Does Vulnerability Lead to Confidence?

14 March 2018

I recently saw a TED Talk video by Brené Brown, PhD. in social work, on “The Power of Vulnerability.” Dr. Brown is a great storyteller, and I encourage you to watch the whole video at the URL below:

According to Dr. Brown, self-confident people, who communicate well, are generally people with sense of their own worthiness and who live whole-heartedly. This stems, she says, from four specific attributes:

• Courage – Dr. Brown separates “courage” from “bravery;” she uses “courage” to mean the courage to accept and embrace your not-perfect self.

• Compassion – the willingness to be kind – both to yourself and to others.

• Connection – we’re neurologically hardwired to make connections with others, according to Dr. Brown. And we make the truest connections when we are authentic – when we trust our worthiness, however imperfect, and trust others to see us for who we are.

• Vulnerability – is it a paradox that these strong, self-confident people all fully embrace vulnerability? Vulnerability is not pleasant, but it is necessary. Many of these people believe that what makes them vulnerable also makes them beautiful.

Vulnerability can be at the core of:

• Shame
• Fear
• A struggle for worthiness

But vulnerability can also the birthplace of:

• Joy
• Creativity
• Love
• A sense of belonging

Too often, we see only the fear and shame connected with vulnerability. Some numb the pain of vulnerability with: excess spending and debt, food, alcohol, and drugs. What if, instead of hiding from vulnerability, we embrace it?

Vulnerability means being authentic, with yourself and with others. It means being open, being willing to be seen as yourself – your whole self. I found it interesting that Dr. Brown dissects the word “courage” to its Latin root and original meaning – it comes from the word meaning “heart,” and it initially meant “telling your story with your whole heart.”

Dr. Brown made me think about the ways entrepreneurs – like myself – communicate with our clients. Are we communicating whole-heartedly with them? It starts, of course, with listening to their stories, attentively and with empathy.

It can be tempting to respond to clients’ concerns with an immediate, superficial certainty – after all, we’re the experts, we are supposed to have the answers our clients are looking for at our fingertips. Or are we?

Sometimes – often – we don’t have those answers immediately. When that happens, we shouldn’t be afraid of saying, “I don’t understand. Can you explain a little further?” Or even, “I don’t know – let me look into it, and think about your situation, before I make any recommendations.” If you have questions, ask them. Get as much information as you can (Dr. Brown says that stories are data points with a soul).

When we listen with our whole hearts, when we are willing to own our own uncertainty, when we ask the questions that enable us to truly understand where our client is coming from, we open ourselves to finding solutions that will best meet their unique needs.