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April 16, 2013

On my website you’ll see this quote:  “We are never more powerful than when we are completely vulnerable and know that we have nothing to defend”.

I think it’s an original quote from me, but anyone who knows me knows that for most of my life I’ve had a powerful addiction to books so ultimately who knows what, if any thought I have, is original!  If you’ve heard this one somewhere else please give me the source and I’ll credit them.

So what do I mean?  I’ll give you an example.  One of my clients has been exploring this idea of vulnerability, and in looking back at her life, she’s seen that when she’s triggered, she automatically puffs up like a blow-fish (I love this visual!!) with the intention of talking her ‘opponent’ down.

She does it because she feels bigger and in some ways more powerful, which hides her feelings of fear and insecurity and insufficiency.  The critical word here is ‘hides’.  Puffing up in order to intimidate doesn’t get rid of the fear and feelings of insecurity.  It hides them.  So they remain undercover, driving behaviors that can often give us unwanted outcomes.

In the case of my client who is warm and loving and whose intention is to be supportive and understanding, she has realized that the short-term gain of a sense of power is far less appealing than the long-term gain of behaving in ways that are congruent with who she wants to be as a human being.

She’s been looking for opportunities to practice a different way of responding when she’s triggered.  Life rose to the occasion.  She was in a meeting and surprised by a change in plans that created disappointment and a sense of powerlessness inside her, and she automatically went into puffed up blowfish mode.

Almost immediately after leaving the situation she realized what happened.  More importantly, she realized that she could do something different this time.  So the next day she went back to those involved and took a risk.  She made herself vulnerable.  “Please forgive me.  I responded poorly and I know we can come up with something that will work for everyone.”

Here’s the punchline.  No one else cares that we’re right.  They care how we treat them.  When we’re able to be vulnerable, it seems to be easier to recognize that we are all in this together and for the most part, doing our best.  And we tend to end up having way more friends than enemies.


  1. kd says:

    “No one else cares that we’re right. They care how we treat them.”

    – Isn’t this the truth!? I used to so easily forget that my pride wasn’t useful in human relations, I felt like I needed to ‘save face’ by being right. Not so. I’ve slowly realized that being flexible and open is much more useful to me as a person than trying to be ‘right,’ whatever nefarious definition ‘right’ may be given.

    • robyn1001 says:

      what a great way to frame it–is something–a word, a behavior, a response–useful, or not? thank you! warmly, robyn

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