How to Practice Selective Vulnerability

Roselle Ebarle
3 min readJul 14, 2020
Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Are you currently leading a startup or a team?

Last January, I helped build the marketing arm of a startup here in the Philippines, our founder is at the main HQ overseas.

Being in toastmasters alone has taught me how important communication is.

And so I brought into the office the type of communication I know best.

It is being approachable, sincere, and gentle; all of which hallmarks of a supportive style communication.

It’s what I try to bring to my team every single day.

But sometimes I doubt myself whether it is the right style.

Because I fear that being too approachable and too sincere and too gentle might make me look too vulnerable

So some days I ask myself,

Should I look strict, perfect, and polished by keeping my emotions in check?

Or should I share…a lot?

Have you asked these questions?

Well, I found the right answer through a Ted Talk.

We might think that we need to remove emotions to look professional.

But research shows that your followers trust you more when they perceive emotional sincerity.

You get happier and more productive team members.

So the point is, instead of removing emotions, we might just need to embrace it.

But here’s the catch,

You need to share to build trust, but then you also need not overshare to not destroy the trust established.

This balance is what you call “selective vulnerability.”

Unknowingly we were able to practice this with one routine we’ve set in our office.

And I’d like to share with you how we do it.

Morning Routine

Every morning we have a short standup meeting, and everyone takes turns answering a couple of questions

We call it the morning routine.

The first question we answer is, “How are you feeling today?”

Side note: most startups begin with “What are you working on”…questions you ask in any agile team.

Example #1: I feel anxious and irritated

This morning you are feeling irritated by everyone because of a work-related deadline — by answering this simple question “How are you feeling today?” — you dig deep into why you feel what you feel.

You could be anxious.

Now by vocalizing that out, you can share with your team what you’re feeling and share what you need.

Perhaps other team members are going through the same emotions.

Example #2: I’m in a bad mood

This morning you are in a bad mood because your dog just ruined your favorite furniture and you’re hiding in a closet because your children are screaming like crazy — you can share that you are in a bad mood without going through the gory details.

Your coworkers would understand why you’re grumpy the whole morning and not think it’s about them and get worried.

Take Action

As a leader, knowing what your follower is currently feeling allows you to empathize and take action.

You can acknowledge your follower’s feelings and do something tangible like moving the deadline a little back or cutting him some slack.

The critical point here is reflecting and being honest with what you are.

And it’s not only you who needs to practice it but your whole team as well.

By taking a moment to reflect on your emotions, you can share and build that trust and connection with your team.

“Grandmother just died, and I’m not feeling too well.”

“Just got stuck in horrible traffic.”

Yet, at the same time, not overshare and not let your feelings run wild so that you don’t make everyone uncomfortable, and you don’t undermine yourself by being seen as weak and lacking self-awareness.

You can share and not overshare.

So the next time you go to work, I encourage you to do this simple exercise with your team.

How are you feeling today?

Reflect on what you are feeling and share it.

However, if you are prone to oversharing, try editing.

And if you are timid, look for moments when you can open up to your team and be a bit vulnerable.

Because chances are there will be a big difference in how people respond to you.

Selective vulnerability might just become one of your valuable tools if you want a happier and more productive team.

So it’s high time to practice the one thing that is part of every human being.

Would you like to know what that is?

Feelings.

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Roselle Ebarle

Full Stack Engineer | Tech consultant | Entrepreneur | Toastmasters | Founder of Muggtech