Reveal yourself to others!

Sharing Yourself

by Keith Sonnanburg, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist

Most of us engage in meaningless "small talk" and other rituals of speech. When we encounter a stranger on a bus, or little known acquaintances at a party, we tend to stick to emotionally safe and predictable topics (the weather, sports, families, or career) as a way to engage each other without offending or otherwise inviting strong emotions. This works, to a degree. However, there is a cost: you learn little about the other party, and there is little sense that they know anything about you. Because emotions were successfully avoided, there is no emotional connection.

Of course, there is a different danger, when we choose to reveal our selves: we may be judged, censured, and rejected. This is especially true if we plunge into an orgy of self-disclosure, while allowing only limited feedback from our "victim." The art and timing of self-disclosure is a crucial component during the development of friendships and intimate relationships.

What is the medium of establishing a meaningful emotional contact with another? Disclosing your private experiences is the bridge required; these can only be guessed at, until you reveal the particulars.

Crucial among these private events are:

First: "know thyself." Then, as you reveal yourself to others, they will know and respond to you. Some may like and value what you share, and others may not. It has been said (and I agree): "it is better to be rejected for who you are, than to be liked for who you are not." Once you and your listener know where you stand, you have the information you need to choose your course in the relationship. The guidelines for being assertive can be relied upon to minimize unnecessary conflict and maximize mutual knowledge.

Copyright © Keith Sonnanburg, 1996

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