Before we talk about why vulnerability is important in business, answer this question:
Have you ever struggled to have a lasting impression on people you do business with?
You try to engage them with a business proposal or an idea, but all they do is reply with their nose.
Sometimes, you try to make them see the value in your plans, but you sound demanding, and the business relationship ended before it started.
You need to consider one of the interesting leadership qualities:
It can improve business relationships, enhance trust and lead to more productive business encounters.
The question is, are you ready?
To be vulnerable?
What comes to your mind when you hear vulnerability?
When I think about it, I imagine someone who goes to a business meeting with cheesy jokes. So when other people ask why, this person would say, well, this is me, this is real, I am vulnerable.
You understand where I’m going with that example. When I imagine vulnerabilities, I think of things that make me look stupid and childish, like wearing oversize coats or puking at the Oscars.
But vulnerability isn’t just that. If you are like me, who thinks of vulnerability, the way I do, then let’s see what experts say about what vulnerability means.
What does vulnerability mean?
According to Breene Brown, vulnerability is that which makes you feel seen.
It has a lot to do with a lot of emotions, such as
Wow! I feel a lot of relief thinking about it that way, especially since the word “courage” is involved.
You can watch Breene’s TedTalk: Power of Vulnerability.
So when you’re vulnerable, there’s a chance of connecting to someone, being perceived differently (or not the way you wanted), shame, and feeling courageous.
Remove “shame” and focus on “connection” and “courage” from the definition above, and you can see why vulnerability is important for business.
Sadly, You can’t be selective with what to feel and what not to feel
There is no way you can be selective of your emotions regarding vulnerability.
Hidden behind the potential to feel “connected” or “courageous” is “shame.” All these emotions have to play at a certain stage of the process.
So to prevent one of them is to prevent the others.
Here’s what Breene said:
we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history. The problem is — and I learned this from the research — that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these.Breene Brown, the power of vulnerability
Again, it makes sense.
When I was young, the reason I was scared to tell my childhood crush about how I felt was shame. But I knew I would feel happy and courageous if all went well. Otherwise, it would be “shame” and “embarrassment.”
So, why is vulnerability important in business?
Vulnerability is when you share your feelings and experience with others, especially those who deserve to hear them. Those who are worth telling your stories to are specifically those who have made the effort that they can be trusted or those who shared similar experiences.
I will say, “you decide.” choose who you want to be vulnerable with and the extent to which you want.
So, the reasons why vulnerability is important in business are:
#1. It brings the chance for a deeper connection
When you share your story with the right people, there is a chance to connect with them on a deeper and more emotional level. You don’t just understand a person’s idea, but you know where they are coming from. And this understanding can make a lot of difference if you are in a business partnership that will last for years.
I have a personal story about being connected through vulnerability. I once shared a post on LinkedIn about my personal struggles as a fresh graduate, and it helped that I had a picture people could relate to. Everything I shared in that post was true, too. A few people sent me a mail, which led to some short projects. I am still in touch with someone today who is teaching me a lot about the world of freelance SEO and side hustle.
#2. It creates the chance to be courageous
Well, those who take risks in their name stand a chance to be heroes.
What does vulnerability mean to you in practicality? Is it sending an email to your boss to ask for a raise? Calling out someone who abuses or maltreats everyone in the workplace? Is it traveling the world on your own? Or starting a cause that can put an end to child abuse?
Once you set your foot on this kind of journey, you will feel a couple of emotions: fear and shame. But at the same time, when all is done, and you start getting positive results, you feel courageous. That’s when people clap and ask, hey, how did you do it?
Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindlyBreene Brown
#3. It brings the freedom to live or be your authentic business self
Give your mind some happiness and strength to not border on stuff you can’t change.
Trying to numb an emotion, whether shame, disgrace, or embarrassment can become consistent work.
Let’s use a former addict as an example. This person has tried to hide their past by telling lies because they don’t want to be perceived differently. They feel marginalized or embarrassed. So they hide their past.
Truly, pretense can get you what you want. But throughout a lifetime, it could mean constantly telling more lies to defend yourself, and it can become tiring. It can also break trust if people find out the truth somewhere else.
#4. It creates better leaders
As a leader, vulnerabilities can develop your relationship with your employers.
(It is 2022, and the best leader I can use as an example is president Zelensky of Ukraine. We’ve heard the news about Russia invading Ukraine. Instead of fleeing the country when other nations were calling him to run, Zelensky chose to stay back and went as far as joining his country’s soldiers where they were fighting. You can guess what impact that act would have on the citizens and soldiers.)
Vulnerabilities open you to other things like disrespect, but if done right, it could improve the bond between two people, either that is in business or different facets of life.
What do you gain when you are vulnerable in business?
Have you heard about a company where staff decided that they would work for half salary?
Well, it happened.
That’s an extraordinary example, but it is a possibility where the employer and employee relationship is beyond what brings us money.
You can read the excerpt in the link above or the image below:
In the article, the employers said, they did not quit because “she treats them like a family, she knows everyone personally, or she gives us time to learn when we make mistakes.”
Overall, business owners tend to gain:
- A cult
The relationship between “connection” and “likability”
Emotional connections sometimes lead to likability.
And likability is one of the reasons people go out of the way to see a singer perform. It is one of the reasons people defend people they don’t know on a personal level.
When buyers, employers, and clients think they understand you deeper, they tend to listen to you, support or give you more chances.
Imagine you are in a country for the first time. You don’t know anyone. The first person you meet is from your hometown, and during your conversation, you both talk about common problems or childhood events. The festival, the post office, the restaurant that has been there since 1800. How would you feel in the presence of that person?
The answer is simple: you believe that you can be vulnerable to certain things in their presence. Therefore, your childhood secrets are safe. You think they will understand some of your ideas and struggles, too.
You are more likely to build connections with this person or trust them.
What you shouldn’t do as a leader who is trying to show vulnerability
According to Simon Sinek in an interview with Inc.com, making mistakes and admitting to the errors is being vulnerable. Share jokes, ask about their family and listen to them. Help them when you can. If an employer finds it hard to work on something, share your similar experience and struggles and how you overcome them.
As a leader or a business person, you are not a god. You are human. Be natural and kind in the way you act so people take you seriously.
What shouldn’t you do?
Don’t joke about sensitive stuff. Everything you do will be amplified. As a leader, your “hello, how are you” can mean a lot more than when it comes from other people. You should be careful what you joke about because it will mean more than it should. It can cost you your job, business, or more.
And if you do make that mistake, vulnerability can help you. Honestly admit that you made a mistake.
Being vulnerable means, you’re human
So, why is vulnerability important in business?
It can enhance the business relationship you want to build.
It means you are human and have flaws, too. For instance, you also wear flip-flops during zoom meetings or eat meat with your bare hands when no one is watching.
Share your vulnerabilities with people who are qualified or who deserve to hear or see them. However, it doesn’t mean breaking down in the banking hall and crying.
Vulnerability has some benefits, and completely avoiding it means you exclude yourself from the positive results it can bring.