How Self-Disclosure Creates Liking

Over the years, I have discussed different ways to use words to build attraction. Particularly, I have shared how to create a situation to build rapport with a partner. I have discussed conversation topics that can build romantic attraction or desire. We have also reviewed ways of using words and conversation in general to build romance too.

Now, to add to those techniques, I’d like to discuss how self-disclosure overall helps to create positive feelings within relationships as well. Specifically, we will see how sharing personal facts and details about ourselves can spark positive feelings of intimacy in others (and ourselves too). So, without further ado, let’s look at the research…

Research on Self-Disclosure and Liking

In my search, I found an older article by Collins and Miller (1994), which featured a meta-analysis thoroughly exploring the relationship between self-disclosure and liking. The authors evaluated 94 studies on the topic, which contained experiments of various designs, and found three main effects of such disclosure overall. Those effects were:

  1. People who shared intimate facts about themselves with others were generally liked more than those who only disclosed superficial things.
  2. People generally disclose more to others who they like already.
  3. People tend to like others more after they have disclosed something personal to them too.

Based on that, Collins and Miller (1994) suggest that these three disclosure-liking effects can be combined together as parts of a dynamic interpersonal system. Specifically, as we share personal information with others, they tend to like us more (point 1)—and we tend to like them more too (point 3). Because we tend to disclose more to people we like (point 2), an initial disclosure by either person can lead to more disclosure by both partners in the future too. So, in essence, this is a positive feedback loop, where disclosure leads to liking, which leads to more disclosure…and so on.

Within the studies evaluated, this effect held up in more contrived situations as well—such as when research participants were required to share something personal. Also, the greater the disclosure the bigger impact it had on emotions overall as well. Thus, simply getting another person to share something personal with you, no matter the circumstances, can increase their attraction and positive feelings for you too.

Disclosing and Motivating Disclosure in Relationships

Given the research above, focusing on each of the three disclosure points could help improve intimacy and liking in your own relationships as well. Specifically, focus on the following.

1) Talking About Yourself: While it can be challenging, it is important to learn how to work through fear of rejection and share a bit about yourself with others. Being curious about your partner helps to overcome anxiety as well. Once you have worked on that, then try sharing a bit about yourself—especially your unique and positive features that others might not know about already.

2) Getting Others to Like You: Beyond sharing something unique and special about yourself, create a positive and welcoming environment for others to share with you too. Learn how to build a sense of connection with your partner, so they feel comfortable sharing. Find ways to mirror and match their body language to increase that feeling of comfort and liking—while behaving in ways that build trust yourself too. This will help provide an environment where others will want to share and disclose with you back as well.

3) Asking About Them: Finally, get others to share with you. When asked and supported, most people like to talk about themselves, especially their feelings and opinions. So, ask them. Don’t be afraid to go beyond surface conversation eventually—but work up to it with small, positive steps. For example, ask them about their dreams and aspirations. Discuss what they wanted to grow up to be when they were a kid. Find out those little things that make their life happy (like pets and hobbies). The more they share, the more they will care too.

© 2018 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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