How are your relationships? Do you find yourself blocked out by others? Your ability to have meaningful relationships depends on how much those around you trust you. If you find yourself unable to "peel the onion," that is, get past the layers of protection others place around themselves, here are a few ideas that may help you improve the quality of your relationships.
The first step has to do with you. What kind of track record to you have when it comes to keeping secrets? Do you gossip? Learn to bite your tongue when people ask questions about those close to you. My mother always taught me if you can't say anything nice about someone, keep your mouth shut. She's right.
The next step is to care about others. Listen when your friends are sharing. Look at them directly in the eyes and never judge what they have to say. A good listener is more valuable than a good talker.
It's important to understand why people put up defense mechanisms. Many are afraid you will talk about them behind their back or you really don't care what they have to say. They know they will become vulnerable if they open up to you and they fear rejection. The closer you get to a person's heart, the more aggressive they may become at pushing you away. Tread carefully when you peel away the final layers of the onion and don't ever force your way past another person's layers of protection. Be patient.
Once you've demonstrated to others your ability to avoid spreading gossip and you've mastered your listening skills, the final step in peeling the onion is to show empathy. Ask questions to clarify points your friend is making to show you are actively listening and that you want to fully understand where they are coming from. For example, you may ask, "why is that important to you?" Another question that shows you care is "how do you feel about (blank)?" Ask this question after your friend has shared something personal.
Once you have peeled away the final layers of the onion, recognize the gift your friend has given you. It's not easy for someone to open themselves up and share their hearts. Don't forget to share your heart. Relationships are a two-way street. Let the people close to you know you love them. Pray for them. Keep in touch. Nurture your relationships. Congratulations. You are now a champion onion peeler and you will find yourself surrounded by friends who are willing to share their lives with you.