Choose to Be Vulnerable
Being more vulnerable begins with a choice. For most, it won’t “just happen.” If you’re not sold on the idea, it might be helpful to read (1 min) my last post the power of vulnerability. Risking vulnerability is choosing to influence through connection and not through fear or positional authority.
Share Your Struggle
When we share our successes before sharing our struggle, we will come off as cocky or arrogant. We connect when we risk sharing our struggle, our imperfection. This is especially important for preachers, speakers and teachers. If you’re trying to encourage or move people to do something difficult, it is critical that you first share how you’ve struggled to accomplish what it is you want them to do. This shows you are human and allows people to connect with you.
There are situations where it is inappropriate to share the exact nature of your struggle. Then, you can say something like, “You know, when I was younger, I really struggled with this. I’ll spare you the details, but I remember how hard it was, and is, to do __________.” In order for this to work, it must be authentic and you must actually go there in your mind and your heart. You don’t have to say what it was you did, but you need to remember it and feel it. If you don’t they’ll see it on your face, and you won’t connect. Sometimes its not what you say, but how you say it that makes all the difference.
Share Another’s Struggle
For those who are speak to or work with the same people day after day, week after week, there’s only so many of your struggles you can share. And besides they’ll get tired of hearing you. In these situations it may be appropriate or necessary to share the struggle of another. It can be someone you know personally or a public figure. We are a people of story. We connect with stories because when we hear the story of someone else, we hear the pattern of our own story. Even when the details of the story are worlds apart, we are all part of the Great Story of life, death and resurrection. If you are sharing the story of someone you or the group may know, even remotely, it is critical to have their permission, regardless of how much you mask the details. Trust me, people will know and will find out.
Apologizing can be very difficult for some, especially those who need to be “right.” I won’t go in depth here, but let me at least say that our need to be “right” is much more about our ego than it is about defending “the truth” or accuracy. I only mention this because I think more people would be willing to apologize if they didn’t feel their identity were at stake. I’ll write an entire post on this soon, promise!
As I sit here today, I can vividly remember as a minister and therapist over the last 20 years times when I hurt people that still make me cringe. They didn’t feel good, but I learned that when I risked being vulnerable and was open to being wrong and apologizing for doing something wrong, saying something poorly or not doing something that I should have been done, the situation almost always started getting better.
What if I didn’t do anything wrong?
We can apologize for how we communicate, how something we did or did not do caused the other person to feel badly without compromising our integrity. If you did or said the right thing and it was taken wrongly, you can still be vulnerable and say something like “Wow, I’m going to really think about what I said/did and how I said or did it. I can tell you’re hurt, and I had no intention of hurting you/offending you. I’m not sure exactly what I did (you can ask them at this point if you wish, and then listen non-defensively) but I’m really going to replay it in my mind, to help me see where you’re coming from and if I can think of a way to to do/say _____ better.”
There was a time when we could protect ourselves with our role, stoicism, or authority. Today, we can usually protect ourselves better with appropriate transparency and vulnerability. For many, apologizing makes us feel weak. But when we do it correctly and with the right spirit, we will, like Paul, find strength precisely in our weakness.