We all encounter closed-off people, who do not open up easily. How to get a closed-off person to open up, especially if that is your partner or teenage son or daughter?
For a reason or another, some people are just not inclined to share their feelings and experiences with friends, family members, or even partners. Those who are on the other side might feel discouraged or hurt. But there are steps that you can take to help another person open up to you. In the meantime, don’t take things personally.
Why someone might be a closed-off person?
The reasons why someone is closed-off and not willing to share can be different, but the background is more than often the same, they do not feel emotionally safe to open to someone else. This might be a reflection of that relationship or they might not feel invested enough in the relationship. However, avoid blaming yourself since a closed-of person might feel the same towards other relationships in their life. It is important to remember that sometimes the feeling of not being emotionally safe comes from previous experiences or even traumas. It is possible that someone even feels shame and they cannot open themselves to others.
Culture also plays a great role since some are raised not to discuss personal issues and not to share their experiences with others. This refers especially to men across many cultures. Men often do not talk about their feelings and many men resist talking about how they feel from an early age.
How to get someone to open up to you?
It is important to be consistent with the closed-off people. Do not give up on them. If your partner is closed-off, being consistent will help you build trust. This could take some time. Most of us need time to open to others but with closed-off people, this might take way more time than for an average person. Stay true to your word and do not let them down in order to build the foundation needed for trust.
It is important to remember that we all have a deep desire to feel understood. Practice active listening to show to your partner that you are there for them and offer them the space they need. The most crucial part of active listening is empathy. Be a good listener but ask questions. Find the balance between asking questions and prying as this can pull your partner away from you. No one wants to feel like they are in the hot seat so avoid asking too many questions and interrogating someone.
Another thing important to remember is that we should share our vulnerability as well, but without hijacking the conversation and talking only about ourselves. If you make that brave step of being vulnerable that will help the other side to be more open.
It is also important to be mindful of your nonverbal communication especially since this is not something that we fully control. But be mindful of eye contact, warm and genuine facial expression. Verbally and non-verbally let them know that you value your relationship with them.
In the end, we often desire to deepen the relationship faster than what others might want to. Respect their pace without taking things too personally. We have different boundaries and timelines and everyone on some level has a fear of abandonment.
Do not be alarmed if you encounter some boundaries on your way. It is common for people to retreat again once they opened up because they can perceive their vulnerability as shame and something too overwhelming and uncomfortable. Trust that your closed-off partner will open up eventually.