After Brene Brown opened Pandora’s box and let the world know the wonders of vulnerability, the concept took fire on social media, within mental health spaces, and across various other Ted talks, sermons, speeches, etc. Everyone raves about the power of vulnerability. Described how hard it can be to express it.
But less buzz has been generated about picking your spots to be vulnerable. And just like with most things, moderation is the key and so is timing. Here’s three straightforward steps.
First, vulnerability is always a risk.
Hence the word it’s derived from, vulnerable, which entails being susceptible to harm. No one would tell a person of color to go to a white supremacist rally; no one would tell an individual with physical disabilities to go to a function with little to no ADA accessibility. In a similar vein, don’t be vulnerable in a context guaranteeing hurt, such as opening up to a boss who has always belittled you or to a parent who always criticizes you. Having a boundary there in that place is actually healthy proof that you understand how you can be hurt and are protecting yourself from that hurt rather than continuing to allow it.
Second, start with a small vulnerability.
Pick something benign and silly; a tendency to pick your nails, proclivity to forget small things, etc. and then observe how the receiver of the vulnerability responds. If they either dismiss outright or jump to fix it mode immediately, this likely means they aren’t someone to share bigger vulnerabilities with. But if they respond with whatever their version of “I do that too,” it’s likely they could be trusted with bigger things.
Finally, give warning before dropping a vulnerable “bomb.”
When I say bomb, I’m not saying it’s damaging to be vulnerable, more that the other person might need preparation before receiving. Different personalities can be wonderful listeners and supporters but different personalities also listen and support with distinct timing, word choices, gestures, and so on.
Overall, being vulnerable is necessary to building trust and maintaining love. But being vulnerable also involves risk, should be avoided with certain people, and should be started with small things.