Being vulnerable

I met a colleague, Lynn Baldwin-Rhoades, for coffee recently. She is the president of Power Chicks International, a wonderful online and in-person networking and resource organization for women.

Lynn is someone I know and like but didn’t know well. I felt like we both wanted a deeper connection with each other.

Both Lynn and I are introverts, so we don’t easily share information about ourselves; me less so than her. On top of that, I’m also a perfectionist. Consequently, sharing my mistakes and fears is very scary for me. I’m afraid if I truly open up people will judge me. So, for much of my life I have often avoided being candid about my feelings, blunders and failings.

Well, perhaps because I’ve been in a bit of a fragile state lately due to some challenging things happening in my life I was much more open then I usually am with Lynn. I shared my fears, insecurities and self-doubts. And you know what, not only did she not judge me, she opened up and shared some of hers.

The connection between us deepened. I felt a true closeness to her. What I thought would be just an hour get together turned into a two hour conversation. It was really wonderful.

Shortly afterwards, I saw a video she posted on her Facebook page about a book she is reading called “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazi. She read a passage from the book that essentially stated being vulnerable with others builds relationships. As I witnessed first-hand that is true.

I know as an etiquette consultant, I can be intimidating to others. As a result I’ve been trying to write and speak more about the mistakes I make so that people see I’m just a regular Jane, warts and all. I want people to understand that if an etiquette consultant can make mistakes it is OK for you to make them too. Of course, I also hope by sharing my slip-ups and the lessons learned you will learn from them as well.

So, what’s the takeaway here? The message is try to be open to others about some of the things that might seem like big secrets to you – your fears, your pain – especially if you’re a perfectionist. Now that said, you can’t strike up a conversation with a stranger and start talking about your dysfunctional childhood. You would scare them off. But, with people you are getting to know you might share a small fear or worry such as you get nervous before public speaking or networking is hard for you or you’re anxious about an upcoming interview.

As I am learning, the more you open up to others – whether it be one on one, through writing or when speaking to a group – the more relatable and likeable you will become.

What do you think? Is it hard for you to open up to people? Do you allow perfectionism or the fear of rejection keep you from sharing what might seem like imperfection? Have you had an experience where you were vulnerable and it deepened a connection?


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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Deborah Choma on November 9, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Dear Arden,
    Like invisible strands, your article “Being Vulnerable” resonates for many. For an introvert and a lady, your transparency has ignited many of the same feelings I experience. It is because I am an introvert and perfectionist that I endorse how you have uncovered and articulated much of what leaders identify as their own public perfection vs. private reality. As a leader and as an individual, unzipping the garment of vulnerability enables us to bridge our knowledge and reach our audience, and colleagues, with laser accuracy and connection. When we step into the light of being real, the doors for personal cultivation remain open. In view of how we develop, our magnetism guarantees to impact beyond that which is immediately apparent. Your influence has no limits on the extended effect of being vulnerable.  The timing must be right.
    Individuals, corporate, classroom, or connections, will experience the “green light” of what they need to empty themselves of fear – just like that wonderful meeting with Lynn Baldwin-Rhoades, you walked away emptied and empowered.
    Whilst you continue to uncover these truths, Arden, anticipate a most exciting return. This has been a brilliant article – well written!

  2. ArdenClise on November 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    @Deborah Choma
     First off, you are a beautiful writer. Wow, so nicely said. Yes, while it continues to be hard for me to really be vulnerable, the rewards are usually great when I am, especially when I work with clients and they see for themselves that it’s OK to be imperfect. In fact, our imperfections make us interesting and unique.
    Thank you for commenting. Good luck on your journey of vulnerabillity. Your sharing is much appreciated.

  3. Deborah Choma on November 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    @ArdenClise My pleasure Arden. All the very best!

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