Vulnerability is a Speaker's Secret Strength

When I ask people what scares them about public speaking, virtually every answer comes down to vulnerability.

What if my mid goes blank? What if I sound stupid? What if I make a mistake and somebody calls me out? What if I accidentally offend someone?

Standing in front of others to speak your truth leaves you vulnerable to judgment, to criticism, to rotten vegetables pelted by an angry mob.

Millions of years of evolution have taught us to survive by seeking safety and avoiding vulnerability. Even in our sheltered modern lives, some ancient part of our brains resists any attempt to do the opposite. In that sense the fear of public speaking is normal, natural, and entirely justified.

But here’s the thing.

As a speaker, you’re not just vulnerable. You’re also powerful. In fact, your vulnerability IS your power.

That’s because there’s another human need that’s just as strong as the need for safety. It’s the need to feel connected. Connected to each other. Connected to something bigger than ourselves.

In fact, those common “what-ifs” mostly boil down to humankind’s biggest fear of all: What if other people reject me?

Baring your mistakes and flaws can seem like an invitation for others to reject you - but paradoxically, it’s more likely to draw them closer to you.

When you dare to stand up and be seen, to share your ideas, even to speak a painful truth…in your audience’s mind you become larger than life. Rather than judge you, they become entranced by your story. They admire your courage. They want to share their stories and ideas with YOU in return.

Last month I attended the launch of SoGal Ottawa. The theme of the event was “Fail Forward” and the speakers were women entrepreneurs who were willing to share how their failures had made them smarter, stronger and more resilient. Some of them confessed a terror of public speaking. Some apologized for their skills. All of them were brilliant, witty and inspiring, and they brought the whole crowd together in a shared feeling of hope and optimism. Through the act of speaking, they built a community around themselves and made themselves stronger.

That’s the power of speaking. By letting others see your weaknesses, you’re showing them your inner strength.

I am vulnerable, hear me roar.

Alex KeenanComment