Does the word “vulnerable” make you uncomfortable? If so, know that vulnerability is nothing to be ashamed of. However, many people have never been taught how to be genuinely vulnerable and express their emotions, or they feel they cannot trust others enough to do so. As a result of childhood trauma or being consistently misunderstood, one may hide their feelings to avoid judgement or rejection. This coping strategy is both common and understandable, rejection sucks and bruises the ego. No one likes to feel the gut-wrenching pain of telling their crush they are “falling in love” and have that love not be reciprocated. This is essentially what being vulnerable is; choosing to express your emotions and desires regardless of how the other person may react or respond. You’re saying, “Here are my flaws and my deepest thoughts, do what you want with them, including rejection.”
Why Being Vulnerable is Hard
It often feels more comfortable to play it safe when engaging in small talk with someone out of fear of scaring them off. Or, you might feel like a burden if you share how you feel deep down. Maybe you’ve shared personal stuff with someone before, and they shut you down and didn’t validate your feelings – so, now you’re hesitant. Perhaps you simply don’t know when the right time to open up to someone is. Maybe, you worry that whatever intimate information you reveal will cause others to see you differently.
The truth is, you’ll never know how the other person feels until you share something personal with them and see how they react. The only way to build closer relationships is by taking emotional risks.
How to Be More Vulnerable
When conversing with a friend or an acquaintance, you trust, work on revealing more about yourself. For example, if someone asks how it’s going with the new person you’re seeing, just say the first thought that comes to mind without thinking about it.
These preliminary thoughts are initial knee-jerk reactions and feelings. Revealing them can not only make you feel more confident in your opinions and yourself, but your vulnerability and honesty can foster a space where others feel comfortable to open up as well. It’s a win-win situation that results in a closer connection and deeper mutual trust.
So begin practicing speaking exactly on your mind. Say the first thoughts that come to mind when asked a personal question. Focus on expressing your emotions openly and honestly.
Examples of Being Vulnerable
Telling someone how you feel about them is a prominent display of vulnerability, one that is necessary to develop an emotionally intimate relationship, romantic or platonic. Such expressions of vulnerability, such as saying you want to spend more time together or love someone for the first time (in the case of romantic relationships), usually marks an important developmental milestone of the relationship. The ultimate goal of vulnerability is to establish a solid connection and foundation of trust in either a friendship or a romantic relationship if feelings are reciprocated. The scary part is you have no idea how the other person feels, and the only way to gauge their interest is to try to create a genuine connection by expressing vulnerability.
Admitting your flaws and mistakes puts the other person at ease and allows them to let their guard down because they feel that you’re honest and are trustworthy. You’re being real, and it shows true confidence that you can admit a flaw and not let it rock you.
Vulnerability also includes telling a joke because you think it’s funny, not because you think the other person will find it funny. Other people admire authenticity, regardless of whether you forge a connection. You are embracing who you are and taking a risk.
Being vulnerable means taking accountability for your actions instead of blaming someone else and considering things from others’ perspectives. I have been guilty of not doing this, instead blaming ex-friends for the termination of our friendships. However, after thoughtful reflection, I better understand how I contributed to my own interpersonal conflicts and betrayed the trust of others. Trust is a core factor in sustaining a relationship.
By owning up to your wrongdoings, you express that you’re an imperfect being who makes mistakes. You control your side of the story, and when you make mistakes, you clean it up through an apology.
Confronting someone about their behaviour can be daunting if you’re not a confrontational person. You’re saying that your opinion and feelings are worthy of attention and validation– if it’s not too harsh, of course. Calling someone names is neither productive nor necessary, but disagreeing with someone often takes courage and the vulnerability to hold your ground and stay true to yourself.
Vulnerability can ultimately strengthen your relationships with not only others but yourself. By telling someone how you really feel, it can create space for a better connection to flourish if they reciprocate.
Can You Be “Too” Vulnerable?
Yes, to an extent. Revealing your childhood trauma on a dating app isn’t the best way to get someone’s number. Leave the deeply emotional stuff, like mental health struggles, past relationship traumas, or recent deaths in the family for another time when you’re more comfortable with the person. This person probably wants a deep connection too, so let it just unfold organically as you get to know each other better.
For friendships, you want to find a middle ground to avoid overwhelming your friend while at the same time, telling them how you feel. Ranting for an hour about your relationship problems isn’t ideal, as your friend probably has their own issues they want to share too. Consider therapy if you need to rant for a long time, as therapists are paid to listen to you rant, and vulnerability is the name of the game t.
However, If you’re trying to be vulnerable in order to get something out of another person, such as using them for validation or a social status boost, that’s just manipulation. You shouldn’t try to be the person you think the other person wants, telling them what they want to hear and complimenting them, whether or not you believe it yourself. Being authentic is the easiest way to find a genuine connection with others because you want someone who likes you for you! Over complimenting, however, can be seen as a red flag if it doesn’t seem genuine. Such tactics can make the other person think that the connection between you two is more profound than it is, inevitably setting them up for disappointment – and no one deserves that.
What a Genuine Connection Is
A genuine connection is a foundation of trust and support, where you feel like you can tell a person anything, and no topic is off bounds. You’re there for each other, through the good and bad. You know each other well, likes, dislikes, and what they value in life, like their career choices, their talents and hobbies. A connection means admiring the person for who they are and not for what they can provide for you. It’s about what you want to provide for them because you love them.
Your desires and thoughts are a part of who you are, and revealing them can foster trust, respect, love, and most importantly, a connection between two perfectly-flawed beings. By becoming more vulnerable in your relationships and allowing the other person in, you create a stronger bond of emotional intimacy.
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