My friends say that I lack humanity; how can I change?

The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female university student in my 20s, and my friends tell me I’m always very serious and guarded. I’m also described as lacking humanity.

My friends tell me I’m too strong-minded, to an off-putting degree, and a perfectionist. They also say they hesitate to talk to me even when they want to ask me something. But they have absolutely the wrong impression of who I am. Of course, I have human emotions as other people do, and I have things I’m not good at doing or never want to do.

It’s true I won’t skip any classes at university and try to save electricity on a daily basis. When shopping, I don’t make the salespeople spend a lot of time waiting on me. I do all these things not because I want to be more diligent, but because I consider it common sense.

I’ve been told I’ve been very serious since childhood. I want to change this image, to be regarded as having humanity. However, I have no idea what I should do. I’m at a loss when I think of what “a person with humanity” is like.

K, Ibaraki Prefecture

Dear Ms. K:

I’ve had a similar experience in the past. I’m not certain whether I can be of any help, but let me tell you something anyway.

People tend to be on guard and defensive when they don’t want to expose their weaknesses or be spoken ill of behind their backs. This approach may be safe but hinder your interpersonal contact or warm relationships with others. If you are this way, they would also be discouraged from making friends with you.

I don’t mean you should become totally candid and frank. As we get older and our network of acquaintances expands, the ideal is to have more friends with whom we can have an easy relationship. I believe we can benefit from working to achieve this goal.

It’s good to see someone who was on alert when they were young start to open up as time goes by.

You should consider what other people think about what you do. But if you try to change yourself out of consideration for others, it’s just like putting on heavy armor to defend yourself even more.

So I hope you’ll meet people around whom you do not have to put on any armor, or work to become bold enough that you can slightly let down your guard. What do you think?

Taku Mayumura, writer

(from Aug. 9, 2017, issue)Speech

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