In praise of the vulnerable

Rosanna Machado | May 13, 2020

For so many years, I was the positive, calm, happy person whether at work or socially, often running the show or looking after everyone. It was as if I was afraid of breaking out of that role, even though that wasn’t always how I was feeling.

I thought I had a high level of Emotional Intelligence and whilst my social awareness and how I managed relationships was pretty good, my self-awareness was neglected as I tended to suppress any negative emotions without exploring them.

A few years ago, I let friends know that I was having a tough time. It felt like a difficult thing for me to do, as if I were letting them down with the image of who I was supposed to be. Of course, I was met with nothing but love, formed stronger connections with those friends and felt a huge sense of relief.

I was then delayed at the airport with some clients after a long day of meetings and as we shared a drink, we chatted about our lives outside of work. And whilst I still like to maintain a healthy line with clients and work colleagues, it did feel as if we connected on a human level and subsequent work interactions were more meaningful.

The old school view of leaders being strong and not showing emotions is a little outdated. A level of vulnerability within the right context can show people your human side and offer a way to connect more meaningfully with colleagues. Being vulnerable is being self-aware and if you can express that vulnerability in the right setting, it can be powerful.

In a work environment, being open about gaps in your knowledge can demonstrate where you need to call on experts. Increasingly we cannot be experts in everything, yet you can still be a great leader and coach your expert colleagues. I ran a River Pageant with no prior knowledge of boats and the river!

Admitting to staff that the latest employee you hired isn’t right, shows honesty and transparency and a desire to constantly improve things.

Every time, I have put myself out there and spoken about how I’m feeling, I’ve always formed deeper relationships. And whilst it used to be only be with close friends, I am finding that I am connecting with new people much quicker because of a willingness to be more vulnerable. It also tends to provoke an open and honest response as you are inviting others into an open space.

Talking or writing about fears and concerns has helped me to clarify what is really going on and see what I can and can’t control. It has given me a clearer focus on where to put my energy.

It has pushed me to be more courageous – for me, sport has always been a big fear and when I talk about this, it gives me the courage to realise what I’m afraid of but also see the good that will come of putting myself into my discomfort zone. Invariably by talking about it, I don’t feel so alone as I realise that others often share my fears.

I read a quote in The Guardian which was related to online dating however I think it is true in all areas of our lives:

“It requires courage, resilience and willpower. Being yourself and opening yourself up to the universe, whatever it chooses to give back, is something I will continue to embrace”