The Key to Building Lasting Relationships: The Power of Emotional Vulnerability


 I never used to allow myself to be emotionally vulnerable.

How could I possibly show people how I actually felt? I thought they’d either think of me as being weak or judge me.  

But I couldn’t take it any longer! Carrying around the weight of all my emotions, constantly pretending I felt differently than I truly did. 

What I’ve found in my own life is that emotional vulnerability has made me much closer to the people I thought I’d scare away. Along with a drastic improvement in my mental health!

I’ve even taken this approach to the stage with my keynote speeches. I found that emotional vulnerability creates a connection to the audience I’m speaking to. In turn, the audience will be much more likely to pay attention, learn, and take action based on my teachings.

I thought being vulnerable would hurt me. It turns out that emotional vulnerability in relationships has become one of my biggest strengths.

 It’s important to challenge these frequent misconceptions and recognize that emotional vulnerability is a strength. It fosters connection, empathy, and authentic relationships, contributing positively to both personal and professional aspects of life.

Table of Contents

What Is Emotional Vulnerability?

Emotional vulnerability is the willingness to acknowledge how you truly feel. It’s allowing yourself to be real with yourself and others, despite what anyone else may think. 

Being emotionally vulnerable requires a level of self-awareness and courage to show your true self, even when it involves potential risks such as judgment or rejection. It is a key component in creating authentic connections and building meaningful relationships, both in personal and professional spheres.

People often associate emotional vulnerability with being vulnerable about negative emotions like pain, sorrow, stress, etc. But many people have trouble displaying their traditionally positive emotions too like love, joy, pride, and more. 

No matter the emotions, being vulnerable is favorable for yourself and your relationships.

What is Vulnerability?

Vulnerability, in a broader sense, is the state of being exposed to the possibility of harm, whether physically, emotionally, or socially. It involves acknowledging and accepting your limitations, uncertainties, and areas of sensitivity.

When it comes to social and emotional vulnerability, the connection lies in the willingness to expose your true feelings, thoughts, and experiences in social situations. This involves the risk of facing judgment, criticism, or rejection from others. Emotional vulnerability focuses on the openness to sharing and expressing your emotions, even if they are perceived as weaknesses.

In a social context, being emotionally vulnerable means allowing others to see and understand your authentic self, including your joys, fears, and struggles. It involves breaking down emotional barriers and connecting with others on a genuine level. While it carries the risk of potential discomfort or judgment, it also creates opportunities for deep and meaningful connections, fostering empathy and understanding within social relationships.

What Causes Emotional Vulnerability?

Emotional vulnerability involves opening up and expressing your true emotions and personal stories. Several factors contribute to this willingness to share:

  1. Trust: Feeling a sense of trust in the person or group with whom you are sharing creates emotional vulnerability. Trust creates a safe space for open communication.
  2. Connection: A sense of belonging can drive people to share their experiences, seeking understanding and empathy from others.
  3. Catharsis: Sharing experiences can be a form of emotional release and catharsis. It allows people to process and make sense of their emotions.
  4. Empathy: Witnessing empathy and understanding from others can encourage emotional vulnerability. Knowing that someone cares and relates to your experiences can make sharing more comfortable.
  5. Intimacy: Emotional vulnerability often deepens personal relationships. Intimacy, both emotional and social, encourages individuals to share their innermost thoughts and feelings.
  6. Mutual Sharing: When others reciprocate by sharing their experiences, it creates a sense of mutual vulnerability and strengthens the bond between individuals.
  7. Common Goals: Shared goals or experiences can create a sense of unity, making people more willing to share in the pursuit of common objectives.
  8. Supportive Environment: Being in an environment that encourages openness and non-judgmental communication can greatly contribute to emotional vulnerability.

In summary, emotional vulnerability in sharing experiences is often driven by a combination of trust, connection, empathy, and a supportive environment. It is a powerful tool for building meaningful connections and creating a sense of community and belonging.

What Does Emotional Vulnerability Feel Like?

Emotional vulnerability is complex and can feel both exciting and terrifying. It involves exposing your true self to others. This can be both liberating and scary, as it means opening up the possibility of rejection, judgment, or hurt.

It’s essential to find a balance between being authentic and sharing too much at the risk of being hurt. You need to choose the right people to open up to, and be mindful of your own safety and well-being.

The Benefits of Emotional Vulnerability

1. Better Relationships

One side effect of emotional vulnerability in relationships is that you’ll develop a stronger bond with the people in your circle.

Your relationships will be stronger, due to more intimacy and connection. Vulnerability breaks down walls and allows you to be your true self.

It also builds trust because you’re being more honest with people.

2. Increased Self-Awareness

Emotional vulnerability is usually thought of as being honest about your emotions with others. But it’s also about being honest to yourself about how you’re truly feeling.

