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19 Reasons Why We’re Afraid to Open Up to People & Steps to Overcome It

Being vulnerable is easier said than done. But eventually, you need to learn how to open up to people if you want to maintain significant relationships.

how to open up to people

Learning how to open up to people isn’t always easy. The process makes you vulnerable to the judgment of less-understanding people. And sometimes, opening up causes emotional stress to those who are not used to doing it. The truth is, opening up will always be a scary thing.

No matter what has happened to you in the past, it’s always easier to build high walls and hide behind them.

However, you will eventually realize that you can’t be fully happy without learning how to open up to people. As scary as it is, opening up is how you build great relationships and friendships that make life worth living.

After all, love is the best thing we have available to us. Learning to open up is a part of achieving maturity.

It strengthens your relationships by letting others glimpse your character and serves as an emotional cushion when faced with difficult problems. [Read: Understanding what makes someone emotionally mature]

The fear of opening up – Why it occurs

Some people have had the worst past, which causes them not to open up as much as others. It’s not an excuse for their inability to be transparent, but it happens.

Opening up becomes more challenging when you’ve experienced a certain trauma, an awful childhood, or it’s just not in your upbringing.

It’s always a scary thought to bare your heart and soul with someone, with the possibility that they can use your vulnerability against you. It’s always a possibility, but you can’t keep expecting the worst outcomes.

For the same reason why you shouldn’t stop falling in love for the potential of heartbreak, you shouldn’t fear opening up for fear of people using it against you. [Read: What does it mean to be vulnerable? 15 ways you can open up more]

Why some people are slow to open up to others

In life, you’ll meet two types of people. The first is an open-book person. They have little trouble sharing their thoughts and feelings with others.

On the opposite end, some people seldom reveal anything about themselves, even to their closest friends and family. Which one are you?

1. Personality

If a personality falls into the quiet, reserved, or introverted category, it’s understandable that they seldom let others know what they think or feel easily. They prefer to keep that information to themselves.

Often, your personality reflects how much you really open up to people.

So if you want to learn how to open up to people, it takes a change in personality in some cases. Of course, we’re not saying you should make drastic changes to who you are, but minor tweaks can help you be more open to the world. [Read: How to let down your guard and get to know new people]

2. Family and upbringing

Either you are raised by reserved, quiet parents or your parents established rules that forbid any form of expression.

You also may have been the sole child who always played alone or had siblings whose presence overshadowed yours.

An only child might not have been as open growing up but learned to open up when they matured. In this example, your family can have such a strong effect on your ability to open up. [Read: Only child syndrome – the good and bad of dating an only child]

3. Suspicion of others due to bad experiences

Maybe what triggered cutting off communication with society was a related traumatic experience or personal betrayal. Negative experiences related to opening up can easily cause a person to stop doing it in order to prevent the experience from happening again.

Trauma blocks the logical part of our brains and can cause drastic changes, even in socializing and maintaining relationships. This is often why people who experience trauma might build a wall after experiencing something destructive in their lives. [Read: The hardships of fearing being loved]

4. Self-hatred or low self-esteem

Some people don’t bother opening up because they think what they say is uninteresting or unimportant. Their negative self-image leads to self-censorship.

These people always believe that others judge them for every move, even when it’s not the case. Their insecurity makes them more reserved and they find it hard to open up. [Read: How to love yourself – the 23 best ways to find self-love & happiness]

Why learning how to open up to people is important

People can have a whole bunch of reasons for closing themselves off from others. But in the end, learning how to open up will aid personal growth. The learning process may be slow, difficult, and stressful, but it will all be worth it in the end.

1. Opening up expands your relationships

Opening up allows you to easily meet and connect with new people. A person willing to share even a small glimpse of themselves will encourage others to do the same, making socializing easier and enjoyable.

You’ll find it difficult to maintain relationships and develop new ones if you never learn how to open up to people. You might think that you can stroll through life without opening up but at some point, you need to learn how to. [Read: How to keep love alive in a relationship]

2. It helps you deal with conflict and misunderstandings better

The conflict between two people unwilling to let the other know what they feel will result in a perpetual standoff. From there, the relationship will only deteriorate.

So if you’re unable to speak your thoughts and feelings in conflict, it will frustrate the other person because they won’t know what you’re thinking.

In order to resolve a conflict properly, both sides have to open up. By knowing how to initiate communication, you will have the capacity to mend your relationships and establish a platform for understanding. [Read: How to resolve conflict – the 15 best ways to cut out the drama]

3. It helps you form deeper relationships

A bond between best friends or lovers requires a deeper and more intimate form of communication that facilities vulnerability and honesty. 

All your friendships and relationships will be superficial and narrow if you don’t learn how to open up to people. It’s not the foundation of relationships, but it’s a pretty vital part of connection and intimacy.

So unless you break down your walls and let them in, they’ll only know you at surface level. [Read: 16 non-sexual touches to feel connected and loved]

4. It will greatly help your professional life

If you think learning how to open up to people doesn’t affect your career life, think again. Any type of profession will include interacting with people, including a multitude of personalities, ideas, and perspectives.

