Monday, November 26, 2012


Listening to Krista Tippett with Brene Brown in her show, the topic was vulnerability. There is a fascinating interplay between fear, vulnerability, and courage which she found through her research. Brene recognized that we often think that courage coems from strength. Her discovery is that our courage comes to us because we fear and move through that fear anyway. And most of the time that fear is in being vulnerable.

As I discussed this topic with a friend, it was fascinating that we had two separate concepts of vulnerability. My friend's concept of vulnerability is of information that one keeps hidden because of the likelihood that others would use that information about you for creating an advantage over you. In other words, exposing yourself in a certain environments that would likely result in an attack on you is the definition of vulnerability. This assumes a hostile environment, such as in a work situation where advancement thrives on tearing down fellow  team members.

Yet there are many possible ways of being vulnerable that can actually create a positive advantage for the relationship. I'm reminded of speakers who are not vulnerable, perhaps too polished, perhaps cold and analytical, who will not enjoy as much engagement from their audience. Whereas the speaker who shares personal failings and  foibles of their own life will find an audience identifying with them and trusting them to be authentic and honest.

Vulnerability can also disarm conflict. Instead of personalizing them and what they are saying, I personalize myself and my viewpoints. I can explain the facts of my position as well as quantifying the feelings that I have about it. The interesting (and fun!) aspect of this process of exposing my feelings is that there is nothing with which to argue. No one can say that my feelings are wrong or untrue. THey may say that it is stupid to feel that way, which might seem like an attack, but I am not responsible for that. If I am self-differentiated enough, I won't buy into their dialogue if it denies my feelings.

There is danger in vulnerability, and that is why courage is so necessary to engage in vulnerability. The result is connection. A risk and a reward. Is it worth it?

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