Being emotionally vulnerable with yourself and understanding your feelings is a skill that we can develop over time. The more you understand your emotions, the more you can influence them in a positive way.

3. Improved Mental Wellness

Being honest about your emotions is the first step to understanding them, and then improving them along with your mental wellbeing. 

Acknowledging that you’re sad allows you to ask why you’re sad. And if you aren’t sure, you can ask for help.

We all need support at times. Emotional vulnerability gives you the comfort to ask for help and support when you need it.

How to Become More Emotionally Vulnerable

Being open with your emotions may seem scary, and that’s because it is. We all have masks that we hide behind; many of us have worn these masks our entire lives.

But I’m here to tell you that the benefits of emotional vulnerability tremendously outweigh the fear you’re feeling now.

The secret to emotional vulnerability is self-awareness. 

Self-awareness isn’t something you’re born with. It’s a skill you can develop over time. Some proven methods for developing self-awareness are meditation, therapy, and journaling. 

How to Practice Emotional Vulnerability in Your Daily Life

Practicing emotional vulnerability is essential for building authentic connections, nurturing empathy, and promoting mental well-being. Encouraging open communication, creating a supportive environment, and challenging societal norms around vulnerability can help people show more of their emotional vulnerability.

Self-awareness and emotional vulnerability are necessary skills for a fulfilled life. That’s why you must make the time and space in your daily routine to think and reflect. And then repeat that every single day.

Maybe it’s a daily walk that gives you time to think and reflect. Maybe it’s a morning meditation, or time spent journaling every day. All that matters is that you’re consistent.

Become aware of your own emotions and pledge to be genuine about how you feel with one person every single day as an initial step. And check yourself at the end of every day – was I really emotionally vulnerable with someone in my life today?

If not, don’t be hard on yourself. Instead, go back out tomorrow and do the same thing: find one person to become emotionally vulnerable with. 

Over time, this will become a part of who you are and how you do things. Emotional vulnerability will improve your relationships, as well as your emotional and mental well-being.

Here are some tips on how to practice emotional vulnerability in your daily life:

  1. Start small: Don’t try to share your deepest fears and insecurities all at once. Start by sharing small things that make you feel vulnerable, such as admitting when you’re wrong or expressing your gratitude.
  2. Choose the right person: Not everyone is equipped to handle our vulnerability. Choose someone you trust and feel comfortable with. This could be a close friend, family member, therapist, or anyone else you feel safe opening up to.
  3. Be mindful: When we’re feeling vulnerable, our bodies often react in ways we don’t expect. Be mindful of your heart rate, breathing, and muscle tension. These can all be signs that you’re feeling uncomfortable.
  4. Acknowledge your feelings: It’s important to acknowledge your feelings rather than suppressing them. Allow yourself to experience them without judgment.
  5. Be patient: It takes time to build trust and develop strong relationships. Don’t expect to become an open book overnight.
  6. Don’t take rejection personally: If someone doesn’t respond well to your vulnerability, it doesn’t mean that you’re not worthy of love and acceptance. It simply means that they may not be ready to connect with you on that level.

Here are some specific examples of how you can practice emotional vulnerability in your daily life:

  • Share your feelings: When you’re feeling happy, sad, angry, or any other emotion, don’t be afraid to talk to someone about it. You can even write it down in a journal if you’re not comfortable sharing it yet.
  • Ask for help: When you’re struggling with something, don’t be afraid to ask for help from a friend, family member, or therapist.
  • Be open to feedback: Be willing to listen to feedback from others, even if it’s negative. This can help you to grow and develop as a person.
  • Practice forgiveness: When someone hurts you, it can be difficult to forgive them. However, forgiveness is essential for healing and moving on.
  • Express gratitude: Take some time each day to express gratitude for the things you have in your life. This can help you to focus on the positive aspects of your life and reduce stress.

How Can I Be More Emotionally Vulnerable in My Work?

Becoming more emotionally vulnerable at work involves gradual steps to build trust and create a supportive environment. All the tips listed above help you be more open and vulnerable about your emotions.

Here are some specific tips when it comes to emotional vulnerability in a work environment:

  1. Start Small: Begin by sharing smaller, less personal aspects of your experiences to gauge reactions and build confidence in opening up.
  2. Choose the Right Time and Place: Select appropriate moments and settings to express your emotions, ensuring that they align with the context of the conversation and work environment.
  3. Build Trust: Establish trusting relationships with colleagues over time. Trust is a foundation for emotional vulnerability.
  4. Lead by Example: Demonstrate emotional openness by expressing your feelings in a constructive manner. This can encourage others to do the same.
  5. Acknowledge Challenges: If you’re facing difficulties, be transparent about them. Acknowledge challenges and share how you’re navigating them. This authenticity fosters connection.
  6. Active Listening: Create a culture of active listening within your team. Encourage open dialogue and demonstrate genuine interest in your colleagues’ experiences.
  7. Seek Support: If needed, seek support from mentors, coaches, or therapists to help you navigate and overcome any emotional barriers.
  8. Celebrate Successes and Failures: Share both successes and failures with the team. This demonstrates vulnerability and creates a culture that embraces learning from both positive and challenging experiences.

