COLUMN: Being emotionally vulnerable is the key to human connection
“I am struggling.”
Three words that show you’re human. Three words that are not easy to say. Three words that demonstrate your utmost vulnerability.
In a world of cell phones, a world where we hide behind screens and are taught to always put on a brave face, we often forget the power that vulnerability holds in order for us to grow and connect with others.
Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, said in her famous Ted Talk “The Power of Vulnerability” that we all crave connection, and to attain this connection, we “have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.”
This means we can’t put on a front; we can’t hide that part of ourselves we are embarrassed of. We have to show others our full, true self.
Brown is right. The people I am closest with have seen me cry and get mad; they’ve seen the parts of me that I’m not proud of. They’ve also seen me at my happiest.
Yet, there are only a few of those people that I am so open with, and I find it increasingly difficult to make these types of connections with new people.
Why is it getting harder for us to make these connections?
One reason is people are more willing to say stuff online or over text than in person.
A researcher from Rider University stated that when people get online an effect called “the online disinhibition effect” takes place. This means that people loosen up and are more willing to share emotional pieces of information online than face-to-face.
This is partially in part because of the anonymity and invisibility the internet provides.
If we see a political post that we feel passionate about, we are not scared to post those feelings on Facebook or Twitter, but what if someone were to ask us about our political stance in person? Would we still be as emotionally charged and willing to share, or would we feel a sense of shame because the other individual might judge us?
It’s unnerving to think that we say so much more over the internet.
Then, let’s look at texting. Increasingly, texting is becoming a the most common form of communication. According to a 2010 Gallup poll, the most prominent form of communication via technology for those under the age of 50 is texting.
This isn’t to say that the younger generation doesn’t communicate face-to-face, but Business Insider measured that those ages 18 to 24 on average send 67 and receive 61 texts a day.
Texting is not the most efficient way of communication, and we often lose meaning through texts. A UCLA professor said that 58 percent of communication is done through body language, 35 percent is through tone, and only seven percent is through the actual content of the message.
When we text, we are only really getting seven percent of what a person is saying. It’s not hard to understand why people often misinterpret texts.
Getting back to communicating face-to-face and actually being open about our feelings is the key for us to feel more connected to one another.
I’m not saying we need to go up to a random stranger and share our most intimate secret, but maybe share that secret with a friend you’ve wanted to grow closer with for a while.
We all have that innate fear of rejection, but put that aside for a moment, and think of what might become if we are open and show them our true self.