use personal disclosure

Use Personal DisclosureSelf-disclosure is the communication process of intentionally sharing your own personal information.

Illustrating a message with your own life experience will help your audience reflect on their own lives, enabling them to connect with you.

The theory behind self disclosure

In 1973 psychologists Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor developed the theory of 'Social Penetration' to provide an understanding of the closeness between people. According to their theory there are 2 dimensions to self-disclosure - breadth and depth - and both are crucial in developing intimate relationships. They used the metaphor of the skins of an onion to illustrate the model.

The range of topics discussed by people is the breadth of disclosure. The degree to which the information revealed is private or personal is the depth of that disclosure.

It's easy for many of us to stay in the outer layers of disclosure, as the common topics involved often refer to our every day lives – the weather, occupations, preferences etc. Real depth can be harder to reach and often includes recounting difficult memories and other traits that we might prefer to conceal. However, it is often in these deeper layers that we build trust with one other.

Self disclosure in presentations

Self-disclosure during a presentation can completely shift the dynamics of a talk. Suddenly there are real life examples and stories to help illustrate the message.

Ken Robinson's TED talk from 2006 on how mainstream education can kill creativity, is a masterful example of using personal disclosure to weave a powerful message. Many of his observations seem unconnected, and yet each and every story illustrates another example of a child’s creativity. If you've never watched it, it really is worth the twenty minutes of your time.

Self-disclosure during a presentation can completely shift the dynamics of a talk. Suddenly there are real life examples and stories to help illustrate the message.

The power of disclosure in business

Self-disclosure tends to be reciprocal, and positive self-disclosure increases likeability and trust. So if you're pitching an idea, or selling something to someone, then be aware of using disclosure. It might mean you discover something new that may just tip the scales in your favour.

Some time ago we pitched to large global logistics business. We sat in the boardroom being very polite and discussed the weather. During our pitch I noticed a picture of a massive container ship on the wall. I was at this time a new father and was spending many a late night feeding my newborn son whilst watching the US series 'The Wire'. The second season of the show focuses on the ports - with quite a few high-end cars stolen from the massive container ships once they docked.

I shared my story, and asked if it ever happened in real life. It was unintentional disclosure, but it lead to reciprocal disclosure on parenting, organised crime and great American TV. The atmosphere in the room had changed and we all knew more about each other. I am sure this played a large part in securing the contract.

So the next time you're planning a presentation, team meeting or pitch, see if you can try using some self disclosure - anything from your own life experience that might help others to understand you and your message that little bit better.

NEXT: 'use a clicker'

All Preparation Advice

get in touch

Contact us
  • Preferred contact method?



What is Resilience anyway?

Our programme designer and course leader Justin McCarron looks at Resilience – what it is, and how it could benefit your team… > Read more