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Closeness Through Self-Disclosure

Chapter 9
The section “Closeness Through Self-Disclosure,” is something I think we all can relate to in regards to our interpersonal relationships. It can be hard to let your guard down and be truly vulnerable to others. Griffin talks about various ways to open yourself up to another human being in order to form a closer bond with them, but the predominant way is through self-disclosure. (114). He defines this term as, “the voluntary sharing of personal history, preferences, attitudes, feelings, values, secrets, etc., with another person; transparency” (Griffin, 114). I like how the last word sums up the whole definition. To me transparency means to be see-through, almost naked from the inside out. There are certain people in my life that I have opened up to enough that I am like an open book to them now. That can be very scary, but also quite rewarding. Like the onion illustration on page 115, a passage was cut, making it possible to return repeatedly. So once I let my guard down, and let that person in, that line had been crossed, and there was no turning back.
I have a tendency to want to guard my heart with a protective shield. I will intentionally or sometimes subconsciously put up walls, as to not let others in too close. I want to have meaningful, deep intimate relationships with family, friends and even my boyfriend, but in order to do that I have to take a risk. That risk involves fear and hesitation on my part due to being hurt in the past. If I keep things on a surface level it is easier, less risky and I feel more in control. But I am sacrificing a lot in order to protect myself, and am left feeling void and lonely. I used to try keeping everything from my mom because I was always afraid she would turn around and use it against me as “emotional blackmail” (115) or it would come back to bite me. Maybe this worked for a short while, and I did not have to worry about projecting my own fears onto her because I was not even giving her the opportunity to judge or support me. But inevitably our relationship suffered from shutting her out, and as a result I suffered. Once I started letting her back in I realized that the risk I took was most of the time if not always worth it. There was the occasional fifteen percent of the time that it came back to bite me, but the other seventy five percent of the time I gained support, closeness and deeper intimacy with her.


  1. You indentified a key word, transparency; I had read it in our book, but did not fully appreciate it until I read your narrative. It is so true and so descriptive. You also said: “once I let my guard down, and let that person in, that line had been crossed, and there was no turning back.” I totally agree with you about the feeling of vulnerability and risks involved. On a related note, I found Sandra Petronio’s Communication Privacy Management Theory practical for personal boundaries. She specifies culture as a privacy rule factor, and describes Americans as open with their feelings. I grew up in a similarly open culture, but I was still shocked with Americans’ openness when I first came to the US. My impressions of “Western people” were stereotyped based on the English whom I had direct experience with and in whose country I had also lived for a short while. The other factors, gender (in general, females disclose more than males), motives (influence of attraction and liking), context, and risk-benefit speak directly to the discussion about boundary setting. Petronio astutely points out that: “We know that revealing exposes us to a certain amount of vulnerability, but so does concealing.” Petronio’s boundary coordination is equally discerning and accessible.

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  3. Cinderella: I think there are a lot of people who avoid being transparent for fear of getting hurt like you described. A lot of people do that in their relationships with their significant others - you often do not want to be left vulnerable and end up in pain. You do not want the other person to know what makes you hurt or be sad because they can do that to intentionally hurt you. It is very hard to determine who to trust and be transparent around. I think that even the people closest to you can use emotional blackmail and take advantage of the fact that you allowed yourself to be vulnerable and open up. Even though we don't mean it, it is bound to happen.

    zjbach - I totally understand what you are saying about being shocked with the openness of Americans. I grew up in traditional Indian culture where you traditionally don't disclose more than you need to. This is in contrast to traditional American culture where we are much more open to discussing almost anything (even related to subjects that are considered taboo in Eastern culture). That was a great comment by you zjbach! It really got me thinking.

  4. I really liked what you wrote and I like how you talked about the risk involved in self-disclosure. It definitely feels like a risky thing for me sometimes because I'm not always sure if people will understand me when I open up to them. What I've noticed though, is that most of the time it is beneficial to not be so guarded and to just let people so who I am. I've found that it leads to stronger happier relationships.
    It is definitely easier to keep things on the surface level, but I think in the end it is harmful. It's definitely a temporary thing. But like you said, looking back, it would have been better for you to just be open, especially in the situation with your mom.

  5. In reading your blog entry I felt like I was reading a self-disclosure description I would write for myself. I, personally, am eager to get to know people but the amount of information I release about my self is slow and steady. If I feel like I’m being rushed into opening up, I close down and put up walls subconsciously because I, too, have been hurt in the past. You’re right when you say getting to know someone better and them getting to know you better is rewarding but very scary. Again, like you said, once you cross that line there is no going back. Maybe after this class we will learn effective ways of communication so that we no longer close down or put up walls but maybe instead speak our mind and tell the person seeking a deeper relationship that we need more time and a slow and steady pace before we’ll disclose some of the most personal information about ourselves. We shall see…