How to Protect Yourself When Emotionally Vulnerable?

Protecting yourself while being vulnerable doesn’t mean hiding your emotions or feelings. Choose your confidants wisely, earning trust before sharing something, meaningful.

Trust your gut, seek support, and remember, vulnerability is a journey. Prioritize your well-being, and you’ll find the right balance between openness and self-protection.

How to stop being emotionally vulnerable?

 Sometimes the environment you’re in it’s not great for emotional vulnerability.
In a toxic environment, vulnerability becomes a hazard. Recognize the toxicity, limit exposure, and try to conserve your emotional energy. Seek safe outlets, prioritize self-care, and set boundaries in order to protect your emotional wellbeing.

Emma Stone Opens up About Her Anxiety

Emma Stone credits her anxiety disorder with her ability to add emotional profundity to her characters.

Stone became emotionally vulnerable in a way that let her understand her anxiety: she recognized the negative aspects and worked on them. She also embraced the positives that often coincide with anxiety, such as deep sensitivity and a tendency to reflect.

Now, Stone uses her platform to be emotionally vulnerable and help others deal with their anxiety. Stone’s advice to people suffering from anxiety is “You’re so normal, it’s crazy.”


 Use Emotional Vulnerability as a Tool to Improve Your Life

Now, you should have a basic understanding of emotional vulnerability and why it is beneficial – to you, and the people around you.

It’s a really simple concept that tends to be overcomplicated. Basically:

  1. Be aware of your emotions
  2. Be honest with yourself about those emotions
  3. Be honest with the people you love about those emotions

Do this, and watch your mental health and relationships dramatically improve!

Does Being Emotionally Vulnerable Mean That Your Emotional Intelligence Is High?

There is a growing body of research that suggests that there is a positive correlation between emotional vulnerability and emotional intelligence (EI). This means that people who are more willing to be open and honest about their emotions are also more likely to have strong EI skills.

Here are some of the reasons why this might be the case:

  • Emotional vulnerability allows people to be more self-aware. When you are able to accept and express your emotions, you are more likely to be aware of what you are feeling and why. This self-awareness is essential for EI.
  • Emotional vulnerability can help people develop stronger relationships. When you are open and honest with others, you build trust and intimacy. These strong relationships are essential for effective communication and collaboration.

Emotional vulnerability can help people cope with stress and difficult emotions. When you are able to express your emotions in a healthy way, you are less likely to bottle them up and experience negative consequences.

Try to share your feelings openly, listen actively, and create a safe environment in which you can share your feelings with one another.

Emotional vulnerability means sharing your true feelings, needs, and fears with your partner, even if it’s scary. It’s about being open and honest.

Embrace vulnerability, seek support, set healthy boundaries, and practice self-compassion to navigate and manage emotional vulnerability effectively.

Yes, being emotionally vulnerable has benefits such as deeper connections, strengthening relationships, and promoting authenticity in personal and professional interactions.

It’s important to acknowledge that you can’t be vulnerable with anyone. Choose the people you confide in wisely. It should be people that you trust and feel comfortable sharing your true thoughts and emotions.

Emotional vulnerability is crucial for building trust, fostering connections, and creating a supportive environment that enhances personal and relational well-being.

Challenges may include fear of judgment, past traumas, and societal expectations. Overcoming these hurdles requires self-awareness, trust-building, and open communication.

No, emotional vulnerability is a strength. It requires courage, authenticity, and resilience, fostering deeper connections and promoting personal and professional growth.

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Dr. Michelle Rozen

Dr. Michelle Rozen, Ph.D., is a highly respected authority on the psychology of change. She is one of the most booked motivational speakers nationwide as well as internationally, and a frequent guest on media outlets such as NBC, ABC, FOX News, and CNN on topics related to dealing with change in our world and in every aspect of our lives, so that we can do better and feel better.

Her most recent book, 2 Second Decisions helps people power through with their most challenging decisions through turbulent times.

Dr. Michelle Rozen consistently speaks for Fortune 500 companies and her clients include some of the most recognizable companies in the world including Johnson & Johnson, Merrill Lynch, Pfizer, and The U.S. Navy. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Psychology and resides in the greater NYC area.

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