Self-Disclosure: How Much Intimacy Do You Share With Others?

To build strong and meaningful bonds, you tend to practice self-disclosure. In other words, you transmit to another person certain aspects that you consider to be confidential. However, how far should you go?
Self-Disclosure: How Much Intimacy Do You Share With Others?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Self-disclosure defines your ability to share private information with others, the kinds of experiences, thoughts, and desires that are most personal to you. However, it can be a double-edged sword.

For instance, on the one hand, it’s well known that the best relationships are those in which you allow yourself to transmit part of this ‘sensitive material’ to another as it signifies trust. On the other hand, you’re often unsure about what to share, and what to keep quiet about. Because, by opening yourself up to others, you also expose yourself to the risk of being betrayed. That’s why so many people appear so reticent and reserved. They don’t want to run the risk of being deceived.

Feeling like this creates distance and makes it difficult to create enriching links. Nevertheless, there are those who walk through the world with an open heart. They share and say everything with no filters or cautionary measures. Obviously, this also means that they often suffer disappointments.

Friends talking about self disclosure

Interestingly, science claims that those who say what they feel and tell others what they want tend to enjoy better psychological health. Let’s take a closer look.

There are two magic ingredients for a relationship to work. These are self-disclosure and trust.

Self-disclosure

Self-disclosure is a concept that was introduced by Altman and Taylor in 1973 as a result of research on interpersonal relationships. According to this concept, the gradual revelation of feelings and personal experiences favors both the sense of trust and the knowledge you have of someone else.

It’s like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs behind you so the other person picks them up and is able to replicate your image. This means that they get an idea of how you are and what experiential and personality elements define you. Self-disclosure requires that you practice psychoemotional openness and information sharing. You carry it out through a filter of sincerity. Without this, there’s no genuine bond.

Nevertheless, there are always notable inter-individual differences. For example, there are people who immediately share intimate aspects of their own lives with those they’ve just met. Then there are those who are extremely reticent.

Undoubtedly, there are also those who ask themselves the question, How far should I go? What should I tell or not tell this person I’ve just met?

Self-disclosure is reciprocal. You share your intimate thoughts and the other person must do the same. If this doesn’t happen, or you perceive that they’re lying to you, it’s better to remove yourself from the relationship.

Self-disclosure is the cornerstone of emotional intimacy

Do you want to start a romantic relationship or an enriching bond of friendship? If so, you must  practice self-disclosure. Indeed, you must share with your new partner or friend certain private aspects of yourself. In effect, to form social and emotional ties, you must open both your mind and your heart.

You may wonder if this means you’ll be obliged to expose yourself. As a matter of fact, every relationship requires an act of faith which means you must practice two rather specific dimensions. These are reciprocity and self-disclosure. They make up an emotional intimacy in which, suddenly, you build a wonderful emotional shelter where you’re completely in tune with each other.

Perceived Inequity: when you reveal more than they do

The University of Amsterdam (Netherlands) conducted an interesting investigation in 2018. This study delved into how self-disclosure serves not only to build social relationships. In fact, it’s also key to unraveling the development and maintenance of romantic and friendship relationships. In other words, not only does it allow you to connect with others, but it’s also necessary to attend to and take care of those relationships.

However, sometimes, a recurring phenomenon occurs. This is perceived inequality. It arises when you notice that you’re sharing much more with others than they are with you. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re completely non-communicative. It’s just that sometimes they don’t say what they feel and their self-disclosure turns into misrepresentation.

These situations, as you can well imagine, hurt. Nonetheless, it’s undeniable that well-being and interpersonal happiness requires a constant exchange of sincere thoughts and feelings. In other words, the more intimacy, the more bonding.

When you start dating a potential partner, you must risk sharing certain personal information, such as your dreams, fears, and past experiences. Without those intimate confidences, trust doesn’t grow and no relationship will last.

Two friends talking about self disclosure

How much should you share with others?

Self-disclosure, or being able to open up to others by sharing your personal details not only affects your relationships. It also has an influence on your psychological well-being. Being able to talk about private aspects of yourself means that you’re able to trust others. The latter is necessary as it’s healthy and beneficial for you.

On the other hand, if you opt for secrecy, it releases distrust and social anxiety that, in one way or another will harm you. Not being able to trust anyone isolates you and makes you lonely. As a matter of fact, it’s best not to go to either extreme. As such, you shouldn’t open yourself up completely to someone you don’t really know, nor should you opt for coldness and emotional distance.

The secret is in reciprocity. This means that you’ll tend to share as much they share with you. Indeed, you’ll reveal as much as you believe and need to, weighing up whether the person in front of you offers you trust, sincerity, and empathy. In fact, that’s the key to healthy relationships.

It might interest you...
The Benefits and Downsides of Self-Disclosure
Exploring your mind
Read it in Exploring your mind
The Benefits and Downsides of Self-Disclosure

Self-disclosure means providing information about ourselves. We make use of it when we want to create a bond with another person.



  • Altman, I., & Taylor, D. A. (1973). Social penetration: The development of interpersonal relationships. Oxford, England: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
  • Sprecher, S., & Hendrick, S. S. (2004). Self-Disclosure in Intimate Relationships: Associations With Individual and Relationship Characteristics Over Time. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23(6), 857-877. http://dx.doi.org/10.1521/jscp.23.6.857.54803

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.