I should have warned you all in the last post that it seems this course I'm taking in human relations is going to give me lots of ideas for writing. But hopefully they'll be interesting enough to draw some good discussions like we just had.
The text we're using for Human Relations is Becoming Aware (Kendall/Hunt Publishing). It talks about the evolution of relationships and how it is crucial to reveal the "real you" to people. We do this by being willing to disclose our "innermost thoughts, feelings, and actions to those with whom we desire to have a close relationship." The text goes on:
The evolution of a relationship, getting acquainted, becoming friends, and developing intimacy is based on how much you are willing to disclose about yourself and how much the other person is willing to disclose about themselves to you. The more you know about another person and the more he or she knows about you, the more effective and efficient the relationship will be
And there's that pesky little word that keeps popping up around the neighborhood. The ever elusive intimacy. The text makes it sound so easy. You meet someone, get to know each other, start talking about your feelings, and *poof* intimacy. The key phrase in that excerpt, though, is how much the other person is willing to disclose about themselves to you. That seems to be a lot of the problem: how do we get others to open up?
To me, it's a matter of understanding that self-disclosure is a choice and it is not dependent upon the other person's disclosure. Sharing my thoughts, feelings, etc. is about letting the other person know the real me and making them feel safe to, if they choose, let me know them.
For example, there was a time when my daughter was in an "I hate you" phase. I would tell her I loved her, but she wouldn't say it to me. Then the question came to mind, "What is your intention in telling her you love her? Do you just say it so she'll say it back?" Well, of course not! The intention was that I want her to know I love her. So I told her. And told her. And told her. And one day she said, "I love you too, Mom." OMG! I just about fainted. "Prepare the fatted calf!"
But what happened? Why the change? The text explains it this way: An individual is not likely to engage in much self-disclosure if the situation involves too much personal threat. For her to allow herself to disclose her feelings to me threatened her need to be detached from me for a while. My continuing to express my feelings to her (regardless of her response) communicated to her in a way that, eventually, made it safe for her to express those feelings to me.
The truth is there is a risk to self-disclosure. With my daughter, I could have decided that if she wasn't going to tell me she loved me, I wasn't going to tell her. But that would have only made the tension between us greater. There was a risk of me getting hurt by not hearing her tell me she loved me, but the advantage of self-disclosure is that "disclosure leads to trust and tust leads to more disclosure, and, thus, the relationship will grow and develop into a mature and long-lasting, loving interaction."
We can't force the intimacy aspect of the relationship. It has to come after the trust is built that tells the other person it's safe to let us in. And this could happen quickly, over time (even years) or even require us to start over in building their trust. But, I think, if we will take the risk, set aside our self-doubt, and examine our real intentions of our self-disclosure, we will be able to acquire the intimate relationships we desire.