Language is a wonderful thing. It is the great equaliser. Any person – regardless of wealth, race, creed, religion or social status – can rise up if they can master their communication, and a sound knowledge of language goes a long way towards achieving this. The truly great communicators are wonderful actors as well. Their body language, their ability to emote, to bring people in and take them on a journey with their language is a joy to behold.

When we talk about linguistics, we automatically think of the spoken word, however, linguistics include any form that can be used to attribute meaning to the world, including drawings, the written word, hieroglyphics, symbols and so on. So to be a true master of linguistics you need to have far more than an exhaustive vocabulary and sound comprehension.

One of the interesting things about communication, and a point which is taught and referred to a lot in journalism, is that the information which one chooses to omit from their communication is just as important as that which they choose to include. That got me thinking about disclosure.

What is too much, what is too little, how much should you disclose and to whom? These are very objective questions and they rely on a huge number of factors such as the audience you are communicating with, what your objectives are in communicating with them, which feelings you are trying to emote and so on. Thus the truly masterful communicators not only have a solid grasp on linguistics and are fantastic actors, they also have the critical self awareness and ability to read a crowd, which informs their decisions on how much disclosure is appropriate.

I’m naturally quite an open person, and as a coach I feel that being honest and authentic in my communication, giving of yourself and opening up to those I work with pays worthwhile dividends. In admitting your vulnerability you allow others to become vulnerable. By confessing your challenges and acknowledging your weaknesses, you are ‘letting in’ those you are communicating with, in a sense. You’re building a connection which makes them feel comfortable letting you in, in return.

I have been guilty of disclosing too much from time to time, and unless it is done on purpose to elicit shock or amazement, then it can get ugly. It can make you feel a little silly, a tad dirty, a bit judged. Though if we are feeling judged, we are really just projecting our insecurities onto those we are communicating with. Which makes me realise that the genuinely confident individuals, those that are at peace with who they are and feel content in their own skin, are usually those that are most comfortable disclosing intimate details about themselves.

Perhaps this means that intensely private people are inherently insecure? On second thought, probably not. I know people who are quite private, yet so comfortable with their own company that they don’t feel the need to share everything with everyone they come across. They will calmly disclose facts about themselves that may be shocking to you, mainly for the reason that you never thought such things possible of this person, let alone would it be possible they might tell you about it.

I’m not really getting anywhere here, in fact I feel I am no further advanced in my understanding of disclosure than I was when I started writing this post. Can you help me out? What do you think is appropriate. More or less? Do you have any interesting anecdotes relating to disclosure in your past?



5 thoughts on “Disclosure

  1. I’m not certain there’s a silver bullet, or standard answer. People will disclose more, depending on them. Those reciprocating the disclosure will equally have varied levels of comfort or discomfort to the disclosure levels being demonstrated.
    There’s not to much or too little. There is what there is. You’re either comfortable with disclosing a lot, or a little. Same as you’ll either be comfy with being in the receiving end of disclosure.
    Life is life. They throw each mould away after ones built….


    • Yes I agree Achwell, I wonder if you can ever truly judge how much disclosure is appropriate before you make it? Or do you just have to wait to see the reaction on your audiences face’s before knowing if you’ve overstepped the mark.


  2. There’s a woman named Anne Jackson who wrote a book about openness in the church (it’s called Permission to Speak Freely, and it’s brilliant). One of her chapters is called ‘the gift of going second’, and the basic hypothesis is that if you open up first and make yourself vulnerable, it creates a way for someone else to be vulnerable without risk.
    Of course, that doesn’t mean you spill everything immediately to everyone you meet, but I think you just ‘know’ that sometimes you have to give more so that someone else can disclose something. You can tell they want to speak about something, so you give them a part of yourself so it’s more of an exchange than just them dumping their thoughts and not knowing what you’ll do with it.
    There isn’t a science to it, I don’t think, but I do agree that the best communicators are those who are genuine, honest and vulnerable with those they work with. Communicating is just as much about listening well and understanding those you’re communicating to, as it is about what you communicate.
    If you do the listening well, I think you learn to give someone the gift of going second when they need it, and when to ask questions… So maybe, I’m trying to say, that disclosing well is about listening well and reading whoever you’re working with well.


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