Self-disclosure

Similar to interaction scenes, self-disclosure relates to what people feel comfortable talking about in social scenes. The amount of personal information such as experiences and thoughts is self-disclosure. How much we disclose is related to the breadth, depth, valence, timing and targets. Each category helps explain different culture’s amount of self-disclosure.

Breadth. This refers to the range of topics that are revealed. Americans tend to reveal and disclose many more topics about their health and personality to strangers than most other cultures. The Japanese for instance are very reserved in the self-related topics they would discuss with others. Ghana self-discloses information about family and background.

Depth. The depth is related to the degree of personal information that is disclosed. Superficial topics may be about the kind of food or music you like, while something much more personal is private thoughts and feelings. Americans consistently are the most revealing in self-disclosure. Northern European countries and Asian cultures leave out most private thoughts from conversations.

Valance. This is the positive or negative aspect of the information self-disclosed. Again, Americans like to disclose more negative information than most cultures. Asian cultures are very concerned with face, so negative information is never disclosed.

Timing. The time period within a relationship that it takes us to self-disclose. You can probably can guess that Americans self-disclose rather quickly in new relationships. We talk about our name, hometown, job, school and general interests. Native Americans actually withhold much information initially because it is inappropriate to reveal too much information. Asian cultures are similar in not disclosing much personal information until the relationship grows.

Targets. This is the person to whom we are self-disclosing information. Usually, Americans self-disclose the most information to their spouse. In some cultures, such as in Nigeria, age determines to whom and what to self-disclose. This is typically the case in cultures with high power distance.

As an American, it is important to realize that to most other culture, we like to blurt out as much about our personal lives to anyone that will listen. I constantly ask myself why half of my Facebook friends find the need to post such personal information in their statuses. If I find these things absurd then cultures where self-disclosure is much more reserved will find it offensive and inappropriate. Do you ever feel uncomfortable with the amount of self-disclosure, or maybe lack of self-disclosure, within your own culture?

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