As a man, actually since I was a young boy, I was taught that being vulnerable or showing weakness was something only women and weaklings did. I lived that for a significant part of my life. Show no weakness and give no opening to the enemy. That philosophy works well in combat or defending a village, but I’m not sure it holds up in life.
In any relationship between two or more people, a rapport needs to be established so that communication can flow and trust is earned. In order to do this we have to show at least a little of who we really are under the armor we’ve built up in life. If you’ve ever been around someone who seems cold, distant or disconnected, it’s pretty easy to tell. They don’t feel approachable, or they don’t feel trustworthy.
These are the people who are completely walled off, for whatever reason. Remember how it felt. When I’m around this type of person, I instinctively put up my own walls. It makes conversation stiff and sparse. It makes reaching any agreement difficult and drawn out. In short, it makes life more difficult.
The other side of that coin is someone who lets it all hang out so to speak. These people have no problem with sharing (sometimes over sharing) anything and everything in their life. This type of person is generally able to establish a rapport with many people quickly and easily. They’re also the ones who can coax out bits and pieces of who we are.
My earliest yoga classes were very “gym yoga” oriented. Come in, sit, get up, work out, lie down and leave. The teacher would demonstrate these amazing postures and then tell the class to try and do them. And the demonstrated postures where always to the instructor’s strength. These didn’t appeal to me because they didn’t feel genuine.
I went years later to a class because my wife liked a studio and wanted to share that with me. What drew me in was the teacher that first day. She sat up in front of a class and laid out what was going on in her life right then, how it challenged her and how she was trying to grow from the experience. She was engaged and she built an instant rapport with the class because she was approachable, flawed and human.
The differences between the two instructors, was vulnerability, a lack of perfection. In the first case the instructor showed their superiority by doing postures that they were good at; setting themselves apart from the students. In the second case, the instructor drew everyone in. We could all relate to challenges in life, facing them and failing, then looking to grow from that experience.
As a yoga instructor I design my classes in my own body. That is I work through the class, the postures, the transitions and queuing on myself before introducing it to a class. I do this because I need to be confident about what I’m leading the students through. This confidence doesn’t mean I set myself apart. I throw in postures that are challenging for me as well. I also use those challenging postures to create a rapport with the students.
When I show a posture that I struggle with, even as a teacher, it gives the students a sense that I understand their struggles, and that it’s okay to not do every posture perfectly. In a sense, I’m giving them permission to struggle, fail and make another attempt. It sounds like an odd thing to have to give someone permission to do, but think back to the last time you felt it was acceptable to struggle and not succeed on the first attempt.
Showing my vulnerabilities doesn’t put students off, it encourages them. It takes the preconceptions that teachers are perfect or must be perfect, or that there is a perfect yoga pose and throws them out. My vulnerability or weakness in a posture or my mood that day and how I use that as a growth opportunity are what draw my students in. I offer them imperfection and acceptance of who they are today. I also have them challenge themselves so they continue to grow.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” – Brene’ Brown
As you move through the day, I encourage you to look around and see if there is anyone you can inspire by showing a little vulnerability of your own.