How open are you? I’ll be honest: I’m not a very open person. If I were a door, I would be locked most of the time. For a various reasons (I won’t get into them here because I’m pretty sure you don’t have all day to read this post), I’m suspicious and distrusting of others. Because of my lack of trust, I password-protect everything. I’m obsessed with guarding my writing, to the point that I hesistate to let others check their email on my computer, narrowing my eyes and quickly replying, “Why? What for?” when asked if I can lend my computer for a moment. This, I know, is a problem.
Being the type of person who is pretty closed emotionally and physically (you should see my body language!) is not healthy. In fact, it’s very limiting for me. It hinders the relationships I have now and it typically prevents me from starting new relationships. The fact that I rarely open my door, even a crack, for other people, is a problem and it definitely stands in the way of my happiness. For that reason, I’ve taken some time to think about how I can be more open with others. Just like being positive, this will not come easy for me. It’s something I’m going to have to work at every day, but I think that outlining some tips to help me do this will really help me.
Whether your door is generally wide open or typically shut tight, we all have situations in our lives where we are more or less open. While you probably shouldn’t tell every single person you meet every little detail of your life, it’s not necessary to keep the door completely closed. Here are some ideas I’ve come with on how to be more open:
- Learn new things. For me this one is key. The more I learn, the more I read about, the more I know. The more I know, the more likely it is that I will be able to relate to someone on some level. Because I am always interested in learning new things and I love to read, this one is pretty easy for me to want to do. However, if you’re not into learning like I am, you can try watching the news and keeping up on current events. If you know about things, you can make more connections.
- Monitor non-verbal cues. This one is also really important. Generally I have very closed body language. Folded arms. Crossed legs. Body angled away from the person I am speaking to. I tend to look around a lot when I am talking to others, mostly because I am uncomfortable or distracted by my own thoughts. I don’t smile nearly as often as I should. Smiling and using open body language makes you appear much more open so I plan to work on this a lot.
- Listen carefully to others. As I mentioned above, I tend to be distracted when it comes to interacting with others. I’m either thinking about what I want to say next or I’m thinking about something else entirely. Either way, this does not help me to be open to others. This keeps me focused on me, inside myself, and stops me from connecting with other people. If I work on listening better, I will be able to connect with others on a deeper level. I may also be surprised by what I hear when I open myself up to the words of others instead of staying trapped in my own little head.
- Ask real questions.
When you’re interacting with someone, it’s easy to ask questions like “How was your day?” but it’s a lot harder to ask the big questions like “What are your thoughts on religion?” Being open and connecting with others means understanding them on a deeper level. Not only does asking the “real” questions help you to connect with others, but thinking about and sharing your answers helps you to connect with yourself as well. When asked a question in return, be open. Be honest.
- Ignore your fear. The truth is, I’m pretty terrified of connecting with other people. I’m scared that if I share the real me, they will judge it or dislike it. I’m sure on some level we all feel this way and this fear can really hold us back from being open. If you don’t share some of yourself with the world, you won’t be truly open. So push that fear aside and don’t worry about what others might think or say or do. Be you and you’ll be surprised how much people will accept you.
- Find ways to connect.
Finding ways to connect with others ties in with #1. If you take the time to learn about the world, and about others’ views of the world, you’ll have more opportunities to connect with others. Don’t be afraid to share what you know or bring up unusual topics. You’d be surprised how much you might have in common with someone else.
- Stay in the moment.
Tying in with listening, staying in the moment means really making an effort, right in that moment, to connect with someone else. Don’t think about the things you have to do later. Don’t worry about what you didn’t get done that day. Be present. It’s very difficult to be open when you are thinking about something else. Your mind is closed to a new connection when you are thinking about the past or the future. Be there, in the moment, and you will be much more successful in establishing an open, interesting connection with others.
- Refrain from judging. Just as I am frightened by the possibility that others will judge me, so is pretty much everyone else. We are all, on some level, worried about others’ opinions. I’m a big believer in the idea of “you get what you give.” If you judge others, you will be judged. If you judge others, you are labeling them, putting them in boxes, and, while this is convenient, it often takes away a lot of opportunities. Judging others is not a way to embrace openness so don’t do it. Period.
- Be as specific as you can.
When you’re communicating with others, be specific. When someone says to you, “How was your day?” don’t respond with, “Fine. Yours?” Be more open than that. Give details. Provide examples. Share stories. People will feel more connected to you (and will probably share some of their own stories) if you open up to them. Don’t be afraid of details. They will not be used against you. (Okay, there goes my mind telling my paranoia to back off!)
- Take your time.
Being open with others takes time. When you first begin opening up to people, there will probably be a lot of fumbling and bumbling and trying to figure out what you want to say and how you want to say it. It’s not easy for everyone to be open and it may take an entire conversation (or many conversations) to really begin connecting with someone on an open level. Be patient with yourself. Every time you’re open with someone, the door opens a little bit more. Every little creak of the hinge is progress.
I’m sure some of you readers are open people. Some of you post a lot of personal details on your websites and, while I find the details nice and interesting, they make me nervous. They remind me that I am not as open as you are and, honestly, I’m not sure I will ever be. This really hit me yesterday when I was answering some questions sent to me by another blogger. One of the questions was, “What is your name?” I balked instantly, my eyes narrowing in on the question as if it was a threat. My name? My real name? I took a deep breath and began typing. They I backspaced quickly and wrote, “My name is Positively Present.” Not my name. Not my name at all. (But can you imagine if it were?! What crazy parents I would have!)
I instantly felt bad about it because (1) it was a lie (even though it was an obvious one that wasn’t hurting or fooling anyone) and (2) it was a stark reminder glaring at me from the screen that screamed at me, “You don’t know how to be open!!” To be fair, I’ve given the link to my blog to a lot of people who know me. A lot of people know who Positively Present is. But why can’t I be honest with strangers? Why do I hide behind the mask of PP? I know I’m scared to be open and honest. I’ve always been this way so it’s pretty hard to open up in one big burst of honesty. Almost everyone who knows me is already in shock that I’m so open with my blog (even if I don’t put my name on it). I’m really proud of myself for putting so much of me out there like I’ve been doing over the past few months. Still, I’m scared to put out more.
Writing this and realizing how ridiculous it sounds, I’m still scared. I’m afraid of putting myself out there. I’m afraid of people someday pointing a finger at me and saying, “I read what you wrote on your blog” (which, really, is an absurd thing to worry about since I’m pretty darn proud of this blog!). I’m afraid of (yes, this is ridiculous) people finding out more about me and stalking me. I know, I know. Completely insane. But, after writing this, I feel like I owe it to myself (and to you, reader) to take a step toward being a more open person so here is goes… (deep breaths, deep breaths)