To create closeness and intimacy with other people-male or female, young or old, family or friends-apply the following three rules in any circumstance.
1. Be willing to trust that others will not hurt you. You must take the risk of being let down, ignored, manipulated, judged, or hurt. Even if it is risky, share your real feelings. The closer you are with someone, the more of you they can see. When you are close to someone's heart, or they to yours, you can see each other's concerns more easily. This can be risky when you don't know what they will do with what they see. That is where trust comes in.
Maybe you think that to depend on friends is a sign of weakness, but that's not true. By refusing to open up and share, you may be considered unapproachable or unfriendly- keeping you isolated with your feelings because you can't, or won't, let others into your life. People may know about your accomplishments and your possessions, but do they know about you?
How can we bear one another's burdens if we don't know what they are? Often we hold back from sharing ourselves because we don't want to impose, to feel weak or needy, or we don't trust that anything will change. Many people would like to have someone to help them and care about them but are afraid they will no longer be accepted or liked if they reveal their soul. The fear of risk shuts them down or closes them up, leaving their feelings locked inside.
What we often fail to realize is that the people who get to see all of you, love and admire you all the more. They empathize; they want to reach out to you and reassure you that you are liked or loved even more than before. So open your heart, even at the risk of getting hurt. The world is full of wonderful people just trying to make a happy life for themselves and their families. Most people have something positive to offer you, even if it is just a smile or a nod of understanding. Don't keep your heart hidden-it is far more rewarding to be open and vulnerable. You wouldn't stop cooking and enjoying food because of the very small chance that you might get burned, would you?
When someone shares something with you that is important, painful, or precious to them, try not to outdo them with your experiences. Rather, stay in the moment with their feelings, and respect them for taking the risk of sharing with you, creating a trust-the foundation on which all relationships are built.
2. Stop playing games.
Young men and women often wear masks and play social games because they don't know how to be open and honest-or they choose not to be. Men, for example, might exaggerate their incomes, plan "chance" meetings with women, and say the craziest things to try to get women to like them, instead of just being real.
Just be yourself. Don't feel that you have to put your best foot forward all the time. If you would like to meet someone, let him or her know. If you would like them not to call you again, say so. If something offends you, speak up. If your feelings have been hurt, be open about it. Don't pretend that things are all right when they aren't. Playing games only creates an environment of distrust, suspicion, and doubt. It is a far better use of your time to be honest, upfront, and sincere.
3. Be open and honest at all times, using tact and diplomacy whenever possible.
If you have to choose between hiding your feelings and being totally open, honest, and candid, always choose the latter. When you stuff your feelings, you only hurt yourself and others. When you guess about what other people are thinking, you're going to assume the worst most of the time-but you'll also be wrong most of the time. Rather than guess, ask.
If you'll do these three things in all your relationships, you'll succeed at high levels. You also need to encourage others to do the same with you in order to create an environment where people can feel safe with you. Don't make them guess what you are feeling. By allowing yourself to be true, you'll allow others to be open, honest, and safe with you, and then they can stop playing games around you.
Many years ago, one of my mentors taught me that sometimes the most painful messages are also the most beneficial. He was about twenty years my senior and also a very wise man. One day I did something unacceptable to him, and he gave me some feedback. He reached over, put his hand on my forearm, and said, "I'm going to tell you something that will hurt your feelings, but I'm going to do it because I love you, and I think you need to hear it. Is that okay with you?"
I said, "Go ahead."
What he told me did hurt my feelings, but I needed to be told. I was embarrassed, but he made me feel that I was okay anyway. I knew he cared about me and was teaching me by being open and honest.
Being open and honest can be risky, but it's worth it. If your intent is to help, not to hurt others, then make that clear to them. Most of the time people won't take offense, especially if you get their permission first, as my mentor did with me.
Where can you find people to befriend? Start looking in your home, neighborhood, and place of work-the places where you spend most of your time. You can create fulfilling social situations by involving yourself in your church, taking people out to lunch, playing golf, or going to a movie. You can go to concerts, the theater, auto races, seminars, flea markets, auctions, museums, and sporting events. The list is endless, limited only by your tastes and interests. To make new friends, you must create situations in which you're going to visit and share feelings, life stories, and opinions with them.
By Jack M. Zufelt
"Mentor To Millions