There’s a point in every relationship where you have to make yourself vulnerable if you’re going to form a deep bond with that person.
Regardless of the relationship you’re trying to cultivate, there’s no way around it.
I know, it get’s harder to do each time someone burns you and you don’t know how much more you can take without being someone you don’t want to be.
I’ve been there and through a great deal of work, figured out a few steps that allows you to show the type of vulnerability that builds genuine trust into meaningful relationships while protecting yourself.
Before you start getting all confessional though, qualify the person. That means…
Know Your Deal-breakers, But Don’t Reveal Them
You want to be able to walk into any date knowing what you will and will not tolerate. I’ve probably said this before and I’ll probably say it again.
It’s that important!
Once you start to get to know the person, you may find that you relax some of your criteria and that’s natural. The closer you get to a person, the more you’ll put up with from them, but up front, you should have an idea of where you draw the line on certain behaviors and habits.
Be Calm, Don’t Judge
Allow the other person to simply be themselves without feeling like you’re judging them. When someone feels free to act ‘at home’ around you, you find out who they really are much quicker. Plus, if it turns out that you both have a lot in common, your relationship finds deeper meaning much more quickly.
If the other person is annoying. Allow them to be, knowing you can choose to never go out with that person again. Ever.
The thing is, none of us are going to get along with everyone and that’s okay.
All you’re trying to do is see if you and that person can get along well enough for you to open up at some point.
Don’t Allow the Person to Judge You
If a person has an opinion about you or what you do, that’s fine. They’re entitled to it. By saying that, I’m not saying that their opinion will always be valid, educated or in touch with reality at all.
It’s up to you to know the difference.
That may mean that there is some personal work that you need to do on your own before you begin opening up your vulnerabilities to new people.
You need to be in a place where you define yourself and have your own ideas about how smart you are, good you look and so on and so on for all the things we like to beat ourselves up about. From that place, you should be able to blow off the types of mean things a person may say about you when you don’t meet their expectations.
For instance, when I was dating, the woman was always free to tell me that playing music was childish or that I was kidding myself or whatever. If she didn’t respect what I was doing, especially without hearing anything, I didn’t view it as a judgment on what I was doing. All she did was politely cross her name off my list. Then we’d never date again.
It wasn’t that I took offense necessarily, I just knew that there was no realistic way I could be close to someone I was forever trying to prove something to.
And that’s how it should be for you. Someone think you aren’t very intelligent? Cross them off the list. Too fat. Off the list. Not mature enough? Off the list. You get the picture.
Don’t be in a hurry to talk all about yourself. You get to know a person by allowing them to reveal themselves to you, so give them every opportunity. So, if it’s time to switch topics, ask the person’s opinion before giving your own when you can, but don’t be shy about giving it when it’s your turn to talk.
Which brings us to the flip side of all the advice so far…
By this, I mean:
Don’t hide your intellect. Don’t go overboard to show off, but don’t pretend to be stupid when you aren’t.
Don’t pretend that you have a better car than you do, nicer house/apartment than you do, better job and so on. If you don’t meet their expectations, even if you like them. Get over it and let them move on.
By prolonging a relationship with someone who requires that you have more than you do, all you do is set yourself up for the destruction of your self-esteem and you deserve better than that.
Besides, you might miss the person who would bask in your radiance while pissing around with an idiot that takes you for granted. Wouldn’t it suck to be that person, even if you never knew it.
I Thought This Was About Being Vulnerable
And it is. But all of the above is to filter out the obvious jerks. It’s easier to be vulnerable to a person once they’ve gone a ways towards earning your trust.
It’s also safer for you.
And we move on…
Express Yourself Without Offering Potential Weapons
For example, on this blog I’ve talked about being abused as a child and offered my insecurities about things in various posts, but I’ve never given anyone anything they can use to hurt me in any significant way.
If one of my Haters decided to say something about what happened to me as a child, I’m far enough past it, that they really couldn’t hurt my feelings with it. The same goes for any of the insecurities I’ve expressed on here.
You want to be in that place with any parts of yourself that you offer to a person. If you’re not sure what is acceptable to share at first, then consider the things you shouldn’t share.
Any thing that someone has used to tear you down with in the past or that you have a fear someone will tear you down with in the future is off limits.
DO. NOT. SHARE. THESE. THINGS.
As you get to know the person, then you can make educated judgments on how they may behave towards you after learning certain things about you.
When in doubt. Keep the secret.
Don’t Feel Obligated
If the other person shared something huge with you. That’s nice.
They trust you.
That doesn’t mean you are obligated to trust them. You don’t have to match a person tit for tat.Take your time and allow them to earn your trust with how they use the information you give them. Not how you use the information they give you.
Read the above paragraph again. Know the difference.
But you’re the one being vulnerable, right?
Yes, but you have to understand that when you have no control or right to control how a person may react or feel about what you tell them.
There is always the potential that you may share some thing that means the world to you and the other person will shrug their shoulders and say unenthusiastically “Cool.” or offer up a “That sucks.” and appear to be done with the conversation.
This doesn’t necessarily make the person an ass. It might be that they didn’t know how to comfort you or support you at that moment. Or what you told the person may have triggered something in them that they aren’t ready to share yet.
Communicate with that person to find out what the case is before you tear them a new one over the situation.
Keep the Faith
It can be hard knowing who to trust and when, but that’s no reason to feel like you’ll never find anyone worth opening up to.
If you use the filters mentioned above as an initial safeguard and then applying the remaining techniques, you stand a good chance to weed out the losers and find someone that will protect your vulnerabilities rather than use them against you.
What are your thoughts?