How often do you allow your vulnerability to show in a professional setting? When is that a good thing? And when is it best avoided?
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Vulnerability. Why So Scary?
Vulnerability. The word can conjure up quite some “angst”, can’t it? I’ve seen vulnerable defined as: the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. Nobody likes to feel exposed. And our ego – that great protector that feel’s it’s responsible to protect us from failing or from being hurt or “shown up”, hates vulnerability with a passion, right? It fiercely protects us from one of the 3 universal fears: “being found out“. And so most of us have become conditioned to be extremely circumspect with allowing vulnerability. Except with really, really trusted people and under really trusted circumstances, most of us will probably choose to avoid it to any great extent, right?
Does being vulnerable have to be so risky? Particularly in a professional setting? Or are there situations where this can actually be a real calculated or orchestrated benefit?
Vulnerability. A More Positive Context
I’ve written so much about our human behaviours in a business outcome influencing and “selling” context. Nothing in business happens until a sale is made. Whether we’re a not for profit or whether profit is our primary motive. And so most of us in business are wanting to provide something of value to those in need of it. And hence all the persuading and influencing to achieve those outcomes begins. Accompanied by all the good and bad behaviours we have all experienced along the way on our respective journeys, correct?
My personal “selling philosophy ” is pretty much outlined in Are You Selling Or Do They Buy? It focuses on the other party’s What’s In It For Me? On their need. Their reason. Which is distinctly different from the more common seller focus on them “getting” the sale for their own reasons.
People do business with people. They are more likely to buy from or work with people they “like”. People they can relate to. One’s that are genuine. One’s that they feel they are connecting with. So that they feel more comfortable to “let their guard down” a little.
Vulnerability And Authenticity
So how can we be “safely” vulnerability in the business setting?
Vulnerable means you’re comfortable to have some of the real you on display. It makes you relatable. It takes the pressure off having to be perfect.
Professionals can still be professional if they allow vulnerability to come through.
It emphasizes your “genuine-ness”, your authenticity.
It enables people to allow a strong rapport to develop and prevail. Remembering that in the state of rapport anything (as in also the unusual) can happen.
To feel comfortable with you. Why?
Because you’re showing your “human-ness”. In which people can actually feel the makings of being able to trust you, what you’re saying and what you’re representing. Rather than all the platitudes we have become accustomed to expect.
You see what I’ve learned to be true in Australia, is that people have a very well developed “BS meter”. They use this very effectively to recognize BS. And once that label is there, good luck changing it.
Vulnerability and Empathy
In my blog Empathy I speak about empathy being “felt”, and usually by both parties.
To me, it is the one of cornerstones in genuine human relationships. Empathy is mainly unconscious. It means one with empathy feels compassion, while those without do not take into account other people’s emotions or feelings. They lack the sensitivity this expects.
I love the German word for empathy: “Einfuehlungsvermoegen” which loosely translated suggests to me it is “the ability or capacity to feel ones way into the other person’s state” or put differently, “to put oneself into the other persons shoes” or “tuning into their world”.
So, can we actually leverage vulnerability to create an edge for ourselves?
I believe we can. How?
By getting very good at calibrating our audience. Meaning? Figuring them out. Whether in a one on one, a small group or a large audience. If we are prepared (as in done our homework on them) and genuinely interested in what they’re looking for, we can draw a reasonable conclusion as to what it will take to “win them over”, so they will be more willing and able to assess the value of what we’re proposing.
And then “pitching into” those specific needs with real empathy. Using Metaphors, through which we can have better influence into what their unconscious mind is hearing or sensing. With relevant stories, preferably about ourselves and of our relevant experiences. Using the tried and tested physical technique of bearing both open palms in front of us as a gesture of showing vulnerability to come through. This gesture is akin to a dog or cat allowing us to scratch their tummy – their ultimate sign of absolute trust.
Sound scary? Remember that you are always in control how “far you go”. However, no risk, no lollies, right?
Vulnerability. So What?
So what if you could willfully and purposely leverage this exposure of some vulnerability in the right setting and for the achievement of certain desired outcomes?
Can you see how this can be so very powerful a differentiator from so much platitude driven superficial “selling speak”? Can you sense where and how you might leverage some vulnerability and practice “having a go“? Where you can learn what works better for you and what doesn’t? Where you can get really good at Finding the Edge?
What if you could, and it made a heck of a difference in the way you were able to relate to important audiences or stakeholders and to “win them over”? Consistently? Sustainably? To gain you the label of having superior soft skills that drive measurably hard outcomes?