Weisel & King’s study found that participants (who were strangers) in conversations with moderate and severe self-disclosure were far more forgiving than observers of the same conversations. The study challenges prior research findings which use surveys rather than face-to-face conversations to study effects of self-disclosure.
They suggest two possible explanations for their findings. The first is that “conversational partners adopt a different metaphor (‘‘partner’’) than observers (‘‘evaluator’’) to use as a yardstick in evaluating the content of the conversation” (2007, p. 352). The second possibility is that observers have “fewer cognitive demands than conversational partners. Cognitive processing demands significantly impact the performance of listeners (King & Behnke, 2000).” (2007, p. 352).
I find this interesting because it shows how every variable affects our communications. As an observer in this study, I would walk away dissatisfied with others’ conversation while the participants were happy with it. That doesn’t make much logical sense, but it shows how easily we can be offend at things that do not even pertain to us. That is not covenantal communication at all!
Aristotle’s Principle of the Golden Mean, that virtue is a point on a continuum between two vices, is often applied to levels of self-disclosure between strangers or new acquaintances. In fact, the dangers of self-disclosure, such as premature disclosure or overly intimate disclosure, are frequent topics in interpersonal communication texts (for example, see DeVito, 2004; Knapp & Vangelisti, 1992; Redmond, 1995; Trenholm & Jensen, 2000). Canary and Cody (1994) contrasted a positive and linear hypothesis (greater self-disclosure leads to greater liking for the discloser) with a curvilinear hypothesis. In this second view, disclosure leads to positive responses until some critical level is reached, after which it becomes counterproductive. (2007, p. 345)
Truly we need a balance of virtue involved in communication. It gives me much to continue mulling over. How do we stay in that balance? What methods can we employ to check our conversations and ourselves? These are questions that I hope we answer as we continue on our learning journey.
Weisel, J. J., & King, P. E. (2007). Involvement in a Conversation and Attributions Concerning Excessive Self-Disclosure. Southern Communication Journal, 72(4), 345-354. doi:10.1080/10417940701667639