Self-disclosure promotes attraction.

People feel a sense of closeness to others who reveal their vulnerabilities, innermost thoughts, and facts about themselves. The sense of closeness increases if the disclosures are emotional rather than factual. Personal disclosures that are too general reduce the sense of openness, thus reducing the feeling of closeness. Disclosures that are too intimate often highlight character and personality flaws, thus decreasing likeability. People who make intimate disclosures too early in relationships are often perceived as insecure, which further decreases likeability.

Self- disclosure is a two-step process. First, a person has to make a self-disclosure that is neither too general nor too intimate. Second, the self-disclosure must be received with empathy, caring, and respect. A negative response made to a genuine self-disclosure can instantly terminate a relationship. Self-disclosures are often reciprocal. When one person makes self-disclosures, the listener is more likely to reciprocate by making similar self-disclosures. The exchange of personal information creates a sense of intimacy in relationships. A relationship in which one person makes personal self-disclosures while the other person continues to make superficial disclosures is an indicator that the relationship is not progressing and is likely to end.

When people find a person whom they can trust, they are tempted to open the emotional floodgates overwhelming the object of their affection. Disclosures should be made over a long period of time to ensure that the relationship slowly increases in intensity and closeness. A steady trickle of personal information increases the longevity of the relationship because each partner continually feels the closeness that comes with self-disclosures.

Mutual self-disclosures create trust. People who make personal disclosures become vulnerable to the person to whom the disclosures are made. Mutual self-disclosures also create a safety zone because each person has exposed their vulnerabilities and tend to protect the disclosures to avoid mutual embarrassment resulting from a breach of trust.

Social network users tend to rely more on self-disclosures to create a sense of closeness because they do not receive verbal and nonverbal cues that would be otherwise exchanged in face-to-face communications. The veracity of information exchanged online is suspect, thus forcing online daters to spend more time verifying information from their online counterpart. Once veracity has been established, the lack of a physical presence increases the probability of more intimate disclosures online leading to the illusion of a close relationship and, likewise, increases the intensity of a relationship that goes wrong.

For more information on how to build, maintain, and repair relationships refer to The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over.

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© Copyright 2015 Jack Schafer, Ph.D., All rights Reserved.
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John R. “Jack” Schafer, Ph.D. is a professor at Western Illinois University in the Law Enforcement and Justice Administration (LEJA) Department. He is a retired FBI Special Agent. He served as behavioral analyst assigned to FBI’s National Security Behavioral Analysis Program. He authored a book titled “Psychological Narrative Analysis: A Professional Method to Detect Deception in Written and Oral Communications.” He also co-authored a book titled “Advanced Interviewing Techniques: Proven strategies for Law Enforcement, Military, and Security Personnel.” He has published numerous articles on a wide range of topics including the psychopathology of hate, ethics in law enforcement, and detecting deception. Dr. Schafer earned his Ph.D. in psychology at Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, California. Dr. Schafer owns his own consulting company and lectures and consults in the United States and abroad.