mount everest: vulnerability


This is Part II in our series on building trust which focuses on vulnerability. In Part I we talked about the importance of trust between Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first men to summit Mount Everest and how that relates to any other trusting relationship. They climbed the highest mountain in the world while roped together. They hoped that if one of them slipped, the other could react and save him. We learned that in order to achieve great things, we must have great trust and by giving the gift of attention to others by listening to them, you can build trust.

How do we build trust? Just to recap — the four main ways to build trust are:


Do you like winning? Me too but believe it or not, being right and winning is not the way to succeed. Instead, it’s more important to have self-awareness to see your own mistakes and allow others to see them in you as well. Vulnerability is the ability to let others win. Hard to do, I know.

Each of us has within us the desire to be right; this is part of our competitive nature. You want to win the argument with your spouse, you want your idea to be the one that succeeds on the project, you want to be the first one to solve the problem, and you want to point out when others are wrong so that you feel superior to them. Boom! In your face, I win and you lose!

Unfortunately, the desire to be right works against you when you’re trying to build trust — so put aside your winning ways.

Winning is engrained in us

Think back to your time in kindergarten when your teacher asked the class a question. You know the answer and so does the rest of the class, so you all raise your hands and furiously shake them in the air hoping that the teacher will call on you. Luckily she calls on you and you get to answer the question. This feels good, doesn’t it? You got to answer the question first and you got that emotional rush from being right.

Now suppose in that same situation the teacher calls on someone else. Another student gets to answer the question and you lower your hand in disappointment disappointment and infinite sadness. You didn’t get to answer the question; even though you knew the answer, you didn’t get to prove it. Maybe you will get to tell someone later that you did know the answer all along. Your mom will listen and you know she’ll be proud of you.

Being right causes a flood of positive emotions in us but at the same time it can cause negative emotions, like disappointment or embarrassment, in others. We want to feel validated and superior.

The expert on vulnerability

According to Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, vulnerability is something that we admire in others but rarely have the courage to show in ourselves. But why can’t we show it? It’s that pesky desire to be right working against us.

The first step to being comfortable with vulnerability is to admit to yourself how amazing winning over others makes you feel. Once you recognize that in yourself you can cull that feeling and begin letting others win so that they can have that feeling. You can use that to build trust but you have to be comfortable with the uncertain feeling that comes with vulnerability.

Deflate your ego, think from other’s point of view, and grow trust like you’ve never done before.

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