Inviting Vulnerability

Vulnerability is a hot topic these days. And well it should be. I’ve been speaking to the power of vulnerability with my clients for a long time. It is an absolute foundational core to building any trusting relationship, whether that be in business or in our personal lives.

I’m a strong advocate of creating environments where people feel safe to tell their stories. It is through the sharing of the nuances of our lives that we connect, bond and relate to others. Telling your story, and telling it true, requires a great degree of vulnerability.

Vulnerability is the other half of truth.
All too often the unspoken half that waits in the wings yearning for it’s moment in the light.
Without the opportunity to honestly express where and how we feel vulnerable, we’re only having half the conversation, which never really gets to the heart of the matter.

Recently Brené Brown showed up on Ted Talks with a brilliant talk about how vulnerability is a keystone to developing deeper connections with others. I was so glad to see the topic get such resounding support as people clearly resonated with the truth of her message.

Yes!  We’re coming to understand the power of being more vulnerable.  Fantastic.

Now, I want to speak about something that can often be even more difficult to pull off…..

Beyond being vulnerable ourselves
and accepting others when they’re vulnerable.
What’s really important is….

Inviting Vulnerability From Others.

Here’s what got me thinking about that and why it’s important.

In a follow up video Reneé spoke of shame as being one of the primary inhibitors to vulnerability. She spoke of a man who confessed to her that he would find it difficult to be vulnerable since he believed that his wife and daughters depended on him to be the hero; the knight in shining armor riding the white horse. He felt that to be vulnerable would show weakness and he would feel ashamed if he let them down.

Do we let those close to us know that they don’t always need to be the superwoman or superman? And if we do, do we follow up with actions that actually mirror our words?

I have a men’s group that meets regularly to speak of the particularities of living life as men. This theme of needing to maintain a culturally conditioned perception of strength is a insidious issue with which we all grapple.

Whether the family of the man in Brené’s story truly demands that he stay firmly seated upon his mighty steed or whether he simply believes that they do, the impact is the same.

He is trapped in a world that denies him the ability to express and explore a significant portion of his life experience, the parts of him that aren’t always so strong.

Vulnerability is the other half of truth.

The unspoken half that waits in the wings yearning for it’s moment in the light.
Without the opportunity to honestly express where and how we feel vulnerable, we’re only having half a conversation that never gets to the real heart of the matter.

The dilemma here is a paradox. How does one venture into the uncertain landscape of being vulnerable when they don’t necessarily believe that they will be supported in their vulnerability?

It is up to all of us to invite vulnerability in our relationships.

It is the kind and courageous thing to do. Whether it be personal or professional, when we create and hold space within which others can express a greater degree of their truth, we build trust, we deepen connections and most importantly, we provide others with an opportunity to live more fully integrated, balanced, honest and vibrant lives.

Your mate, boyfriend, girlfriend, son, daughter, business partner, co-worker, friend, etc… may very well need to get a clear message from you that says, “It’s ok to let down your guard and be vulnerable. I’ll honor that and more importantly, I’ll celebrate you for it.”

You need to extend an invitation.

What is vulnerability?

Vulnerability is the sharing, expressing or revealing of anything around which we may feel shame, guilt or embarrassment. Shame is the real vulnerability killer here. We all feel it to some degree in any number of different areas of our lives. And if you say you don’t, well then you might just be too ashamed to admit it, even to yourself.

Shame: We can feel shame about our: life condition, health condition, relationship condition, finances, imperfections of all sorts, confusion, uncertainty, fears, doubts, addictions, predilections, habits, past, family, things that have happened to us, things we have done to others, inability to cope, sense of overwhelm… I could go on and on and on. But you get the picture. There’s a lot that’s not being talked about.

If you want to make a tremendous difference in your relationships, invite the conversation and help those around you get down off their mighty steed, take off the hero’s cape, remove the superhero mask, take a much needed break and tell the other half of their story.

How Do You Invite Vulnerability
In Your Most Personal Relationships?

  • Practice being vulnerable yourself.
  • Setting an example is remarkably powerful.
  • Pick a time and place that’s safe.
  • Asking someone to talk about where they feel vulnerable in the movie theater during the previews probably isn’t a great idea.
  • Over an intimate dinner at home with no distractions or over lunch with a co-worker works well.
  • Invite the conversation with questions.
  • “So, how are you these days?”
  • “You seem pretty stressed lately, are you feeling stressed?”
  • “I know you’ve got a lot to deal with these days. That must be a bit overwhelming. Do you want to talk about it?”
  • Set clear expectations & acknowledge the burden.
  • “I don’t need you to be superwoman. I’d rather that you be real and authentic and true to yourself.”
  • “Oh baby, I don’t need you to play the hero all the time. I’d like to know your more vulnerable side”
  • “I’d love to support you in any way that I can. I get it, I know how hard it can be. I’d like to be here for you.”
  • “I’d like to feel a deeper connection between us and me holding you to an unrealistic expectation isn’t helping either of us, or our relationship.”
  • Don’t try to fix the other.
  • Listen and ask questions that help the other person to further explore their own truths. (Ask more than tell)
  • “Tell me more about that.”
  • “Is that true?”
  • “How long have you felt this way?”
  • “How does this impact your life?”
  • Ask what your listening heart guides you to ask.
  • Repeat what you hear so that they can hear their own words.
  • It’s a powerful thing to hear your own statements of vulnerability stated back to you.
  • “So, I hear you saying that you’re uncertain about how you’re going to do at this new job and that scares you.  How do you react to being scared?”
  • Offer assistance.
  • “What do you need?” And when they refuse help… “No, really, what do you need?”
  • Validate and reinforce the experience
  • “Thank you for being so honest.”
  • “I feel that I know you better and I like that.”
  • “That was great. I really appreciate your courage.”
  • “I hope we can do more of this, I know I learned a lot. Thank you.”
Modifications in language can be used within a business setting.  But the steps are the same.
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Vulnerability
Be it
Allow it
Invite it
Share

2 thoughts on “Inviting Vulnerability

  1. Very interesting, Chess. My only concern is the fearful climate at the workplace regarding “sexual harassment” issues. It sure makes for being vulnerable a conflict at times.

    • Ah yes, This article was meant more for navigating personal relationships. The language would have to be different, but the steps are the same.

      I could have made that more clear. I’ll throw in a quick edit to make it more obvious that you certainly wouldn’t use the word “Baby” at work. Ha!

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