Q&A: How Do You Share Information About Yourself to Promote Stronger Personal and Professional R
I just started a new job as a group counselor and I am new to the field. In school they told us that we can share information about ourselves to our clients to develop a rapport, but I am uncomfortable sharing personal information with people I do not know. How can I share and let people in to promote a strong therapeutic relationship with my clients?
Doris B., Brooklyn, NY
Answer: Gradually share relevant information to the topic of discussion, withholding any information that you may feel is too much information.
In a previous blog post, 'How do you avoid getting hurt in relationships?', I shared the importance of setting emotional boundaries. It is important to set personal and professional boundaries that will protect your emotional space while letting others in to build trust and establish a relationship. There are benefits to self-disclosure that will be beneficial as you develop a rapport with your clients. The most significant reward that you can gain from your self-disclosure is the ability to connect with your clients and their ability to grow in their personal development from the information you choose to disclose.
If you need further guidance on the types of things that you can share and communicate in personal and professional relationships, review the following:
1. Likes and Dislikes: It is safe to share your preferences or interests to create instant connections that promote feelings of closeness and
encourages others to share as well.
2. General Information: Sharing basic information that is low risk provides you with the opportunity to feel safe in allowing others to feel as if they are getting to know you without them judging you.
3. Personal history: The range of personal information you share can range from low-risk to high-risk based on your level of comfort with the individual. At the low-risk range, you can share humorous or entertaining stories from your past that involves lessons learned. The high-risk range would contain those stories that were painful or challenges you faced in your life. Sharing this information builds trust as it is revealing those experiences that helped to form your identity.
4. Opinions: This level of disclosure is more in depth providing the opportunity for others to learn how you think about the world and how you evaluate life. Your opinions offer a depth of insight into your personality
and nature. They also provide others with insight on your perspective on various topics of interest. Your opinions can be the basis for developing
safety and depth to your relationships. You can accomplish the development of deep relationships with the discussion of lightweight or heavy subjects.
5. Values: Disclosing your values is more personal and significant than
sharing your opinions because it reflects matters of importance to you that forms the basis of how you live your life. Sharing your values is a significant step towards developing a deeper personal or professional relationship because it discloses the basis by which you will make choices or decisions.
6. Personal Desires: This level of disclosure involves the discussion of your past, present, and potential aspirations for the future. These desires may be simplistic in nature because it includes materialistic items that meet your i immediate needs or wants. It can also involve a discussion of those yearnings that you may possess such as relationships with those who are emotionally or physically unavailable. Sharing personal desires adds
another level of depth to the relationship and encourages sharing of personal desires by others. Reciprocated sharing of personal desires causes each party to feel let into the other's emotional space building a deeper connection with the relationship.
7. Past Emotions: Disclosing those feelings you have had in the past invites others to understand what was woven together to create the fabric of your life. These past emotions are based on feelings you have experienced with reference to yourself or in past or present relationships. Most people have no problem sharing feel-good emotions due to the low-risk of vulnerability; however, negative emotions can also be relieving and beneficial when sharing with someone who can relate to the emotions or experience. This deeper level of disclosure should be done with caution, first briefly
mentioning the emotional experience and if the person seems willing to listen, proceeding with caution.
8. Current Emotional Experiences: This level of disclosure falls at the very end of the spectrum of information to share because it poses a risk to developing strong personal and professional relationships. Disclosure of those feelings or desires at the current moment is risky because emotions can change just like relationships can change. Sharing this information is a gamble because the reception of information about your current emotional state may vary. This may cause you to feel vulnerable because sharing this information in the past may have caused you to be rejected, shamed, criticized, or ridiculed for being yourself.
Overall, each type of disclosure allows for you to choose the level of information you will share with others. Choosing a standard of disclosure helps you in setting emotional boundaries that will protect you from allowing the wrong people into your emotional space.
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