How to Avoid the Dark Side of Vulnerability
Truth begets trust in relationships.
Your willingness to be open and share allows people to see you for who you are. It fosters connection because people connect to the humanity of your story. Your story helps them understand themselves and their part in life in new and different ways.
But, there is a dark side.
Because we connect through other people’s stories we may see things in ourselves that we are embarrassed by, fear, or loathe. By sharing your truth, you unearth the truth in others that they may not be prepared to deal with. When they are faced with their truth, they may react to you negatively, even harshly.
If you have ever uttered the words, “I’m so embarrassed for them”, that’s you transposing yourself into their experience and expressing how you would feel. And if it’s close enough to home, you do feel it.
Truth exposes other’s vulnerability as much as it does the one who shares.
So, what are we to do. We are vulnerable because it’s healing, but if our healing hurts others how should we proceed.
Write a letter to yourself first
If there is something that you feel you need to get off your chest, express it in writing first.
Writing out your thoughts will help you to clarify your thoughts. By penning your story to paper, you will see your story in a new light. The nuances of the story will appear and your opinion will grow shaper.
Open up your favorite email client, put yourself in the to line, and write your truth to yourself first. Send the email and then read it the next day, before deciding on any next steps.
Give fair warning to those close to the situation
Before you go public with your truth, bring those close to the situation close to you.
Remember your truth is just as much about the others in your story as it is about you. Before you open up publicly, pause and ask yourself who else is involved? Then take the time to have a conversation with those involved first.
While you are busy getting things off your chest, you may be putting that weight on someone else’s plate. So, don’t be surprised when the reaction to your sharing is not all sunshine and rainbows.
This is often experienced when there are others involved in your story. Their experience is different than yours and if you have not warned them that you are going to open up about a situation, you may be placing a dagger in an open wound.
This may be difficult. You may have to dig up past hurts. But in pursuing permission to share, you will gain a new perspective on your story. It is also possible that the new perspective is what you needed to begin with.
Consider who needs to hear what you have to say
After you have written out your thoughts and talked things through with those involved, consider who needs to hear what you have to say.
Does your entire social network need to hear about your struggle with anxiety? Maybe just your closest friends and family do.
Remember, your vulnerability can stoke visceral emotions in others, and if you are sensitive about your truth, fair warning that you may be skewered in public.
It’s helpful to consider who your audience will be and what you want them to know about you and your experience.
A word of advice for the listener
If someone else’s truth makes you uncomfortable, asking them to hide it doesn’t make it any less true.
Help them navigate the space of uncertainty and give them the tools and courage to speak. There is no sense in silencing someone who wants to share. Instead, guide them along the path of speaking wisely. Help them to understand what they need to share, why, and with whom.
Before you bring your truth into the light, follow these three steps to avoid the dark side of vulnerability:
- Keep it personal. Write it out first.
- Talk with others involved. Let them know you want to share.
- Consider the audience. Who needs to hear what you have to say?