“We all need to look into the dark side of our nature – that’s where the energy is, the passion. People are afraid of that because it holds pieces of us we’re busy denying.” — Sue Grafton (1940- ) American Novelist
It’s easy to look at the bright side of ourselves. It’s the stuff we like. It makes us feel confident, energized, & inspired. Conversely, it can be tough to look at our dark side. It’s the stuff we don’t like. We’d rather hide it. We fear it will make us look weak, vulnerable, or embarrassed. However that’s not usually the case. In fact, it’s often the opposite. Our dark side can inspire – it shows our humanity. Acknowledging it in ourselves gives others permission to do the same – and releases positive energy in the process.
A few months ago, after discussing this idea with a client, he wanted to experiment with it. Specifically, he wanted to see what would happen if he intentionally made himself more vulnerable with his leadership team. “In one meeting,” he explains, “I merely said, ‘I think it’s important we all learn from each others’ mistakes. In that spirit, I want to share something I struggled with this week and the conclusion I drew from it.’ I began doing this each week with no formal explanation as to why (or expectation that anyone else had to do it). Last week (2 months into the experiment), one of my VP’s voluntarily followed my lead and shared one of his personal challenges. He opened up in a way I’d never seen him do before. I felt the energy in the room shift. It was subtle, but powerful. I think we’re on to something important here – and I’m eager to see where this leads.”
1. Begin experimenting with your own vulnerability – perhaps in less threatening situations at first.
2. Share something you usually keep hidden – an anxiety, fear, or concern for instance (It doesn’t have to be big).
3. Make a habit of doing it regularly (always making sure it’s genuine).
4. Each time, notice how people react. Do they open up? Does your connection with them strengthen or weaken?
5. Realize that the act of hiding something is often more damaging to your relationships and energy than the thing itself.
Question: What do you do to open up to others?
Doug Sundheim • Executive Coach • New York, NY • firstname.lastname@example.org • www.clarityconsulting.com