Self-Disclosure and Dating
Bears will stop at nothing to win the affection of their desired lover. They’ll use beauty products, pickup lines and self-help techniques. They will inform a girl they’ve just met they love them and engage in outrageous over-sharing about their self doubts and issues with other women. Mostly their mothers. When those fail, they will switch to kidnapping their desired’s pet rabbit and castrating it by live internet feed to get their attention.
What counts, however, is what is underneath, or how you get it out there. Our guest shrink pops by again for some perspective on self-disclosure.
Self-disclosure is communicating information about your true self – the real Bear in all his grisly glory. It can be done through gestures, body language, tone of voice and, of course, speech. It is essential for getting to know someone, making relationships exciting and building intimacy. Self-disclosure is NOT communicating veiled, fake or rote-learned information about yourself. That is manipulation and certainly not conducive to building healthy relationships.
Bears often hold back on self-disclosing through fear of rejection. However, when it comes to self-disclosure the benefits tend to outweigh the costs so it is definitely worth the risk. This article focusses on how to do self-disclosure well to enhance your dating experience.
Benefits of self-disclosure
Self-disclosure leads to increased knowledge and awareness about yourself. This is because we learn about ourselves through our interactions with others. We compare opinions, formulate rules and assumptions, learn how certain people make us feel and we change the way we behave based on the reactions we get from others. The more we know ourselves the more we are likely to know what we seek in a romantic partner and can channel our energies into lassoing that Bear or Bearess!
Self-disclosure also leads to more intimate relationships. Relationships deepen when both people are willing to disclose their true selves. If one person holds back, chances are the other will too the relationship will be correspondingly shallow and unsatisfying. Disclosure breeds more disclosure. The range of topics available for discussion broadens, trust builds and intimacy develops.
Disclaimer: the amount of self-disclosure is NOT directly proportionate to the amount of sex you will attract. If this is your mentality, expect the inverse relationship (more self-disclosure = less sex). This is because people hate feeling ‘played’. We want genuine human interaction. So, exactly how much should a Bear bare about his or her soul?
Optimal levels of self-disclosure
Some people are more open than others. Your mood, the person you are with and the topic of conversation will likely influence how much you self-disclose. For example, you are more likely to disclose your sexual encounters to your best friend than with your grandma (for many bears this example is not applicable whatsoever- Dom Jones). Appropriate self-disclosure is all about balance.
First, it is important to know your current levels of self-disclosure. You can do so by thinking about common topics of conversation and how much you disclose to various people, including dates and prospective partners. Topics might include: tastes and interests (e.g., your favourite foods), attitudes and opinions (e.g., your opinion on religion), work or studies (e.g., your ambitions), money (e.g., your salary), personality (e.g., your fears), and body (e.g., your feelings about your appearance). Once you know what topics you can discuss freely, and what topics you actively lie about, you can begin to practice appropriate self-disclosure.
Another important consideration is gauging how much your date self-discloses as as indication of how much you should self-disclose. Again, balance is key. Mirroring your conversational partner will subtly convey interest whilst also controlling for ‘anxious-rambling syndrome’.
More than just facts
Step one in practicing appropriate self-disclosure is to practice sharing facts about yourself or the world. You can start by telling a trusted friend about your job, your last vacation or something funny that happened that day.
Next, give the conversation some shape and colour by disclosing how you felt about the matter and what needs or desires you have in relation to it. For example, “I was disappointed I didn’t get time to see Nicaragua… Maybe next time”. Generally, talking about the past or future is easier than ‘here-and-now’ conversations.
The top layers of the self-disclosure ‘onion’ is expressing what you think, feel and need right now. For example, you can talk about how you feel about the person you are with, how relaxed or nervous you are feeling and what you would like to see happen (note: don’t do this on your first date unless you are a female who is at least attractive as Helena Chistensen). It is important you do so organically and feel confident doing so. If it comes across as forced or rote-learned it will be a downright cringe. Since it is fairly bold and direct thing to do you might want to practice sharing with a close friend how your conversation with them, or simply being in their company, is affecting you. Then, when the time feels right, do the same on a date and see what happens. You might just receive a heart-stopping self-disclosure back (our readers are more likely to give out a heart-stopping knife assault – Dom Jones)
If you would like more information on building communications skills we recommend the 2009 book by McKay, Davis and Fanning titled ‘Messages’.