Vulnerability is so... powerful? - Carney
The Daily Carnage

Vulnerability is so… powerful?

I had a project in art school that required an oral report to complete the course. I didn’t bow out as I had previously. I did, however, defer until I was last to speak.

This time I tried something different. At the outset, I admitted that I might not get through it entirely and that I hoped that the class would bear with me. During the talk, I was sure I was crashing. My voice was cracking. I couldn’t lift my head from my notes. “If I could just get thru it with one more breath . . . and . . . done. Need to breathe.”

Then something odd happened.

Applause. Genuine applause. The only applause on that day. Pats on the shoulder. A sense of closeness with everyone in the room. I rode the bus home, wondering, “What just happened?”

How do you react when someone owns up to a particular weakness, reveals a hole in their understanding, or shares an embarrassing moment? Most of us feel empathy and, most of the time, drawn to the honesty and humility.

So, where am I going with this?

Pitching new creative or meeting a prospective client for the first time can, every so often, give me the Heebie Jeebies. When I’m in that zone, I reach for my superpower. I don’t typically lead with it, but, when appropriate, I’ll sprinkle something in that could be considered vulnerable. It could be relating something personal (but not creepy) or admitting that I don’t have the answer to a question just yet. Applause doesn’t follow, but there’s a good chance that I’ve become relatable and trustworthy to my new friends.

I know this concept isn’t new. There’s a plethora of content on applying vulnerability to sales, for example. But it’s something that can be used in so many of our day-to-day encounters, whether we’re brand-side or agency. Especially for us wallflowers.

– Rob Carney


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