It’s hard, so hard, to speak my thoughts when I’m sitting next to you. I wish I could open myself and tell about my love, my troubles, my shame. But my inner heart is sealed tight; like a turtle shell with spikes on the outside. Exactly like blue shell in Mario Kart, it pushes away that I want to get close.
Somehow I feel like it’s always been hard for me to reach out and create a deep relationship with someone. At the same time I feel like I’ve come a long way, maybe it’s just my standards that have increased? It’s only the first barrier that’s hard to break through; once I’m through that, I can talk openly about almost anything.
What is a deep relationship?
There are a lot of ways to define a deep relationship. What I found is most true is to be vulnerable and show your deeper inner self to that person. To show your feeling, talk about your emotions, and talk about your fears.
But it’s not only those things. There exist four dimensions in each relationship. Where expressing, feeling, and talking about your emotions are one of those dimensions.
How physical you are with one another is another dimension. Do you hug or cuddle? If it’s a romantic relationship, how great is your sex?
Stimulating and interesting conversations is yet another dimension.
And finally, how connected do you feel to each other. Do you feel like you’re soulfriends or soulmates? And what kind of projects are you working on together (big or small), and what are your common interests?
If you’re looking for a deeper description (see what I did there 😉 ) you can check out The Missing Piece In Relationships.
Strategies for overcoming the fear of opening up
I have a few strategies for overcoming the fear of opening up to another person. The list is by no means extensive, but it includes some options. I would love to hear from you what strategies you use for overcoming the fear.
1. Use text to get to the point
If you are like me, you find it a lot easier to open up and talk about things through text.
There’s just one problem with this. It doesn’t create as deep relationships as when you can look into the other person’s eyes.
But text messages can still be useful because you can mention what you want to talk about when you meet. That way the other person knows you what you would like to talk about and might even bring it up.
You can even go a bit further and ask them to ask you a specific question. And even talk about how hard you find it opening up when you’re face to face.
2. Share your fears
Sharing your fears with each other is very efficient for building a deep relationship with someone. I have done it twice, and I felt a deep connection in our relationship after that.
Start by asking the other person to share one of their fears. They’ll probably pick one that’s easy to share, like afraid of the dark. Then they will ask you, and you pick one.
What tends to happen naturally is that you start sharing deeper and deeper fears. Both because you run out of shallow fears, but also because once one person starts sharing something a little bit deeper, you will feel okay to share a deep fear with them.
3. Create a project to build deep relationships
The reason I could open up in the first place was thanks to a personal development course I took fall 2013. An exercise in the course was to create six projects with things you wanted to improve or work on during the next four months.
I wanted to build deep relationships with friends and family.
The four parts of a project
1) A brief description what the purpose of the project was. Why did I want to do this project? Why was this project so important to me? This is a long-term goal of maybe ten years, even though the project is only four months.
2) Create (at least) two ways to measure your progress. For some projects, coming up with a measurement of progress was easy. For other projects (like building deeper relationships) this was harder.
3) Have an accountability mentor. This mentor is what you discuss your projects, why they are important, and come up with ways to measure your progress, and finally to
4) Create a plan with urgency. You start by planning backward, with the end goal in mind. Where do you want to be in 120 days? 60, 30, 15, 7, 3, 1 days?
My project plan
I want to create a lot of deep relationships with friends, family, and a future partner. For friends and family, I want to score high (9–10) in at least three of the dimensions (mind, heart, spirit). For romantic relationships, I want to score high in all four dimensions (body, mind, heart, spirit).
Knowing what to measure
It took some time to figure out how to measure if I was getting closer to my goal of having deeper relationships. Thankfully I had my mentor Lennart Göthe to help me.
After thinking for a couple of minutes I had one measurement. To count how many times I had opened up to anyone. Lennart had a better idea: To count the total number of people that have opened up to me. Because for a relationship to be deep, both sides have to open up, and for the other side to open up they have to feel comfortable.
Here are all my measurements for this projects. The total number of times…
- different people that have opened up to me
- people have opened up to me
- people have started a conversation with me (FB messenger, calls, text)
You don’t have to measure the total number of times. But that’s what I went with for this project. You could instead measure the average per week and see if it goes down or up.
Begin with the end in mind
What’s left for the project plan is to fill out what my end goal at 120 is. Here’s how I filled it in (together with the actual result).
Why create measurements for Day 1 and Day 3? And is it more intensive at the start? At the course, they mentioned that it’s to build urgency because they found that people (including themselves) tend to postpone taking action on goals if they aren’t urgent. After every measurement point, you and your mentor discuss the outcome, how come it looked that way.
As you can see, I didn’t accomplish my goal. But I came a long way. And the reason why the same people didn’t open up to me was that it became so easy, so it didn’t feel like they opened up. More like we had an in-depth conversation.
4. Ask these 36 questions to build a deep relationship
This week I saw an interesting TED-talk: Falling in love is the easy part. In the talk, they show that there is a simple formula to fall in love with any person (or to create a deep relationship).
You only need to answer these 36 increasingly personal questions, and then look deep into each other’s eyes for four minutes without uttering a word.
You won’t fall in love with everyone (but most it seems). I love these kinds of questions, and I’ve tried them with my girlfriend and they work in creating a deeper relationship with someone.
What I haven’t tried is if they work on someone you don’t have any feelings for. I’m not sure I want to do that with anyone. I would love to try it on someone whom I think would be a match in the long run, like my girlfriend.
I’ve always had the belief that you can fall in love with almost anyone; not that it’s a choice, but the feelings are already there, you only have to bring them to the foreground (if you want).
You can use all or some of these questions to build a deeper relationship. I would suggest talking about these questions before starting, and always having the option to abort if anyone would like to.
How would your relationships look like if you followed one of these approaches?
I’ve shared four different strategies for creating deeper relationships; Using text messages, sharing your fears, creating a project, and asking 36 questions.
There are a lot more ways you can build deeper relationships. I would like to hear your strategies in the comments below.
How would your relationships look like if you followed one of these approaches? How would you feel?
And most importantly, what single action can you do today to deepen one of your relationships? I would like to hear what action you took today.
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