Being human is being able to connect with others. The impulse to connect is in all of us, whether we are aware of it or not. After all, in the final analysis, we are all social beings.
Being vulnerable is indispensable to connection. Without vulnerability, close relationships are put at risk.
To love at all is to be vulnerable. - C.S. Lewis
Most psychologists define a close relationship as one in which people have the following distinctive experiences:
- They know each other well.
- They care about each other.
- They depend on each other.
- They share their lives, thinking of themselves as “us.”
Any personal relationship is a complicated journey, each person considering whether to trust the other. We make a trial effort; we may draw back, but then keep on testing the waters. We know when we have made ourselves vulnerable, and we know when the other person has made himself vulnerable.
Vulnerability is being open, and genuine about feelings of the heart, mind, body and soul. It is trusting without self-judgment or fear of rejection and judgment from others. It is being open about our feelings, while standing firm in not judging the emotions arising within us. There is strength, power and healing in having confidence to admit, let go and forgive.
Brené Brown, a research professor of social work at the University of Houston, embraces the power and necessity of being vulnerable. She writes that what makes vulnerability so difficult, is the “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” Having stated that, she adds ...
"Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take, if we want to experience connection."
Otherwise, by closing down to the risks of being vulnerable, we also close down to the possibility of intimacy, closeness, joy, gratitude and connection.
To weather the ups and downs of a close relationship, we write in our book, Conflict―The Unexpected Gift, that, first of all, you need to be honest with yourself whether you sincerely want to keep on maintaining the relationship. Be willing to entertain the possibility that there might be explanations for the other person’s off-putting behavior that you haven’t yet considered. Acknowledge that you have sufficient self-confidence to yield to the validity of another person’s viewpoints without feeling personally diminished. Above all, don’t let any vestiges of negative feelings toward the other person linger.
Brown explains that people with a strong sense of love and belonging believe that making themselves vulnerable is a necessity. They believe that within their vulnerabilities are the things that make them beautiful. And they are spot on. Making yourself vulnerable is key to connection because it is the courage to be open to another human. It’s saying the words that capture the emotions you’re experiencing inside. It’s giving without expectations, and receiving with an open heart.