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Self-disclosure is the process of sharing information about self with other people. It could be superficial information such as food preferences or your opinion on a TV show or it could be something deeper and more meaningful, such as your childhood experiences or dreams and plans.

Self-Disclosure In Relationships

A typical healthy relationship involves sharing and receiving information between partners. When the relationship is in its initial stages, self-disclosure can be minimal. Self-disclosure generally increases as relationships grow deeper. The vice versa also holds true here. Relationships can also grow deeper due to more sharing of information between partners.

Self-disclosure is important in relationships as it develops trust and understanding. Self-disclosure from both ends (reciprocal sharing) helps to build emotional intimacy. It can help in building empathy between both partners. It can also lead to stronger commitment and better relationship quality.

Research indicates that self-disclosure is associated with relationship satisfaction. Even in platonic relationships, self-disclosure is found to be important for building trust. Relationships take longer to develop if there is low self-disclosure. Self-disclosure is a component of healthy, enduring relationships.

Self-Disclosure At Workplaces

Self-disclosure can be beneficial in workplaces. It can also be risky, so it must be done with thought and consideration. Through self-disclosure, you might be able to connect with your co-workers, co-operation can be easier, work can be enjoyable and hence, work teams can lead to productive outcomes. It can build trust and understanding among co- workers and make the work environment lighter.

Apart from these benefits, self-disclosure can also be risky. For example, sharing too much personal information too soon during a meeting can lead to embarrassment and discomfort.

To prevent risks, one can set boundaries and use social judgement to share information. If it is something inappropriate, it is safe to not share it with people who you have a formal relationship with.

For example, sharing fitness regimes or opinions on movies is safer than sharing personal relationship details. One can judge the reciprocity level of sharing with co-workers and then act accordingly.

Self-Disclosure In A Job Interview

self disclosure in a job interview
  1. If an interviewer asks about a candidate’s skills, it could be helpful to disclose some event that describes the candidate’s proficiency in that skill.
  2. Self-disclosure can also help create a mutual ground between 2 parties. Having something in common can help the interview process. If the interviewer shares something that you relate with, it might be considered okay to share a bit about your side.
  3. It’s not required to share very personal details of your life in the interview (marriage details, political views, religious views). A little detail about hobbies is considered okay, but not too much.
  4. It is not advisable to bad-mouth co-workers or previous employers in an interview. It could give out the wrong impression. The focus of the interview should be on your skills and qualities related to the job.

Factors Affecting Self-Disclosure

factors affecting self-disclosure

1. Extraversion:

Research has implied that people who lean more towards extraversion and have an easier time making new bonds are more likely to disclose information about themselves, early on in a new bond.

On the other hand, people who lean more towards introversion tend to disclose less information about themselves. They do indulge in self-disclosure with people they are close to.

2. Mood:

Another factor that affects self-disclosure is mood. Research indicates that people who are in a good mood are more likely to indulge in self-disclosure than people who are in a bad mood. This happens because good moods make a person feel confident and happy whereas bad moods can make a person feel reserved and careful.

It is also found that lonely people tend to engage in less self-disclosure. Since they do not disclose much, people do not have a chance to get to know them properly which leads to more loneliness for the person.

Research Evidence

Study By: Joseph P. Forgas

Aim: To investigate the effects of mood on intimacy and reciprocity of self-disclosure.


  • Three experiments were conducted. Experiments 1 and 2 were conducted using hypothetical situations. Experiment 3 was conducted using realistic computer-mediated interactions.
  • The intimacy, variety, abstractness, and positivity of self-disclosing messages were measured.


  • It was found that people in a positive mood engaged in more intimate, varied, and abstract self-disclosure.
  • On the other hand, people in a negative mood were more attentive to the behavior of others and reciprocated self-disclosure from their partners more accurately.

3. Anxiety and Fear:

These feelings can make people disclose more about themselves as they need support and reassurance. Renwen Zhang studied the effects of self-disclosure on social networking sites on young adults’ mental health. Survey data were collected from a probability sample of 560 university students.

The results indicated that people tend to open up on Facebook when in times of stress and that self-disclosure on Facebook moderates the relationship between stressful life events and mental health.

4. Social Comparison:

People judge themselves based on how they look in front of others. If they feel equal or better than the ones around them, then they will be more likely to disclose information about themselves. But, if they feel like others are better than them, then they will be less likely to engage in self-disclosure.

