To Connect, Be Vulnerable
We so often present idealized versions of ourselves to others. If we feel disappointment, envy, or anxiety, we don’t want to let on. But research shows that sharing our vulnerabilities is actually of immense value.
Consider this study: Arthur Aron, director of the Interpersonal Relationships Lab at Stony Brook University, paired students who were strangers and gave them 45 minutes to ask each other a series of questions. Half were given superficial questions (e.g., a favorite holiday or TV show), the other half’s questions gradually became deeper (e.g. the role of love in their lives, the last time they cried in front of someone else, whose death would impact them most). Afterward, Aron’s team asked the participants to rate how close they felt to their partner. Pairs from the second group formed much deeper bonds. Some started lasting friendships; some perceived their connection to their study partner as one of the strongest in their lives.
So, contrary to what we may believe, presenting a “totally together” version of ourselves actually separates us from others. We may fear that if people find out “who we really are”, they’ll distance themselves. In fact, our authenticity and vulnerability—our sheer humanity—breaks down barriers.
Please share your experience: When has sharing vulnerability resulted in a stronger connection? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
6/10/2014 05:11:22 am
My experience has taught me that almost everyone would appreciate someone to trust with deepest feelings. And, on the other side, being trusted is such a gift. Having been on both sides, I'd like to know that everyone is willing to open up and everyone is willing to listen with cotton in their mouths.
6/12/2014 05:27:59 am
Thanks for this Sally. You raise the important relationship between vulnerability, trust and listening. Wonder what comes first. Does vulnerability depend on the existence of trust -- or does it create it?
6/10/2014 05:16:30 am
Vulnerability is hard because it leaves you open to getting hurt, used, and abused. That said, it is also the only way to form real human bonds of love, friendship, and understanding. Compassion is also a gift of being vulnerable to someone else, you allow them to feel it and experience what it is to care and to help another human.
6/12/2014 05:29:23 am
Merry, your personal commitment to vulnerability has certainly been put to a life of testing. Thanks for this.
6/10/2014 07:26:26 am
This is a great post thank you. I agree that the richness of life is not found in protecting ourselves from others but in allowing others to see who we really are. This however requires us to be secure in who we are otherwise we are unable to make ourselves vulnerable - for fear we will be rejected or hurt in some way. As leaders we need to create an environment of affirmation so that everyone in our "community" knows they have immense value just for being who they are - not because they do or say certain things. In this environment, true connection becomes possible and synergy is able to occur (as people are ok to let go of things they are not the best at, rather than holding onto these as part of their (false) security).
6/12/2014 05:27:41 am
So well put, Brendon. Thank you. Do you have any ways you have found helpful to encourage this kind of workplace culture?
6/15/2014 06:27:28 pm
I have found that the traditional approach to participants introducing themselves at workshops is not very interesting, but I heard of a better approach. I now ask people to write between 6 and 10 single words that are keys to their total self (interests, hobbies, people, experiences, things that excite them etc). I then get the people alongside them to pick three words. Each participant then speaks to the three aspects selected for them. The difference is amazing. People are articulate, interesting and listeners learn things about them. By opening up their thoughts and sharing the key words the introductions are far more interesting, and much more informative. Previously people tended to cover their job or career only.
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