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The Art of Being Vulnerable


By Joshua Leavitt

Aug 22, 2022

Showcase your willingness to contribute, lead, and create

Have you ever spent time after a meeting reflecting on what you said or did or questioned, only to regret uttering a word?

I have done this a million times.

Afterward, I would make a pact never to speak up again, only to be the first person in the room to share an idea the next time around. I hated the thought of people mocking my ignorance or ideas, only to find myself speaking up at the next available opportunity.

Then I heard a person say the following phase during a meeting and knew from that point on that there was a benefit in being the type of person that I am.

He said, “at the risk of making myself vulnerable, I have a question.”

“Making myself vulnerable.”

Go ahead and repeat that a few times.

Doesn’t the phase portray confidence and courage?

You see, we are surrounded by those that make themselves vulnerable – actors, artists, leaders, design thinkers, activists, and poets. We know of them because they have gotten past the uncomfortableness of doing something different or starting a conversation or owning a difficult decision. Yet what they really accomplished is that they moved a thing forward.

“The truth is, we are all vulnerable, so you might as well embrace it.”

Embracing vulnerability can become one of your greatest strengths.

For some, it is part of who there are. It’s their nature. For others, it needs to be developed with time and practice.

Here are some ideas that have helped me gain confidence and improve my technique of being vulnerable.

Speak to people – A friend, who is amazing at working a crowd, has a great method when talking to people. She keeps the conversation to five minutes.

That’s it.

Her goal is to end the conversation before any awkward silence. It is amazing to watch!

My advice, when you are in a crowd, elevator, or a line for lunch, talk to the person next to you. If you say “hi” and you’re ignored, then so what? Simply greet another person.

This is not meant to become a deep conversation. It is simply a way to practice your approach, tone, empathy, and the ability to carry on a brief conversation. Just keep it under five minutes.

Ask questions – Don’t be afraid to ask for clarity or challenge the idea that something doesn’t make sense. The secret is to sound confident when speaking up and not feel like you’re an inconvenience. The truth is you are nipping a situation in the bud. If something isn’t clear now, then it will not be clear in the future, which opens up misdirection and issues.

Ask questions!

Make suggestions – I have a saying, “It is easier to critique than it is to create.” This is why I admire those that are the first to offer up suggestions. They are getting the conversation started. Even if the final result isn’t their suggestion, they own the development. It is a badge of honor! So be the first to offer a thought or direction or a draft email and be ready for feedback. It is the best way to get a conversation moving.

Become a decision-maker – When at a fork in the road, somebody needs to decide to go right or left. Otherwise, everybody stands there doing nothing. It can be frustrating! A decision maker’s role is to move things forward. Empower yourself by giving direction. Trust your intuition and experience and point in one direction and do it. The hard part is following through. More than likely, people will throw doubt at your decision, try to change your mind, and refuse to follow. That’s fine. Stick to your gut, align your resources, and make it work. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.

Do something new – When you are ready to really get out of your comfort zone, then do something new and different. Create a blog, pursue a dream, change careers, hit the gym, take a class, or run for office. Put yourself in a position where you can share your knowledge, thoughts, and goals. It is an interesting exercise that will help you overcome doubt and criticism while opening opportunities to inspire others to be better.

Being vulnerable is the courage to showcase your willingness to contribute, lead, and follow through on goals.

So next time you find yourself sitting in a meeting with the urge to speak up, start off by saying, “at the risk of making myself vulnerable, I have a question/suggestion/direction.” It will set the stage for you to confidently move things forward.


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