Communication and Self-Disclosure

Cite this article as:"Communication and Self-Disclosure," in The Business Professor, updated October 8, 2019, last accessed July 7, 2020,

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Part of the communication process often involves the disclosure of information about one’s self.

Principles of Self-Disclosure

A person’s personal life and professional life are connected and do not exist independent of each other in the real world. Everyone conveys certain details about themselves in one or another, knowingly or unknowingly. It is not possible to not communicate.

Communication is an on-going process, it happens constantly in diverse forms, be it a person’s internal monologue, through verbal and non-verbal cues or through interpersonal communication.

Often times, when a person is communicating certain information with others on purpose, they reveal some other unintentional details. This is called “self-disclosure”.

The trio of Steven Beebe, Mark Redmond and Susan Beebe proposed that there are five principles of self-disclosure. These principles collectively signal that communication is an essential part of any professional setting. The principles are as follows:

  • Self-disclosure moves are slow paced – Personal information is usually shared with those you have known for a while and have earned your trust over time. With every interaction, you slowly but continuously come closer to your colleagues. When you become comfortably familiar, you are more likely to share unintentional information.
  • Self-disclosure progresses from impersonal to intimate information – When you are in a business organization, you not only represent your own self and reputation but also the organizations’. It is important to keep your familiarity levels in check in order to represent only the information that is relevant and not harmful to the organizations’ reputation in any way.
  • Self-disclosure is reciprocal – Since the exchange between the source and recipient is transactional, it is advisable to choose an intelligent conversational strategy in order to avoid sharing any intimate information. However, if you reveal something about yourself, it is common for you to expect the receiver to something about themselves as well. This is also known as the dyadic effect. It helps in reducing the tension and uncertainty between the communicating individuals. While you do not have the liberty and authority to demand reciprocity as per the dyadic effect, you do have certain level of control on what you share.
  • Self-disclosure includes a level of risk – It is common for conflicts to arise when an innocent remark is perceived in the wrong way by one of the conversational partners who do not have prior history with the other. This is because the frame of reference can be confusing in such cases. So, self-disclosure can be risky; however, it can also lead to positive results.
  • Self-disclosure comprises of trust – Usually self-disclosure happens in people with close bonds as unintentional self-revelation in any communication represents a degree of trust between the conversing partners. It is easy to lose someone’s trust as easily as it is formed. A professional must value this quality. He or she must understand that trust and confidence take time and effort to build, and are very crucial for success within the organization.

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