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  • Steven Sutton, LCSW

The Importance of Revealing Yourself to Others

Let's get clear about what it means to be open with other people and why it's so important.

Being open means revealing yourself to others. It also means that you stop hiding or lying. Some of you are thinking, "I don't lie very often so I don't think this applies to me." If you're like most of us, the truth is that you don't call it lying, but every day you carefully reveal only part of who you are in an attempt to manicure how other people see you. When you purposely mislead someone else when they have a reasonable expectation of not being mislead, that's a lie.

Getting clear about what we do is tremendously empowering, so confront yourself. If thinking about revealing something true about you to those you care about makes you so anxious you know you won't do it, then you're not being open. If being asked about something that you're not proud of might makes you bend the truth in your answer that is a lie. It's ok -- there's no judgment! Just know that being open is an essential ingredient in close relationships. The more open you are the closer you'll be to others. The more you hide and lie the harder time you'll have making meaningful connections with other people. In personal relationships, being open is vital. 

So am I saying you should go around telling everyone everything about you all the time? No, it's not that simple. You'll want to calibrate your openness based on how close you want to be to the person you're communicating with. If you're speaking to a stranger, you may not wish to become close to them much at all so you may not want to be open. If you're talking to a loved one, you should know that the more open you are the more likely you are to cultivate the intimacy and closeness you want.

A great way to think about is:

Honesty always -- openness to the degree I wish to be close. 

If someone asks you something you don't want to reveal, it would be honest to tell them, "I don't want to talk about that." That's an example of being honest but not open. The important takeaway is that if you're lonely, or if you want to connect with someone, you'll need to learn how to be as open as you can.

So what does being open look like? It means getting to know ourselves first. Begin by asking yourself what you want in every situation. One of my favorite things I ask new clients to do is go for a week without saying, "I don't know." If someone asks you what you want for lunch you have to come up with an answer. If someone asks you what you think about a news story you share your thoughts. All things large and small require a query of what you really want and the courage to share that with no guarantee of approval from those around you. Being open like this doesn't require you to be rigid, you can change you mind or defer to someone else's preference if you choose. The goal isn't getting your way, it's showing who you are and allowing others to see you. Doing so without a guarantee of acceptance requires courage and practice. 

If you haven't already, check out the first blog entry in this series: How to connect with other people - Understanding Your Connection Superpower. This article is the next in that series. Check back soon for more thoughts on revealing yourself, being more open, and connecting with others.

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