People are like icebergs: they will only show you 10 per cent of who they really are. You have to do some deep investigation to learn about the other 90, and most of us never do.
Regardless of the circumstances - to the people with whom we work, to someone we're dating, to our teammates, and so on - we rarely show our vulnerabilities or what we are really feeling.
Being truly open can be a difficult way of life, but for some people, it is perfectly natural to wear their hearts on their sleeve. Those who do this are rare and confident individuals. When one shares feelings rather than expressing an opinion, it shows depth.
Unfortunately, most of us are uncomfortable sharing what is really going on for us. And that is both a good and a not so good thing. It is a circumstantial decision that we are constantly making. "How much should I really reveal?" is a question we all, whether consciously or unconsciously, ask ourselves. The answer is, it depends.
If someone makes you feel safe and comfortable, you will tend to be more open with that person unless you've been told that he or she is out to get you. Then you'll clam up emotionally and verbally. It's human nature.
If you want someone to be open with you, the best way to do it is to slowly show him or her more of who you really are. If you do this too quickly, you can come off quirky or, worse, someone who has poor boundaries. Generally, you will get back what you give out, unless you're too pushy.
You need to pace yourself when it comes to getting to know other people. We are all different. You may be someone who is comfortable sharing your life story, or you may be shy about revealing family secrets. Whichever the case, you have to be careful to filter your words and try not to give or get everything out in one sitting.
The longer you take getting to know someone else, the stronger your relationship can be. Friendships that develop over time tend to be longer lasting than those that move quickly.
It is also wise to check your expectations from the other person and take a look at their expectations of you as well. If we want something from another person that he or she is unwilling to give us, it will put a strain on the relationship.
Learning to respect someone else's limits is part of maturity; if you cannot do this, your ability to form and keep relationships may be diminished.
People tend to like others who like them, unless they sense something is inappropriate. If you think that someone you are involved with is backing off, politely and kindly ask if they want to talk about it. If so, you can discuss how to improve your connection. If they don't want to talk, however, don't push it. Wait for the right time. Your friend may just need a moment to think about things.
* Dr Barton Goldsmith is a California-based psychotherapist and author.