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Progressive disclosure

 

Techniques > Conversation techniques > Sustaining the conversation > Progressive disclosure

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Tell the other person about yourself -- but only a bit at a time.

Start with relatively simple facts (name, work, etc.) and steadily move towards more personal information (religion, political affiliation, etc.) and emotional content (personal problems, likes/hates, etc.).

Only give them information that you think they can handle. D not overload them or 'dump' your emotional problems on them when they are not ready or willing to listen to such issues.

Do this in a reciprocal manner, only giving more detail when the other person has given you detail about themselves. If they stop at a certain point, then you stop too.

Example

...Hi, my name's Jan. ...
...I've been here for five years. When did you start? ...
...I don't like on the food there ...
...I'm having an operation next week ...

Discussion

I am the most interesting person I know and I'd love to talk a lot of the time about myself, but things are not always that simple.

If you tell other people too much about yourself then they may well feel uncomfortable as the reciprocity norm sets a social obligation that they should return equivalent information. If they do not want to give you such details (for example if this is a part of their hidden self) then they may well displace their guilt. into anger at you for putting them into this difficult position.

Information is power and disclosure thus may well give advantage to the other person, particularly in a situation of competitive negotiation. Controlling what you say about yourself lets you manage personal information that could later be used against you.

The progressive disclosure strategy thus allows you to carefully progress up to (and hence discover) their level of comfort about self-disclosure.

See also

Exchange principle, The Johari Window, Negotiation

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