October 07, 2022

The art of self-exposure: closer the psychological distance between each other?


There is a very important concept in social psychology: self-exposure.

As our interactions with others gradually increase, and the degree of trust and intimacy increases, both parties will expose themselves more and more.

Psychologist Altman pointed out that good interpersonal relationships develop and become intimate in the process of increasing self-exposure.

However, we found that it is difficult to change from a “nodding acquaintance” to a close friend. Whether the relationship is romantic or platonic, there seem to be countless reasons to explain why it is so difficult to establish and maintain relationships between people.

However, in many cases the breakdown of the relationship is not always because one party made a big mistake, but because the two people gradually become separated. Social relationships seem to be difficult to maintain, especially when the relationship does not have a solid daily basis (such as work, marriage, or other activities).

Important and in-depth research on self-exposure is not only huge, but also extensive. From focusing on when people will self-expose, the reasons for self-exposure to whether self-exposure is effective, there are countless.

Self-exposure can stimulate a collision in the mind and express the most sincere and deepest hopes and fears in the heart. But self-disclosure can also mean that we share our preferences for music, food, and books. Both types of self-exposure play a pivotal role in the establishment and strengthening of relationships.


Four levels of self-exposure

Many people judge whether the relationship between people is “iron or not” or “close to each other” based on the depth and breadth of self-exposure. The increase in self-exposure does not just stop at the quantity, but the qualitative change caused by the quantitative change in philosophy.

Therefore, researchers divide self-exposure into four levels. Interpersonal communication begins with a low level of trust and self-exposure. As the degree of both parties gets deeper, the relationship gets better and closer, and the level of self-exposure is higher. This is the “closeness effect” of self-exposure.

Four levels of self-exposure:

The first level: It is about the taste and preferences, such as hobbies, living habits and so on.

The second level: It is about attitudes, such as opinions on the government, attitudes or opinions on someone, an organization, and so on.

The third level: It is about self-awareness and personal interpersonal relationship status, such as one’s own social relationship, one’s own emotions, relationship with family and friends, etc.

The fourth level: It is about privacy, such as your own unknown secrets, some attitudes, thoughts and behaviors that are not accepted by the society, etc.

Different occasions reveal different patterns of self-exposure. The two parties in the love period usually make a lot of self-exposure at the beginning of the relationship, and relatively, as the relationship gradually stabilizes and develops, the two parties in a long-term relationship tend to consciously reduce the degree of self-exposure.

Of course, not all exposures are good. Early research shows that premature and excessive self-exposure can make people feel offended. A person who you just met in the last second and starts to spit out your heart in the next second will make you want to escape immediately.


Effectiveness of self-disclosure

The reason why we pay so much attention to self-exposure is because it profoundly affects how people perceive us and how we perceive others.

We always hope that others will like us, so we will tell them our “little secrets”. But does this method really work, or is it just the development of the plot in soap operas and movies?

Looking back at previous research, Collins and Miller (1994) found that there are three main types of self-exposure preferences:

1. Compared to tight-lipped, people prefer those who expose their privacy;

2. People will subconsciously expose more to the people they love (this is a conclusion that can no longer be obvious);

3. People subconsciously prefer people to whom they have exposed little secrets (this is not so obvious);


How do we react to the exposure of others?

The relationship will continue to strengthen and deepen through the self-exposure of both parties, which seems to be a good thing. But when others reveal their true thoughts to you, if they don’t react properly, they may destroy the relationship between the two

Again, in any relationship, don’t expose yourself too much too early (so as not to scare away the other person).

More importantly, self-exposure is not just to “pia” all the darkest secrets in your heart, but to learn how to correctly express your thoughts and thoughts in an intricate relationship.

The self-exposure process model in psychological research shows us how people respond to different self-exposures in different relationships—how to respond to the self-exposure of others is extremely important. When people talk, they always want to get the other side’s understanding, not just listen. The listener’s body language, concentration, demeanor, and timing of response can all show an understanding of the talker’s self-exposure, which directly affects whether a relationship can blossom and bear fruit, or is alienated and withered.


Self-exposure on the Internet

Several recent studies will focus on how people who focus on online dating expose themselves. They found that online chat is easier than real face-to-face chat, because in face-to-face chat, in addition to language, a large amount of information is communicated through non-verbal means.

It is relatively simple to “shape” an identity on the Internet. The name can be changed at will, and the photo can be beautified at will, so the impression management is easier (because the Internet has more opportunities to lie without worrying about being dismantled).

According to the statistics of survey data, in online dating, people who like to use a lot of positive self-exposure, speak more candidly, and do not circumscribe have a higher success rate. Therefore, even through an electronic screen, when we communicate with people on the Internet, it is always good to be sincere and clear.


The art of self-exposure

In short, in interpersonal communication, self-exposure by both parties is particularly important for establishing and maintaining a relationship. This statement is nothing new. However, although the principle of self-exposure seems simple, it is difficult to practice it.

So self-disclosure is an art. When others reveal their hearts to you, we need verbal and nonverbal skills to respond and express our understanding (such as putting down the mobile phone in our hand, keeping our eyes focused and not looking around; for example, the upper body is leaning slightly forward, etc.).

The Internet is a very convenient channel for us to lie about ourselves, but if you want to win the sincerity and likes of others, the principle of sincerity of self-exposure is no different between the Internet and reality.