Earlier today I was sitting around doing some homework and my phone buzzed telling me have a text message. This is what I saw when I picked up my phone:

Now this person is my friend, I would consider her a really good friend, but we have never really had that open of a friendship where we talk about stuff like that. Don’t get me wrong, I found it absolutely hilarious, but it caught me a little off guard. That got me thinking about why I thought it was weird to get a message like that from her. Would I have thought the same thing if it had come from someone else?

In the textbook “Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters” by Julia Wood the idea of self-disclosure is discussed as part of trust in interpersonal relationships. Wood defines self-disclosure as telling someone information about yourself that they wouldn’t find out any other way. By telling others more about ourselves than they would know normally it builds up trust in the relationship, therefore bringing the two closer together. This self-disclosure should be gradual, becoming more and more personal over time, it is not an all-of-a-sudden free-for-all of information (which would scare the other away). You have to slowly build up to being able to self-disclose things that are more personal.

In my example above, we have been friends for 6 months or so, so I would say this was the next level of the building self-disclosure in our interpersonal relationship. I was able to recognize it happening in real time because of recently learning about self-disclosure in class.

Research has shown that the level of intimacy in an interpersonal relationship can be determined by what is self-disclosed. In the study, the researchers found that revealing facts and information suggests a lower level of intimacy than revealing emotions.

My best friend of almost 4 years and I are very close, and we self-disclose emotions very often, almost without any hesitation or second thought about it. So when I compare the communication between this relationship and the relatively new one with my friend who texted me today, I can see how emotional self-disclosure can be used to bring people closer together in interpersonal relationships.