Vulnerability at Work: Liability or Asset?

by | Oct 8, 2019

Darcy Luoma is one of America’s most highly credentialed coaches. She’s worked in 48 industries, with more than 500 organizations, and has impacted tens of thousands of leaders and employees.

You might be more connected to the world than ever, with your ever-present phone, social media feeds, and access to a bazillion YouTube videos. 

But how well are you connecting with people around you? 

In her book Rising Strong, Brene Brown says, “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

It’s not about looking at pictures of people on a screen, it’s sharing with them in real-time, and letting them do the same. Connection requires us to be open about how we’re feeling, as well as to listen and make the other person feel heard.

Connecting At Work?

I know this might all sound a little woo-woo for the workplace, but it’s not! Connecting with your colleagues is key to being able to better understand each other and work well together. And my work with teams has shown me again and again that the more connected individuals are the better able they are to handle conflict.

When you are open to sharing and encourage others to do the same, you’ll understand each other better! It will give you a better appreciation for how they work, and what motivates them. All that will come in handy for everything from collaboration to conflict.

Don’t Be a Mess

Now, I will also say that as social media has disconnected us, it also encourages oversharing. Just because you can take a picture of your breakfast doesn’t mean you should! 

Not everyone on your feed needs to know every little thing you’re mad about. And maybe those Facebook Live rants with you in your pajamas aren’t really necessary.

Think about all the people who might be reading your updates and decide if you need to share all of that with them. And in person, you’ll probably need to do a little extra censoring, as talking about your breakfast is even more unnecessary.

No Need for Perfection, Either

While you don’t need to be a mess, part of vulnerability is admitting that you’re not perfect. I struggle with this myself, which is why you’ll find me in full hair and makeup on all my Facebook videos! But even if you want to get your selfie angle just right, you can admit that you’re not perfect.

Talking to people about things you struggle with, are afraid of, or need help with lets them know that you’re human. I know we want to project confidence and competence, but asking for help can be a great way to connect. 

If someone in your office is excellent at presentations or always has the right advice, tell them how much you appreciate their work and ask for some tips.

Admitting that there are things we need to work on is always okay.

Connect, Don’t Dump

You need to share at a level that is appropriate to the relationship, and it needs to be a two-way street! If you want to talk to your coworkers about everything, be sure you are also asking questions and getting curious about them.

Walking into a room and dumping all your baggage on the table isn’t really going to build connection. 

Let’s say you’ve had one of those mornings: kids wouldn’t get ready in time, traffic, bad night’s sleep, feeling unprepared.  You walk into work and someone says ‘How’s it going?’  

Now, some might say that the vulnerable answer is to be honest about everything that is going on and give them all the details. But I say to connect, you can say ‘Rough morning! Paying the price for not sleeping all that well. How are you?’ You can save the details for another time.

You’ve still given an open and honest answer to the question, but you haven’t spent 15 minutes on all the details of everything that went wrong. Also, they have the chance to tell you where they are, and now you can get to work.

Make Connections Work

If you are open and honest with those around you, and encourage them to do the same, you can build trusting relationships that allow for great communication. Whether you’re at home or at work, offering just enough of yourself and making space for others to do the same is a great way to connect.

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