Learning How To Open Up To People
Updated July 03, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Laura Angers
Not knowing how to open up to people can make someone feel isolated and alone, but by learning to work through this they will discover that they are not really alone. Certain people have a harder time socializing than others because they are constantly in fear of people's judgment or they might not be as interested in social interaction as their peers.
These feelings can begin to negatively impact a person’s mental health. Does this sound familiar to you? If you or someone you know has a hard time opening up to others, know that you are not alone and that many people suffer from this problem. If you want things to change, there are ways of learning how to see things differently and become better at social interactions.
Very shy people may suffer from anxiety, have autism spectrum disorder, or low self-esteem. These are just a few examples of individuals who may not be comfortable opening up to other people.
They may feel awkward or uncomfortable in social situations and have difficulty making friends. Not being able to open up to people can make someone look rude or anti-social to those around them, even if that is not their intention. However, that person might just be worrying about what others are thinking. They might be paranoid and think that everyone is judging them or always talking about them behind their back.
How to Open Up to People
If you’re afraid to open up because you think that people don’t like you, it might be more in your head than reality. According to Kristina Randle, Ph.D. and LCSW, people who believe that everyone else sees them negatively are likely misperceiving reality. Without proof, there is no reason to be so scared that everyone dislikes you, she says.
Before we get into ideas on how to help you open up to other people, here's a word of warning: Remember that you don't need to be an open book to every person that you come in contact with. Some people don't need to know anything personal about you, and most people don't need to know everything. There are other people that it can be helpful for you to talk to, and you can choose what you share, and with whom. Knowing the difference is the key to making wise decisions in sharing with others. So how do you learn to identify someone safe and worth opening up to?
Look for similar interests
When you are starting, it can be helpful to find people who have interests or hobbies similar to yours. Joining a club is one example, where people who are shy or awkward might have an easier time meeting like-minded people. They can find and connect with others who have the same likes and can talk about the same things. If you are doing an activity together it gives you an easy conversation starter and you may find that you soon become close friends over shared new experiences.
Don't be afraid to be yourself
It's tempting when you are trying to learn to open up to other people, to try to put on a front and act in a way that you think other people will connect with better. However, this is really just making it more difficult for yourself in the long run, because you are not allowing people to get to know the real you. How can someone decide if they like you and enjoy your company if you're pretending to be someone you're not? Instead, do your best to be your authentic self. Don't say you like things that you don't like or change your personality to blend in with the person you are talking to.
Being a good listener can help you learn to become comfortable talking and opening up to others.If you can get the other person talking about themselves it can give you some time to loosen up in the conversation. It's a great way to learn how to start talking more openly with others when you aren't the one having to do most of the talking. This is also a good, authentic way to get to know someone. People love to talk about themselves.
Asking questions is also a great way to handle a lull in the conversation or to look for ways to connect with the person you are talking to. The more you can learn about them the more areas you might discover you have in common and that may help you feel comfortable talking with them.
Say what you mean
When you are trying to be open with someone about a touchy subject it's easy to try to sugar-coat what you are saying in an effort to make it sound a little nicer, or discount your own thoughts and feelings in an effort not to "rock the boat." Sometimes when you are trying to be open with someone it's about a serious subject and it's important that you treat it as such. While you don't have to attack the other person over the situation, you can approach it in an honest, no-nonsense way that lets them know that you mean business. This doesn’t mean that you can’t still be sensitive to their feelings, but you can still be honest with your thoughts.
Let them know what you're looking for
If you just want to open up to share something with someone else then it's important that you let them know that's what you are trying to do. However, if you want advice from the person then let them know that you want to talk to them about something and would like to hear their opinion when you are finished. By being clear and upfront about what you're trying to do from the start and what your expectations are it will make it easier for the other person to know how to respond. If you need advice, people are usually happy to provide their opinion, you just need to let them know. And don’t force them to share if they’re uncomfortable. But if they are, it may make it easier to share your opinions with them as well.
Find people that you naturally connect with
There are some people who you are going to naturally connect better with than others. These people will be easier to talk to without as much effort. There are others that you will struggle to talk to no matter how hard you try. When you are trying to learn to be open with others make it easier on yourself and your mental health and find someone who's easy to talk to.
Make sure to return the favor
No one wants to have a conversation with someone who is just talking about themselves all the time, so, make sure that you treat the conversation like a two-way street. Give the other person a chance to open up with you as well. And, when they are talking make sure that you listen enthusiastically. If they want advice, then offer advice, but if they just want to talk, simply just be there for them.
Talk to a counselor
Talk therapy might help you overcome your fear of opening up to people by addressing negative and unrealistic thought patterns that you have about yourself and others. With the tools learned in counseling, social interactions should slowly become easier as you have positive experiences while communicating and see that people do, in fact, like talking with you.
Unfortunately, if you are the type of person who is fearful when it comes to opening up to others, talking to a counselor or therapist might not be easy for you either. This is where online therapy comes in.
