"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable." -C.S. Lewis
The first day off at university is an exciting and intimidating day. I had a few friends that had come to the same school as me, but we were all living in different dormitories, so I had no choice but to make new friends in my hall. I had opted to have the school randomly select a roommate for me. Based on a questionnaire I had filled out previously, they had paired me up with a very eccentric computer science student. He ended up being one of the best roommates I've ever had, simply because we were so different, yet we held each other with the highest respects and courtesies.
Anyway, our first day was basically unpacking all of our stuff, which for us priority seemed to be setting up our computers. Once that was done, everything kinda just fell around the floor and what little closet space we had. I don't recall having any floor meetings yet, so we were left to our own devices to get situated with getting food and navigating the bathrooms and halls, as well as mingling with our neighbors.
Our first night seemed fairly quiet, and we hadn't done much to go out and meet too many people. In fact, because classes hadn't started yet, many students chose to move in their stuff and go home, how boring (you can deduce from that that I went to a state school and lots of kids lived within driving distance). Anyway, by around midnight, almost all the doors had been closed and me and my roommate just kept doing whatever we were doing on our computers with our door wide open,not even close to thinking about sleep just yet (we were taking full advantage of our new high speed internet connection and promptly filling our hard drives with as much data as possible).
Anyway, the room directly across the hall hadn't gone to bed yet either and they had their door open. Sometime between midnight and 2 am, a paper airplane came flying through our door and landed at my feet. It read "Open Me" across the wings. Inside was a note saying something along the lines of "We seem to be the only ones awake still, what's up?". With that we introduced ourselves and right there, we had made two new friends. From then on, it was our habit to keep our doors open, and the two rooms next to us became pretty good friends as well, and our little cluster became a little hot spot for gathering on our floor.
Open hearts for good karma
I use this story as an illustration for how simply being open led to a great outcome and great friendships. Granted that sending the paper airplane over took initiative on their part, but I think an equal part was that we left our door wide open, even when everyone else had closed theirs.
When people are able to tell that you are an open person, they are then able to decide whether or not they will open up to you as well. If, on the other hand, you give off the vibe that you are not an open person, then it takes greater effort on their part to take a risk and open up to you.
Being open not only makes others feel comfortable around you, but it also allows you to be yourself, even among strangers. Now the risk is that while you are open, you are also vulnerable to being hurt. The upside is that there is a greater chance that good things may come, such as new friendships, opportunities, and overall good karma.
How to be open
There are a few basic things that I do to let others know I'm open.
1) Make eye contact, smile, and say "Hi"
I learned this from working in retail for awhile, and if you ever go shopping, you probably notice it also. Although I was never a designated salesperson, I always made an effort to say hi to customers in case they need help. Notice that I didn't often directly ask if they needed help, but by engaging them briefly, I gave them the opportunity to ask if the needed it. Nowadays, when I'm shopping, I notice that workers and sales people are more willing to make eye contact and say "Hi". Just by them doing that, I feel like I can ask them anything or just make small talk if I choose. This type of behavior can be used elsewhere outside of retail. The other day I was on a train ride through the mountains and happened to smile say hi to a lady. Later in the ride, she asked if I could take a picture of her and her aunt, who was visiting from Germany, and that led to a wonderful discussion about a great deal of topics. I think by first smiling and showing that I was open, she was able to decide to ask me to help them take a picture, and the rest naturally followed.
2) In conversation, be willing to share a little more than expected
This one is tricky, but it's really about being able to show that you first feel safe sharing about your life, allowing others to see that they are also safe to share about themselves if they so choose. Think about therapy groups, usually it takes just one brave person to open up and share about themselves before the rest of the group starts sharing and leads to bonding and healing. This can happen in daily interaction on a shallower scale (since most people aren't ready to hear about your darkest secrets just yet).
3) Don't criticize or make jokes that insult or put down others
A very important point. If you are known to be a person who tells crass jokes or puts down others or talks about others when they aren't around, there is no way that anyone will trust you with their personal thoughts. Even if you make a passing negative remark about something and a stranger hears it, they are less likely to engage you, unless they share the same negative view of things as you, in which case you've made a new friend.