Apply the Power of Vulnerability to Have a Better Day Today

by Nedra Chandler

About Letting Your Guard Down More Often, On Purpose…

If you’re walking through life with your armor on all the time, trying not to show you’re vulnerable, you’re missing a lot.  You’ll show up less skillfully and make fewer contributions to the good of the whole than you are capable of. Period.

I know for example when I am overextended (tired, hungry, haven’t slept well), I might get overly interested in being ‘right’ about things; I might try to save face rather than risk connecting with someone; or I might just shut down and hide out – too spent to listen or be heard, or both.

We the people seem especially triggered these days as our politics, health care, education, land management and other systems we rely on become more polarized. “Triggered” in this context means “to cause a strong emotional reaction of fear, shock, anger, or worry in some individual or group.” For example, I take this position, you take that position and those positions are polar opposites with a lot of blame assumed on each side.

Dr. Brene Brown has become famous, in part, for researching shame and vulnerability. She says that:

“vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity.” 

Wow, what an invitation to take off one’s armor!

Brown looked for things she could predict about what causes people to live with a deep sense of worthiness – worthy of love and belonging. After 6 years of research and a ton of data, it turned out the courage to be imperfect, to “let go of who you think you should be in order to connect” is necessary. Willingness to be vulnerable helps move us out of a reactive mode and into a more resourceful way of being and belonging. Brown is a great storyteller by the way, and in one of her Ted Talks with over 8 million views, she tells the story of how her research led to a personal breakdown. She said she “hated vulnerability” and had to deal personally with her own findings.

See Rachel Caldwell’s Guest Blog at EDRblog.org

What got me back to this topic is that my friend Rachel Caldwell, a former Triangle Associate, wrote a compelling blogpost yesterday on the power of vulnerability in conflict resolution.

I recommend it. Besides pointing to Brown’s research, Rachel includes a personal story herself that provides great backup for an approach I use with the government leaders and teams I coach too. Trust–remember that a big part of trust between people is rooted in vulnerability–is the most important foundation for leading yourself and leading teams.

Government is Like a Marriage…Best to Take A Learner’s Stance

In sickness and in health. ‘Til death do us part.

Democracy in this country, and all over the globe, is an ongoing experiment. It’s alive, shifting and changing with the influence and participation of each individual and the whole. The experience of self-governance is always evolving, slow-going, messy, uncertain. Because I’m a government geek, I continue to work on ways to express and put to use what we now know about the power of trust—in service to the living systems we use to govern ourselves.

DIY (Do it Yourself) Coaching

Here is a classic model you can apply to your own self and to the communities you work in. It comes from the coaching profession, the simple arc of:

  1. awareness
  2. choice
  3. action

Awareness, choice, action. Awareness, choice, action. See? It’s a repeating loop. How do you personally move through that loop hour to hour, day to day?

This is intensely dynamic process requiring commitment to keep practicing as we change, and conditions change.

To repeat:

  • we possess the ability to tap our awareness of our own state and that of others moment to moment in any hour, any day;
  • we discover what we can be and do, and then make choices;
  • we practice doing those things, being those things.

Then we go around the circle again…awareness, choices, practice; awareness….we do this alone. We do this together.

The thing is, being aware of our own state includes being aware of our current ability to trust and be vulnerable, which, as Brown says, is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity. We can follow that awareness with choice and action that build those things.  It’s all within our own power to manifest these attributes, through awareness, choice and action.

Risk and uncertainty is ever present and will never go away. Trust is about being vulnerable and not knowing where it’s all going and still acting in service to what matters to us.

Trust in self, trust in others, and trust in flexible-yet-principled institutions of democratic governance and decision making have the same positive results.  So the message from Brene Brown, my friend Rachel Caldwell, and me today is to take off your armor and find the courage to be vulnerable. More love, belonging, joy and creativity await those who dare.

A bit about me: I work with government clients and their partners as a professional coach and third-party facilitator in navigating conflict, change and learning opportunities of all kinds. Find me   at http://www.cadenceinc.us and more of my long-time work mates at http://www.triangleassociates.com.

Some of my past posts on trust and trust in government were to point out it’s possible to operationalize and practice trust. Commitment trust, for one example, is especially practical in personal and workplace settings. See my friend Faith Ralston’s work on that topic here. Also a post I wrote a few years ago about trust in government using the Malheur situation as grist for the mill.