Photo courtesy of Flickr user Dave Fayram

Courtesy of Flickr user Dave Fayram

I’m in the examination room at my doctor’s office, sitting on the “lounge chair,” dressed in the examination gown with the papery drape across my lap. I’m there for my annual wellness exam and she’s 45 minutes late. As I shiver a bit from the draft, I start to get a little worked up thinking, “This is not fair. I have to be 15 minutes early, and she gets to be 45 minutes late!” Just as I was considering getting dressed and leaving, she walked into the room.

I’ve been going to Dr. K for 25 years, off and on. I love her. She’s a great doc, a beautiful human being, and we’ve seen a lot of history together. Mostly my history, for sure, but I also know a bit of her story. It’s so comforting to know the person you’re about to get up close and personal with!

So, Dr. K walks in and says hello, and I don’t know why, but I just started to tell her how I felt. How overwhelmed and scared and hurt I was. I couldn’t even explain it away. Goodness knows, for the last several days I had tried. I hadn’t been this upset about an election before. But, I couldn’t do it. The tears just flowed. I knew it wasn’t about the candidates, or even necessarily who won. Some pain had been triggered deep within me and I was grieving. The thing about grief, there’s only one way out, and that’s through.

Then, it happened. Something completely unexpected. She started crying too. I was so deeply touched that she would share her feelings with me so openly. For the next 15 minutes or so, we talked and we cried. We acknowledged the loss and supported each other. We honored each other’s experiences in a beautiful space of love. Neither of us tried to make the other feel better or fix anything. We just heard our hearts. She didn’t try to hurry me along. She allowed the time we needed, and when it was time to move on, we got to the business at hand. (Maybe that’s why she was 45 minutes late — she brings that level of care to everyone. Okay . . . I’m good with that.)

At the end of the appointment, I asked her if I could give her a hug. She said she’d love that. We hugged, she gave me my paperwork, and she walked out of the room. And I felt healed. Healed deep down. Her ability and willingness to be vulnerable with me, and create a space for me to be vulnerable with her, was the healing balm. Right there, in a physician’s office, I experienced real healing. Real transformation. Gratitude all over the place.

I share this story because whether you’re having a challenging time with a co-worker, or getting ready to motivate your audience on stage, your ability to be vulnerable, and create that space for others is what will make the difference. It’s the thing that opens the door for true connection. Its the intimacy we all long for, deep down. When you bring that, you bring the magic of true transformation. Here are a few things I’ve noticed that can help you make room for that transformation:

1. Do your own personal work. The old adage, “physician heal thyself,” couldn’t have been more true. There is no w ay Dr. K could have created that space if she hadn’t done her own personal growth work. She needed to be okay with her own vulnerability to be able to share it and listen to mine. So, however you choose to do this, whether with a therapist, a coach, in a 12-step program or on a spiritual retreat, do your own work. Yes, we can read books or meditate or pray, and sometimes it takes someone else to help us see and heal our blindspots.

2. Learn how to listen and make that a priority. This can be tough. We get into our own reality and can forget there’s another person there! I know I’ve had to learn how to listen, and I’m still learning. Allowing another to share their own truth without reacting or shutting them out is a true gift, to yourself and to the other person. It’s magic. But, be forewarned: this is such a rare gift, you might find yourself on the other end of many a conversation, having a hard time getting a word in edgewise! The other side of this coin is to learn how to set boundaries and share your own needs.
(Back to 1.)

3. Step into a greater level of self-expression. Whether you’re having a one-on-one conversation, in a meeting, or on stage, take a risk to show up just a little bit more. Tell me what happened, but also tell me what it meant to you. And, more, when you tell me you were scared or excited, show me. Relive that emotion and let me see it on your face and in your body. Give me the experience, not just the information. This brings so much authenticity and congruence to what you’re saying. Your audience of one, or one hundred, will get it. You will be amazed at the difference this makes.

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable can be scary, but you know what? The more you do it, the less scary it is, and the more fulfilling for everyone. Now, I’m not talking about being inappropriate or dumping on people. I’m also not talking about going from 0 to 180 in one conversation, or doing therapy from the platform. We need to be discerning. I am inviting you to ask a little bit more from yourself. To get vulnerable. When you do, you just might find yourself in your doctor’s office, or on stage, taking part in a true connection.

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