When you think of vulnerability, do you think of the nerve-wracking act of revealing the skeletons in your closet? Certainly, that’s one way and perhaps the most common way to think about it. But in reality, vulnerability is more than just sharing our biggest secrets. It’s also stepping out in smaller ways to reveal more of ourselves to others.
Shasta Nelson, author and friendship expert, identifies five expressions of vulnerability that, when practiced incrementally and mutually, will help to bond people in meaningful ways. These five expressions are crucial to building healthy relationships in our community groups.
- New Ways of Interacting: Anytime you put yourself out there, even in small ways, is an act of vulnerability. When you text someone or hang out socially or meet for coffee for the first time, it builds trust.
- New Areas of Conversation: This is why studies can be important in group. They offer the opportunity to talk about new things. This type of sharing gives your group the chance to connect on a wider range of life interests and experiences.
- Accomplishments, Achievements, and Pride: Sometimes we're more comfortable sharing our complaints and frustrations than we are our accomplishments, pride, and joys. We don’t want to seem arrogant. We don’t want to be judged. But opening up about the good things in our lives is an important part of building community.
- Asking for What You Prefer, or Need: We don’t want to put people out. Most of us want to be as accommodating as we can. But asking for what we want and need builds trust because we risk rejection when we do so. More important, though, asking gives others the opportunity to connect with us in meaningful ways. Serving others is a vital part of one’s growth. But it’s also important to allow others to serve you when you’re in need.
- Areas of Shame & Insecurity: This is what we most associate with vulnerability, but it's just one piece. When we open up with others about events from our past and present that make us feel unworthy, it deepens our connections and helps us overcome barriers to our growth.
Nelson says, “ Vulnerability is a practice, and none of us is immune to it feeling like a risk. However, we need to take that risk if we want authentic connection.”
- Which of these five expressions of vulnerability comes easiest to you?
- How can you recognize when your group members are practicing vulnerability and reward them for doing so?
- Which one is the most challenging, and what can you do to put that one into practice?
Vulnerability leads to connection, and connection leads to growth. The risk is worth it!