Deeper Dialogue by Being Vulnerable
Braving the Wilderness – The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone
How many times have you been in a challenging situation where different kind of opinions feel frustrating? How often have you left the situation by saying “Let’s just agree to disagree” and moved on? This is only natural when it feels like the conversation isn’t moving forward and it feels a bit uncomfortable.
In teamwork we should learn to navigate these situations so that we can get past the “agree to disagree” -barrier. Only then can we find true dialogue, only then can we get deeper in the conversation. This takes courage. A lot of it. How do we get there?
In her book Braving the Wilderness – The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone Brené Brown is battling with important questions regarding vulnerability. Everything starts with belonging to oneself and being authentic:
“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” (Brown, 2017. 40.)
More easily said than done. We all have insecurities that we are not always ready to show to the world – or even to our team. It’s easier to hide behind a wall of high self-esteem and “it’s-okays”. It might be scary to let your true self to be known. It can hurt to give up the safety of the wall. But as said in the book with the words of an author and activist Maya Angelou: “The price is high. The reward is great.”
Okay. So when we get to a challenging situation we easily tend to get defensive. We feel that our opinion is important and sometimes it’s hard to hear what others have to say. When we feel that our opinion is important to us, we might be fearing that we seem like we are ready to give that up by listening others. Maybe we fear that we will not be heard and we will be stepped over? If I’m ready to listen, are others, too?
We need trust in order to be vulnerable. We need to trust ourselves and we need to trust others. Brown gives us a great toolbox or checklist for trust, calling it the BRAVING skills:
BOUNDARIES – Respect for my own boundaries and other’s. Asking what’s okay and being ready to say no.
RELIABILITY – We do what we say we’ll do. We know our limits and don’t tend to overpromise.
ACCOUNTABILITY – We admit our mistakes, apologize and are ready to make things right.
VAULT – We keep our confidences and don’t share information that isn’t ours to share.
INTEGRITY – We choose what is right and we practice our values.
NONJUDGEMENT – We can ask what we need and we can talk about how we feel without judging ourselves or others.
GENEROSITY – Giving the generosity by interpreting that intentions, words and actions are meant to be good.
By investigating these elements we can find what trust actually means and if we have trust for others and for ourselves. (Brown, 2017. 38-39.)
When we find trust we can let go of our defence mode. One tool for getting forward with different opinions is to get intentions known. Intentions behind conversation are the deepest reason why something is so important to us. (Brown, 2017. 80.) For example I remember from the first weeks of our team enterprise forming that there were a heated conversation about something and one of our team members said: “Let’s remember that everyone of us has the same goal, and that goal is to have a great team.” I think that that notion got us forward so good the following weeks.
When we are ready to let down our defences we can get to being curious. And curiosity is the key to learning from others. This is the cornerstone of team learning. Here we get to one of the most courageous things: listening. Instead of preparing our own argument, really listen and ask for more, maybe even when feeling a little uncomfortable. We want to be understood, but we need to be ready to try and understand others as deeply as possible. This doesn’t mean agreeing, disagreeing or letting go of yourself – but learning, going forward, together.
Maybe next time your team comes to a tricky situation ask yourselves: What are our intentions and goals with this conversation? Am I ready to really listen? Do I want to understand where others are coming from? Are my team members ready to try and understand me? Why or why not? You can also go through the BRAVING -checklist to see if you have enough trust in your team so that it’s possible to be vulnerable.
In order to be open for deeper dialogue we need both courage and vulnerability. In her book Brown (2017, 147-163) talks about strong back, soft front and wild heart. Strong back means staying true to yourself and your values. Soft front means being vulnerable, accepting emotions and being open rather than defensive. And going through this wilderness you need a wild heart: “The mark of a wild heart is living out the paradox of love in our lives. It’s the ability to be tough and tender, excited and scared, brave and afraid – – being both fierce and kind.”
I wish you luck on your journey to true belonging and vulnerability. Remember, the reward is told to be great.
Brown, B. 2017. Braving the Wilderness. The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. New York: Random House.