Given such an environment, not knowing how to take part in the communication process will cause you to end up alienated and misunderstood. Communication is an integral part of any professional field so the earlier you learn to open up, the better.

5. Opening up gives an avenue for your problems and frustrations to be addressed

It’s just as the old folks say: sharing your problems, even if it’s something as simple as a friendly chat, will lighten the emotional burden of it.

Opening up doesn’t really mean that you’ll be expecting an answer or good advice to solve your problems. [Read: How to express your feelings & get your point across the right way]

It’s why when women rant about their problems to their friends, even if their situation doesn’t change, they feel much lighter and better. Really, it’s a great way to unburden everything so your feelings and thoughts don’t feel as heavy when you’re repressing them.

Tips on how to open up to people

If you’ve been accustomed to holding everything in and building your walls, it’s not going to be easy to learn how to open up to people. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. [Read: How to be vulnerable in a relationship and feel closer instantly]

1. Evaluate your relationships with the people around you

Make a list of the people in your life most likely to listen without judgment. Start with those people, then once you are comfortable, leave that comfort zone and train yourself to establish communication with other lesser-known friends and acquaintances.

It’s a great training ground to start opening up to the people closest to you, rather than a stranger or co-worker. [Read: How to tell someone how you feel about them & share your feelings]

2. Start with sharing something simple

You don’t need to immediately bare your secrets or worldview to the first stranger you meet. The process of opening up requires you to start with something simple yet meaningful to you.

Perfection doesn’t happen overnight, right? From starting with minor stuff you’ll be able to get a feel for the communication process. Eventually, you’ll find it easier to open up to others.

3. Try listening to someone and observe how the process works

If you’re hesitant to open up first, observe how someone else does it. Listen to someone share their thoughts and feelings with you.

Take note of how they open up, including body language, verbal language, and the tone of their voice. Do they make eye contact? Speak with extreme emotion?

Most importantly, take note of how the communication process eases both the listener and the speaker at the end. From there, you’ll realize how easy it is to establish such communication. [Read: How to be emotionally available so you can actually feel love]

4. Learn to embrace vulnerability

By opening up to someone, they glimpse your character. Often this makes us feel emotionally naked around people and this is why people are hesitant to open up in the first place. You need to be willing to be vulnerable first before opening up to others.

In exchange for human connection, we accept the possibility of vulnerability. When you think about the great potential for happiness and connection, vulnerability becomes worth it. [Read: Understanding what it means to be vulnerable in life]

5. Be yourself

You’ll always struggle to open up if you constantly pretend to be someone you’re not. When you feel comfortable in your own skin, only then can you properly open up without fear of judgment or criticism.

Also, it’s exhausting to pretend to be someone else when you know that the mask will eventually fall off. Instead, just be yourself from the beginning, and you’ll find it easier to learn how to open up. [Read: How to be yourself – steps to unfake your life & love being you]

6. Try opening up on social media

Even if opening up on social media and in person are two different things, you should still try. It’s a known fact that opening up on social media is easier since you can compose your thoughts properly and avoid the potential of rejection or failure.

Practicing on social media is a significant first step. It removes the element of awkwardness and fear in the picture.

7. Be more confident

If you’re insecure, then you’ll struggle to open up to people. To become better at communication and being open, you need to work on your confidence.

Remember that everyone has flaws and insecurities, but there’s no use dwelling on them. Confidence begins when you stop dwelling on your weaknesses and focus on your strengths instead. [Read: How to be more confident with simple daily self-love habits]

8. Find common interests                                                                                                     

Especially for introverts, having a connection will help you open up more. If you find a common interest with someone, this can help you become more comfortable with them.

So ask them what they like and you never know, you could find something in common and start opening up! [Read: Introvert problems – quick fixes to nip the bad ones in the bud]

9. Use body language

Body language makes it easier to open up because you’re just aligning your words with your body. It also gives you more confidence and makes you more approachable.

So, if you want to learn how to open up to people, use your body language. Don’t cross your arms! Instead, engage in eye contact and smile!

10. Deal with your issues

If your fear of opening up comes from trauma or upbringing, you can only learn to open up again if you come to terms with your issues. You won’t get anywhere if you keep deflecting and running away from your problems.

It seems scary and overwhelming, but you need to face your issues. If it’s because of how you were brought up, you need to find a way to heal yourself first. [Read: Emotional baggage – how to help someone put it down & find freedom]

Remember, opening up to people is a risk worth taking

It’s not easy to open up to people, regardless of whether it’s part of your personality or you have major trust issues. But you can gradually improve yourself and become better with the tips mentioned above. It won’t happen overnight, but baby steps will get you where you need to be.

[Read: Teeny tiny changes that will improve your love life]

Knowing how to open up to people is no easy task. But, it’s essential to learn if you want to maintain connections and develop new ones too.

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Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...