Be Courageous Enough to be Vulnerable!!! 

By Anders Ling, Founder and Managing Director Compass Consulting LLC


Be courageous enough to be vulnerable may sound like any oxymoron,
like brand new antiques, or being awfully good at something.

But let me take back to where it started. I believe I was 7 or 8 years old and my best friend, Johan, was crying.

All the other kids were laughing. I felt that I had to say or do something. The other kids that were teasing and mocking him were probably a couple of years older than me and Johan. Outnumbered and smaller than most of them I made my decision. This had to stop! I went in between Johan and the main bully, Robert. With shaky legs, and probably also a shaky voice, I told Robert to stop and to let him be.

I could see his hand coming, but I could not move. Robert hit me right on the cheek. I felt tears welling up and a burning sensation on my left cheek. Miss Larsson came running, the teacher from class 4b. She asked what has happened, but no one said anything. She looked at me and Johan, then at Robert. “Robert, to the principal’s office, now!”  She turned to me and Johan again. “You boys come with me and we will put some ice on that cheek”.


It was my first fight ever. It did not play out as I had hoped,
I lost the face-off with Robert and I got saved a blond teacher.
I felt small, sad, and angry.


It was not until later I re-evaluated the “fight” with Robert. Had I actually lost?

I was the one who stood up for my best friend. I had showed courage. The physical pain I had endured was worth it. Johan and I were best friends for a very long time. We knew that we could rely on each other, in any situation. 

For a long period of time I was of the belief that courage was about showing courage when others are didn’t
– that simple. To speak up when everyone else is silent. To take the first steps when everyone else is grounded
and paralyzed. To do the right thing even though it may not be appreciated or well received. It is to stand by
friends and colleagues whenthey are abandoned by others. To stand up for what you believe in.

 learned, a deeper, and maybe more profound definition by Brene Brown.

However, I have recently learned, a deeper, and maybe more profound definition. Defined by Brene Brown.

If you haven’t seen her Ted Talk, or her Netflix show about vulnerability you just have to watch it (if you have Netflix just search for Brene Brown). It is one of more refreshing ideas and views I have come across lately.

What she is saying is that,

“You cannot be courageous without being vulnerable. And her definition of vulnerability is to face uncertainty, risk or emotional exposure.” 

Can you think of a situation where you are brave or courageous without being vulnerable?  

Think about it for a minute. My initial story, the fight with Robert. The outcome was uncertain. There was an element of risk.

If speaking up when everyone else is silent – are your vulnerable? Yes, absolutely. You don’t know how people will react, or what they will think of you, or how you will be perceived from that moment onwards – uncertainty. There is also an element of risk involved in speaking up. Will it come back to haunt you in your appraisal, prevent you from being promoted etc. 

I have given this a lot of thought since I watched her on Netflix. I have not been able to identify a situation where being courageous without being vulnerable. Being vulnerable is in many minds the same as being weak – but that is just wrong. It is in fact it is strength.

When putting yourself out there, facing a situation of which you do not know the outcome, you are courageous. I am sure you have been telling friends or family of situations where you did something “gutsy” and they said that they would never do that.

Showing emotions, especially showing empathy, exposes you. It tells others what makes you sad, frustrated, angry etc. And it can be used against you. Whether you know it or not you will perform a risk assessment – can and will your exposure be exploited, and if so, what is the damage or loss?

On the other hand, showing empathy can also build trust. You tell them something about yourself and they will do the same. The ladder of trust is being built and it is fundamental in any relationship. Do you remember when you went on the first date with your current spouse? You did not disclose all your secrets, opinions and viewpoint on the first date (if you did it probably didn’t become a second date). It is process, where you give a little, and you get some in return. You give a little bit more and you will get more in return.

The same approach is applicable to business relationships,
whether with colleagues or customers. If you want to build
a long-term relationship with your customers, it needs to be
something more and deeper than just a business transaction.

Putting yourself, your service or product out there, will make a difference. You are not flawless, neither is your service or product. Telling them something about the flaws or imperfections is being vulnerable. It is a courageous move. But it will build trust, which will over time results in loyalty. What is better than a customer, friend and colleague being loyal and trustworthy?

Be courageous enough to be vulnerable!!!