#11: Embracing vulnerability

5 small ways to build deeper relationships at work

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When was the last time you let yourself be vulnerable at work?

I know I struggle with it. I want to avoid mistakes. I want to have all the answers. I want to be trusted by the people I work with.

The reality is, being perfect is impossible. Things go wrong. I mess up — we all do. While I understand this intellectually, I still struggle to accept it.

Here at Civilla, we believe that vulnerability is the key to building deep and long-lasting relationships. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, it’s easier to trust and relate to people when they embrace their own imperfections. They are reminders that we are all in this together.

These days, I am working to get comfortable with vulnerability at work. I’ve noticed that when I show up as my true, imperfect self it encourages other people to do the same.

By reframing traditional working norms, I’ve found dozens of small opportunities to interact with my teammates, partners, and clients differently — and deepen my relationships along the way.

Here’s how:

1. Conversations

  • Traditional: Default to the usual topics — the weather, kids, sports, work

  • Reframe: Share something personal–your past, your future, current passion projects, who you are outside of work

2. Working Rhythms

  • Traditional: Host meetings around conference room tables, communicate primarily through email, present using PowerPoint, avoid topics you’re unsure of

  • Reframe: Prioritize an in-person meeting, stand shoulder-to-shoulder, send texts/photos/videos, walk people into your work, invite an honest conversation about what you don’t know, celebrate and reflect

3. Focus

  • Traditional: Focus on the institution/policy/technology/business process/money, talk about how successful the work is

  • Reframe: Focus on the people who use your product/service/program, talk about how you could better meet their needs

4. Trust + Reciprocation

  • Traditional: Defend criticism, pass blame, don’t address failure, use words like “that’s not my job,” claim credit for progress

  • Reframe: Invite dissenting opinions, take responsibility for your mistakes, own up to your own short-comings, share your time and ideas freely

5. Small Gestures

  • Traditional: Exchange business cards at the end of a meeting, follow up by email

  • Reframe: Deliver a personal gift, mail a handwritten note, send a text message to express appreciation

— Sam + the team



Adam Selzer