When people ask me what I do, I am ready with a 10-second sound bite. In the length of time it takes for an elevator to travel one floor, I can summarize my work: “I help businesspeople become more powerful communicators through self-awareness, self-disclosure, self-acceptance and skill development.”

I have written a good bit about self-awareness and skill development, and some on self-acceptance. But I have yet to write on self-disclosure. For me, self-disclosure is the hardest piece of the puzzle, yet it is so important. Communicating without disclosing self is like trying to play tennis without a ball.

In the past, I considered myself a strong communicator. I was somewhat self-aware, I liked myself, and I had excellent speaking skills. Still, I didn't get the results I wanted.

An intensively private person, I kept my own counsel; rarely did I share my personal life at work. Also standoffish in my personal life, I didn't have many close friends.

Authoritative and unapproachable at work, I did not inspire loyalty from my staff; and while some clients valued my skills as a public relations professional, few felt any real affinity for me.

I often felt isolated and at times invisible. I remember once standing with a group of peers at an agency management retreat, and feeling lost. My peers seemed to be enjoying each other's company. But no one seemed to know, or care, that I was there. I didn't know yet that you have to show up to be seen.

Self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-disclosure—showing up is a three-step process. As I became more secure with Self, I could share myself with others. Soon, my personal and professional relationships improved. Self-disclosure is composed of four elements: Open Self, Blind Self, Hidden Self and Unknown Self, according to Matthew McKay, Ph.D., Martha Davis, Ph.D., and Patrick Fanning, the authors of Messages: The Communications Skills Book (New Harbinger Publications, 1995).

Open Self is the part of ourselves that is known to us and to others, and Blind Self is the part of ourselves that we don't know and others do. Hidden Self is the part that is known to ourselves but unknown to others, and Unknown Self is unknown both to ourselves and to others. If we think of self-disclosure as a pie made up of these four sections, we see that the size of each quadrant is different for each person with whom we interact. With some people, Open Self is the largest slice of the pie, and with others it is the smallest.

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Randy Siegel Randy Siegel coaches executives throughout the country in personal communications skills including presenting, speaking, messaging, interviewing and image enhancement. He can be reached at Randy@RAS-Communications.com