There’s a lot of talk right now about Toxic Masculinity but did you know that there is a type of masculinity that not enough men are bringing to the table? It’s called Masculine Vulnerability and it’s a critical part of building rapport with others. As young boys, we’re often taught that we are only entitled to two types of feelings: happiness or anger. To express fear, or sadness or vulnerability of any kind is a form of weakness that we should feel ashamed of. We then grow up to become men who don’t allow ourselves to feel a large array of feelings.
If we do actually have different feelings (which we all do whether one cares to admit it or not), then we certainly don’t share these shameful emotional experiences with other men or women. When it comes to the opposite sex, we may want to be perceived as stoic. A man who appears to not feel fear or sadness or insecurity. So, we pretend to be that emotionally perfect in that sense, so women will be impressed. The truth, however, is vastly different.
We can only feel close to another human being when we share emotions. Think about the last time one of your friends shared a deeply vulnerable, emotional moment with you. Didn’t you suddenly feel a greater sense of connection with that friend? While confidence is widely regarded in men, don’t make the mistake of thinking that feeling your emotions equals low confidence. In fact, most people are acutely aware that it takes guts to openly share vulnerability and real men only dare do it.
If you really want to build trust and rapport with someone, one of the most powerful ways you can do this is by sharing a story about yourself. One where you felt really overwhelmed, scared, or sad. Not a sob story you might tell to someone to get sympathy, just something from your life that was difficult but doesn’t hold you back. For example, you might say, ‘I really love traveling and I travel alone quite a bit but I’ve never felt so lonely as when I took a trip to the Grand Canyon by myself and realized I had nobody to share the incredible view with. It was quite a sad moment and left me deep in thought on the long bus ride back…have you ever traveled alone?’ Notice that this story doesn’t sound weak or pathetic in any way. It just makes it clear that I’m someone who is comfortable with feeling and expressing emotions.
When you share a vulnerable moment with someone they will trust you more and feel comfortable enough with you to share her own vulnerability in return. This is how most people are craving to connect with people around them. The difference between vulnerability and weakness is that to be vulnerable is to experience bad feelings, accept them as a part of life and not be overwhelmed by them. Then, weakness can be seen as being unable or unwilling to feel, accept and share our emotional states. Everyone is weak from time to time, and there is no shame in it, but healthy people will find your vulnerability far more attractive than your weakness. So, be willing to demonstrate vulnerability around people you want to connect with. In doing so, you’ll actually appear confident, people will trust you more and you’ll gain respect from those around you.