Vulnerability is being honest, about positive as well as negative things, sometimes to a painful or shameful degree. Without it we don’t grow, learn or progress as individuals or within our community. With vulnerability we can work through life’s challenges in a respectful and productive way.

Touchy Feely Crap is what Peter Block calls the thing that we try to avoid. He mentions how distracting the nervousness is, that people feel around intimacy and getting close to each other and yet how important it is. He says “if we dont get close, we’re not going to create anything.”

I really appreciate this idea: The content of what we’re doing together is only going to be as powerful as the context, which is how we are doing together. And that requires vulnerability – the willingness to show up with my whole self and the trust to be listened to and the effort made to be understood without immediately being judged. Its a tall order.

“Vulnerability isn’t good or bad. It’s not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light, positive experience. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.” — Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

Brené Brown has pointed out that we build up defenses in places we feel unworthy. When we feel ashamed of ourselves, we try to cover it up, with distractions or even attacks. When our vulnerability is triggered without us paying careful attention and we avoid it, this inauthenticity can hold us back. Vulnerability is addressing what triggered us and overcoming it.

Vulnerability means opening ourselves up, opening doors we’ve kept closed and sharing what we’ve experienced or felt, positive and negative. With the goal of understanding the source rather than the symptom, we can reflect on our emotions and help others to see our whole self. This gives us the opportunity to learn and grow so that we can improve and change how we are together. It allows us to experience the world more fully. Its liberating to feel safe and a starting point to build trust.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” — Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

So what does this mean in real life, in my life? Recently I’ve been trying to express my gratitude more often. A real, deep thank you makes me acknowledge that I’m indebted to the other person and that I trust them. Especially in professional settings or with people I don’t know well, it sometimes makes me feel subordinate and it requires me to trust that they won’t take advantage of that.

Exploring vulnerability involves this tacit trust-building: I’ll be open, if you agree to listen and try to understand me. This trust is crucial for our relationships. It allows us to go deeper, get to know each other better, to understand how we think and work and its what strong relationships are made of.