Interpersonal Communication Theories and Concepts:
Social Penetration Theory, Self-Disclosure, Uncertainty
Reduction Theory, and Relational Dialectics Theory

Social Penetration Theory (SPT)
Key Points

Closeness varies according to the following factors: Self-Disclosure
“Please listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying . . .
What I'd like to be able to say . . .
What for survival I need to say . . .
But what I can't say." - Unknown

Self-disclosure is sharing with someone information which helps him or her understand you. Self-disclosure is most revealing when the sharing is in the present and least revealing when the sharing is about the past.  -- D. Johnson, Reaching Out:Interpersonal Effectiveness and Self-Actualization (Boston: Allyn and Bacon) 1997 ,p.33.

Self-Disclosure Characteristics

Self-Disclosure Definitions
** S. Jourard (in The Transparent Self) defines self-disclosure as making ourselves "transparent" to others through our communication--i.e., when we tell others things about ourselves which help them to see our uniqueness as a human being.

** Culpert distinguishes between self-description vs. self-disclosure. Self-description involves communication that levels "public layers" whereas self-disclosure involves communication that reveals more private, sensitive, and confidential information.

** Pearce & Sharp make an interesting distinction among three related terms: Self-discloure, confession, and revelation.

Findings of Self Disclosure Research

Uncertainty Reduction Theory (URT)
Key Points

Three ways we learn about others: Relational Dialectics Theory (RDT)
Key Points  
INTERNAL DIALECTIC EXTERNAL DIALECTIC
Connectedness/Separateness  Inclusion/Seclusion
Certainty/Uncertainty Conventionality/Uniqueness
Openness/Closedness Revelation/Concealment

RDT: Connectedness-Separateness

RDT: Certainty and Uncertainty RDT: Openness and Closedness

A Self-Disclosure Test
Step One:  Identify a relationship:
Stranger
Co-worker
Employer or Supervisor
Acquaintance
Friend
Intimate Partner
Family member (sibling, parent, child)
Member of this class

Step Two: Rate the items that follow using the following scale:
1- would definitely self-disclose
2- would probably self-disclose
3-uncertain if I would self-disclose
4-would probably not self-disclose
5-would definitely not self-disclose

The Items:

Theory into Practice: Guidelines for Self-Disclosure Some Case Study Questions
How would you characterize the relationships in the video case?
What are the key events or focus points?
What theories apply, if any, to the case (what concepts, what ideas)?
What communication insights or lessons are revealed (if any)?