A small or nonexistent social circle will deprive you of opportunities for meaningful relationships.
This lack of human connection can impact your well-being.
Is it possible that you’re closing yourself off from people?
If so, you’re making it much more challenging to develop friendships based on authenticity and closeness.
Learning to open yourself will go a long way toward solving this problem, but knowing how to open up to people may not come naturally to you.
All is not lost, though.
Techniques for becoming more open are not complicated.
Why Can’t I Open Up To People?
Opening up to people can make you feel vulnerable and insecure. Most of us tend to avoid these feelings because we don’t want to expose ourselves to judgment and other negative reactions.
However, psychologists at the University of Mannheim in Germany have identified through research studies a difference between how we experience our own vulnerability and vulnerability in others.
Multiple studies indicated that people see their vulnerability as a very concrete threat, but they view other people’s vulnerability as an abstract issue.
The abstraction lessens their perception of it as a problem in others. Overall, expression of vulnerability built trust between people, increased forgiveness, and deepened relationships.
Aside from these general human tendencies, you may have individual experiences that drive you to conceal your thoughts and feelings.
Common reasons people can’t open up include:
- Fear of embarrassment
- Anxiety about judgment
- A belief that all people are mean
- Previous betrayals in life
- An upbringing that valued concealment of emotions
How Do You Open Up Emotionally?
Open people don’t overthink what the reactions of people will be when they share about themselves.
On the other hand, you may avoid revealing your inner world and authentic self because you imagine devastating scenarios of rejection or ridicule.
Although we all need to filter what we share somewhat, a moderate expression of your honest thoughts and feelings will not ruin your life.
To start the process of opening up:
- Accept that it’s necessary for making friends
- Go beyond one or two-word answers when people try to talk to you
- Choose a kind person to try opening up to
How to Open Up to People: 9 Ways to Reveal More of Yourself
How do you start opening up to someone? These tips will help you pry open the door to your personality instead of holding it shut like you always do.
1. Really Listen to People
Analyzing what you might say and the response to your words could distract you from opportunities to participate in a conversation. When you listen to people, you could hear something that you can relate to.
Then you could say, “Oh, I know how that feels,” and describe what happened to you. This exchange could build a connection.
The person feels heard and learned that you shared in the feeling.
2. Focus on the Moment
Closing yourself off is a way to protect yourself from consequences, like acknowledging your own feelings or risking others’ judgment.
When you stay in the moment, you free yourself from the restraint of predicting every possible outcome. We all need to express ourselves at times, and it’s OK to let it flow out when you’re with someone willing to listen.
3. Commit to Saying Something Specific About Yourself
You’ve sheltered yourself behind the safety of generic answers like “I’m fine” for too long. The next time someone asks how you’re doing, try to say something real.
You don’t have to bare your soul, but you could say something honest like, “I wish I had gotten a better night’s sleep.”
The point is not to bury your reality with little white lies. If your dog died last week and you’re feeling sad, answer the question truthfully and say, “I’m still sad about losing my dog.”
4. Latch on to Shared Interests
Teaching yourself to be a more open person doesn’t have to start with revealing your most personal secrets. You transform yourself with small steps, and shared interests allow you to express your authentic views.
If someone likes motorcycles and you do too, it represents a foundation for having an interesting conversation and building a friendship.
The shared interest could be anything, like authors, television shows, going to auctions, or fishing.
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5. Be Yourself
This is the hard one, isn’t it? You guard yourself so closely because you worry people will reject you.
You might assume that no one cares to know anything about you. Some people do care if you give them a chance.
Don’t be fake just to fit in. That’s not opening yourself and making a connection. Say what you honestly think, as long as you’re not hurting feelings, so that people have a chance to get to know you.
6. Don’t Be Judgmental
Connecting with people relies on them feeling accepted and safe. You don’t necessarily have to agree with someone, but you should not make a person feel judged.
Being an open person involves a willingness to be accepting of other people’s views and feelings. It’s supposed to be a reciprocal process. Essentially, don’t give people a reason to shut you out as you try to open up yourself more.
7. Adjust Your Body Language
Are you always looking for the exit? Do you cross your arms or look down when people try to talk to you?
Body language immediately communicates whether you are open or not. Your habit of guarding your inner self will be evident in your body.
Try to shift your body into a more open posture. Face people. Relax your arms. Lean forward a bit when someone talks. You might be surprised how far the mind can follow when the body leads.
8. Nurture Connections With People You Already Know
When you long for human support with a problem, do you hesitate to reach out because you don’t want to bother a person with your turmoil?
To avoid this situation, you should stay in touch with people in casual ways that are low stakes. Invite a co-worker to take a lunch break with you. Talk to your siblings every week if you can.
Regular interactions when everything is fine make it easier to reach out for emotional support when you’re struggling with burdensome feelings.
9. Celebrate Your Successes
Pat yourself on the back when you achieve one of your “opening up” goals. If you shared a genuine feeling with someone, then mark that down as a victory.
Mentally review how it felt to connect with someone. The feeling was probably positive. Hold on to that feedback to stay motivated to keep seeking out the human connection you need.
Small Changes Lead to Big Rewards
Learning to open yourself up does not mean forsaking your privacy. You can take time to contemplate your feelings and decide how much to share, but don’t stay in the phase of thinking things through by yourself.
You should not discount the benefits of opening up to someone. That person might have a perspective that helps you feel better or even solves your problem.
If you think that you’re just unable to open up to people at all, then maybe talking to a therapist is a good step.
A therapist can help you uncover the issues holding you back from experiencing a rich life with supportive relationships. The effort will reward you if you keep trying.