NORTHFIELD, MN (5/26/2011) Oprah has ended her daytime TV reign. Other talk show hosts are jockeying for audience share. We are left to wonder: how did she do it? Connect with people? Build a powerful audience?
Self-disclosure may explain some of her popularity.
My introduction to self-disclosure theory came in graduate school. One professor was a fervent fan of it. He lived it as a professor. That meant we got to know him as a person as well as a professor.
One of my beloved professor stories was about how he experienced college as a graduate student. He was hungry and lonely. He missed his family, and especially his mother’s cookies. So, now that he is the professor, he brings in homemade cookies to his students. Cookies are one of his favorite things.
Self-disclosure theory says that the need to identify arises out of differences; therefore, humans seek to identify, through communication, stories that overcome separateness.
We can pay attention to the level of communication in a group, seeking to move to stages of deeper sharing that promote identification.
- Level 1 – Sharing information regarding specific subject matter
- Level 2 – Sharing personal information about you and/or your family or community
- Level 3 – Sharing your values and beliefs
Professionalism has been associated with level one. Keep to the topic. Your professional training may have pounded this mantra into your head. And in some roles this may be appropriate. People will see you as smart. They will likely not identify with you. You and me – different as can be.
Level two is when we share personal information as well as provide our expertise. For example, as a graduate school instructor I share with the group that I am a parent of two teenagers. The effect is making some connections beyond teacher-student.
Level three self-disclosing is what Oprah role modeled. She told us she believes in education. How her fourth grade teacher changed her life for the better. Why Gail is her best friend even when they argue. We have the power to change our own life.
Why self-disclose? My beloved professor had another mantra. It is “They don’t care what you know until they know you care.”
Somehow Oprah helped me feel that she cared about me and my cares.
Oprah is a role model.Her confidence to self-disclose her values and beliefs, when it was counter cultural, was refreshing. And maybe it was one reason for her success. Once again, something we can learn from Oprah to try in our own lives.
Please Comment: Do you think self-disclosure is one reason Oprah became famous?
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