Vulnerability: Make It Personal


“Vulnerability is the only bridge to build connection.”

This line from Brene Brown’s TED talk on the power of vulnerability always sticks with me. While the idea of showing vulnerability can raise our blood pressure, it undeniably creates connection with others.

Before going any further, I want to admit that like 99% of people out there, vulnerability doesn’t exactly feel like a walk in the park for me. It’s tough to be vulnerable; it feels like you’re taking a risk, and in many cases, let’s face it – you are.

So, yes, it’s a risk – but it’s a risk worth taking. To be a leader who influences others, who moves others to action, then you have to be a leader who connects with others.

If you’re trying to move up the vertical axis of emotional connection on the Communicator’s Roadmap, there’s nothing that will provide more momentum than the willingness to be vulnerable.

A president of a local financial institution was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She resisted sharing the news with her team, but finally, she had to. The response was not pity. Instead, her team thanked her for sharing – because they could help. They could step up. It enabled them to become better versions of themselves. When she became vulnerable, her executive team’s attitude shifted from “we have to” step in because we’re one-down to “we want to” step in to help her keep the team running seamlessly. This is the power of vulnerability!

You don’t have to have a horrific diagnosis in order to show vulnerability and build emotional connection with your listeners. Here are a few tips:

  • Begin with the end in mind. Vulnerability is worth the risk especially when the story you’re sharing gives meaning and impact to your overall message. Need your team to step up? Start with the reason.
  • Make it personal. This may seem like a given, but it’s worth restating. When you share from your personal experience, you allow people to connect their experiences and stories to yours. And this means they’ll remember what you have to say long after you finish talking.
  • Finally, remember that being vulnerable isn’t the same thing as being emotional. Some of us feel nervous about being vulnerable because we think, “I’m just not an emotional type of person.” The truth is – you don’t have to be overly emotional to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is about openness and honesty, it’s not about feeling pressure to share our deep, dark secrets or creating emotionality for the sake of itself.

Take a risk, show vulnerability, and make a connection. The risk will pay off.

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