Recently I was at lunch with a friend. We were talking about our respective jobs. She loves her job but noted that she wanted people to really connect with her at a human level. To go beyond the professional relationship to a more meaningful level.
We discovered that she was waiting for her counterpart in the conversation to go a little bit deeper. To express some more of themselves. Once they had done that she would reciprocate. I asked her the question “what would it take for you to go first?”. Of course this is scary. To be the first one to let someone in. To invite someone to a deeper level of relationship. To be real.
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Vulnerability is a taboo word in the world of business. And that is a shame. Because vulnerability has an important role to play in leadership and business.
It allows a deeper human experience. Going beyond the corporate pleasantries and connecting at a more meaningful level. And with that deeper connection comes many great benefits. Clearer understanding. Better working relationships. Enhanced communication. An ability to resolve conflicts easier. An of course at the end of the day better outcomes. Heck, you might even make a friend.
To mindfully cultivate vulnerability means stepping outside of your comfort zone. To step into discomfort. To trust that your message will be received with an open heart and the best intention. It can be scary. But it’s a risk that, if you are prepared to take, can have great rewards.
Here are 6 steps to cultivate vulnerability.
1. Be curious
Instead of thinking about cultivating vulnerability as a must have. Instead of judging yourself on how much vulnerability you do or don't have. Just be curious. Take the mindset of learning from the experience. With a curious mindset you can suspend the self judgment and go with the experience. Ask yourself "I wonder what I will find out..."
2. Have a little stretch
If you perceive yourself as quite guarded currently, then try to be 5% or 10% more vulnerable. You don't need to share your deepest darkest secrets or anything particularly personal. Just choose a way of becoming slightly more vulnerable and try that.
Vulnerability is a taboo word in the world of business. And that is a shame.
3. Pick your target
For your vulnerability experiment, choose someone with a high EQ. Someone who is a great listener. Set yourself up for success.
4. Choose what to share
Relevant to your level of stretch above, choose something to share. A good place to start is to share what you are working on getting better at. I have never seen this type of share backfire. You could even share that you are working on being 10% more vulnerable.
You could share
Vulnerability is a two way experience. To get the full experience and learning from it, you must listen. Put everything else from your mind. Focus wholeheartedly on what the other person is saying. Turn your phone to silent, close your computer. Listen not just to their words. But also their body language. What they are not saying. Their tone. Their facial expressions. What the feeling is behind their message. Adopt the curious mindset again. Put aside any feelings of whether they "got" you or not and simply listen to what they have to say.
Vulnerability is a two way experience.
6. Experiment and reflect
I can't predict how your first foray into vulnerability will go. But I can say with certainty that you will learn something from it, if you are open to it. Ask yourself some questions after the exercise:
Vulnerability is a powerful gift. Adopt a curious mindset and experiment with vulnerability. Not only will you deepen your relationships and improve outcomes. But you will learn more about yourself in the process.