Have you ever wondered why a complete stranger sitting next to you on a plane would tell you about a recent cancer diagnosis? Why your parents never disclosed that you were adopted, feeling shocked when you accidently find out as an adult? These and many other actions reflect decisions individuals make about managing their private information. Being aware of how individuals navigate decisions to disclose or protect their private information provides useful insights that aid in the development and sustainability of relationships with others. Given privacy plays an integral role in everyone’s life, knowing more about privacy management is critical. communication privacy management (CPM) theory was first introduced by Sandra Petronio in 2002. CPM is evidence-based and accordingly provides a dependable understanding of how decisions are made to disclose and protect private information. This theory uses plain language to understand privacy management in everyday life. CPM focuses on the relationship people have with each other in communicative contexts, such as face-to-face interactions, on social media, and in dyads or groups. CPM theory is based on a communicative-social behavioral perspective and not necessarily a legal point of view. CPM theory illustrates that privacy is not paradoxical but is sustainable through the process of a privacy management system used in everyday life. The theory of CPM has been employed in a number of contexts shedding light on antecedents, mechanisms, and outcomes of private information management. In addition, a number of researchers across multiple countries, such as the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, and the United States, have used CPM theory in their research investigations. Learning more about the system of private information management allows for a better understanding of how people navigate managing their private information when others are involved. Literature illustrates patterns of privacy management and demonstrates the challenges as well as the positive outcomes of the way individuals regulate their private information.
Sandra Petronio and Rachael Hernandez
Self-disclosure, or revealing information about the self to others, plays an integral role in interpersonal experiences and relationships. It has captivated the interest of scholars of interpersonal communication for decades, to the extent that some have positioned self-disclosure as the elixir of social life. Sharing personal information is the means by which relationships are built and maintained, because effective disclosures contribute to greater intimacy, trust, and closeness in a relationship. Self-disclosure also confers personal benefits, including reduced stress and improved physical and psychological health. Furthermore, disclosing private thoughts and feelings is often a necessary precondition for reaping the benefits of other types of communication, such as supportive communication. Despite the apparent advantages for personal and relational well-being, self-disclosure is not a panacea. Revealing intimate information can be risky, awkward, and incite judgment from close others. People make concerted efforts to avoid self-disclosure when information has the potential to cause harm to themselves, others, and relationships. Research on self-disclosure has primarily focused on dyadic interactions; however, online technologies enable people to share personal information with a large audience and are challenging taken-for-granted understandings about the role of self-disclosure in relating. As social networking sites become indispensable tools for maintaining a large and robust personal network, people are adapting their self-disclosure practices to the features and affordances of these technologies. Taken together, this body of research helps illuminate what is at stake when communicating interpersonally.
Sexual orientation is a private matter that individuals can decide to disclose or conceal. Nevertheless, when interacting with others, people look for cues of sexual orientation. Hence, the person’s face, voice, or non-verbal behavior is taken as a cue revealing sexual orientation. As research on “gaydar” has shown, this detecting ability can sometimes be accurate or stereotype-based. Sometimes gay, lesbian, and bisexual people themselves intentionally communicate their sexual identity explicitly or through more subtle cues. Intentional or not, several cues are taken as communicating sexual orientation with the consequences of shaping interpersonal interactions. Identifying someone as gay or lesbian has several implications. On the one hand, it leads straight men and women to non-verbally behave differently than when interacting with other straight individuals (e.g., more physical distance, more self-touching). On the other hand, it also affects verbal communication (e.g., topics of conversation, questions, and statements). The harshest consequence is hate speech and homophobic language. Research has shown that being labeled as “faggot” or “dyke” not only negatively affects those who are the target of such verbal derogation but also negatively impacts on straight bystanders. Indeed, gay and lesbian targets of homophobic language report a lower level of well-being and self-acceptance, while being exposed to such language increases prejudice toward gay men and lesbians among straight people. In the case of straight men, the use of homophobic language is often associated with identity self-affirmation and self-presentation. Interestingly, a recent trend among gay people has been noticed: they use homophobic labels among them as a form of “reclaimed language,” meaning that these derogatory terms are used with a different intent and reframed in a more positive way. Moreover, communicating sexual orientation can increase self-acceptance, social support, and positive social comparison among gay men and lesbians and can also increase positive attitudes toward gay people, especially when it happens with friends and family members.