Recently I had a mid-morning Zoom call with a regular client, who I’ll call Ellie. As the call connected, she immediately apologised for her camera being off and confessed “The thing is, I’m still in my dressing gown”. I joked that I was fully dressed ‘for a change’ and gave her a twirl to prove it, which made us both laugh. This led to a chat about how our habits have changed after a year of working-from-home.
Ellie had been struggling to juggle things and she commented that I always seemed to have myself together. I panned my camera round to show her some household mess that had been out of view. This was a small but significant moment of vulnerability. It is rare for me to give clients an insight into my home life and unheard of for me to show them the piles of ironing needing my attention! Ellie could have judged me negatively but instead she recognised common ground.
This exchange lasted just a few minutes but it set the tone for a great meeting. We had gained some understanding of what makes each other tick and this created a deeper connection in our working relationship. Despite knowing each other for some time, Ellie and I had connected on a new, more intimate level that morning.
This reminded me of the time I mentioned to a client that I love the middle of Lidl and an Aldi Special, he was momentarily stunned, saying he thought I was ‘more of a Waitrose gal’. Then we bonded over a discussion about all of our random bargains! These little disclosures can lead to big connections.
Reflecting on this, I think about the connections I have with other people and find that all of my best connections have a level of intimacy which is born out of vulnerability. Whether it’s confessing to not being dressed, showing a week’s worth of ironing or sharing deeply personal details about yourself, vulnerability is the first step to real intimacy.
It can be difficult to be vulnerable. Putting pieces of ourselves out there that we’ve kept hidden doesn’t come easy to most. It can make us feel exposed and open to harm. For me, it’s a trade off. I give a little of myself in the hope that you will understand me better and therefore be able to work with me better. If I’m lucky, you’ll give a little of yourself too.
In years gone by I created a boundary between home and work. I thought this was how to protect my private life and myself but I have since learned to show up to work as my whole, authentic self, not my ‘work’ self. That doesn’t mean that I tell everyone my business, it just means that, where appropriate, I am willing to share parts of myself .
Trust is a huge factor to feeling safe enough to do this but can create a chicken-and-egg scenario. We need trust to be intimate and we struggle to be intimate if there is no trust. I think we have to be prepared to take the risk and let down our guard a little. The rewards to our relationships are worth it. – MM