If you feel you’re having trouble being understood, allow yourself to be vulnerable. The results will surprise you.
One of the more often used buzz-words in our modern age is the word communication. In less than a few minutes we can find 11venty billion articles on the effective use of, the benefits of, or the pitfalls around types of communication. One point in particular we shouldn’t take for granted is, our desire to be clearly understood is better achieved when communicating the things we fear we ought not to.
Let me get straight to the point. I’m talking about our fear of appearing vulnerable. That moment when our brain fights with our mouth in an effort to prevent us from divulging a perceived weakness or failing. It’s in these moments the words we string together make us sound like a politician dodging a direct question. We begin to fashion, to craft, to disguise our responses as anything but vulnerable. And that’s when we miss out on opportunities.
Remember that saying “just give it to me straight”? it’s an instruction to cut out all the fluff and wordy confusion. For over 30yrs I’ve been managing people and teams, and this is one directive I’ve not changed over time. Why? Because it works, plain and simple. But of course, it’s not as simple as saying “get to the point”. I learned decades back that you need to have one thing in place first before you can encourage others to be vulnerable. That one thing is trust.
Building trust is mandatory for anyone who wants to have a quality relationship with another human being. And it’s you who is responsible for building it. Because appearing vulnerable has links to our fears of judgement and self-worth, overcoming that fear cannot be done without an action. And if you’re like me, in a position of mentorship and/or leadership, I encourage you to lead by example and take that action first. Yep that’s right. Show those around you your vulnerable side.
Regardless of whether you’re a leader or not, let’s bring it back to you as the person. The quality of your communication with those closest to you, in work or in life, hinges on you. It’s reflected in the quality of relationships you have with others. If you want to improve a relationship, improve the levels of trust. Be vulnerable. But of equal importance, could be the relationship you have with yourself. And because I want to build trust with you as my readers, on this point, I’ll go first.
For me, I’m at my most vulnerable whenever my self-doubt has a negativity party in my thought process. Here’s me, a survivor of mental health, imparting 30yrs of lived experience, hoping like hell I’m good enough to make a difference in this world. No pressure, right? But much of that self-doubt is immediately dispelled when I communicate in a simple and effective way. Such as what I just have.
Daily I will tell my fear of judgement to take a back-seat, so I can allow myself to be vulnerable in front of others. The moment I take all the fluff and wordy padding out of what I’ve been trying to say, and just say it, is when the gold starts to appear. Trust is built, relationships are improved, solutions or collaborations begin to form. Close friends, clients or colleagues, it doesn’t matter to me. I always go first, show that I’m capable of appearing vulnerable, and encourage others to do so.
Hiding anything we perceive as vulnerable about ourselves isn’t wrong, it’s human! But it’s also limiting. That “comfort zone” thing is a great example of the benefits being vulnerable can have. Be scared, do it anyway, reap the rewards. But it’s always that middle part I find we stumble over. The doing. Like I said, someone’s got to go first, and that someone is you.
The bottom line is this. All of us have a vulnerable side, and a fear of it becoming exposed. Inside a trusted environment that fear is reduced. If our willingness to share what we perceive is vulnerable has the chance to improve things around us, then let’s do that. Let’s share.
If you’re a CEO, drop the wordy vernacular and tell your team, straight up, what you’re losing sleep over. If you’re a leader, lead by example and show your people it’s OK to feel vulnerable. And if you’re just you, and not too sure what others will think of you for feeling vulnerable about “stuff and things”, then tell it to them straight. Communicate. Because hiding our fears never helps anyone.