This post is based on episode 255 of the ProBlogger podcast.
A lot of bloggers feel that showing any sign of weakness will damage their reputation and weaken their authority . And so they talk only about their successes, and never about their fears, doubts, or mistakes.
But I’ve learned from personal experience that being vulnerable and talking about the not-so-successful decisions you’ve made can be incredibly powerful. And while showing vulnerability can be risky, it it’s done right it can provide a number of benefits.
And that’s what I want to talk about this week: being vulnerable with your audience.
My first experience with vulnerability
When I was 16 I did a course in public speaking, which included a series of five-minute talks. I was incredibly nervous, and proceeded to fill my five minutes with as many facts and theories and as much how-to information as I could. And while it was all good information, all I could think while looking at my audience was, Are they even listening to me?
After my talk, the teacher gave me this piece of valuable feedback: “You need to include something a little bit more personal. Share something about yourself”.
For my next talk I decided share a story about a mistake I’d made. And I can still remember the entire audience leaning forward as I shared my moment of vulnerability. They were more than interested. They were captivated.
And that’s when I learned about the power of being vulnerable.
My Medium experience
A few years ago I wrote an article about my third mid-life crisis. But while I talked about my career as blogger in that article, it wasn’t really a blogging article. And so I submitted it to Medium.com instead.
It was definitely a risk, because showing ‘weakness’ like I did could have eroded some of my authority or even frustrated some of my readers and listeners. After all, I’d built my brand and reputation about creating useful content.
But the feedback I got from those who read my article (bloggers and non-bloggers) was staggering. Here are just some of the highlights.
- The article received 8,000 views, 1,400 “Claps” and 38 comments.
- It resonated with a much wider age range than expected (20–85).
- People responded with personal, vulnerable, and in-depth comments.
- More than 350 people joined the Facebook group to discuss the article.
- Real-life friends, family members, blog readers and complete strangers contacted me, and talked to each other to form a community.
- People found it refreshing that I was transparent and didn’t always have it all together.
- The feedback gave me energy and freedom.
With power comes responsibility
Vulnerability can be contagious. When you show people that you’re willing to let your guard down and show some vulnerability, a lot of them will do the same.
But while that can be a positive, you also need to realise that you could be opening the proverbial can of worms for some people. And so you need to be there to care for them, respond to them, acknowledge them, and value them in some way. And depending on how many people read what you’ve written, that can involve a considerable amount of time, effort and energy.
What to consider before you show vulnerability
While being vulnerable can be a powerful thing, you need to consider what you’re saying. There’s always the risk of oversharing, which can potentially damage your brand and your reputation. And depending on what it is you’re sharing, you can also hurt other people – even if you have their best interests at heart.
So here are four questions you should ask yourself before you hit ‘Publish’.
(Full disclosure: I didn’t come up with these questions myself. I’m actually borrowing them from a post Aimee Beltran wrote for BlogPaws. It’s a great post, and you should definitely read it when you finish reading this one.)
- “Am I ready to share this?” As much as you want to show your vulnerability, it may be too soon to do it. You may not be in a good space. You may need time to process information, or deal with your emotions. And remember: being vulnerable may be lead to other people being equally vulnerable. Are you ready to have those conversations with people?
- “Why am I sharing this?” Are you doing it just to get back at someone, or to get lots of traffic? If so, then you may want to think twice. Perhaps you’re doing it to help others, or even as a form of therapy. If that’s the case the question might be “Why are you sharing this here?” You might be better off sharing your story in a different place where you have a more suitable audience.
- “Am I oversharing?” As I said, oversharing can potentially damage both your brand and your reputation. So you may want to get a second opinion on whether you should be publishing what you’ve written. You may want to ask your friends for their opinion, or try it out on a smaller group of people. Another option is to sit on it for a few days and then come back to it. You may feel a lot differently about what you’ve written.
- “Will this hurt someone I love?” This is an incredibly important question to ask yourself. In my Medium article I talked about periods of my life that I shared with my friends and family, and I didn’t want to offend any of them. So I had to work really hard –rewording and expanding some parts, and deleting others – so I could show my vulnerability without hurting anyone else.
Ready to show some vulnerability?
I can understand you wanting to keep your vulnerabilities to yourself. But I truly believe that being vulnerable with your audience will help you in the long run.
You don’t have to be vulnerable in every post you write. And your vulnerabilities don’t need to be the entire focus of your post. You can quickly mention something that didn’t quite go to plan, and then either move on or use it to create a teaching moment. And over time, your readers will get a much better idea of who you are and the journey you’ve taken to be where you are today.
So how are you going to be vulnerable? Let us know in the comments.
Photo by Oxana Lyashenko on Unsplash