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This is much more common than we realize, and there’s actually a communication theory that explains it. The Self Disclosure Continuum Theory is one that explains the awkward feeling when someone shares just a little bit too much information. This might include your name, where you are from, maybe what you do for a job, or other information that is not too personal, but enough to progress the conversation. When someone progresses the conversation into an area that another person is not willing to reciprocate similar information with, that is when you have broken the back and forth cadence of a conversation. Whether you are managing an employee at work, or standing in line at the grocery store, you will find that the Continuum is broken quite often. And it usually takes one person not responding in order to make that awkward feeling happen.
Simply put, when you meet somebody new there is a cadence of information that you might share with them.
Understanding this element of communication is an important step in making sure that communication between two people occurs at an acceptable pattern. It also should be noted that in the workplace, a manager may not be willing to disclose personal information in a conversation in the same way that an employee that they are managing is willing to share information. This is a clear way to define boundaries within a working relationship. This also keeps some of the personal information at bay so that an employee doesn’t have the ability to hold that personal information against their employer in instances of salary negotiation or other business activities.
If you are in a retail environment, this is a important communication Theory to consider when you are talking to customers. You may have information that you want to share with them, but they have just met you, and they won’t be willing to share the same level of information back. If you are in a sales role, sharing personal information, carefully, can help the build trust the person that you are talking with.
As with any type of communication, there can be friction, and knowing how communication woks can create smooth transitions in a conversation. And within the workplace, creating a culture of sharing and acceptance can be done with effective use of self-disclosure, provided that you are aware of how much you are sharing and how much others are willing to share back with you.