The courage to connect

I don't like talking about myself. If we have a conversation, it is likely that I am going to ask you a lot of questions about you and your life. I'll be concerned with your job and your family and your pets and your new workout plan. If we know each other well enough, I'll find out what makes you tick, what motivates you, and we'll cover the exciting topic of what you're most passionate about. If you ask me questions, I'll answer them, then quickly move back to the subject at hand... you. I'll do my best to perfectly balance between asking too much and caring enough to ask. What book or communication expert have you ever heard say this is a bad thing? 

But, as much as I would like to say my strategy is driven by a genuine humility and earnest concern for others, a lot of times it's just not. I do it because I don't want to be vulnerable. I don't want you to turn the tables and ask me tough questions and find out that I don't have my life figured out or that my career is a mess. It's a defense strategy and it works really well. You can win a ton of friends by simply asking a lot of people a lot of questions.

And I'm a man so this is OK, right? We're supposed to be macho and tough and not talk about our thoughts or our feelings. We shouldn't flinch or show weakness. We should converse, but not really engage. It would be weird to be vulnerable and real with people, right? 

Of all the experiments I've run in my life, I've never more convincingly disproved a theory as I have this one. My notion that vulnerability is weakness has proven over and over to be incorrect. When I dive in with people and truly get to know them, and when I've allowed myself to drop the facade and speak the truth, I've connected with people like never before. There's a richness and a peace in allowing yourself to fully be who you are, ugly parts and all. I'm not suggesting you start telling strangers your darkest secrets. But, I am suggesting that with rare exceptions, when you open up to others, they will naturally open up to you in a way that may surprise you. The resulting connection will be worth infinitely more than the courage it takes to make it happen.