Do you find it hard to open up to people or even close friends? Are you a closed-off person who wants to be more open? Do you want to learn how to open up to people? If you answered yes to one or all of these questions, this article is for you.
Hi. My name is Sean Galla, and I am a facilitator for online support groups for men, including emotional support groups. My work involves creating safe spaces where men can freely talk and learn how to open up to people confidently. I know firsthand how helpful learning how to express yourself adequately can be for anyone’s emotional health, especially for people living with emotional difficulties such as anxiety, anger, grief, depression, and low self-esteem.
If you are looking for guidance to become better at communicating your feelings, this article is for you.
Table of Contents:
Men and emotional intelligence
Compared to men, women find it easier to express their feelings to just about anyone, be it a co-worker or best friend. This is because society has long painted a picture that men as strong and stoic with no emotions or need for support or guidance. This generational belief that men do not have emotional issues or that they can handle emotions on their own has continually built a fear of opening up and creating a bromance amongst men.
Any attempt made by men to open up is often met with a hard time characterized by hostility from society, and the person is seen as weak or a lesser man. The fear of losing their masculinity from seeking emotional support has made it hard for men to build their emotional intelligence.
Understanding emotional intelligence
For more than twenty years, the term emotional intelligence has been used by people and institutions to describe a person’s ability to express and handle their own thoughts while being able to open up to others about their emotions. This level of self-awareness and self-expression is a critical skill needed by everyone interested in leading a more emotionally balanced life and building meaningful relationships.
Part of emotional intelligence involves being able to open up to people, whether it is through eye contact, body language, writing, facial expression, or spoken word.
According to mental health experts, the ability to express one’s feelings benefits their mental and physical health and wellness. Numerous studies have linked symptoms of stress, anxiety, ADHD, depression, and even substance abuse to the repression of emotions and thoughts.
Research shows that learning to open up to people as a man can lead to better overall health. In another study, people with high life expectancy rates share a common trait: the ability to express their basic emotions, allowing them to have a more positive outlook on life.
Therefore, learning how to open up to people has health benefits. In fact, expressing your feelings is linked to your overall well-being, like a better adjustment to different stressors, better life satisfaction, and increased psychological resilience.
Why is it so hard for men to open up to people?
Why don’t men ask for help? Many things can make it hard for people to open up and express their feelings. Apart from the fear of judgment from society or losing one’s masculinity, other factors related to one’s personality and experiences can make it hard to open up.
Sometimes the story you want to share as a way of opening up may be linked to trauma, which makes most people hold back because some experiences are too traumatic or painful to express even to the closest friends.
Most men are not comfortable opening up because they think they may be burdening the listener with their emotions. This makes it harder for them to share their feelings. Sometimes, trauma makes it difficult for people to understand or describe their feelings.
Attachment issues are closely linked to trauma and insecurities amongst lonely men. If you suffered trauma in the past, you might find it hard to form healthy relationships with others. This Makes it harder for you to open yourself up to others.
The inability to create attachments with others makes it harder to trust people, affecting your ability to open up to them. This insecure attachment style makes people hesitant to express their feelings for fear of rejection or being misunderstood.
Studies show that people with extroverted personalities are more open about their inner world in social situations than introverts.
Highly social people are more comfortable sharing their feelings with the first person they meet since they are naturally wired to be comfortable in situations requiring them to disclose information about themselves.
If you are naturally more reserved, you may find it hard to form an emotional connection with people, therefore keeping things on surface level even with those close to you.
What happens when you do not open up to people?
Studies over a few decades show that suppressing feelings can negatively affect the mind and body. A 2013 study showed that people bottled up their emotions have a 30% higher chance of premature death and a 70% higher chance of getting cancer. Other studies show that regulating or ignoring motions can cause short-term mental and physical reactions.
Suppressing sadness, frustration, anger, grief, or other feelings can physically stress the body. Also, suppressing emotions over an extended period increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Avoiding your feelings can also lead to memory issues, anxiety, aggression, and depression.
Other side effects of male loneliness include:
- Disrupted communication – hiding emotions prevents clear communication with the people in your life. This makes it harder to address conflict since you cannot work through your problems.
- A buildup of emotions – pretending your feelings do not exist does not make them disappear. Holding back your feelings intensifies them. For instance, suppressing anger only makes it build up and will eventually cause an anger outburst.
- Strained relationships – inability to express your feelings causes issues in romantic and family relationships. People who feel that you hide your feelings find it hard to understand you, which causes conflict in relationships.
- Health risk factors – suppressing emotions increases your stress levels, linked to various health conditions like high blood pressure, heart problems, sleep issues, and diabetes.
Step by step guide on how to open up to people
Find similar interests with others
When learning to open yourself up to others, one of the baby steps you need to take to ease into the process is by finding people with whom you have shared interests for new experiences. For instance, joining a club can make it easier for you to meet like-minded people. This way, you can surround yourself with people with similar likes, making it easier for you to hold conversations.
When learning how to open up to people, it can be tempting to take on a more sociable persona or one more likely to be liked by others. While this may work for a while, it can be mentally and emotionally draining because you have to pretend to be someone else. Also, it may not be sustainable long term.
Instead, allow your authentic self to show up. You can confidently express your interests, likes, and dislikes, and the right people will understand. Being your authentic self also makes it easier to attract people you can connect with on a deeper level.
Be a good listener
One of the best ways to learn how to open up to people in the first place is learning to be a good listener. Active listening and reading non-verbal cues will teach you how to talk more openly and how much about yourself you can share. Being a good listener is also a good way of getting to know other people, which is an essential part of opening yourself up to others.
Practice positive talk
If you always have a negative inner dialogue, you may find it challenging to open up to people. You can start by replacing any negative internal dialogues with positive talk. This will boost your self-esteem, making it easier for you to express yourself to others positively.
Understand your triggers
Situations, people, and places can be strongly associated with memories and traumas that have hindered you from opening up to people. If you often get emotionally blocked due to specific triggers, avoiding them whenever possible or finding healthy coping mechanisms to improve communication with others is better.
Join a support group
If you find it hard to open up to your family members or loved ones for fear of judgment or being misunderstood, consider joining a support group.
A men’s emotional support group is a safe space where men, just like you, go to talk, share and express their feelings in a non-judgment environment and in the presence of people who understand.
If you are a man looking for a safe place for emotional expression, MensGroup is a men-only online support group where you can freely share your emotions and thoughts.
More about MensGroup
MensGroup is an online support group for men. If you are a man in need of emotional support, being part of a men-only community is one of the best ways to ensure you get personalized support for your needs.
This community of men is dedicated to supporting each other through life’s challenges and changes. Being part of a men-only support group ensures that you get a free space to share, vent, and learn in a safe space without fear of judgment or being misunderstood.
To live a happy and complete life, learning how to open up to people is essential. Following the tips highlighted in this article, you will have an easier time opening yourself up to the people around you. Support groups like MensGroup offer a safe place for men to learn how to express their emotions and channel their feelings positively.