Building Relationships in Teams: Self-Disclosure and Trust
By Shea Wood
When people work in teams, they build relationships. Strong relationships allow for more productive and meaningful teamwork and collaboration. This cycle highlights the importance of relationships in teamwork. Relationships develop through working in teams and relationships enable individuals to work together in meaningful ways.
Given the importance of building strong relationships, it is essential to consider what skills and behaviors lead to the creation of strong and fulfilling relationships. By assisting persons in developing these skills and behaviors, you are giving them tools to build a successful future that inevitably will require-and be enriched by-creating relationships and working with others.
Self-disclosure is an act of revealing your thoughts and perspective about a present situation, or other relevant and meaningful information, to another person. Sharing personal thoughts is crucial when building relationships in teams. Self-disclosure allows team members to get to know one another better, identify common goals and overlapping values and, once common goals have been identified, allows you to work together toward accomplishing these goals. Just as strong relationships and teams are built through appropriate self-disclosure, the lack of self-disclosure between team members can result in the deterioration of relationships and influence the strength of a team. If an individual keeps quiet about his/her needs, desires and goals, other team members are likely to do the same; people in relationships tend to match the amount of disclosure coming from others. A breakdown in communication can lead to a team where members are not working together or recognizing and valuing one another's needs and desires.
It is well-known that trust is the foundation for building and maintaining meaningful, productive relationships. This is certainly true of building relationships within a team, and when trust is established, team members are far more likely to take risks, communicate important information, and share personal thoughts and feelings through self-disclosure. Similar to the concept of self-disclosure, levels of trust are matched in relationships, and if one individual takes a risk and trusts others in the group, other team members are more likely to do the same. Feeling as though someone else trusts you makes it easier for you to trust that person in return.
Self-disclosure and trust are necessary in building relationships in many different contexts, including sports teams, the work environment, friend groups, and families. If people can model these skills and behaviors, not only will they have more fulfilling and meaningful relationships, they will begin to teach their children how to build fulfilling and meaningful relationships in all areas of life.