The Practice of Vulnerability

Vulnerability is powerful. But the way it works is more or less counter-intuitive. You need to risk feeling bad, in order to feel good.

Here’s what I am learning. Open and honest people are more interesting. Truthful, risky self-disclosure puts energy into relationships. The more I practice opening up, the easier it becomes. If I have less to hide (or pretend about) I feel more joy, security and kindness in each relationship.

When people betray my vulnerability it hurts like heck. There is no completely safe way to do this. But there is no way to be fully alive and not do this.

Vulnerability is making my “real self” just a little more visible than is comfortable. Our lives are like flowers, most attractive when fully open. That’s counter-intuitive.

Over the years I have explored these 12 ways of practicing vulnerability:

  • Asking for help even though it made me feel uncomfortably weak
  • Offering advice and examples from my failures rather than my successes
  • Expressing my affections (appropriately) where previously I had been silent
  • Naming my doubts and fears out loud
  • Finishing this sentence: “Do you know what I am really feeling…”
  • Confessing my sins and weaknesses to another person
  • Saying sorry and promising to do better
  • Refusing to pretend that I liked what I didn’t or that I agreed when I couldn’t
  • Risking ridicule and misunderstanding in order to be helpful to someone else
  • Weeping while praying for someone in bitter pain
  • Asking others to pray for me in the area of my weaknesses
  • Letting silence linger until it got uncomfortable, and then it got real

Result: Most of the time I experienced a connection. Something vital shifted in the relationship, it went to another level, it blossomed. Not every risk paid the same dividends, but over all my “vulnerability-portfolio” has proven enormously profitable.

How do you practice vulnerability? Leave a comment.

For a brilliant talk on this theme check out Brené Brown’s June 2010 TedTalk here. And if you want to read a business application of the theme, explore Patrick Lencioni’s book “Getting Naked”.

Posted by Allan Demond

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