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Courage to be vulnerable

Today, the it’s about courage. The courage to show up and say out loud what everyone whispers about, or to say no, even if the others don’t.
You might think that brave people do not know fear. But as one of those who regularly is being recognized for my courage to stand up, I’ll deny it. The experience goes from awkward to nervous or quite often dread. It requires a deep breath and verbal fiddling. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is fear that holds the hand of our Lord. Vulnerable.Vulnerability_II

It’s like winter swimming. Winter swimmers notice the stark discomfort with the cold, but they do it anyway.

We need our courage when …

When we- again – find ourselves in talking about someone. And not with them. The about talk may be needed for clearing your mind about something this person has been doing or saying in order to understand your own reaction. Repeated about-talk can be a sign of a destructive, gossiping corporate culture. Which is only broken when somebody courageously addresses it.

Or when we do not enjoy what we see or are part of. When I was young, I worked on a salad factory. One day, I was asked to replace the labels with the old date stamp on the herring salad cups with fresh date marks. This was far from what I would tolerate, yet I had not the courage to speak up.

Or when we tell ourselves that we have been overlooked, stepped upon, manipulated engineered and all the other interpretations of other people’s behavior which implies that they have done something wrong . Maybe they have and maybe they do not know how their actions affect others. A dialogue about it is the first step in preventing energy absorbing annoyance and resignation and pave the way for a good working climate.

Convenience or self-esteem ?

First of all we must recognize that speaking up is not pleasant. You might feel exposed, naked or silly when you begin to point out the hard stuff. Or you might be afraid that your colleagues or boss will judge you – with unforeseeable consequences.
To feel your fear is part of showing courage. But don’t stop with the fear. To stay silent has far-reaching consequences, too – for your self esteem and your well-being at work.

One trick is then to keep you it on your own side of the road and resist the temptation to tell the others what you think about them. Try to stay with the observation – what happened, accurately?
And then tell you what it did to you – were you uncomfortable , insecure, maybe confused?
Followed by what you long for – maybe security , fairness or respect.
When you are sure that your message has gone through, comes the most important of all: You request what you want them to do. It’s not just blame or nagging. You take responsibility and ask for what means something to you.

Vulnerable – but not weak

In the example with the expired herring salad, it could sound like this:

” When you ask me to replace the old labels with fresh, I get annoyed. It is important to me that customers get honest information about the stuff they buy. Would you be willing to let me throw the old herring salad cups out?

Perhaps the answer is ‘no’. A ‘no’ which might open to a conversation where I would have got the opportunity to express what mattered to me. It might have lead to a solution that both of us would have enjoyed about future situations like this. Or it might not, but guess what: My self-confidence would have grown; I expressed what was important for me.

Whether the matter is herring salad, a colleague whose odeur repulses you, a boss who comes too close, or an entire workplace culture of blame game or inefficiency – the first step of change is to find the courage to address what’s bothering you.
We often imagine that when we feel vulnerable and exposed, we appear weak. But those who witness it actually recognize vulnerability as an expression of strength. Perhaps taht is worth remembering when you are just about to stand up.

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