Is Being Vulnerable a Good Thing?

Dropping the Act: Who's Behind the Mask?

Got masks? Join the masquerade! We all do! We put on our metaphorical masks when we are in situations where we feel uncomfortable and insecure. As safe and cozy as those masks might be in the moment, the problem with putting them on is they prevent us from living in our most powerful place — our vulnerability!

Vulnerability is that paradoxical cross section of significant discomfort and tremendous emotional availability, and it is the only place where real connection can occur. When we take off our masks, we make ourselves available to the most important part of communication: The Human Connection®. When we connect, solutions emerge, visions take flight, and greatness happens. So, if you want to win more work, watch your projects soar, and go beyond what you thought possible, dare to get vulnerable. Here’s how:

Step One. Identify Your Masks
What are the little tricks you do or use to feel more “comfortable” and “safe” when you’re communicating with your team or clients? Do you pace back and forth while you speak, adding hundreds of steps to your daily Fitbit® goals? Fold your arms as if you’re a New York City bouncer at a hip nightclub? Maybe you gaze off above the heads of your listeners as if you’re waxing poetic on a moonlit night? Those are a few examples, but make an honest self-assessment of which masks you’re hiding behind. Perhaps jot down a list of your biggies. Thinking objectively about our masks makes it easier to take them off.

Step Two. Take it One Mask at a Time
If you know that you pace AND you fold your arms AND you gaze above your listeners, don’t try to remedy all three at once. Pick one. Let’s say you’re pacing. Spend some time focused on just planting your feet while you speak. Once you feel like you’ve nailed that down, take care of those folded arms. Before you know it, you’ll be maskless!

Step Three. Keep Your Masks Off!
The more you practice, the easier it will become. That’s great news! And, when you keep dropping your masks, what remains is the pure gold — you!

Communicating from a place of vulnerability will be your greatest asset, because when you open yourself up, you also let other people in. That’s how we connect. So, trust yourself, take off your masks, and step into the place of powerful vulnerability where you can make a true human connection!

— Joe, Graceworks Cleveland

P.S. From team Graceworks: Woo-hoo! We just opened a Cleveland office, and if you haven’t met Joe yet, meet Joe!

Tales from the Field

Tales from the Field

I recently gave a keynote lecture at an AIA event in Albany for 200 people where I discussed findings from my latest book. I got there early and we tested the equipment, including two massive projection screens on either side of the stage. I started off the session warming everyone up with a little dancing and music; everything was going just as planned. Then, I noticed, about two or three slides into my presentation, that the images started blinking in and out. It was very distracting, and I realized after a few minutes that there was no going back; the blinking was just going to be there for the next hour. So, I fell back on my Graceworks training. I waved my arms in a big bold way and pointed to myself. I said, “Don’t worry about the slides; you’re not missing anything. All you need to pay attention to is right here.” I spent the rest of the presentation storytelling, engaging the audience, and using gestures and lots of humor to keep everyone’s attention.

At the end of the presentation, as I was signing books, I got a chance to ask many people in the audience how they thought the presentation went and if the slides blinking were distracting. They said they didn’t even notice, especially after I asked them to just pay attention to me. The truth was, that even for a bunch of architects, my content and stories were strong enough without slides.

The one comment they had that would improve my presentation? “More dancing again at the end!” Duly noted.

Leigh Stringer, LEED AP
Workplace Strategy, Principal

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