Have say and what is “too much.” According
Have you ever wanted to say something but were hesitant
because you did not know how to express it or you were worried how the other
person would react? Or even worse, you open up to them and they do not
reciprocate? That is the everyday struggle, as human beings, we face in
relationships. Whether it is with colleagues, classmates, friends, or
significant others, we tend to have a hard time with self-disclosure and what
is “okay” to say and what is “too much.” According to Griffon (2014),
social penetration theory is the process of developing a deeper intimacy with
another person through mutual self-disclosure and other forms of vulnerability.
Self-disclosure is the voluntary sharing of personal history,
preferences, attitudes, feelings, values, secrets, etc., with another person no
matter who it is.
As humans, we cling to safe environments and
secure energies people give off that could be good or bad. Self-disclosure is a
risk we all take when communicating with people and being in relationships.
When it comes to sharing information about yourself in a more personal
relationship, like to your significant other, we want to know that we are in
safe space when talking to that person but we also do not want to be the only
one that is revealing information.
People have a
strong need to express their feelings or communicate in some way how they feel
and some people believe the best way to have a good relationship is to share
those emotions and become as vulnerable as possible. But does one biological
sex have an easier time with self-disclosing? Is it harder for men to express
themselves to women than to other men?
(2004) conducted a study at Old
Dominion University and found, “People seem to selectively choose to whom to disclose about
specific topics, which in part may reflect a judgment about the expected
response from a prospective disclosure target (Greene & Faulkner, 2002) as
well as rules governing appropriateness of disclosure to various targets
(Petronio, 2002)” (p. 91)
This study was conducted with
college students to see what they classified as “personal information” and to
whom they disclose such information. Because college students are more likely
to seek the approval of peers and friends, the study concluded that women are
more likely to disclose with same-sex friends and romantic partners. Thus, women
seem to be more likely than men to disclose about many things to their
When it comes to self-disclosure and intimacy, people
assume that it cannot happen in friendships or platonic relationships, when in
fact that is not the case at all. Intimacy is not just in romantic relationship
and when two people reach that level of self-disclosure, it helps the
relationship or friendship even go even further. But does biological sex play a
role in how much we self-disclose and the level of intimacy shared? We
naturally think that women are closer in relationships and friendships and are
more open to the idea of having an “intimate” friendship.
Research has been exhausted on how people interact and
communicate in romantic relationships; what they share and what is off limits,
how much they want to tell another with fear of rejection or vulnerability, but
how do those issues transfer to friendships or platonic relationships? How do
women differ in what they self-disclose when it is to a female friend than to a
male friend? How do men communicate with their female friends differently than how
they communicate with their male friends? Studies should be conducted to figure
out if biological sex makes a difference in communicating among intimate
No one likes rejection; therefore, people do not like to
open up and let another in. They are afraid of how someone else will see them
and what they will think. It would seem that females have an easier time
talking to other females because they share the biggest common factor; being a
female, and because of this acceptance is higher than it would be with a male.
And the same with males. The research that should now be done is why does the
opposite sex have that fear of not being accepted or rejection. How does one
overcome that or is it this genetically engrained?
Who and How Much to Self-Disclose?
Self-disclosure comes in all forms, and at different
times in a relationship. People pick and choose, whether conscious or not, who
they want to disclose to and about what. Those can be different for everyone.
It is common that girls are more open about things with their mom than they are
with their dad. Greene, Derlega, and Mathews (2004) conducted a study and found
that “people seem to selectively choose to whom to disclose about specific
topics, which in part may reflect a judgment about the expected response from a
prospective disclosure target (Greene & Faulkner, 2002) as well as rules
governing appropriateness of disclosure to various targets (Petronio, 2002)”
This study was conducted with college students to see
what they classified as “personal information” and to whom they disclose such
information. Because college students are more likely to seek the approval of
peers and friends more, it was found that females are more likely to disclose
with same-sex friends and romantic partners (Matthews, 86). Thus, females are
more likely than men to disclose about many things to their partner.
The paper seeks to explain the gender differences in
self-disclosure in same-gender friendships and opposite gender friendship.
According to Crisp and Turner (2010), there are gender differences of either
same or opposite gender friendships. There is a crucial determinant of
developing an interpersonal relationship in terms of amount, speed, and level
of self-disclosure. Although both males and females tend to engage in close
friendship relationship, same sex friendships tend to differ based on two main
aspects: the emotional intimacy of the gender relationships and the level of
physical contact. Women’s friendship is more intimate and emotionally
engaged compared to men’s friendship.
Moods Affecting Self-Disclosure
As human beings, we experience a whirlwind of emotions
and they can change in an instant. We are either happy or sad or anxious or
angry and many other indescribable moods. These emotions obviously affect our
mood and how we interact in different situations. Emotions are not
destinations; they are pit stops along the way that people have to get through.
Joseph P. Forgas (2010) conducted a study at the University of New South Wales to
see if one’s mood can affect one’s willingness to self-disclose. The study
found that “these three experiments provide convergent evidence that temporary
fluctuations in mood can produce marked changes in the quality and reciprocity
of self-disclosure. The present results are the first to show that while
positive mood increases disclosure intimacy, abstractness, and breadth,
negative mood improves the reciprocity of self-disclosure” (Forgas, 2010, p.457).
