When we take risks interpersonally it is important to do so with our eyes open. There’s an old saying about how to open up to others. It goes Share – Check – Share.
This describes the process of “putting a bit of yourself out there” to others (taking a manageable risk), and then checking to see what you get back before sharing more. If they don’t really share back with you at a similar level, and you want something a little deeper, then accept the response for what it is and try again with another person.
After all, we connect with others through our vulnerabilities. I have a friend who often jokes and is playful with servers in restaurants. I asked him about this once, and he indicated that he has been teased in a friendly manner by servers since he was a child. He’s an outgoing fellow, and apparently the servers recognized this and engaged him. Eventually, he learned to initiate in return. These days he is inconsistent. Sometimes he will engage with others, and sometimes he will not. He explained to me that he can sense when another person will welcome the interaction before he attempts to engage them, and if they do not seem open he keeps to himself. In others words, he is discerning about his interactions.
Many people in the world are not actually ready for intimate relationships. They may welcome a kind word, a brief hello, or a discussion about something newsworthy, but when it comes to discussing the more personal side of their lives they may not be willing to do so (or even know how to do so). If this is the case, it is much easier to move along rather than try to change them.
A hint: when it comes to discerning who is going to be both fun and meaningful to be with, watch to see if the person tends to be judgmental. Judgmental folks are not a lot of fun to be with. Underneath it all they do not approve of themselves, and they are not going to approve of you either. You can offer them kindness and a friendly gesture, but they can be like trying to hug a porcupine. It’s dangerous to your underbelly.
In summary, since we connect with others through our vulnerabilities we must do so with care to avoid new wounds. However, to fail to try is to fail. You owe it to yourself to sharpen up your conversational skills and give folks an honest try. Some people are slow to warm up, but are worth the wait. Others are simply locked into their isolation. You’ll find enough of what you are looking for out there if you give vulnerability a chance and receive well when healthy friendship or love is offered.