Learning How To Open Up To People: A Guide

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

It can be difficult to be vulnerable, and stigma surrounding mental health challenges can make people more likely to minimize, deny or ignore their feelings. Despite the fact that 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point, there can still be a cultural narrative that mental health challenges are a sign of “weakness”. 

Talking genuinely and openly with the people you care about can build trust, strength, resilience and a sense of community. A licensed mental health professional can help you work to embrace your feelings and invite people into your life. 

Read on to learn more strategies that can help you as you learn how to open up to people you care about. 

open to new people

It’s not always easy to talk about feelings

How to have deep conversations 

When you face social rejection and ostracization, the same regions of the brain that are generally responsible for physical pain can activate. This suggests that vulnerability can leave us exposed to potential rejection, judgement, humiliation and the pain that can come with it.  

However, while cultures can sometimes stigmatize talking about our feelings or associate it with “weakness,” vulnerability can provide a space for authenticity, innovation and creativity. Additionally, while small talk can be a healthy part of social life, it can also important to have outlets for deeper emotional support. 

1. Find the right person

Not all relationships feel deeply trusting or safe for vulnerability for many—and some studies estimate that it can take 340 hours of face-to-face interaction for most people to develop close friendships. 

As you go through the process of finding the right person, you may want to start by seeking out open discussions with friends who demonstrate consistency of character, compassion, respect, courage, honesty, fairness and generosity. 

2. Focus on how you feel

When you’re having an open conversation with someone (such as a friend, colleague, romantic partner or families), it can be a good idea to emphasize “I” language

“I” statements can be used to discuss your experiences and help you navigate conflict, plus they can help you to develop self-awareness skills

open yourself up

3. Find the best communication format

If you’re finding it difficult to initiate a face-to-face discussion, you might want to consider talking on the phone, video conferencing or writing a letter. 

Some people may find that alternative forms of communication can be helpful as they facilitate discussion. We do want to note, however, that certain formats can be more effective than others for some. For example: Texting may lead to misunderstandings because body language and tone of voice are not communicated—so it may not be the best choice for serious conversations.  

4. Write about it

Some people might find it helpful to write about how they’re feeling before having a difficult conversation. 

According to Kaiser Permanente, journaling can improve communication skills and improve self-confidence. 

If you’re not sure exactly how you feel or how to write about it, you might want to try stream of consciousness journaling. During this practice, you can write down your thoughts as they cross your mind, which may provide more clarity

5. Set aside time

Setting aside time without distractions can make serious conversations easier. Most people might prefer to have intimate conversations one-on-one, without other people present or immediately nearby. 

6. Be honest 

Being open and honest about how you feel can build stronger social connections and increase self-reported happiness. While many people may be tempted to sugar-coat difficult conversations, it can be misleading and counterproductive. 

7. Ask for what you need

You might consider letting them know what type of help you’re looking for from them—but be prepared that they may not be able to provide you with all the support you need. 

Some ways they may be able to help can include regularly checking in with you, helping you find resources, offering advice or running some errands. 

8. Return the favor

In addition to asking for support, you can provide support. This can be a scheduled activity for most, possibly allowing you to reach as many friends as possible. Dr Anna Akbari, a sociologist, recommends scheduling consistent time to spend with close friends and being available when they need help from you. 

learn how to open up
It’s not always easy to talk about feelings

Talk to an online therapist

If you’re finding it difficult to open up about mental health challenges with friends and family, or if they cannot offer you the support you need, you might want to consider reaching out to a licensed professional. 

One type of talk therapy, called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can be effective for both people aiming to improve their overall well-being and those with diagnosed psychiatric disorders

During CBT sessions, a therapist can help you explore the relationship between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. By reframing negative thoughts, for example, they can help relieve emotional distress and guide you towards healthier communication skills.  

If someone is learning how to be vulnerable with others, they may not wish to discuss their innermost feelings with someone new in a face-to-face setting. For this reason, many may feel more comfortable with online therapy to discuss their needs. 

A 2017 study demonstrated that online CBT can effectively address the symptoms of many psychiatric disorders, and it can often be more affordable than traditional in-person therapy.

Conditions that were specifically noted in the review that showed measurable improvement include general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, substance use disorder and bipolar disorder.  

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

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"Dr. Boring-Bray has been instrumental in my recovery from avoidance and social anxiety. She is both supportive and informative. She has helped me navigate my emotions to have a better understanding and control of them. Anything is possible with a strong therapist and hard work."

a counselor can help you open up

"As someone who struggles with talking to people and emotions, I was extremely hesitant to start counseling let alone do live sessions. I was able to open up immediately on my first session with Jessica. She was patient and calm with me which gave me the sense of trust I was looking for. She has a gentleness in her voice and empathy in her eyes that could put anyone at ease. She asks questions in a way that gives her the info she needs but allows you to open up as well. I'm so thankful I was matched with her and would highly recommend her! Thank you Jessica for being amazing."


It can be hard to talk about your emotions. Writing about your feelings, talking with close allies, emphasizing honesty and asking for what you need can help. If you’re finding it very difficult to open up to the people in your life, you may want to consider trying online therapy. Online cognitive behavioral therapy can help improve your mental health and communication skills, and the online format can be  more approachable for people who find emotional vulnerability challenging.
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