, or simply letting them know that I completely understand where they are coming from. However, this has definitely come back to bite me in the butt on more occasions than I would like to admit. The idea of being raw and real with people genuinely entrances me, as I have talked about in my previous blog post, be real, unique is chic.https://emmakdietze.com/2018/08/08/be-real-unique-is-chic/
In my human communication textbook, 5-10 questions were discussed that people should ask themselves before engaging in a high level of self disclosure.
Here are a few that I considered very important
- is the self disclosure reciprocated?
- does the person that you are self disclosing to care?
- is the timing appropriate?
- is the environment appropriate?
Due to my less than fortunate past experience with engaging in self disclosure, I am often overly cautious about sharing things that I consider very personal to me. Even on the somewhat rare occasions when I do share, I often play things off as a joke and refuse to let emotion accompany my personal information. The two have often been an awful pair on one too many occasions: emotion and personal information.
My purpose in writing this is not for sympathy. Instead, it is to encourage all of my readers to care and listen. When people tell you things that are clearly meaningful to them, listen. Show them that you care about them and about what they are saying. Put down your phone, your laptop, your book, your pen, and be in the moment. Make eye contact to portray your level of care. Nod, smile, shake your head, frown. Respond, but don’t interrupt. Simply keep in mind how much trust they are placing in you when they begin to self disclose. Put yourself in their shoes and consider how you would feel if they were treating you the way that you were treating them.
This has hurt me, and I don’t want others to have to experience the same pain that I have. Next time that someone begins to speak to you about personal things, listen, look, and care.
Just think: are you going to be the lover’s balm, or the hater’s bombs?
Thanks for reading,