How to use a Self-Disclosure Story to teach Self-Awareness

PeterBregmanPhotoPeter Bregman is, in my opinion, the best in the business at using self-disclosure as a way to help people feel safe enough to engage in self-reflection.

By sharing his inner world, including his fears, insecurities, and human imperfections, he makes it safe for people to do the same. By sharing his internal world along with his missteps, he invites the reader to vicariously do the same.

This is what makes Self-Disclosure Stories such a gift to others.

By you taking the risk to share your humanity, your vulnerabilities, faux pas, and imperfections, you allow the listener or reader to acknowledge theirs with courage and compassion. You also make it easier for them to recognize and admit to unproductive attitudes and behaviors that are holding them back, things about themselves they would not acknowledge if directly confronted.

Your Self-Disclosure Story does this because it allows them to look inward and feel safe doing so. They can feel safe because they are not being directly confronted by another person to look in the mirror, as would a direct challenge like: “Have you ever noticed how you pretend you know something when you really don’t…like you just did a moment ago?”

For most of us, our natural response to unsolicited feedback and challenging questions is defensiveness.

When someone shares an observation about us that is less than flattering, or challenges us with an interpretation about our motivations or behaviors, we feel attacked.

When people feel forced to look at themselves by another, they feel exposed and flawed. Feeling exposed–and found lacking–triggers shame. When people feel shame, they are no longer open to conversation, let alone self-exploration. All they want to do is hide or fight back to stop the shame.

When you tell a Self-Disclosure Story, others can listen without fear because it is a story about you, not them.

At least on the surface.

It only becomes about them if they choose to allow that to happen. Thus, they don’t feel strong-armed into looking in the mirror.

In this state of safety, they are much more willing and able to look inward and recognize those things that, if addressed, will facilitate their growth.

Here are a few examples of areas you can use a Self-Disclosure Story:

1. How you got triggered by someone else and responded in a less than effective way, and what you learned from that.

2. How you “just knew” something was true, and then discovered it wasn’t.

3. Fears you’ve had.

4. Mistakes you made that your audience is probably making.

5. Natural human responses to situations that you’ve had, that you know your audience is either judging themselves for having, or are engaging in and don’t realize the price they are paying.

6. Ways of acted in a less-than-aware way with others that you believe your audience does and would be well served by reflecting on.

In a future post, we’ll talk about what level of self-disclosure is useful and when do you cross the line into TMI and oversharing.

In the meantime, if you follow this link, you will come across a great example of Peter Bregman’s use of Self-Disclosure Stories. Notice how, by using himself as an example, he invites you to look at yourself.

Notice how his teaching you important lessons framed in a “I blew it” story enables him to be a powerful teacher while at the same time, not coming across as a Know-It-All “I’m the guru and you’re not” way that some authorities adopt.

When you read his story, imagine him sitting with you as your coach and sharing this with you. Would you not be riveted by the story and would it not stay with you in a far more powerful way than if he just lectured at you about what you should do?

OK, enough preamble, it’s time to enjoy the story by Peter Bregman

Oh…also…if you want to learn how to be a more fascinating, inspiring storyteller (and communicator in general) check out the free webinar Fascinating Inspiring U. If you cannot attend, you will get the recording if you sign up.


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