Social penetration theory: Getting close to people you care about




Surprisingly, and unexpectedly, two people, on completely different journeys of life, cross paths and then comes a hint of connection. You just want to know who’s the one that you saw that made you feel special from within, without even knowing who he/she was, you want to know each other, you want to talk, the mind and heart start to play hide and seek, you want to see that one person time and time again, you wait for that moment to come again in your life.

  • Will there be a day you’ll get to talk?
  • Will there be a day you’ll be going for a coffee date?
  • Will there be a day you’ll come closer?

All such questions start to strike in mind, and it happens with all of us at some point or another. If this sounds familiar to you and you are wondering how to bring people closer, then social penetration theory is something that you must know about.

What is the social penetration theory?

Social penetration theory
Social penetration theory

Brought in place by psychologists Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor, the social penetration theory or SPT focuses on a variety of different ways how people come closer, and how relationships grow, how relationships become stronger, how two people progress together, and how relationships can become more intimate.

Social penetration theory claims that interpersonal communication is one of the most important elements that help in bringing two or more individuals closer. With the help of this theory, communication between the two becomes more deeper and intimate.

This theory explains the fact that self-disclosure is the way to make your relationships more intimate, deeper, and personal.

The onion model of self-disclosure

This theory says that human personality is like a multi-layered onion.

  • There’s an outer layer that we show to the public, our height, weight, job, gender, and all the basic details.
  • Then we have a deeper and more personal self that includes our values and our emotions that we share only with our loved ones.
  • And, when we talk about self-disclosure, we peel out outer layers and expose the core, the inner layers which sometimes make us feel vulnerable.

3 separate layers of self-disclosure

Onion layers
Onion layers
  • Peripheral layer- This relates to the information that we share with people, age, education, career, hometown, gender, and all the basic ones.
  • Intermediate layer- This includes information you share only with your near and dear ones, about your political and religious beliefs, movies, music, and books you love.
  • Central layer- This is something very personal that you share with special ones, values, dreams, fears, personality traits, self-esteem, and secrets.

The more you move towards the core, the deeper and more personal information you start to share with the person, and this, in turn, makes your relationship more and more intimate.

Applying social penetration theory in your life

Happy couple
Happy couple

Implementing the theory in your life, without making things complicated, is no less than an assignment. Make sure that you have breadth and depth in the information that you share with your partner.

If there is breadth but no depth, it can lead to a shallow relationship that will lack real emotional connection.

On the other hand, depth without breadth can adversely affect the longevity of your relationship.

Important to remember

You need to keep in mind that the progress of the process needs to be slow and steady, you need to expose your personality gradually, quickness in the process can make things complicated.

Develop closeness with the help of self-disclosure

If you want your relationship to last longer, become stronger and more intimate, more romantic, and establish a deeper connection, then self-disclosure is the key. It’s a useful skill and you need to employ it properly. Create more intimacy and build lasting relationships with the help of self-disclosure.

The bottom line

Do you feel you are with the right person, the one with whom you can reveal your core?




Categories: Life & Love,Relationships

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