The British School suggests that one person may be assigned the role of discloser—often based on stereotypes, socialization or power relationships. Some “types” of people are expected to disclose. Often women are expected to disclose more than men. Certain minorities (for example, Irish or Italians) are supposed to “have more access to their feelings” or to be more “candid” –- hence are assigned the role of discloser. Typically, less powerful participants in a relationship or group are expected to disclose more than more powerful people (unless they are “personalities”, i.e. celebrities or leaders, as I mentioned in Chapter Three).
A closely related question is: what purpose is being served by the “disclosure”? The answer that the British school gives to this question is revealed in part through the selection of the disclosure. As I just noted, this person is usually not a powerful member of the relationship or group. Alternatively, she is someone who is willing to give away a certain type of power (the power to withhold personal information) in exchange for other types of power (leadership, personal charisma, fame and so forth). This suggests, rightfully, that disclosure is often “costly” or at least “risky” in a relationship or group.
Disclosure is risky for several reasons. First, from the British school perspective, initial disclosures typically occur in a “vacuum.” No norms have been established for level or type of disclosure. We see this occurring in many interpersonal and group training programs. The old timers who have been in many other groups of a similar nature typically hang back, waiting for the more naïve newcomers to “break the ice” and offer the first disclosures about the relationship or group: “I really want this relationship to work, because I have had a lot of trouble working with strong women.” “I really feel uncomfortable in this group . . . isn’t someone supposed to be leading us.” “I am so frightened right now . . .” Are these statements appropriate? It takes someone (the disclosure) to test the waters and establish interpersonal or group norms regarding what can and can not be disclosed and discussed.