You may feel comfortable interacting with a therapist to address your mental health when you don’t need to sit face to face with them.
There are affordable online services like BetterHelp, where you can chat with a licensed counselor from the comfort and privacy of your own home. It is easy to sign up and get matched with a therapist that suits your needs. With that, you can chat with them via computer or mobile device, through video, text or phone sessions. If you don't feel that your therapist is a perfect fit for you, you can easily switch at any time, without any hard feelings. Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
"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."
"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."
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What does it mean to open up to someone?
The meaning of opening up to someone means that you’re willing to share yourself and form a deep connection with someone instead of just keeping things on the surface level. You allow someone to know your true thoughts and feelings on different subjects.
While it can feel risky to open up to another person there are many reasons why it’s important for your mental health. It’s also important that you’re able to open up and share your thoughts and feelings with your partner in romantic relationships. Being able to open up allows you to feel connected on a deeper level with people.
How do you open up emotionally?
If you want to open up emotionally it can help to find a person like a friend or family member that you have a health relationship with to start. It can be important that you can trust the person that you’re talking to. You may also find it helpful to start by sharing your opinions on topics that are more surface level. As you see that the person is safe to share with you may become more comfortable sharing on deeper topics.
If you struggle with sharing your emotions with others, you may want to talk to a mental health professional like a therapist. They can help you learn how to identify where your challenge is stemming from so you can address it.
Is it good to open up to someone?
It’s good for your mental health to be able to feel understood by others. People feel understood when they’re able to talk with another person, open up about personal matters and not feel judged by them. When you’re able to share with another person in this way, even if it’s a family member who you know well already, it’s able to help you form a deep connection with them.
However, it’s important to remember for your mental health, that it’s possible that people feel differently than you do on topics. Being able to share openly with someone doesn’t mean that they will necessarily feel the same way as you. However, in healthy relationships when a person opens up with another, even on controversial topics, they’re able to have a healthy conversation about it.
It’s also important to remember that it’s not a good idea to share with everyone. Make sure you have found a safe space before you open up and share personal details with another person. You may long to feel understood, but the other person may not be the right one to share with. People feel differently on many topics. This is also why when you begin to open up with others you may want to start with small topics and work up to bigger ones.
Why can’t people open up?
Sometimes people struggle to upon up with others because of mental health challenges that they’re dealing with. This could include things like an eating disorder, bipolar disorder, or other personality disorder. People with depression and anxiety may also struggle with opening up on a deeper level with people. They may be worried of what others will think of them or that they won’t understand what they’re saying or thinking.
Fear of being judged or looking foolish can make it difficult for some people to feel comfortable sharing and forming deep connection with others. Even when some people are wanting to share and connect with other people, this fear and anxiety can get in the way.
Whether you struggle to share because of mental health challenges or just being uncomfortable with the idea of opening up, you can learn how to make progress in this area.
How do you get a man to open up emotionally?
If you want a man to open up with you emotionally you may find it helpful to focus on a different activity instead of talking. Some men find it easier to open up with someone that they’re doing an activity with or working side by side with instead of just sitting down for a conversation. Some also prefer not to be sitting face to face but instead shoulder to shoulder. They may feel less vulnerable this way.
How do I get a closed person to open up?
If you want to encourage a closed person to open up and share with you, it’s important that you help them feel understood. You’ll also want to remember that people open up when they feel safe. And people feel safe in conversation when they know they aren’t being judged for their opinions and thoughts. Create this space for the other person and allow them to start with where they’re comfortable. Don’t try to push or force the conversation.
It’s also important to remember that they may be closed because of mental health challenges like bipolar disorder or social anxiety. Encourage them to seek help if they need it and support them in taking steps in this area. If you don’t address the underlying mental health disorder, it may be a struggle to encourage them to share.
How do you get a guarded girl to open up?
Creating a safe space can hep a guarded girl to open up in conversation. Make sure she knows that you’re a trusted individual and that you will not betray her confidence by telling others what she has shared with you.
It’s also important to allow the conversation to start small. Most people aren’t going to want to dive into deep and serious conversations with someone that they don’t know that well. She may also start to feel comfortable opening up if you take the step first. Share your thoughts and feelings and take the step of being vulnerable with them so they’ll see that they can be comfortable with you as well.
What is it called when you can’t express your feelings?
When a person has a difficult time expressing their feelings and emotions it’s known as alexithymia. While this is not a mental health disorder, they may have a diagnosable mental health disorder like depression. It’s also believed that this can be connected with autism spectrum disorder.
If you’re struggling to express feelings, talking with a mental health professional may be able to help you learn to identify and acknowledge your feelings.
Learning to open up to people when you are used to keeping to yourself can be a struggle at first, but with a little willingness and effort, it is possible, and it is well worth the effort. You can live a life where you don't hold back from opening up to people. All you need are the right tools. Take the first step.