5. The Norm Of Reciprocity

When someone shares a personal experience with us, we feel pushed to tell them something about ourselves. This process is called the norm of reciprocity. For example, Danny told Gary about a childhood motorbike accident. This pushed Gary to share his story about a similar accident he went through.

The norm of reciprocity works because if one person shares something about themselves, it creates an imbalance since you know about this person but they don’t know about you. Hence, you are compelled to share something about yourself to attain a balance of information.

Research Evidence

Study By: Sprecher S, Treger S, Wondra JD, Hilaire N, Wallpe K.

Aim: To study the effects of self-disclosure reciprocity (vs. non-reciprocity) on positive interpersonal outcomes (e.g., liking) in initial encounters.


  • Disclosure reciprocity was measured by pairing strangers in a structured self-disclosure activity.
  • Participants were divided into pairs. Some pairs had to take turns in asking and answering questions in two interactions (this was reciprocal disclosure).
  • Other pairs had to disclose or listen in an initial interaction (this was non-reciprocal disclosure) and then had to switch disclosure roles for the second interaction.


  • It was found that participants who engaged in reciprocal disclosure experienced more liking, closeness, perceived similarity, and enjoyment of the interaction after the first interaction than participants who engaged in non-reciprocal disclosure.

Self-Disclosure On Social Media

The existence of social media has provided new opportunities to disclose information about self. Now, people have an option to express personal grievances, opinions, and choices with a million others through a few clicks. We now see people share their negative experiences through Facebook or WhatsApp status updates. It’s becoming more and more common to disclose personal moods in the form of status updates.

For example, Martin goes through a breakup. He is naturally upset. He goes on to share his mood through a Facebook status. Soon, people reach out to him wanting to know more as to help him. Here, self-disclosure of emotions worked well as he gets some emotional support during a hard time.

Research Evidence

Study By: Stephanie Day

Aim: To investigate the relationship between Facebook (social networking site) and self-disclosure.


  • An online survey was conducted and Facebook users were asked the level of their Facebook use, the types of personal information they are willing to share and the frequency of these revelations.
  • They were also asked to view their public profile and notice the types of information shared.


  • It was found that most people were likely to be careful about the types of information they shared.
  • They mostly posted positive things about themselves and were aware of personal privacy issues.

Applications of Self-Disclosure

Self-disclosure can be applied in many areas of our lives.

  1. It can be used in forming as well as maintaining friendships. Friendships require sharing from all those involved and reciprocal self-disclosure can help in deepening the bond.
  2. Self-disclosure is also used in therapy. When a client admits something uncomfortable and feels alone, the therapist can disclose some amount of personal information to help the client feel balanced.
  3. In fact, marital therapy involves self-disclosure from both clients. Marital therapy usually works on building emotional intimacy between partners and thus, requires them to share personal feelings and thoughts.
  4. A lot of people feel comfortable sharing experiences in an online format since it provides anonymity which can make them feel free to share honest feelings.
  5. It can also be applied in classrooms. When a teacher shares her experience with a particularly difficult subject, the child can learn from that experience and feel connected to the teacher.

Self-Disclosure and Johari Window

Self-disclosure can be better understood by the Johari window. The Johari window is based on the idea that disclosing information can help in building trust and feedback from others can help us learn things about ourselves. The window has 4 panes that describe an individual’s feelings, information, motivation and whether the information is known to self or others or both.

1. Open Area Or Arena:

This area represents the information about the individual that is known to self and others. This area is where all the communication happens. The larger the area is, the closer the relationship is with others.

2. Blind Self Or Arena:

This area represents information about an individual that others know but the individual is not aware of it. The blind area can be reduced through open communication and constructive feedback.

3. Hidden Area Or Facade:

This area represents information about the individual that is known to self but is not disclosed to others. This can be any information that an individual does not want to reveal to others. It can be any experience, thought or feeling. This area can be reduced by communicating more with others.

4. Unknown Area:

This area represents information that is not known to self and others. This could include forgotten dreams, feelings of the subconscious, repressed traumatic memories, etc. The individual can be aware of this area by listening to feedback from others and engaging in self-reflection. Open communication will help reduce this area.

For Example

Katy joined a new club in school. The other members of the club did not know her well, so the unknown and hidden areas will be larger than the open areas. The blind spot will also be small in this situation.

As Katy got comfortable with the club, the other members got to know about her. Thus, the open areas got bigger. She also received feedback on her contribution to the club and worked on it. As she worked on the feedback and worked with the members, the open area continued to expand.

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