person hiking above mountain overlooking river
Photo by Joel &; Jasmin Førestbird on Unsplash

Article date: Jan 13, 2021

Very recently I went on a hiking date with a self-professed over-sharer. Although I knew from their self admission on their profile that this was their propensity this did not deter me because I am endlessly fascinated by people’s stories and am also a bit of an emotional exhibitionist myself.

However, as we traipsed through the autumn leaves along the rocky incline we entered some unanticipated rough terrain that made me feel as if I was perched on the edge of an emotional cliff. I simply was not prepared for the amount of personal information that I received in a relatively short period of time. 

Even though I believe that when it comes to any type of relationship in order to build intimacy it is important to divulge pertinent details about yourself, I also think that how much and how soon are also two aspects that must be taken into consideration. The question becomes; what is the appropriate balance between openness and overwhelming? 

Trust – The Process

The concept of vulnerability has become a cultural zeitgeist, as demonstrated by the popularity of such TED Talks like Brené Brown’s, “The Power of Vulnerability”.  It is even gaining ground within the working world where for a long time the notion was largely eschewed. 

In his article, “How to Tell a Story About Yourself That Leaves a Lasting Impact on Your Business”, Corey Blake expounds on the importance of vulnerability in authentic storytelling. Blake states that when he shares the vulnerable aspects of his personal stories generally 90% of the listening audience “leans in” and that has become an effective way for him to build trust. 

In my coaching training I was taught that building trust and intimacy with a client is a very important aspect of the relationship. However, since the coaching relationship focuses primarily on the client, equilibrium must be struck between when and how much the coach shares about their personal experience. It can be tricky territory to traverse, as you want to deepen the relationship but not steal the focus.

It is my belief that you need to enter each individual situation with a concrete intention of what it is you hope to achieve by sharing. Therefore, within the coaching conversation, I will only share a personal experience if I feel it is going to benefit the client and not simply because I feel the need to express my opinion or an experience. 

Reading The Room

Whether at work or in your personal life this concept can be applied to any relationship that you are attempting to build. You want to reveal enough about your self that the other person feels safe to reciprocate yet at the same time, you want to try and leave enough space for the person to be able to do so. This means striking a careful balance between active listening and expressing your feelings.

It is also important for you to be aware of how you are being perceived and how the information you are offering is being received. In short, you must be aware of who your audience is and learn to read the room.

After all if your goal is to strengthen the connection then you need to be aware of whether your audience is contented or uncomfortable, especially if you want to bring the relationship to new heights and not fall off a precipice into an abyss of mismanaged intentions.