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At the heart of creating intimacy is self-disclosure. Basically self-disclosure is telling someone else about yourself—your experiences, your ideas, your hopes and dreams and feelings. It’s not a one-way street. The goal here is that your partner offers the same kind of information about him- or herself. You reveal something personal about yourself, then he or she reveals something personal about him- or herself. This kind of self-disclosure is an invitation to trust. There are levels of risk involved, but the greater the risk, the deeper the trust.
Generally speaking, low-risk self-disclosure is personal information that a good friend will probably know about you—your likes and dislikes, how many siblings you have, and light-hearted stuff from your past and present, such as your hobbies and pastimes. “My favorite thing to do is tinker with my vintage car.” “I’m always forgetting birthdays.” “I can’t tell a joke to save my life.”
Medium-risk is personal information you don’t normally reveal and trust to just anyone—your opinions, your dreams and aspirations, your most embarrassing moment, good and bad judgments or choices you’ve made. “When I was young I dreamed of being a professional tennis player, but when it came down to it, I realized I didn’t have the drive.” “I came here on holiday three years ago and never left.” “What I’d really like to do is quit my job and go raise horses in Montana.” These kinds of revelations will help you both get a fuller sense of your compatibility. You’ll be able to tell whether it’s worth spending more time with this person and if there is real opportunity for mutual trust.
High-risk self-disclosure is only visited occasionally on a first encounter. It involves trusting and sharing your deepest feelings, and even your fears and insecurities. “I sometimes wonder if people find me interesting.” “I’m the black sheep of the family.” “I’m too old for games.” High-risk usually requires you change the upbeat tone of low-risk and medium-risk disclosure to a more serious key. While high-risk can lead to deep trust and bonding, it’s not called high-risk for nothing. Think hard before you reveal things that might be a complete turn-off to someone who doesn’t yet know you well. And remember, you’re not just going to say this sort of thing to anyone—you are building deep rapport and encouraging emotional investment in someone who might just end up being your matched opposite.