Being Guarded, Secretive, And Defensive About Your Social Problems
Some people who aren't doing the greatest socially become closed off, secretive, and guarded as a side effect. They're embarrassed about things like not having a lot of friends or never having had a girlfriend or boyfriend. They decide they need to save face as much as possible and try to keep these 'failures' a secret.
When people ask them questions about their social life or what they did on the weekend they may give really vague or evasive answers. They don't want to have to say they didn't have anyone to go out with, and that they once again spent Friday and Saturday night by themselves on their computer.
Even if someone is just being friendly and curious, or even mildly concerned, when they ask them certain questions, they may feel like they're being grilled and interrogated. For example, an awkward teenager may come to resent her parents for asking about who she hangs out with at school, and become grumpy whenever the topic is brought up.
Around their peers they may try to avoid situations where certain topics could come up, such as everyone's dating experiences or funny stories about things that have happened at parties. They may always feel be a bit on edge because they never know when a discussion may turn to an area they're not comfortable with. A college-aged guy who has never dated anyone might avoid hanging around with groups of guys who have been drinking because he knows the conversation will almost always turn to women at some point.
If they do find themselves in the middle of a conversation where their secret may be revealed they may use all kinds of strategies to get through it in one piece. No matter what approach they use though, they'll feel anxious until the topic changes and they're in the clear. Their biggest fear is that someone will directly address them and call them out.
- They may try to hang back and not say anything, hoping that no one will notice they're not contributing, and that the topic will change before long.
- They may deftly try to change the subject.
- They may conveniently take that time to go to the bathroom, or get a new drink, or see what some other people at the party are up to.
- They may try to deflect any direct questions. Like if someone asks them how many people they've dated they may say, "Ah, I don't kiss and tell."
- Maybe they'll try the 'quick, vague, evasive answer' approach again.
- It's also not unheard of for people to come up with some lie to get everyone off their back. Like they may make up a story about how they were hanging out with some friends from out of town over the March Break, when they really stayed sat around their house all week.
Another reason some people may be guarded and defensive is that they've been picked on in the past, and so think that anytime someone is talking to them they're really just trying to make fun of them. If someone starts asking them about their weekend they may not reveal much, because they suspect the other person is just mining for material to mock them with later.
Being secretive can hurt your cause in the long run
You could argue being closed off is bad on its own. A person's relationships can only become so close if they lock away too much of themselves. It's also a problem from the perspective of getting past your social issues. Sometimes people get so invested in saving face and protecting their secrets that they pass up opportunities to actually improve their social standing. Someone may get invited to a party and be asked to bring their friends along too. Not wanting to let anyone know that they don't have any other friends they may skip it altogether. Or they may avoid hanging out with a particular group of people because they're too afraid one of their secrets will get exposed.
The idea may seem crazy, but it can often help a ton to just get everything out in the open. Let people know you don't have the busiest social life, or that you're not good when it comes to dating and relationships. You don't have to reveal it as if it's this horrible shame. You can be more matter of fact about it instead and say something like, "I don't know what it is, but I just never got the hang of meeting people when I moved here for university last year."
Revealing your secret never seems to go as badly as you'd imagine. Most people don't really care or judge you for it. It's not like something such as not having a lot of friends is this unheard of condition that no one could ever relate to. When you tell people sometimes they're mildly confused and curious more than anything. They don't have that problem themselves and have a hard time imagining how someone else could ("Wait... so you don't really hang around people?... Uh... Oh... Well why don't you just join a club or something?... I don't understand..."). It's also possible that some friends and family suspected your secret all along, since it wasn't that hard to guess and your counter measures were pretty transparent.
When your secret is out it often changes your whole approach to it. Your focus shifts from, "I have to hide this at all costs" to, "Okay, so it's out there. Now what do I want to do about it?" You don't have a reason to avoid situations any longer because there's nothing you're trying to hide. The other benefit of telling people is that sometimes once they know what's going on they'll try to help you out.
Not being able to open up to people
Even when someone has gotten over many of their social issues, they can still hold onto their secretive behaviors. They may clam up in group conversations out of habit when the topics get more personal. Despite being older and knowing the world isn't full of bullies, they may still instinctively feel wary about revealing too much about themselves to other people. They may have some really good friends, but still only talk to them about superficial topics. Since self-disclosure is such a big part of more meaningful relationships this can hinder their friendships.
In my experience a good way to open up to people more is to just do it. It's not about delving into your psyche and analyzing why you're so self-protective. It's just that you're a bit scared to share yourself because it's new and unfamiliar. If you just do it you'll face your fears and see firsthand that there's nothing to worry about when you talk to people you trust. Start with smaller disclosures and work your way up to things that you're keeping closer to your chest. You don't have to tell people every last secret you have, but you'll often be surprised at how much you may one day feel okay with self-disclosing.