Openness in interpersonal communication is a person’s willingness to self-disclose——to reveal information about himself or herself as appropriate. Openness also includes a willingness to listen openly and to react honestly to the messages of others. This does not mean that openness is always appropriate. In fact, too much openness is likely to lead to a decrease in your relationship satisfaction.
Communicating Openness. Consider these few ideas.
· Self-disclose when appropriate. Be mindful about whatever you say about yourself. There are benefits and dangers to this form of communication (see Chapter 8, pp. 195–196). And listen carefully to the disclosures of others; these reciprocal disclosures (or the lack of them) will help guide your own disclosures.
· Listen mindfully and respond to those with whom you’re interacting with spontaneity and with appropriate honesty——though also with an awareness of what you’re saying and of what the possible outcomes of your messages might be.
· Communicate a clear willingness to listen. Let the other person know that you’re open to listening to his or her thoughts and feelings.
· Own your own feelings and thoughts. Take responsibility for what you say. Listen to the kinds of messages you’re using and use I-messages instead of you-messages. Instead of saying, “You make me feel stupid when you don’t ask my opinion,” own your feelings and say, for example, “I feel stupid when you ask everyone else what they think but don’t ask me.” When you own your feelings and thoughts——when you use I-messages——you say, in effect, “This is how I feel,” “This is how I see the situation.” I-messages make explicit the fact that your feelings result from the interaction between what is going on outside your skin (what others say, for example) and what is going on inside your skin (your preconceptions, attitudes, and prejudices, for example).