The courage to be vulnerable

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Most everyone dislikes the idea of being vulnerable because it makes them think people will perceive them as weak and inept. In fact, the online Oxford Dictionary defines vulnerable as: "exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally."

But wait, isn’t that also the definition of courage? Courage is “the ability to do something that frightens one.” What can frightens one more than be exposed? Courage originally denoted heart. Therefore, being willing to be vulnerable, to expose your heart as a leader, or as a partner in a committed relationship, takes great courage.

Ori Brafman, author of Click: The Magic of Instant Connections, says vulnerability can actually be one of the best ways to engender trust. He suggests that vulnerability, instead of giving power away, is what creates a binding, deep relationship in a couple or within the workplace.

I have seen a great example of what can happen when a leader is courageous enough to be vulnerable. I was helping facilitate a crucial meeting for a group of leaders in a section of a manufacturing facility that was needing a transformational change. People were able to recognize that change was overdue, but were also cautious about how to proceed.

The dialogue was exploring half-heartedly the reasons why transformation, and not superficial changes were needed. Until the Vice President that had convene the meeting had the courage to remark that he felt some times he was the greatest obstacle for their willingness to step up to the plate, and fearlessly explore innovative ways to solve the challenges.

From then on, the dialogue was much more open. The other leaders around the table were more willing to share their own contributions to the problem. They also ventured more openly their ideas on how to transition from “the way he have done this” for the past 15 years, to taking the risk to explore new models to be more flexible and responsive to the market needs. New energy could be felt. Creativity was flowing. And nobody looked at the VP as “weak.” On the contrary, there was more respect for his courage to be vulnerable.

In my work with couples I have repeatedly seen how when one of them is willing to admit how they make things more difficult, the other is more open to see their role in the conflict.

What about you? Do you have the courage to be vulnerable? To invite candid feedback? To listen to criticism? Can you allow your team to see your humanity? Can you share the emotions you are experiencing as you choose to take on risk moving past prior failures to a bold new vision? Can you share your fears with your partner? Can you show your loving heart to your sweetheart?

Remember. . .

When you have the courage to be vulnerable, others will be also emboldened to take their own risks. They will help you create and take action on a bold vision that can take your organization, or your relationship, to the next level of success.


If you want to explore how vulnerability works in a practical way in relationships, check out my free webinar: Reclaim Intimacy!  5 Incredible Strategies to Reignite your Love Life.

Ada GonzalezComment