encouraging self-disclosure

Skip the Small Talk fosters interpersonal closeness using a model tested by Aron, Melinat, Aron, Vallone, and Bator (1997), in which participants who asked each other increasingly personal questions reported feeling significantly closer to one another, as compared to participants engaged in a small talk task. Similarly, in a Skip the Small Talk event, conversations are based around questions—provided by the facilitator—that encourage discussion about meaningful topics inspired by Aron et al.’s study. However, Skip the Small Talk attendees are offered agency in which questions they answer, and are allowed to stop any conversation at any time so that each individual can cater the degree of self-disclosure to their comfort level. Skip the Small Talk events open with encouragement to push one’s own comfort zone, framed in language to encourage healthy boundaries, so attendees can make more effective decisions about how much to disclose at any given time.


The benefits of self-disclosure stretch beyond fostering interpersonal closeness; self-disclosure increases individual well-being. Four studies by Gable, Reis, Impett, and Asher (2004) indicated that increased sharing of positive experiences was associated with an increase of positive affect and emotional wellbeing above and beyond the positive effects of the event, itself.  This effect is evidently not relegated only to the sharing of positive experience. In a study by Pennebaker and O’Heeron, spouses of suicide and accidental death victims who discussed their experience with friends more experienced fewer health problems than those who did not discuss their spouse’s death as much.  And, importantly, these effects were independent of the number of friends that participants reported having.


Skip the Small Talk takes from both of these sets of findings and encourages both positive and negative self-disclosure. For instance, Skip the Small Talk events often begin with a variation of a “How are you?” question that gets at how people are actually feeling, while minimizing the urge to answer with a positive but thoughtless nicety. This exercise of honest sharing helps attendees practice healthy self-disclosure in a setting that feels safe due to the emphasis on boundaries.