Thursday, March 2, 2017

How to Increase Vulnerability in Your Friendships



How to increase vulnerability in your friendships.  But before we can get to the how of increasing vulnerability, we must start with the why.  Why is it important to be vulnerable in friendships?  How does increasing vulnerability benefit our lives?

The willingness of two friends to be vulnerable with each other ensures depth in the friendship.  When a friendship is deep, people can stop pretending.  They can let their guards down.  They can experience life alongside each other in a way that fearfully keeping people at arm's length can never allow.  In so doing, these friends can truly know and value each other in a way that only honestly revealing our imperfections does allow.  

Well, as you know, I love talking about vulnerability and authenticity.  Mostly because it resonates with people; we all have an innate desire to know and be known, to be seen as we truly are, and to be loved anyway.  You may also be aware that I simply cannot talk about vulnerability without mentioning Brene Brown

Brown's work on vulnerability is based on years of research and her experience as a social worker. Brown says, "Daring greatly means the courage to show up and be seen.  To ask for what you need.  To talk about how you're feeling. To have the hard conversations."  If we want to increase vulnerability in our friendships, thereby increasing their depth, we need to talk about each of these things.

The Courage To Show Up And Be Seen

For the record, the friendships we are discussing today are close ones.  Your Besties.  People you can trust, even if a part of you still doesn't want to at times.  I'm not suggesting you be extremely vulnerable with just anyone.  That's not wisdom.  Wisdom is knowing who our #squad is and having the courage to be our true, authentic selves with them.

Why does that require courage?  Because for so many of us, our default setting is, "I've got this.  Everything's great.  We're fine, I'm fine.  How are you?"  Even with our Besties.  Especially if things really are great with them and not so great with you.  There's always that temptation to make things sound better than they are, for fear of what others will think of us otherwise.  

We increase vulnerability in our friendships by having courage.  By being honest.  By revealing our whole selves, not just the neat, presentable package we show most of the world.  Is there risk associated with that?  Absolutely.  But most things worth having require us to risk, or in the words of Brene, require us to dare greatly.

Ask For What You Need

True Besties can admit it when they need help.  They can be honest about not having it all together, knowing that their Besties don't have it all together either.  Vulnerability allows us to say "I'm at my wit's end over here...can you come pick up my kids for an hour?"  or "I have been so stressed with work lately...would you mind praying for me?"  

I've had several friends over the years who I inadvertently hurt because they felt I didn't give them something they needed, like an invitation to hang out or a phone call to check in at some point.  On those occasions, I was saddened to have hurt them but the thing was...they never told me.  I had no idea they were feeling that way or that was what they needed.  All of that could have been avoided if they had simply been willing to say, "I could really use some extra face-to-face-time with you this week."  

If you need something, say so.  This is vulnerable.  But it is healthy communication.  And it is also the only way you are likely to receive help.  Remember, you may be the one needing help this week, but next week it will be your turn to do the helping.  Everybody needs somebody sometimes, right?

Talk About How You're Feeling

This is something that proves difficult for many people.  We wrongly assume that others don't really want to hear about our problems.  I have counseled so many people who come to therapy for the first time addicted or hurting themselves because of what they were feeling for a loooooong time but never felt they could share with anyone.  Again, I'm not saying tell your cashier at the grocery store that you've been feeling depressed for a month.  But I am saying tell your Bestie.  

One of my absolute Besties did exactly that this week and I am so, so proud of her.  She's been having a rough couple of months and sent me this text:  "Are you around this evening?  I've actually been having a real hard time with some stuff and could use an old friend."

How PERFECT is that?!  

So we talked and we got teary-eyed, and she shared and I listened and we laughed and we were REAL.  So, so, so real.  She laid it all out there and I am so incredibly honored to be friends with someone who is willing to do that.  If you're reading this, my dear...I love you and I'm thankful you're my Bestie.  

Let's all do more of that.  Let's share with our safest people.  Let's let it OUT.  Let's handle our stuff with the people who can handle our stuff.  It's an honor to do that for the people we love, and an incredible blessing when they do it for us.

Have The Hard Conversations

Sometimes, friendship is hard. Sometimes it requires us to speak truth to each other that is not easy to share.  But oh, it can be spoken with such love that the recipient can hear what they need to hear without feeling judged or ashamed. It can and should be spoken from a place of accountability and esteem.  It should sound soft, and gentle, and true.  

A few months ago, I spoke these words to another Bestie of mine, when we had to have one such hard conversation:  "I'm telling you this because you are one of my best friends and I love you.  And that means we're both going to have a front row seat for all of the dumb crap we do in life (ok, so maybe that could have been a little more gentle).  So today, I'm calling you out.  And I want you to do the same for me when you need to...and believe me, I'm sure you will!"

Being vulnerable is work.  It can be difficult, it can sometimes be painful.  But it is so beautiful.  As we practice doing all these things, we will certainly reap the benefits of deeper, more meaningful friendships.  That is my hope for all of us.

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