Being vulnerable in discussions

I must be strong. I shouldn’t show that what they said effects me, like when I find a comment unpleasant or offensive, because then I’m weak. I won’t ask any questions, because then they might think I ‘m stupid and don’t understand. And I definitely shouldn’t show when the other person is right. That will make me look like a fool.

To convince others we must be strong. Clever. Sharp and alert. Quick.

At least, that’s what we think.

Being vulnerable in discussionsI plead for being vulnerable in discussions. Even though it is difficult. Because you do take a chance that people will think all kinds of things about you.

If you listen and stay quiet, you’re shy, timid or invisible; a gray mouse, or boring.
When you ask questions, you’re stupid, difficult or critical.
If you tell how you experience the discussion, you are too sensitive.
If you’re talking about your own personal experience, you are selfish, because you only think about yourself.

I’m not making this up. This is what people have told me in real life. And for a long time I thought I had to be strong. Clever. Sharp and alert. I learned how to do that: being clever, sharp and alert. I had the right answers, pointing out inconsistencies, weaken the opponents arguments .

But ‘being strong’ took me loads of energy. And it didn’t work at all. Yes, I had ‘caught’ my opponent’. I had ‘won’. I was ‘right’. But did others change their mind and started working with me to find a solution? No. Not at all.

It felt more like I had lost the debate, because I was not being me. I was defending my own vulnerability and sensitivities.

If you’re not vulnerable in discussions you put a shield on. If you find the reaction of your opponent hurtful, you pretend it doesn’t, and you go straight into an attack. Or you give clever answers to critical questions, and don’t let the other know that you just don’t know. You protect yourself for what other people think of you and your ideas.

If you ‘re blocking, you build a wall around yourself, and you don’t hear what the other says.

If you are sincerely* being vulnerable in discussions you will hear much more. Vulnerability is not crying or whining and it also isn’t adopting a victim role. Being vulnerable in discussions is opening up, and expressing your questions, doubts and sensitive points, and accepting the possibility that people will reject you (you can’t change what others think of you, anyway)

But more importantly, if you’re vulnerable, it’s more likely that others will be vulnerable and open up too. They are more likely to tell your their personal stories. They think: “I can tell you this , because you won’t laugh at me.” And those stories are worth gold. With those stories you can discover what people value, what really matters to them, and only then can you really find a solution or agreement.

* Being vulnerable is also a hype nowadays. Vulnerability is used as a trick to influence people. But using it as a trick will have an opposite effect: you still hear nothing, the other will not open up, and if the other observes that it was not sincere, he will turn against you.


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Do you want to practice discussions? Check when I’m giving the Environmental Discussions Workshop here _______________________________________________________________________________

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