Being vulnerable with someone or a group of individuals is often seen as a weakness. While many people will urge you not to be, others like David Fisher, public speaker and leadership coach, will tell you that being vulnerable can allow you to connect better with people, and might actually help you in being more empathetic.
So, is being vulnerable with others really a strength? I asked David some questions around vulnerability, which is one of the many topics he speaks on stage (or online) and coaches regularly. Here is what David wrote to me:
1. How did being vulnerable impact your life?
Vulnerability was difficult for me growing up. Although my circumstances were unusual, the recent surge in people wanting to learn about vulnerability helps me realize I’m not alone.
Being vulnerable has done two things — One, it has allowed me to build deeper relationships with people. Not with everyone of course — you won’t be vulnerable to the doordash person on the same level you would be with your children. Two, it has also given me a deep appreciation for other people when they chose to be vulnerable. It has allowed me to be more empathetic and understand that everyone is messy, everyone is imperfect; we all have hidden secrets that most people don’t know about.
So when someone opens up to me, I recognize the fear in doing that and I am empathetic to that feeling because I identify with it.
2. According to you, what are the benefits of being more vulnerable?
We have evolved to rely on each other. We build communities — tribes. We are not the mountain lion who claims a territory and lives alone except for when it’s time to mate. I’m sure some people would love that life, but deep down ALL of us crave connection unless we have chosen to hide that part away because of a past pain.
The benefits of being vulnerable is that we make that connection stronger with others. That is how we have survived as a species. That is who we are. It’s in our DNA, literally. The feeling of loneliness releases the same brain chemicals that are released when we are hungry. We literally hunger for connection.
3. What are some mistakes people make when trying to be more vulnerable?
They go to extremes. They either stay on the shore and never take that risk of opening up to another person. Or they jump into the deep and the other person doesn’t even know how to swim. Think about the stoic relative that never shares anything about their life. Or think about that person at the event you went to that shared everything, and you don’t even know their name yet. Those are extremes, but we tend to either don’t go into the waters of vulnerability at all or we jump in too fast.
Take a step and if that other person steps with you, take another. If they stop, then you know that’s where you should stop too. If you are at work and you bring up a story about watching a movie with your kids over the weekend and they don’t respond in kind but just continue with the business at hand, you know that relationship is all business. If they start asking about the movie or the kids or talk about how their kids are struggling with online learning, then you both have taken another step.
There’s no wrong answer. You can’t be vulnerable on a deep level with anyone, but unless you try, you won’t be vulnerable with anyone.
4. What do you think could be the one thing stopping people from being more vulnerable, and how to overcome it?
I tell people that they are only taking a small step, not a big jump. I tell them that it’s only about 5 seconds of fear and then you’re there. You’ve taken the step. Yes, it can be scary — vulnerability is literally defined as opening yourself up to physical or emotional attack. That’s scary.
I have not always gotten the response I’ve hoped for by being vulnerable but I’ve never regretted it. Most things we want in life lay beyond our comfort zone. 5 seconds could change your life.
5. What are some tips you can share so people can try to be more vulnerable?
First, be honest with yourself. I lie to myself all the time about things I don’t want to think about. Be vulnerable with yourself.
Next, find that one person you want to go deeper with, and understand that it may not happen, but it also might be all you hoped for! Either way it’s worth it. Maybe it’s a relationship that has got stale, or someone you want to know better, or a relative that you would like to know more. Maybe it’s the barista and you just want to give them a better day. Take a step somewhere.
Last, don’t stop. If you don’t get the result you hoped for or if you feel exhausted, take a moment to reset and do it again. Have a mindset and willingness to be vulnerable when you wake up in the morning. A better way to put it is that you want to connect with others each day. Make that happen and vulnerability will just be a part of life.
6. What tools would you recommend for people who want to learn more about vulnerability?
Most of you know of Brené Brown. Anything from her is good. Her Netflix special is amazing.
Seriously, watch a good TV show or movie. Watch actors be vulnerable. We don’t have to be that dramatic, but the really good actors are vulnerable. They might be playing a different character but their emotions are theirs.
I’ve had clients come to me because I give a different perspective of vulnerability that Brené Brown does. I’m not the sociologist like she is, but because I deal with a specific skill set — leadership through vulnerability and storytelling, I can connect with certain people on a …more vulnerable level. Everyone is different. But, feel free to check me out.
And last, Vanessa Van Edwards is a great resource. She’s not a vulnerable expert per se, but is excellent at teaching how effective communication works. Her book Captivate is a must read.
David Fisher is an award-winning international public speaker, and a professional leadership coach. While focusing on helping socially conscious leaders, and future leaders, increase their impact through storytelling and vulnerability, David has inspired and coached countless people into becoming a better version of themselves.
According to Yahoo! Finance, he is one of the top 10 public speaking coaches.
You can check him out through his website and social media pages:
Website — https://davidfish.ca/
Instagram — @davidfish.ca
LinkedIn — @davidfishca
Twitter — @davidfishca
Facebook — @heroicleadership
About the interviewer
My name is Jeff Monnery, a videographer and documentarian whose mission is to ensure people are given the choice to make positive changes toward self-empowerment. I am the founder of Spoken Out Stories, a video series about stories of people who lived a hard experience in their life, and found their way to move forward with courage, determination, and optimism.
You can connect with me through my social media pages:
Instagram — @jeffmonnery
Twitter — @jeffmonnery
Facebook — @JeffMonnery
LinkedIn — @jeffmonnery
About An Unlearning Initiative
An Unlearning Initiative is an interview series of people sharing the experience and expertise on various topics around mental health, self-empowerment, empathy, and love.
It is about giving others diverse perspectives from around the World to help unlearn misconceptions and enlighten people toward a better understanding of what is around them.
You can connect with An Unlearning Initiative through these social media pages:
Instagram — @anunlearninginitiative
Twitter — @AnUnlearning
Facebook — @anunlearninginitiative