It is no wonder that when people are mad, it is difficult
to express themselves properly or when people are sad, it is harder to say how
they actually feel. Emotions play a role in how much self-disclosure
individuals engage in and also what is self-disclosed. But it does make sense
that when you are in a happy, positive mood you want to say how you feel and be
very expressive with words and even body language. But that can also hinder you
when you need to disclose not so positive information; people tend to not want
to because do not want to ruin our positive state of mind.
Derlaga & Berg (2014) found out that females are
highly emotionally expressive. Considering the gender differences in terms of
intimacy, Crips and Turner (2010) carried out a meta-analysis research on the
issues to do with self-disclosure and focused on the gender difference in that
research study. They found that women tend to self-disclose their issues
compared to men especially on issues to do with intimate relationship (Crips
and Turner, 2010).
Self-Disclosing and Intimacy in
Friendships and Romantic Relationships
What are the benefits of self-disclosure and how can that
deepen connections in any relationship, romantic or platonic? Phillips (2017) talks
about how self-disclosure can heighten intimacy in a relationship and how
building a friendship is vital to a healthy romantic relationship. To start,
“Intimacy begins when a person shares something emotionally meaningful with
someone else. Risk is at the heart of the matter. The person is taking a chance
on a hunch that the
listener could be trustworthy but there’s always the possibility the emotional
import will be missed, ignored, unreciprocated” (Phillips, 2017, p.512).
Intimacy is not just in romantic
relationship, but does gender play a role in how much we self-disclose and the
level of intimacy shared? We naturally think that women are closer in
relationships and in friendships and are more open to the idea of having an
“intimate” friendship. Beverley Fehr (2017) says, “the reason for this is men
are more afraid of rejection or being vulnerable” (p. 52). What stops them from
engaging more often in self-disclosure with other men, she says, is fear of
rejection: “Sharing makes men feel too vulnerable, perhaps because it conflicts
with another value men hold-competitiveness” (Phillips, 2017. p.52).
According to Derlaga & Berg
(2013), men have a greater need to control their privacy than women. In
the study, it was also determined that most men have greater negative
ramifications when they are disclosing their life expectations (p. 150). It has
however been determined that when men and women become involved in a
relationship, there are changes that they make to theses self-disclosure rules
(p. 270). People tend to be more lenient with self-disclosing because that is
part of the relationship; both parties have to agree to communicate and
reciprocate (p. 240). The rules are mainly changed to enable the coordination
between the partners. Under the new rules, there still, however, remain
some secrets that both genders are not willing to share with the other (p. 245).
They consider this information to still be highly personal.
Research done on the relationship
between partners who are married showed that women in marriage share most of
their private lives with their partners as opposed to men. Women disclose their
secrets to both men and women. It was determined that some of the factors that
lead to conflict between a couple are the inability to agree on the ways
through which they can mutually manage their shared boundaries.
In a study conducted by Dindia &
Allen (1992), it was determined that men disclose less on the issues of
feminine topics with emphasized personal sensitivities and concerns. The
disclosure on the neutral topics was however determined to be same among
genders (p. 110). It was determined that both men and women disclosed similarly
on neutral topics (p. 112). Women were determined to disclose more on the
feminine topics to both their female or male friends and partners (p. 112). Collins & Miller, (1994) determined that
it was incorrect to conclude that women are more likely to disclose than men.
They argued that levels of self-discloser between men and women depends on the
interaction with several situation variables to influence their social behavior
One of the factors that affect self-disclosure is cultural
difference. Females are reported in several cultures to disclose more than men
(p. 185). According to Derlaga & Berg (2013), the gender roles are linked
to the inhibited self-disclosure in relationships. There is a gender difference
based on opposite and different genders when it comes to self-disclosure (p.
190). Social scientists have proved that men have conformed and adjusted to
norms of masculinity (p. 230). The society has valued masculine traits to be
associated to control and power; on the other hand, feminine traits have been
characterized by vulnerability and tenderness (p. 256).
Research has been exhausted on how people interact and
communicate in romantic relationships—what they share and what is off limits,
how much they want to tell without fear of rejections or sole vulnerability,
and the gender differences, but how do those issues transfer to friendships or
platonic relationships? How do women differ in what they self-disclose when it
is to a female friend than to a male friend? How do men communicate with their
female friends versus how they communicate with their male friends? A study should
be conducted to figure out why gender makes a difference in communicating. Now
it is time to study these questions and differences in depth and take what we
know about men and women in romantic relationships and apply it to men and
women in friendships.
Self-disclosing is a big factor in relationships and
friendships. It could take time to open up to people but it could also have to
do with the sex of whoever your self-disclosing to. But is there a difference
in what you self-disclose due to the sex of that other person? There are so
many reasons for why people say certain things to certain people but there
needs to be research done on how the conversation changes when speaking to a
friend of the opposite sex. For this experiment, a focus group of 25 randomly
selected participants and observation of different venues will be conducted.