October 7th, 2013
Related to my last two posts, it’s important to point out that there needs to be a balanced flow when you are increasing the vulnerability with another person. It needs to be a gradual progression of small steps. Both people need to participate and one person can’t be too far ahead of the other in terms of being vulnerable. You can lead be a bit more vulnerable than the other person, but if they aren’t coming with you, then you need to stay at the same level you’re at until they take another step.
There are a lot of ways to turn your dial of vulnerability up or down. The best indicator is probably how scared you feel to share something with someone. The more fear you feel to share a certain thing in a certain way, chances are that it will also come across as more vulnerable. On a more tangible level, below are a few ways to moderate your vulnerability.
The words you use matter. For example using “scared” or “frightened” is more vulnerable than “nervous.” These words mean about the same thing at the root, but some are considered more personal than others in society.
Adding more pauses in your speech and making them longer can increase how vulnerable you come across as. Let’s take look at these couple sentences for example: “My mother passed away last year. It was a hard time for me.” Pausing a bit after each of these sentences gives emphasis and power to what you’re saying. It communicates that each statement is a big deal in your life and not something that you’re sharing lightly. The longer each pause is, the more meaning and power you’re giving to each statement.
You’d probably find it incongruent for someone to take these pauses but show no emotion in their facial expressions or body language. Showing more emotion through body language is another way to be more vulnerable. For example, expressing sadness can be communicated through a little bit of a frown, looking downward with your eyes, letting out a sad sigh, or dropping your shoulders in a defeated way.
Trying to create new ways of expressing vulnerability won’t be necessary for most people who don’t have autism or similar challenges. Most people already know how to express vulnerability in many ways that feel “natural” for them when they feel safe enough to do so. I’m pointing these options out mostly to help us be aware of how we express or hold back different forms of vulnerability so we can use them in a balanced way to intentionally create more connection.
This week think of three different ways to answer the same question which express different levels of vulnerability. Practice these in the mirror and then in real life!
Here’s to being real,
As promised in my last post, here are some examples of creating deeper connection through vulnerability. These are loosely based on real life interactions I’ve had. (Text in parenthesis represents my narrator comments on the conversation).
Me: How’s your new job going so far? I hope it’s not toooo overwhelming. (I know that often when starting a new job it can be an overwhelming and hard experience. With my statement I imply that it’s ok and I understand if it is challenging for her. I’m communicating that I don’t expect her to be perfect and 100% strong all of the time.)
Her: Huh, yeah. That’s kind of how I feel with it sometimes. I’m happy to have this new job but I also feel like a fish out of water sometimes because I’m so new. There’s so much to learn. (She’s showing some vulnerability here which makes it ok and balanced for me to show a little more vulnerability in my next response.)
Me: I totally feel you. I felt so nervous and sometimes totally overwhelmed when I first started this job. I was really excited to get this awesome job so I really cared what everyone thought of me. (I’m sharing that I’ve had a similar experience and taking another small step forward toward being more vulnerable and sharing the emotion of feeling nervous.)
Her: What? You, nervous? (She’s hasn’t known me too long and only is used to me being pretty calm.)
Me: Oh my goodness yes. I remember specifically during the first few weeks I was scared that I just wasn’t catching on quick enough or that maybe I’d never be able to develop the “field sense” to map out wetlands as effortlessly as my new coworkers. I felt so nervous that I might not be doing a good enough job that I wouldn’t even charge my time for any restroom breaks that I took ha ha. (I take another step toward being more vulnerable by sharing the emotion of being scared and the concern that I may not be good enough. I share the tangible example of an action because of these emotions and concerns, which further shows that I’m sharing something authentic about myself.)
At least three times this week try to take the lead of being continuously more vulnerable while talking about a topic. You get bonus points if you do it in a balanced way so that they follow you in sharing more vulnerably too!
Here’s to more connection in the world,
Many cultures tell us to “keep a stiff upper lip,” “don’t air your dirty laundry in public,” and generally portray a polished front to the world that shows everything is perfect about ourselves and our lives. Especially for guys we get the message that we always have to be strong and macho confident, and never show any sort of weakness or vulnerability. Unfortunately practicing this often makes us miss out on more wonderful, tender connection and the physical intimacy that sometimes comes after.
