Creating Connection Through Vulnerability
I recently attended an eating disorders conference hosted by the Newton, MA based Multi-Service Eating Disorder Association (MEDA, where I am now a member of their board of directors). I attended a session on Using Social Media for Health/Wellness and Eating Disorder Awareness. The speaker made a comment that I wanted to share with you:
“Create connection through vulnerability.”
I often ask helping and independent professionals (maybe I’ve asked you!), “Why do you do what you do?” Most of them (myself included) came to this line of work because of personal experience. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable and share your story, that’s your connection to your client.
For example, I experienced high levels of emotional stress and dissatisfaction with my work. I realized that my fear of speaking up was the root cause. Now I am a professional communicator who also helps others communicate with confidence. Sharing my story (sometimes with more detail) is scary. At the same time I’m able to let my guard down, stop hiding, share my experience and the lessons I learned. I make a stronger connection to my audience (whether speaking or writing) and they appreciate the openness.
This vulnerability is your “why”. Your reason for doing the work you do. People need to know that you understand what they’re feeling. That you’ve been where they are and made it through the rough patches. Your experience makes you human.
Not everyone will respond to your story. Your “right” clients and community members will. If vulnerability makes you nervous, start small and start in circles where you feel safe (look for groups of like-minded people.)
Whether you use social media, traditional networking, public speaking or other communication methods, consider adding a little vulnerability to your material. Tell your story and the lessons you learned (Within reason. I’m not suggesting you bare your soul.), with the purpose of sharing and connecting. Not with the intention to sell anything. You may find that when the time comesyou have an easier time connecting with and converting clients or community members.
Let me know what you think. Is vulnerability the way to connect with clients and create community? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments.