Making connections through vulnerability

Love sculpture by Alexander Milov for Burning Man. Source: Piqsels
Love, by Alexander Milov for Burning Man. Source: Piqsels

Brené Brown has taught me that there is a correlation between vulnerability and making connections. In her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” she states:

“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.”
Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

More on connections in a moment, but let’s first talk about vulnerability. In her amazing TED talk “The power of vulnerability”, Brené Brown says that “Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear, and our struggle for worthiness. But it also is the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”

Read that last part again. So, apparently we need this thing called vulnerability in order to become wholehearted human beings. Like so many people, I struggle with vulnerability. For example, it is not easy to admit you might not have the answer to a problem: Will they will think I am stupid? What if they expected more of me? Will they still want to have me around?
Maybe you recognize this ‘critical inner voice’ saying all these nasty things to you in moments of doubt. Over the years, I’ve developed strategies to deal with my inner critic, but I will admit, it is not easy. And unfortunately, my default is to focus on the negative voices in my head instead of the positive.

One of my hobbies is singing. I’ve been singing in choirs since I started my working career. At the time, it was an intentional choice to pick up a new hobby in order to meet people outside of the working environment. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the joy of singing. For me, it is a way to relax from a tough day at work and it also fulfilled the part of making connections with the people I was singing with. I’ve been singing in different choirs and also joined several big opera productions. It’s definitely still a hobby, I don’t have any pretensions that I’m good enough to ever make a profession out of it.

But even if it is just a hobby, here’s the thing about singing: it is one of the most intimate things you can do as a person. Everything inside of you is put on display for whatever audience you have, and this makes it very personal. We have to put ourselves in a very vulnerable position every time we do it.

Despite of what my inner critic keeps saying about my singing capabilities, I still do it and I enjoy it very much. This Friday night I had the opportunity to practice my singing with my colleagues from work. One of my team members is leaving us and her wish was to go to a Karaoke bar with us. As expected, everyone was a bit anxious at the start and together we came up with some agreements to help create the safe space needed to get started:

  • taking pictures would be fine, but no recordings were allowed
  • no one would be obligated to sing a long, everyone should feel welcome to pass on the opportunity
  • if we felt a song was not working, we would skip on to the next
  • listen without judging

This safe space allowed us all to let ourselves be seen, vulnerably seen and we had so much fun exploring it together! (And we just Let it go!)
Important thing to note is that we had a new team member starting with us this very week. He took the risk of joining us and showing his vulnerable self, despite the fact that we are still in the process of making connections. I’m convinced that this activity will accelerate this process and improve our sense of belonging. I’m very proud of all of us for putting ourselves out there for each other to experience a night of ‘liberating joy’.

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Saskia Vermeer

With a smile and my enthusiasm I hope to create the right environment for people and teams to excel at what they do best.