The Power of Disclosure and Non-Disclosure

I really appreciated the points made in our text this week regarding the Paradoxes of Engaging.  I especially enjoyed the reading surrounding the power and importance of disclosure with relationship to trust.  At work I am charged with facilitating classes on a variety of topics, one of which is the process of communication.  We cover a variety of things in a period of three hours; communication style, nonverbal methods of communication, choosing the right method…But we also briefly touch on the importance of disclosure and the influence it can provide, especially during those difficult exchanges.  Disclosure can open the door for the other person(s) to better understand your side of things, truly appreciate what you can bring to the table and perhaps even sway their own perspective.  Disclosure can be a truly powerful tool; but the lack of disclosure can also prove powerful as well-in terms of the negative.  As the text suggests, we often stand back a bit as we join a group; assessing, considering, reading….deciding what to share so that we will be accepted by other members.  Could it be our own insecurities or the incessant need to be liked?  But what a disservice to ourselves to not allow a hint at who we really are and could be to the group.   Even further still, what an injustice to other members of the group! To not allow them to see our real selves and to know our strengths or weaknesses.  How can they trust someone that they do not truly know?   Why should they trust me if I haven’t been completely honest, right from the very beginning?  And, looking forward, if they do not truly trust me will the group be successful in accomplishing its goal(s)? The paradoxes this week have truly reminded me that so often we forget that by limiting what we share, we can also cause unintended distrust and uncertainty in the individual and/or group.   A quote found on page 115 of our text perhaps puts it best: “Once group members start to engage in the dynamics found in the paradox of disclosure, they can then begin to move on to those of trust.  Group life is filled with dilemmas in which one needs to trust others, but where the development of trust depends on trust already existing.”


About hdjackson

Graduate Student at Virginia Commonwealth University studying the theoretical world of Adult Learning along with its relation to Human Resources Developement. View all posts by hdjackson

2 responses to “The Power of Disclosure and Non-Disclosure

  • April


    I’ve worked with two people that I can recall who ALWAYS held themselves closed in. Always.

    They wouldn’t join us for lunch. They did their work, but never joined us after work for drinks. They rarely mentioned their spouses, what they did on vacation, etc. They didn’t engage in mindless chatter around the coffee station. We didn’t know what they did in their spare time, though we did ask. They weren’t really shy–in fact, one was an extrovert–, as they spoke when needed and they participated in projects effectively, but that was it.

    I didn’t trust them as far as I could throw them. I just think that if people aren’t willing to give a bit of themselves to people they work with, then they must be hiding something. I could be wrong. I still feel that way after reading this chapter, and understand a bit more of why I’ve always felt that way.

    Now, after reading this chapter, I also wonder about how those two felt about the group in general. By not engaging with us, were they demonstrating that they didn’t have trust in the larger group? Did prior distrustful work experiences drive this behavior?

    I’ll never know. But I do know this: the section of this book that you referred to here has made me rethink folks who act like that–and make me more aware of the need to extend trust to those kinds of group members in the future.

  • Carol

    Does culture have an affect on disclosing or non-disclosing? I do believe so! Growing up bi-cultural, this was always a bit of a struggle. Colombians share/disclose toooooo much, to the point where they expected me to do the same and I felt the North American side of me kicking in, or rather, kicking them out. Then, I complain about my North American friends for not being ‘open’ enough, or disclosing to a point where we can, at least, find some common ground. This happens with a close friend I have who is also a co-worker. She is very limited in what she discloses about her personal life. Though we’ve known each other for years, I can meet someone from Brazil who I’ll have stronger ties to in three months because we have both allowed ourselves to disclose information that we later found comforting and relatable. A great film example is My Big Fat Greek Wedding. That’s another culture that is depicted as disclosing a lot! I love that movie.

    But then again, it’s like playing ‘Chicken’. Who has the guts to disclose first? Will they care how their disclosed topic is received? You see? Here is where I think a big conflict lies. Is it really a matter of what you disclose or not-disclose that people fear or is it more how the disclosure or non-disclosure will be perceived? I favor the second one. I’m more likely to disclose something to a person who has experience in that area; therefore not really risking my feelings on how they’ll perceive it since they’ve proably heard this situation from many others. For example, my OBGYN for medical advice, or my mom when I need to disclose that her recipe, when I cooked it, didn’t turn out like hers ;-(

    Okay, well those are easy! But how about when you need to disclose something that you know will alter the current state of things? Who do you trust? Many of us have seen these issues played out in others as well as in our own lives. The text gave an example of the gay employee who had not disclosed his sexuality to his core group of coworkers. When he finally did disclose the information, he was angry that they didn’t perceive this new information as what he was expecting. That was kind of confusing for me, but at the same time, if I look back at some of my own disclosures, I could understand where he was coming from.

    Anyway, just as paradoxes are, I can go in circles for a while. So I’ll stop here! Cheers!

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