Shelisa Bainbridge Visual Representation

3 Ways to demonstrate vulnerability in meetings.

We all know what it’s like to attend a meeting for the first time. No matter how much preparation goes into it, you might still feel like a gladiator stepping into the arena for the first time, bracing for whatever might come your way. This offensive stance might make you feel safe and protected, but trust me – everyone around you can sense it!

The truth is, embracing your vulnerability is the best way to break the ice. Here are 3 things you can do to enter the meeting arena courageously.

Whether you’re starting a new job, joining a new team, or leading a new project, we’ve all had to attend a “first” meeting. These firsts can be intimidating – the social landscape, yet unseen, is unknown, and as such so is your place within it. Tapping into and demonstrating vulnerability in these first meetings can go a long way in creating positive relationships with colleagues.  By practicing these 3 habits in meetings, you can create a space of transparency and vulnerability in meetings.

  1. Give praise.

All too often meetings can feel like a colosseum. Everyone’s a gladiator hoping to win favor over the others. This automatically sets up a performance hierarchy in the room and perpetuates a competitive culture on the team. While some people may think they thrive on competition, everyone is susceptible to some degree to criticism and shame. Instead of playing into this dialogue, be the one who gives praise and encouragement. Even the boldest person in the room will be impacted by it.

2. Ask questions.Shelisa Bainbridge Visual Representation

We all have at least one memory of being in school and having a question that we didn’t ask. If memory serves, my internal dialogue went something like this:

“No one else is asking it, so am I the only one who doesn’t know?”

“If I ask, what will everyone think of me?”

“Will they judge me for not knowing?”

Believe it or not, this fear follows the child in all of us into meeting spaces and boardrooms. Asking questions is essentially asking for help – for someone to help us understand something or to give us information we need but don’t have. Asking for help makes us feel vulnerable. Break the pattern by simply asking questions. You’ll find that once you do, the courage it takes to ask for help will benefit you more than the answer you sought in the first place!

Shelisa Bainbridge Visual Representation3. Relate to others.

Use language with colleagues, when possible, that shows you can relate to challenges they might be experiencing. If a colleague admits they didn’t complete their report on time because of a feverish child at home or a visit to the emergency room for a sprained ankle, let them know you can relate to how that feels.

If you haven’t been in the situation before, broaden the scope. For example, if you don’t have kids, you might say you can relate to having your best laid plans to complete a project be derailed by a personal emergency.

Creating the space for understanding will go a long way in making others feel comfortable being transparent and will encourage a culture of transparency on the team too. 

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