The Positive Output of Vulnerability

Vulnerability could frequently be understood as a weakness. It could represent a stopper or a risk to achieving people’s personal and professional goals. Vulnerability could also be considered a scary ghost for being socially accepted, or an unclimbable wall to feeling recognized in a work team.

However, if we move away from the common interpretation and plunge into researched definitions, we can find that vulnerability is part of our identity, our nature, and it is impossible to run away from it. Furthermore, it could be our key driver to success. David Whyte, a well-known poet, author and speaker, goes deeper in the concept and says:

“To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature, the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to be something we are not and most especially, to close off our understanding of the grief of others. More seriously, refusing our vulnerability we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.”[1]

Let’s look at different definitions of vulnerability:

  • “Capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt. Open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.” [2]
  • “Exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” [3]
  • “Capable of being physically or emotionally wounded or being open to attack or damage.”[4]

It is obvious that if we perceive ourselves at a constant risk of being attacked, we will build around us an image of power as a defense mechanism. If we are afraid of being emotionally hurt by showing our weaknesses, we will hide them behind a shield, and present a fake image of perfection. Nevertheless, by doing that we are not being who we really are. Trying to protect ourselves under this likeable screen or socially accepted profile, we are lying about our own nature. In hiding our weaknesses, we also hide or reject our strengths and the outputs that both create.

If we are not able to be vulnerable (first to ourselves, then to others), we will never see inside ourselves and transform ourselves to enhance or improve. If we think about vulnerability as the constant choice to not hide our feelings, sensations, needs, and thoughts, we can realize that it is directly aligned to authenticity, transparency, confidence and trust. Thus, by living without filters, as we really are, we can grow in at least three important aspects:

  • Personally: without prejudices, taboos and fears we would be happier and more comfortable with ourselves.
  • Socially: using our emotions to connect with others, we could build better and more positive relationships.
  • Professionally: as a result of the previous points, we could be more creative and innovative, and because of that, we can reach higher performance and efficiency

Sarah Rose in her post “Overcoming the Fear of Vulnerability and Unlocking Your Power” summarizes this effect simply:

“Wanting to avoid pain and shield ourselves from it is natural—and, by the way, completely not possible, because as we close up to protect ourselves against pain, we also block out the light that reflects from it… To be vulnerable is to be in a state of trust and courage. From this state, all things are possible and our drive, willpower, and strength align with who we really are, not what we fear.”[5]

In the same sense, Brene Brown, research professor at the University Of Houston Graduate College Of Social Work, in her article “The Power of Vulnerability,” affirms that vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. [6]

Vulnerability in our Workplace

Could being vulnerable help us at work? Yes, it sounds crazy, but it could.

Patrick Lencioni, writer of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable,” states:

“Remember, teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability… The vulnerabilities I’m referring to include weaknesses, skill deficiencies, interpersonal shortcomings, mistakes, and requests for help”[7]

It is known that effective teams achieve great results, and that it is not easy for any team to reach a high performance phase. Being genuinely open with one another about our improvement areas, mistakes, and fears, helps teams to build confidence, reliance, and trust.  Every team member should feel relaxed when showing vulnerability. Consequently, there would not be any reason to be defensive, internal politics or ego fights would disappear, and the team could concentrate and focus on tasks, goals and vision.

Companies should build their cultures on trust, confidence, and collaboration to allow their talents to be vulnerable, genuine, to connect through emotions, and as a result… to reach amazing levels of performance.

References:

[1] Whyte, David. 2016. CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment And Underlying Meaning Of Everyday Words. Ebook. 1st ed. http://www.davidwhyte.com/.

[2] “Vulnerability – Definition of Vulnerability in English from Dictionary.com”. 2016. Dictionary.Com. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/vulnerability.

[3]Vulnerable – Definition of Vulnerable in English from the Oxford Dictionary“. 2016.Oxforddictionaries.Com. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/vulnerable.

[4] “5 surprising reasons why vulnerability is good for you”. 2016. Bloom Life Design. http://www.bloomlifedesign.com/5-surprising-reasons-why-vulnerability-is-good-for-you/

[5] Rose, Sarah. 2014. “Overcoming The Fear Of Vulnerability & Unlocking Your Power“. Tiny Buddha. http://tinybuddha.com/blog/overcoming-fear-vulnerability-unlocking-power/.

[6] “Brené Brown – Researcher + Storyteller“. 2016. Brené Brown. http://brenebrown.com/.

[7] Lencioni, Patrick. 2002. The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bibliography

  • June, Dale L. 1999.Introduction To Executive Protection. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
  • Lencioni, Patrick. 2002.The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Whyte, David. 2016.CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment And Underlying Meaning Of Everyday Words. Ebook. 1st ed. http://www.davidwhyte.com/.
  • Vulnerability – Definition of Vulnerability in English from Dictionary.com”. 2016.Com. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/vulnerability
  • Vulnerable – Definition of Vulnerable in English from the Oxford Dictionary“. 2016.Com. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/vulnerable.
  • 5 surprising reasons why vulnerability is good for you”. 2016. Bloom Life Design. http://www.bloomlifedesign.com/5-surprising-reasons-why-vulnerability-is-good-for-you/
  • Rose, Sarah. 2014. “Overcoming The Fear Of Vulnerability & Unlocking Your Power“.Tiny Buddha. http://tinybuddha.com/blog/overcoming-fear-vulnerability-unlocking-power/.
  • Brené Brown – Researcher + Storyteller“. 2016.Brené Brown. http://brenebrown.com/.
  • Vidani, Peter. 2012. “Emotional Vulnerability: Creating A Safe Space In Your Relationship”.Leave Your Conscience At The Tone…. http://vdiggs.tumblr.com/post/32582546243/emotional-vulnerability-creating-a-safe-space-in.
  • Power Tool: Vulnerability Vs. Ego – International Coach Academy“.International Coach Academy. http://coachcampus.com/coach-portfolios/power-tools/doneen-barone-vulnerability-vs-ego/.
  • Empowerment Through Vulnerability“. 2016.Com Online Journal. http://www.recoveryview.com/Articles/TabId/107/ArtMID/657/ArticleID/1303/Empowerment-through-Vulnerability.aspx.
  • Harrison, Susan. 2015. “Vulnerability And Ego: Why Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone Is So Important“. SUSANSWEATS. http://www.susansweats.com/blog-native/2015/7/12/vulnerability-ego-and-weakness-why-stepping-out-of-your-comfort-zone-is-so-important.
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