The Art of Self- Disclosure

Sue Relihan
Oct 30 · 2 min read

I recently realized that most of us just don’t know how to do appropriate self-disclosure. We desperately want to be understood, and we think this will happen automatically when we find a “Perfectly Understanding Person”. Often we find the person we believe will be the one that “gets us”, only to be disappointed when they don’t. We usually blame them for not being the person that we thought they were going to be.

But the truth is that most of us lack the skills to make ourselves understood. No one has taught us the ability to disclose our real selves in a way that connects us with others. Thankfully, it is a skill that can still be learned.

Let’s use The Dance of the Seven Veils as a metaphor for this discussion.

The skill to disclose our true selves effectively is a bit like the famous dance of the seven veils, in which the dancer removes one veil at a time, with plenty of dancing in between veils. The anticipation creates a far more alluring interaction than if he/she just showed up buck naked.

Building relationships, even completely nonsexual ones, works the same way. In the beginning our true selves are hidden behind innumerable veils. Each time we disclose a truth about ourselves — anything from our favorite food to our deepest feelings — we remove a layer. It’s up to us to determine how quickly to remove the next layer.

One way to determine the appropriate pace is to pay close attention to the other person’s reaction. The next time you’re meeting someone new, pause, stay present and notice the other person’s reaction to the first layer(s) of what you’ve shared.

Does their reaction make you feel understood, safe, and happy you’ve unveiled a bit? If so, you’ll probably feel like shedding another layer sometime soon. If not, simply stop unveiling. It really is that simple, it’s about tuning into how you’re feeling when you’re interacting.

By responding to our instincts, we develop the skill of setting very precise boundaries. This sets us free to bond with people who really understand us, while remaining cordially detached from those who don’t meet your needs.

If you’d like to discuss this or explore any of your values, emotions, and/or feelings, you are welcome to email me at info@SueRelihan.com or visit my website: www.SueRelihan.com to set up a free 30 minute compassionate conversation.

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