I used to believe that in order for me to open up to someone I had to trust them. Unless I felt safe enough that they weren’t going to misuse my vulnerability, I didn’t place my trust in them. This made sense to me.
At Next Element we focus on three core leadership skills, Openness, Resourcefulness, and Persistence. Of these three, openness is my weakest. Showing authenticity and transparency, being vulnerable, supportive, and genuine are the things I struggle with most.
Developing my openness has required support, coaching, and accountability from my peers. And, I’ve learned something profound along the way.
Openness has a lot less to do with the other person than I used to think. It’s dependent on trusting myself. Until I am confident in my own worth and capability, it’s hard to open up to others. Until I know I am OK regardless of how another person responds, I will have difficulty letting someone see the real me. It’s just too risky.
Some people try to mitigate the risk by holding others hostage with the unrealistic expectation: Until they prove they are trustworthy, I’m not opening up. Some people hold themselves hostage with the unrealistic expectations: People are just going to hurt me, so I’m going to play it safe. Either way, if my decision to be authentic and transparent is dependent on another person’s “trustworthiness,” then I am putting my OK-ness in their hands. If I believe the myth that someone else can make me feel good or bad, I’ll never really be able to trust myself or others.
I’m not advocating that you share all of your innermost secrets and feelings to everyone you meet. I am suggesting that cultivating trust involves genuine openness and starts first with you. It relies less on what others do, and more on your courage to accept and express your true self while giving others the same respect.
If you’re curious, here’s another resource on the power of openness to improve communication.
Copyright 2016, Next Element Consulting, LLC
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