As I sat onstage at UNLEASH World 2022 in Paris last week, I had an epiphany. I need to be more open again. The past few years of being locked away from the world during the pandemic forced many of us deep into our own guarded environment. We build physical and emotional walls around ourselves to protect us from threats to our physical and mental health. As we slowly come out of those protective cocoons, it’s clear that there is a feeling of rebirth and connection. Revealing your vulnerabilities is an important way to build that connection.
My Real-Life Example
UNLEASH leadership collaborated with me to create a session on accessibility and inclusion. This stemmed from research that H3 HR Advisors has coming out later this month. The on-stage discussion goal was to educate the audience about why focusing on accessibility in the workplace increases inclusion of people who have neurodiversity or physical disabilities. In preparation, I enlisted two amazing expert panelists, Hardeep Rai (Group Chief Executive Officer at The Kaleidoscope Group of Companies) and Maryann Abbajay (Chief Revenue Officer, SAP SuccessFactors). I met Hardeep a few minutes before we took the stage and I’ve known Maryann a couple years. And although I felt a closeness and warmth from each of them, that bond had grown exponentially a mere 30 minutes later at the end of our session.
How did that happen? Each of us took a risk, a leap, and shared highly personal stories with each other and the audience. I shared personal stories of communication challenges with my Grandmother who lived with Alzheimer’s for many years. Hardeep and Maryann each shared personal stories about their sons and how each struggled with physical and mental challenges. The three of us could have presented an effective session on the topic without sharing these stories. But, by sharing our personal vulnerabilities, we enriched ourselves and our audience.
3 Benefits of Revealing Personal Vulnerabilities
- It builds stronger connections- I recently wrote about loneliness and feeling disconnected. I believe that one way we can improve those feelings is by being more open and sharing what we’re experiencing. Whether that is a challenge at work, feelings of self-doubt, relationship challenges, or handling family dynamics, being vulnerable builds connections. When someone opens up to me about their life, my brain immediately starts trying to find commonalities with them. I feel compassion and a sense of greater connection. This is something that I find to be true with all people. Sharing vulnerabilities is a quick way to build trust with people and that leads to inclusion.
- It offers solutions you have not considered- I want you to think about a problem or situation you’re facing right now. Maybe it involves your boss, a co-worker, or a family member. What’s important is that you may be stuck and not sure how best to proceed. We’re often embarrassed to share these situations with other people. When we get vulnerable and share, we avail ourselves to options we may not have considered. Learning from other people’s successes and failures is a great way to give yourself more options and solutions to your challenges.
- You grow your influence- We are a wealth of information to other people and we don’t always know this. When you reveal personal stories, you open the door for people to ask you questions about your experience. Just like you can learn about new solutions from them, you will undoubtably be sharing successful examples they may not have considered. We often measure “influence” by social media followers or metrics, but that’s not the only way to influence. Each person you educate that tries something new has been influenced by you.
Next Steps for You
Do you feel comfortable sharing your vulnerabilities with others? If not, I challenge you to find one person this week and share something personal you’re dealing with. See how they react. Do they share their story with you? Do they offer to help? I’d love to hear if it works for you. Feel free to share in the comments, with me by email at TrishaM89@gmail.com, or on Twitter @TrishMcFarlane.