A strong way for emotional connection to happen is for two people to gradually reveal more and more vulnerable parts of themselves and their beliefs, and the emotions that go along with them. Many of us guys aren’t used to or are afraid of talking about times when they’ve felt emotions like sadness, fear or anger. This is especially true when we are early on in getting to know a woman we like. Until it was pointed out to me, I never realized that actually by doing this soon it can incredibly speed up the bonding and comfort I create with a new date or friend.
By continuously taking little risks to go a bit deeper in our conversations we make it a little more comfortable for the other person to go deeper and be a little more vulnerable. When both people are willing, this creates a beautiful journey of being more and more authentic and feeling more and more accepted by one another, becoming closer and closer and more willing to also open up physically in a platonic or romantic way.
What does this look like though? . . . Well stay tuned for my next blog post and you’ll see!
In the mean time practice taking a little step toward being more vulnerable in each answer you give about a topic that could be considered a “weakness.”
Here’s to creating more connection through vulnerability,
This is how an awesome young woman put it so well. A little while ago I sat down next to this gorgeous young woman sitting along in a club. She was waiting for her sister to rejoin her and had to occupy herself with her cell phone because none of the single guys in the club would “take the risk” of going up and talking to her.
After I noticed her huge wedding ring and confirmed that she was married, we continued to have a great conversation about how she met her husband and dating in general. She met her husband in a bar and was really attracted to how boldly he approached and conveyed his attraction to her. We mused about how hard and rare it can be for men to honestly and forwardly approach a woman. Then she hit the nail on the head by saying “Yeah, us women like risks.”
I don’t know if I had ever thought about it like that before. The sole fact that it’s a risk for a man to take a step forward to connect is one part of why it’s sexy . I’ve long known that a man being courageous with women is sexy. I’ve thought about it more as the quality that the man is displaying. My realization is that an action is only courageous if it’s a situation where a risk is perceived. We have to take the risk that she may say no thanks, that the people around her will judge us negatively, and the list goes on.
This gave me a new perspective and appreciation for what I perceive as “risks.” Thank goodness they exist! They’re opportunities for men to show their courage and balls.
This week take one risk with women and one risk in another area of life that you wouldn’t normally take. Don’t worry about the outcome. The point here is improving our ability to take risks, which is a sexy trait . If it feels scary you’re on the right track . . .
Now step through the risk to greater dating success!
“Wow! What an awesome deal,” I thought as I reviewed an advertisement for an apartment share. I was on the search for a new place to live and excited that this could be an excellent fit. I quickly called because I was sure the place would be snatched up right away because it was an out of the norm incredible deal. I listened to the long voicemail recording of the guy who lived in and was advertising the apartment share. The message rambled quite long, to the point of being a little annoying.
I was very surprised when I got an appointment to look at the apartment a week later and no one had taken it yet. The guy gave me the tour and I confirmed it was an incredible deal . . . except for one thing. I couldn’t get a word in. For over 20 minutes the guy literally talked for over 95% of our conversation. It was incredibly frustrating for me to hear this guy’s verbal diarrhea and not be given any space to talk. Even when I tried to start a sentence he’d often just talk over me. I felt like he was not giving any value to what I had to say or who I was. I wanted to be heard and appreciated.
Needless to say, it was completely clear to me why he was having such a hard time finding an apartment mate. I’m not putting this guy down. He seemed to be a genuine person with a good heart. I believe he just was completely unaware of the lack of balance in his conversations. It’s more than a coincidence that he also communicated to me that he wasn’t happy with his romantic life.
For the next few days take note of what fraction of the conversation you and others talk. The ideal is mostly have conversations pretty well balanced with people talking close to equal amounts of time. There will always be variations that also work, but get too far away from this balance and it’s hard to have a great flow and mutual appreciation of you both getting to know each other.
Enjoy the flow,