“I can be transparent without being vulnerable.”
I was scrolling through some comments on an Instagram post when I saw the quote above. I read it, scrolled past it, then scrolled all the way back up to it because I felt like I missed something. I read it again, and bing! Light Bulb came on. Oprah calls it the Aha! Moment. Many thoughts came flooding in as I looked at it, speechless. I figured I’d share these thoughts with you, so let’s dive in shall we?
A lot of us millennials pride ourselves in being much more advanced introspectively than our parents and grandparents. We vocalize our opinions and beliefs, and we stand confidently in them too. We share details of our lives that our parents would rather keep to themselves, such as our relationship with our mental health, our personal hiccups and failures, our political affiliations, our stance on certain societal issues, etc. We view ourselves as the champions of truth; the valiant bearers of transparency.
However, have you ever known so much about a person yet you still felt like you didn’t know them? Your feelings may be correct. More and more I am realizing that many of us know a lot about each other, without truly knowing each other. We know facts. We know details. We may even know feelings attached to these facts. Yet none of these things truly hit the surface of being vulnerable. This describes transparency — open to see all the details, good or bad, and that’s where it ends.
Vulnerability on the other hand requires more involvement from both parties. Transparency gives you the agency to start and stop how much you share. Vulnerability allows someone to not only know about you, but to actually know you. Vulnerability opens you up to another party engaging in your truth.
Well, what does engaging look like? Vulnerability creates the space for the party to experience those emotions with you, experience the time with you, and navigate the space with you. Being transparent is letting your friend know that you were hurt by something they said and why. Being vulnerable is allowing your friend to know how and why you were hurt, giving them the space to express their feelings and thoughts, and creating an area to navigate that together. Transparency begins and ends with you. Vulnerability begins and ends with us.
Transparency is like going to a museum — the most interaction you get is by seeing all the artifacts and admiring or disliking what you see. Vulnerability is like the Olympic sport Curling (click the link — you’ll be amazed and amused 😀 ). The team members are engaging in the synchronized objective of moving their stones to the target area. Likewise, in vulnerability, both parties are equally engaged in the objective of moving the relationship to the relational target of being seen, heard, and understood.
So what, Delz?
I think this is so key to the building of healthy relationships because a lot of us are being transparent without being vulnerable. And it makes sense. While we are a super transparent generation, we also are a highly skeptical one. We don’t easily trust the world. Even our close friends we may not fully trust. Some people don’t even trust their spouses. And with that lack of trust, it makes sense why we aren’t willing to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is sacred and requires a safe space, which cannot exist without trust. Vulnerability requires you to not only share the truth, but to also share yourself. Moreover, vulnerability requires you to not only share yourself, but to allow the other person to share themselves too.
This is communication. This is relationship. But jeez, this is also scary.
Just the other day, Francois and I were discussing relationships when he told me that when he first met me, he was surprised at how transparent I was. I had always considered myself an open book. However, we both agreed that while I was comfortable sharing facts, happy to even, I was not vulnerable. AT ALL. And transparency will only go so far in relationships. It takes vulnerability to truly address the issues that arise, because again, it’s not just you or me — it’s us. In fact, I am currently learning to practice vulnerability in the relationships I hold dear to me, and to exercise vulnerability in my writing.
So, here are three things to consider if you want to dive deeper into your relationships and exercise vulnerability.
Transparency vs Vulnerability isn’t a question of wrong or right, but a question of how and when.
Both transparency and vulnerability is a necessity in communication, but it’s all about time and place. Transparency is important because the facts are important. Your thoughts about your manager’s upcoming project proposal is valid. Your feelings about a mistake your partner made are valid and should be heard. It moves into vulnerability where you express and you invite feedback — empathy, emotions, issues and solutions. Both are necessary, but only one takes you to sustainable solutions.
The prerequisites of vulnerability is respect, trust, and reverence.
Does the person/friend/partner respect you and your core values? Do you respect them? Can you trust them? Do you think that whatever you tell them, they will treat it carefully? Vulnerability is scary because it is so risky. What if I’m taken advantage of? I’m sure some of you are asking that. And that has always been a fear of mine. However, ask yourself these questions to truly assess whether it is the right time to invite someone into that space. Vulnerability isn’t something you just jump into. It takes time to build on the trust. If you’re in a relationship, maybe your first activity on vulnerability could be to explore these questions with your partner. And to my fellow jaded friends, remember, not everyone is a scumbag who won’t treat your heart delicately. Trust me, there are good people out there; people willing to hold your hand through it all.
Transparency is the capsule while vulnerability is the liquid form.
Did your mom have you drink a spoonful of tonic and a spoonful of cod liver oil daily too? My face is grimaced and I’m silently gagging as I type this. I hated it! However, it does the body good. With the introduction of capsules, the fishy taste is no more and we get our needed daily dose! Or do we? Research shows that absorption is quicker, dosage is more accurate and oil is fresher and more potent when taken as a liquid. Capsules run the risk of holding rancid oil, it takes half an hour to absorb, and since no two bodies are the same, dosage is harder to be generalized to one capsule per day. Moral: transparency is easier on taste but you gotta work twice as hard to really know who the person is. Vulnerability may be hard to swallow, but it does the heart good and opens you up to the essence of that person.
So we all know the difference between transparency and vulnerability. We also know the fun facts of cod liver oil and Curling. What do I do with this information? Well, firstly, you’re welcome on that fish oil tip! But on a more serious note, this is just some thoughts on the matter to help you and I both navigate our various relationships. If you keep hitting the same block, it could be because there is a lack of vulnerability. Even in your relationship with God, or with yourself, if you are not vulnerable, you can’t be held accountable, and you won’t see sustainable change and breakthroughs. Ask those prerequisite questions, explore your issues with vulnerability, and seek out people, places and experiences that facilitate that. I want to see us all be the best we can be — it all starts with becoming okay with being vulnerable.
Do you have a hard time with vulnerability or transparency? What do you think of this topic? Let me know your thoughts below!