On Vulnerability

On Vulnerability

I don’t like feeling vulnerable or making mistakes. Possible failure makes me anxious. Yet I have noticed how resistance to vulnerability hinders creativity and hampers building relationships.

Brene Brown, who has authored numerous books on vulnerability and imperfection, defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.”

On a recent trip to Italy, I took a small step toward vulnerability. Armed with a CD and a “Duolingo” app, I memorized some basic Italian words and phrases.

It’s one thing to practice a language in my car or living room. It’s quite another to practice with native speakers. I don’t want to make mistakes, to appear awkward or silly.

But I decided to risk the mistakes I would undoubtedly make.

What a surprise!

In response to my admission, “Parlo solo un po d’italiano,” (I speak only a little Italian), aided by showing my thumb and forefinger a half inch apart, I was rewarded for my meager attempts.

Several times a person who had confessed to not speaking English, would then smile and, using the same gesture, admit that he or she spoke “solo un po d’inglese,” (only a little English). It was an acknowledgement of mutual vulnerability. Neither of us was very good at what we were attempting. It didn’t matter! Our shared experience in vulnerability forged a commonality between us.

My attempt to speak Italian was a tiny step toward my goal for the coming year—to take more risks in building relationships, to be open and accepting of my deficiencies, and to seek (in Brown’s words) more “laughter, song and dance” with less anxiety about mistakes.

In what ways can you put your vulnerability to work for you in 2016?

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