If you’ve read my blog or if you know me, you know I talk a lot about vulnerability. I think vulnerability is crucial to forming deep and meaningful connections with others.
But one of the reactions I often get is “great, but how do I do it?” It seems that we are so good at not being vulnerable that we don’t even know what it means to be vulnerable. I’ll admit I’m just as guilty as the next person.
There are really lots of important ways we an be vulnerable. It really boils down to being willing to trust someone enough to let them know things that are important to you or about you. It means risking that they might not react well to those things…and that it may hurt. That reaction might be intentional or accidental. It doesn’t matter, it will still hurt.
But that trust is the basis of connection. Exposing the authentic you to someone that matters in your life. And being able to handle the response, whatever it is.
That can be a very scary thought. It can be intimidating to just rush out and reveal all of the parts of yourself that you’ve so closely guarded for so long. So why not start small and work your way up?
Here is a very basic way to start learning to be vulnerable. Express your desires. I’m not talking about leading with your big dreams and aspirations. I’m not talking about tossing out your secret kinky sexual desires. I’m talking about just honestly and directly stating your preferences and desires in daily life.
Think about the last time you discussed which restaurant to go to or what movie to see. Or what activity you want to do with friends. Which of these more closely matches what you said?
1) Didn’t suggest anything, just went along.
2) We could go to the Thai restaurant.
3) I would like to go to the Thai restaurant.
I acknowledge that there are times when we really don’t have a preference. I’m not talking about those times. I’m talking about when we actually have an opinion or a desire. If you picked 1 or 2 then you didn’t express your actual desire…you didn’t make yourself vulnerable.
The thought process goes something like this. If you don’t actually state what you want, then if it isn’t chosen it isn’t a direct rejection of your desires. After all, it was just an “option” right? But if you say “I want” and the decision is to go for something else, that can feel like your opinion was disregarded. It can feel like you have been rejected or that your feelings don’t matter.
Sure, we rationalize it as compromise, but it can still sting a little. And yes, this is just a minor thing, but it is a great example of how the process works. If we aren’t willing to openly state what type of food we want, why would we risk sharing important desires or thoughts or experiences with others. The potential for hurt is much greater.
The fact that this isn’t a deeply meaningful or important area makes it the perfect place to practice being vulnerable. You can start recognizing how you avoid vulnerability, do it differently and learn to be okay with the results regardless of what it is.
So start small. Practice. and get ready to move on to the next level. But when you get to that place where more important and more risky things can be shared, that’s when real connection can happen. And that is what we really want.