When I give my workshops, I always start with my personal story. I share all of my failures—my bankruptcy, my failed business, my divorce, and my battles with anxiety and depression—with the audience. Why?
I have found that, if I make myself vulnerable first, the audience will follow. Inevitably, people will open up and start sharing their own stories. They’re more willing to reveal the areas where they’ve struggled in life because I’ve already done it myself. It creates a certain level of trust.
In fact, at one of my most recent workshop, after sharing my story, one woman who was attending got up and shared some of her story, adding that she normally never shares anything. On this day, she decided to actually get up and speak; she felt like it was safe enough to do so. It probably also helped that the CEO of that company shared his own imperfections first, modeling this lesson perfectly.
If you want to build a solid relationship, in work and in life, you have to be willing to put your own vulnerabilities out there before anyone else. In work, it humanizes the work environment, making it easier for others to speak up when they’re struggling or need some advice. In life, it opens you up to having deeper relationships with the people you care about most.
It’s really about taking the chance and diving into the pool first. Then, by putting your weaknesses and struggles out there, others will likely follow because you’ve created an environment that made it safe for them to do so.
If you’re in a leadership role, you’re in the perfect position to initiate this type of change within your business. When your team can hear you talk about the things you find difficult or the areas where you struggle, they’ll be more willing to speak up if they feel the same way.
When they see that you’re courageous enough to admit your mistakes and share your weaknesses, they will be more inclined to communicate with you about theirs, helping you potentially avert any issues due to a lack of communication.
In your personal life, while it may feel easier to simply shoulder the weight or keep it to yourself when you feel like you’re having a hard time, by opening up and sharing your concerns with your partner, he or she can help carry your burdens, and share their own experiences which will inform and help you manage your own.
Being vulnerable isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t feel as if you can totally trust the person you’d like to be vulnerable with. However, if you’re willing to at least start the conversation and share the areas where you struggle, they will likely do the same.
This can ultimately bring you closer together. It creates a stronger bond. One that is built on trust.