Whether you’re a therapist helping a client in a session or a person helping somebody you care about in the larger sphere of life self-disclosure, which is simply revealing personal information about yourself, can be a powerful route to positive change. For example it can increase feelings of solidarity, prompt the other to share important personal information, and act as a real example from a respected figure for how to navigate a particular set of problems. But it can also increase felt emotional distance, inspire secret feelings of hostility, make the other clam up, and compel them to flat out ignore what you’re saying.
What matters is your own secret intention, your own deep motivation for sharing stories about yourself. Do your words come from a selfish place, from your desire to be the center of attention, to be in the spotlight? Or do they come from the genuine desire to help the person you care about?
Are you oriented towards yourself or oriented towards the other? If you’re oriented towards yourself, then no matter how hard you try to hide it, consciously or unconsciously the other is going to pick up on it and even if what you’re saying is valuable it’s probably not going to lead to anything productive because the real reason behind saying it is to toot your own horn, to have somebody hero worship you, to feel important. It’s not about them, it’s about you.
If you’re oriented towards the other then talking about yourself is just one more tool in the tool belt, just another way to assist in the growth and happiness of the person you care about. Consciously or unconsciously this person is going to pick up on it and what you have to say will probably lead to some productive changes because the real reason behind saying it is isn’t to toot your own horn, it isn’t to have somebody hero worship you, it isn’t to feel important. It’s not about you , it’s about them.
The effectiveness of self-disclosure in a counseling session or in life has less to do with the mentality of the person you’re trying to help as it has to do with your own mentality, with the authentic reason behind sharing personal information. If you’re truly pointed towards the other you can probably share with confidence. But if in that moment you’re pointed towards yourself, if what you’re really interested in is further inflating your own ego, you should probably keep the information to yourself.