It was a risk – and it was uncomfortable – but it was the right thing to do.
I’d been asked to give a talk to 20 senior businesswomen. I was to share the story of my transition from stressed corporate lawyer to living a life of flexibility and contribution. I was a little stuck.
So, as I sat in Stansted airport on Monday evening with 5 fabulous women – who also happened to mirror the demographic of the audience I would be speaking to – I asked for their advice. I wanted to know – ‘what would you like to hear if you were sitting in the audience listening to this talk’. Janice – the no-nonsense business owner sitting to my right – said simply, ‘the truth’. I asked her to expand. ‘I just want to hear the truth of what you went through and how if felt’. Crikey. That was a tall order. How could I share so much with women that I’d only just met? But I was outnumbered. The 4 heads of the other high achievers sitting around me in the airport coffee shop were nodding in agreement.
So, on Tuesday morning I sat down in front of the flashing cursor on my screen and began to type. I imagined I was telling my story to a close friend. What was appearing on the screen as I typed pricked my emotions and brought back some tricky memories. There it was – the truth was looking right back at me.
I decided to pop the talk in my ‘drafts’ folder and sit with the idea of sharing so deeply for a couple of days. Throughout those two days my mind returned to the story. It felt right. It was authentic.
There’s something about telling a vulnerable truth that enables us to connect immediately with others. My experience of sharing that (unchanged) account that I had prepared was that I felt connected to all of the women in that room. As my voice carried the words out to each and every one of them, I could see them nodding in recognition or smiling in compassion. What happened next was unexpected. The discussion session scheduled to follow my talk went straight to vulnerable sharing, missing out the stop marked ‘polite small talk’. What I realised is that when we share our vulnerability, we are able to powerfully connect with others through our authenticity. We encourage others to be open and truthful. And then we connect. We allow ourselves to see and be seen.
Inappropriately over-sharing is not what I’m advocating – but being honest and fallible gives others the permission to share their own fallibility. After all, each one of us has vulnerability in our personal history and it’s from there that we have been able to grow. When we share those stories of our past and present, we enable others to grow too. The challenge I’m encouraging you to embrace is this; what can you do today to powerfully connect with another human being by sharing openly and honestly?