Do you dare to be vulnerable?

11 min read

Summary: Being vulnerable is not something current in the technical world were minds are an important tool. The expression of feelings plays an important role by being vulnerable. This article is about the benefits of being vulnerable. It helps to resolve conflicts, to have better communication, relationships and to accomplish projects more successfully.

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In the article about 8 essential soft skills for engineers, courage is one of the skills I listed. In this article I am talking about vulnerability. To dare to put yourself in a vulnerable position you need to have courage.

What is vulnerability, how are you being vulnerability, what are the benefits and what do you have to do if it works against you?

About vulnerability

According to the dictionary, vulnerability means that you can be hurt, wounded or injured. It can also indicate a point where you are weak or sensitive. And this in a world where everyone has to be strong!

We learn to think and communicate with our heads. That is really something for engineers. But also for lawyers, police officers and CEO’s of large companies.

Often, we do not come across when we say something that does not match what we feel, think or want. We are not congruent and others discover this right away.

When I shout: “We are energized!” at the start of a teambuilding workshop and I look expectantly at a group, it is quite possible that everyone remains passive. At the very least, I must also feel energized and check what is going on. More about this later.


Courage requires self-confidence. I put myself in a vulnerable position every day by standing on a podium, networking, doing sales calls, giving a workshop or publishing a personal story. That is pretty exciting because the effect is not always pleasant. People can become irritated, respond critically or close themselves off completely. You need courage to dare to be vulnerable.

What are the benefits?

I am convinced that we can go a step further in our communication, our work, our projects and our relationships (both at work and at home) if we dare to be vulnerable. This creates connection and real communication. By being vulnerable you contribute to resolving conflicts.

The effect of hiding your feelings

Recently, I was allowed to be very vulnerable in a conversation. This was difficult for me, but it helped me to create clarity and express feelings and expectations. This gave me peace and security.

If I was not allowed to do that, then I could become restless and there would be a lot of uncertainty for me and probably also the other party. This also applies to groups where there is even more irritation, resistance or misunderstanding if you dismiss what you see and what you feel.

How to be vulnerable?

Important in being vulnerable is the way you communicate and which words you use. Focus on yourself and try to observe instead of evaluating.

You may notice that employee “John” often submits calculations for a project too late.

A statement may be: “John is always late in submitting his calculations”. That is an evaluation or an interpretation.

An observation is: “Jan has submitted his calculations 6 times after the agreed deadline has expired for this project.”

Do you feel the difference? An evaluation is more offensive and an observation is much milder. Then it is also easier to be vulnerable.

Start first

Recently, I met someone who thanked me at the end of the conversation that he was allowed to be vulnerable. I actually was not conscious about it at all, but when I look back on it, it was because I was myself vulnerable, so he dared to do that as well. I also asked him open (how, what, when) questions so that he knew that I was really interested in him.

And so, besides the business aspects, we also talked about the meaning of life and our need to contribute to this world. The results are new insights and a valuable new connection.

Express your feelings

If you are vulnerable, you express your feelings. Try to express your observations instead of evaluating or interpreting them.

For example: “I feel that you do not understand me”. Then you assume that the other person does not understand you. In addition, a feeling has to do with you and not with the other person. That the other does not understand me is not a feeling. In this case you can just as well replace the word feeling with the word thinking: “I think you do not understand me”. So, if you can replace the word feeling with thinking, then it is not a feeling.

You can also recognize it when the words “if, like, that, I, you, he, they, it” or when names of people are used after the word feel. Examples: “I feel I am late”, I feel that I am always my turn “,” I always feel my boss panting in my neck “. There must be a distinction between what we feel to be and what we think we are. This also means to make no descriptions of ourselves: I feel that I am a bad engineer “or” I feel that I cannot hear you “.

Make a distinction between how we feel and how we think others react to us or behave towards us. Do not interpret (“I do not feel understood”).

Another example: “I feel less intelligent than the people I work with”. “Less intelligent” refers to what I think how others see me .. Better would be: “I feel insecure” or “I feel sad”.

Real feelings

Expressions of real feelings are: “I feel disappointed as an engineer” or “I feel impatient with this project”.

Use words like happy, hopeful, happy, powerful, enthusiastic when our needs are met.

Words such as frustrated, sad anxious, intense, irritated, lazy, tired, angry or nervous can be used if your needs are not met.

Be aware

It is important to become aware of your own feelings and to express them well. Often your feelings are influenced by what happens in your environment.

It can happen that the group is very restless during a presentation. You can just continue and finish your own story. What do you think can happen? People stop listening or revolt. It is therefore important to be aware this and use the right words to make clear what you feel. I stop, wait a minute and then often ask a question if this happens. Usually, I get the attention because there’s a pause in my presentation. Name it.

For example: “I do not feel a connection. Did I miss something?”. This is how I am being vulnerable. I say what I feel and I focus to myself. It may happen that there is nothing wrong, but sometimes a number of people would like to have more clarification or have even other expectations. Then you can ask open questions such as “Where can I be more clearly?” Or “What is going well and what can be improved?” Or just “What are your expectations?”.

What if it goes wrong?

If the group or your discussion partner still remains critical or impatient, continue talking. There is something else going on. Continue to ask open questions to clarify what is going on. Also continue to let the others know how you feel. You can also ask the other person what he or she feels, thinks and wants (read about ‘lifting’ in my article about character strengths).

Should it get out of hand and you burst into tears? Ask for a break and if it is too intense, ask if this can be discussed another time. Think about what you felt and discuss it with others whom you trust.

Being honest

By being vulnerable, I experience that I am honest and authentic. I do not play a role and I do not force myself in being strong. Something that most men hear from a young age (“You are a boy and you have to be strong”) . If you are honest about your feelings and your needs, you will find that this costs less energy than to play a role.

After that it is the art of letting go because you cannot force someone to react to your feelings and needs. He / she must experience the freedom to meet my needs or wishes or not. If the other person does not (immediately) react, then that is not so bad. You can say, “I want you to know that I feel that way. What you do with it does not matter “.

Encourage others

If you see someone being vulnerable, acknowledge this and thank him / her for the vulnerability they show. Often it is difficult for others to be vulnerable and it is easier if they are recognized and encouraged.

Take action now!

Try to be vulnerable in the upcoming weeks by being honest about your feelings. Watch your words, focus to yourself and reflect what worked and what did not work. It is about expressing feelings and increasing your vocabulary to express your feelings.

I am convinced that it will help you, your team, your relations and your projects. I can help you to practice that in a safe environment. Contact me today so that you also dare to be vulnerable and achieve your goals faster and that you are more powerful and authentic.

Do you want to know more about how you can express your feelings better? Then read “Nonviolent Communication” from Marshall B. Rosenberg Ph.D.

Do you dare to be vulnerable? Why would you or would you not be vulnerable? Let me know in the comment box below. I, and other readers of this article look forward to read from you!

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Have you seen an error in this article? Let me know! I am grateful!



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