There is a lot of talk about vulnerability and empathy these days. We are seeing calls for new kinds of leadership, and new kinds of relationships. Connections based on trust and openness are more equitable, more collaborative, and last longer this we know. But what we haven’t yet seemed to master is how to create these partnerships. One of the reasons this has proven difficult is because we live in polarized times that seem to be increasingly hostile to difference and vulnerability in general. Paradoxically, the thing we need most in our environment is the thing that we have the least conducive environment to produce. Without safety, vulnerability becomes, not courageous but irresponsible. As we explore this notion and possible solutions we will discuss how safety is created and what inherent responsibilities lie in creating contexts where people can be open.
Along with context we must also investigate boundaries, exploring the personal limitations we need to set for ourselves in order to feel safe and to not overextend ourselves. Implications around how much we give, affect our employment and romantic relationships and we must calibrate our emotional and intellectual investment to make sure we are maintaining our own lives as well.
The community must also factor in boundaries. We see too much political polarization and tribalism, but in many cases this has not come from unreason. Leadership first priority is to keep the members of their community protected and resourced in such a way that they can fulfill their purpose or mission. Perhaps this is why we see defense and police budgets rising. Prescriptively this is harmful to our social and geopolitical climate, it is in response to real fears, that heighten the perception of threats.
In work, this means we need to provide equitable, ethical, workplaces that foster the greatest work from staff and understanding the needs and tensions between different departments and staff. The creatives may need music playing and colorful offices, but Research and Development may need quiet to keep their get accurate reads on their tests.
Socially, we must look to what builds trust between two people. How do we begin to establish openness when guards are already up. How do we identify who is most at risk, and who has the greatest opportunity to impact the dynamic with a vulnerable gesture? These questions and more will be asked. This may take us down the road of power dynamics and consent, in the sexual arena. It may also take us into labor rights and exploitation in the business arena.
Each of these strains of thought are worthwhile and we will undoubtedly fail to do them justice.
We hope, that in our forthcomingness about our shortfalls, that we are able to build enough trust with you to that you might engage with us.