by Guest Blogger – Alf Foster

A while ago I started to share my findings as I tried to deepen my understanding of vulnerability as a result of a challenge put to me by my mentor. Remember in my first post where I shared the Oxford dictionary’s definition of vulnerability? ‘Exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally’.

It would seem that effective people think about the meaning of vulnerability differently.

Perhaps their internal dictionary’s definition goes something like this:

‘Vulnerability is pursuing what is important to me and I am able to authentically deal with the emotional consequences of this pursuit which may include fulfillment, joy or pain because of the real connections I have established with others’.

This sounds like they accept that living a full life consists of the good and the bad, joy and pain. It seems that they believe that by showing these feelings they are able to cope better. They also seem to understand the importance of shielding themselves from situations and people that they discern to be damaging, hence the real connections they seek and establish with others.

Vulnerability will make most feel uncomfortable – like the worker who does not know what to say to a fired colleague walking past their office holding a box of their things from their cleared out desk, or the friend not making the call to a terminally ill friend because they just don’t know what to say.

But why all this fear when this is a moment of such power? It’s a moment where somebody is most open to change not to mention compassion.

The opportunity within a vulnerable moment to make a difference, a connection, a friend is enormous!

At a recent, intense development exercise over 4 days with 20 senior managers from many different industries, I saw the most vulnerability I had seen in my entire career. We were provided with a safe environment to tell our stories using Lafferty’s Circumplex. All titles, status and positions were abandoned. We were just human and we were real.

So what did it take for all of us to be vulnerable? Well for starters somebody had to step onto the Circumplex first and take the chance of being harmed or feeling shame. Should we call this courage?

Then they had to share their story so let’s call this truth. Courage and truth are powerful words – yet another power in vulnerability.

One after another each of us was inspired to do the same as a result of the courage and truth shown by the first person to share. Over the 4 days we spent together, with each time we shared our fears we dropped another layer of the façade until we were all just the same – human beings rather than human doings (or not doings).

What we all learnt is that so many functional human beings carry a lot of baggage. If they shared this baggage it would have such a levelling effect on our interactions. Not to mention how many of us would end up feeling normal… The dread of failure and the fear of being looked down upon must be one of the world’s most effective killjoys. Dr Lafferty thought so and wrote a book about it titled: Perfectionism – A Sure Cure for Happiness.

You maybe asking what was the result of the 4 days? I walked away with 20 connections in business that I will never be afraid to expose myself to – really, truly, deeply. Even if I don’t talk to them for 5 years, this level of comfort, trust and preparedness to be human, (to be vulnerable) in front of these individuals will not change. It seems like the reciprocated vulnerability has provided me with an unshakeable connection and trust for these people.

We all have a story and experiences to contribute.

Multiply this across individuals, teams and organisations and reap effectiveness. We just need to keep it real, be human and let ourselves out into the open.

All people (and the world) want us to do is just simply show up for them – or for us. Remember the child with grazed knees, the crying baby or the person about to leave this world? No defences, no armour, no facade.

Just – “I need help” or maybe just a simple “I love you”.

If you want to know more about Lafferty’s Circumplex and why most of the fortune 500 companies and Ivy League colleges have increased effectiveness by using his material, email me and let’s talk.