Vulnerability is the key to bonding with others. Just look at every single movie with well-written dialogues. Screenwriters are experts in coming up with conversations that don’t bore. And their number one tool for keeping conversations interesting is vulnerability.
But, contrary to popular belief, vulnerability doesn’t just mean opening up and sharing your emotions and feelings with others. Mark Manson, the man who introduced the concept of vulnerability in dating, explains in his article Power in Vulnerability:
[…] making yourself vulnerable doesn’t just mean being willing to share your fears or insecurities. It can mean putting yourself in a position where you can be rejected, saying a joke that may not be funny, asserting an opinion that may offend others, joining a table of people you don’t know, telling a woman that you like her and want to date her. All of these things require you to stick your neck out on the line emotionally in some way. You’re making yourself vulnerable when you do them.
That all sounds good and well, but how can you become more vulnerable when the mere thought of joining a table full of strangers gives you the creeps? Let’s find out.
How to cultivate the right kind of vulnerability in your daily life
Vulnerability initially calls associations with weak and overly emotional to mind. That’s one form of vulnerability. However, what I refer to as vulnerability should be called strong vulnerability, to describe it more accurately.
To explain how to develop strong vulnerability, I’ll introduce three key principles that will make you more vulnerable and give you practical tips on how to implement them in your daily life.
Sharing your emotions
To be vulnerable you first need to become aware of your emotions. What are your hopes? What are your dreams? What do you fear most? What makes you nervous? What makes you feel insecure? You need to do some soul searching to find out.
When I say soul searching it’s not this thing where you pack a rucksack, venture out into the woods all by yourself and eat nothing but berries for days until your animal spirit comes bursting out of you. Soul searching means exploring what goes on inside of you. I often describe it as developing an emotional opinion.
From my article How to talk on an emotional level:
Whenever something noteworthy happens in your life, ask yourself: “How do I feel about this?”
Let’s practice with some examples:
- You start a new job: “I feel excited because this job poses new opportunities to my career. But I am also nervous because I feel like I have to prove myself.”
- You just graduated from university: “I feel incredibly happy and proud, but the feelings are bittersweet because I still have no idea what I want to do next.”
- You met a beautiful woman at the grocery store and didn’t know what to say to her: “I felt so powerless in her presence. I wanted to talk to her, but as soon as I saw her, the words disappeared from my mind.”
The examples above aren’t meant to be said out loud. They are exercises for you. By training emotional opinions, you will be able to access them during a conversation at will. After that, the only thing left for you to do is use them in conversations. It can feel a little uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier over time, I promise!
Getting rejected frequently
I once read somewhere that life is like a video game – if you haven’t seen any enemies in a while, you are probably going wrong.
It’s the same with rejection. If you aren’t getting rejected frequently you aren’t living boldly enough.
When was the last time your boss told you, “I am sorry Melinda, I can’t give you a raise at this point in time.”? Or when was the last time you approached someone you thought was absolutely gorgeous and got turned down?
Most people never do that kind of stuff although it poses zero risk and potentially huge rewards. The fear of rejection is too strong. But there is an exercise that will help you get yourself into more situations where you can get rejected even if you have a strong fear of rejection. It goes like this:
1. Pick an outcome that you would like to happen.
“I would like to go on a romantic date with a beautiful and charming woman.”
2. Write down what would have to happen in order to realize that outcome.
- Approach new women at bars, nightclubs, stores, street,…
- Create an online dating profile and invite women there out on a date.
- Have a friend arrange a blind date for you.
- Ask the cute brunette from the law department out. (in case your company is cool with it)
- Walk your dog in a busy park and start a convo with a cute female dog owner.
3. Do the least scary of the options – immediately!
An easy one from the list above could be the online dating profile. So how about you set up a dating profile on OkCupid or the site of your choice, right now?
Of course, there are uncomfortable feelings involved in this exercise as well. No one can save you from them.
But they are a good thing. They are a huge barrier to entry. Most people never overcome their fear of rejection and rather “stay safe” their whole life.
If you want to live a work-eat-sleep-repeat life, that’s ok. But if there is a desire for more than an average life burning within you, there is no way around confronting your fear of rejection in dating and otherwise.
The reward is huge. If you manage to overcome it then you will be able to separate yourself from almost everyone else, which is a good thing in dating as well as in business.
Usually, before we say something we run it through our internal censorship.
- Is it socially accepted to say that?
- Could it hurt someone’s feelings?
- How does it make me come across?
It’s good and fine to choose words wisely, especially on the internet, but there comes a point where you censor yourself so much, that what remains is just plain boring and obvious.
People who speak their mind are refreshing. Sure, a lot of what they say is offensive or plain stupid – *cough* Donald Trump *cough* – but that’s the price they pay for being polarizing. And the upsides more than make up for the downsides.
I’ll give you a personal example.
Last week, while waiting for friends to pick me up to play disc golf, I threw some practice shots on a meadow near our house. As I picked my discs up from the grass after a couple of overturned throws, I noticed a terrible smell. If you are from the countryside you may know it. It’s a blend of cow shit, pig shit, human shit, and other shit sprinkled all over the fields for fertilization – liquid manure. As you can imagine, it has quite a strong smell.
Unfortunately, at first, I couldn’t make out where it was coming from. But then I looked down and noticed the slimy brown stuff all over my discs. Sure as fuck, I had thrown my discs around in the shit mix. My hands, my discs, my backpack – everything reeked of that stuff! The problem was, my friends picked me up before I had a chance to wash.
Now, in the past, I would have been embarrassed. I probably would have tried to hide it. But this time, I told everyone about it without them even asking. They sure had a good laugh.
The story doesn’t put me in a favorable light, I know. But it does something that I value much higher: it makes me fun to be around, both to others and to myself. It makes me vulnerable but also shows everyone that I am comfortable telling that story. It tells the world, “I may have my hands full of shit but I am still confident enough to laugh about it!”
All it takes to implement extreme honesty in your life is speaking your mind. Fight that internal censorship and be more polarizing. You just need some deliberate effort to do it more often. Like with emotional opinions, after a while it will become second nature. And the best part about it is, once you are fluent in speaking your mind, you will never run out of things to say again!
Now, that you understand the three concepts that will make you more (strongly) vulnerable – sharing your emotions, getting rejected frequently, and extreme honesty – it’s up to you to put them to use. With Mark Manson’s theory and my tips on how to implement it in the real world, you should be well equipped to become a more vulnerable (without being weak) and therefore, more attractive and interesting human being, in no time.
“Perfection is inhuman… What evokes our love … is the imperfection of the human being.”