A person that I have a lot of respect for thanked me for being vulnerable and honest today. These words were what I needed; however, in hindsight, an exploration of their context revealed more.
Showing vulnerability is a part of building relationships, but just how much of yourself is the right amount to share? As a teacher, showing vulnerability is considered a good trait. For example, to let students know when you don’t know the answer to their question is deemed to be good practice and being honest. However, as humans, we walk a delicate line, and because of this, the line between sharing information and over-sharing seems to blur. Similarly, the line between sharing and truth can also be less clear.
For example, in society, sharing surface information is considered appropriate, but often anything more profound is not suitable or wanted. What springs to mind here is the typical situation of passing a colleague in the corridor, and they ask “how are you”? Often my immediate response is “fine thank you” or “I’m good” whether I am or not. As much as I might want to share my true thoughts, I do not as the other person often doesn’t want or need the truth; it might hurt them, or be difficult for them. On the other hand, when I walk past and ask someone “how are you?” at times, I am just being polite and don’t want the truth only the superficial answer.
In both of these situations, the sender and receiver of information make assumptions about the needs of the other. More often than not, I tend to consider the needs of the other person to be more worthy than mine. Some may argue this is a form of protection. However, it makes me question myself, asking why I so often consider others needs, thoughts and feelings to be more important than my own? (although this tangent is for another day).
In considering this reflective question, the saying “a problem shared is a problem halved” kept springing into my mind. However, in a situation that prompted this blog entry, I was distressed and needed to separate current from historical context to make a life altering decision. I chose to confide in someone without full consideration of the position that this knowledge puts them in, and the part of this which bothers me is that action goes against my usual nature and values. While sharing information made my position clearer and easier, it likely had the opposite effect for the person I chose to confide in making their position more tenuous.
Bringing this back to thinking about vulnerability. Sharing too much could be harmful to others. Perhaps confronting to the person receiving information and as in this case complicating their context. On the other hand, not sharing or showing vulnerability can make building relationships with those around you challenging.
Situations like this are tricky, however, posing myself some questions in future situations like this may assist in navigating the complexity.
1) Why did I share or show vulnerability?
2) What emotions was I feeling?
3) What was my intention in sharing these?
4) Does the purpose of sharing match my values?