The other day I came across one of the most compelling TED Talks I've seen.
In it, researcher and author Brené Brown discusses vulnerability: specifically, how having a healthy relationship with it makes us better people. Check it out:
Now I don’t know about you, but for me and the majority of entrepreneurs I know, vulnerability doesn't rank too high on our list of strengths.
Vulnerability is a sign of weakness. Being vulnerable reveals to our competition the exact opportunity spots to come in and overpower us. Vulnerability shows our customers that sometimes, we have no idea what we’re doing.
Or so I thought. Does any of this sound familiar?
But according to Brown, this is exactly the type of thinking that makes us our own worst enemies, turning us into human balls of shame and fear that struggle to form true connections. As she explains in the video above, she conducted years of research talking with all types of people, from those who are healthy and well-adjusted to those who seriously struggle with emotional and relationship issues.
What she found was shoicking, and also shockingly simple: the quality that was common denominator among the happiest people she studied was their ability to be vulnerable. As she explains, vulnerability is powerful in three important ways—all of which we can benefit from as entrepreneurs.
The Human Connection
Have you ever met someone that was just “too perfect?”
Maybe they said all the right things at the dinner party or had all the correct answers at the board meeting. They’d certainly never show up to the conference with a coffee stain on their shirt.
Whatever the case, that person’s seemingly flawless façade probably didn’t make you like them or want to get to know them better. Instead, it was likely a turnoff. Why?
According to Brown, it’s because when someone is “too perfect," they lack the relatability that all of us as humans crave. They refuse to make themselves vulnerable, and it makes us bristle.
When you show vulnerability, you lay the groundwork for an important human connection. First and foremost, it’s a critical step for establishing meaningful relationships in any area of your life. But in business specifically, it’s something that can foster the lasting relationships that will benefit your business over time.
If you’ve ever gone to a mentor and asked earnestly for advice, then you’ve made yourself vulnerable; this is just one example of how vulnerability puts you in a position to learn, change and grow.
It’s Necessary To Take Risks
When you’re building your investment portfolio, one question comes up again and again: how comfortable are you with risk?
If you’re risk adverse, maybe your advisor will point you in the direction of some safe, secure bonds. If you’re comfortable with lots of risk, you might invest heavily in emerging markets or untested technology.
But your financial advisor could easily phrase the question in a slightly different way without changing its meaning: how vulnerable are you willing to make yourself?
This is the question all of us as entrepreneurs must ask time and time again, with each new phase of our business. Just like with financial investments, the bigger risks have the potential to yield bigger rewards. If you’re not willing to make yourself vulnerable, you’re also not going to grow.
Being vulnerable allows you to take risks, which are an inevitable part of launching and growing a wildly profitable business.
It Makes You Authentic
There’s one part of Brené Brown’s talk I especially love, a part toward the end where she talks directly to corporations regarding vulnerability.
“Whether it's a bailout, an oil spill, a recall…” she says, “We just need you to be authentic and real and say, ‘We're sorry. We'll fix it.’”
It’s such a simple concept—the act of acknowledging that our actions have consequences—and most of the people in the audience were clapping or nodding their heads when she said it. And yet, it’s something so few corporations actually do.
Again, it comes back to vulnerability. Admitting we’ve done wrong makes us vulnerable. But it also makes us authentic.
In our world of 24/7 engagement and Photoshopped everything, authenticity is more valuable than ever. Brands spend millions of dollars on marketing strategies designed to make them come across as more authentic, and yet the solution at its core is so easy: being able to be vulnerable while in the spotlight.
Audiences—and your customers—value it.
So whether it’s a relationship in your personal life, a client you’re trying to land or your relationship with your sales prospects, remember: vulnerability matters.
Is it uncomfortable? Yep. Is it something we’re inclined to resist? Absolutely—though as Brown explains, not everyone is wired against it. It’s something, she argues, we can learn and get better at, like listening or riding a bike, and it’s in our best interest to do just that.
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