I’m digging into the next phase of my program’s development on “Irritable Male Syndrome” (IMS), so please bear with me.

Vulnerability is “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.”

Blatantly asking someone to be more vulnerable or express more vulnerability is often used as a guise to hide one’s vulnerability or be dishonest or direct.

To make such a request without a specific context or question to direct the response is leaving an intentionally open-ended question for the other to guess and, in the word’s true meaning, be vulnerable.

The irony is that the one making the request has a question or context for the asking but withholds or doesn’t communicate it. If they didn’t, then there’s no reason to make the request to be vulnerable.

In so doing, the one requesting is choosing not to be transparent with what they are looking to discuss, what they hope to hear or explore, what they feel or want to know, and can stay vague and put the responsibility on the other and leave it open for blame or criticism if they do not respond according to undisclosed expectations. 

It may feel like a trap.

It’s saying I want you to be open and divulge your thoughts or feelings to me, but I am unwilling to explain what I am asking about or looking for.

Most people will say they want to protect their loved ones. Why, then, would they then, in the name of love, wish to expose someone they love to be attacked or harmed?

Relationships of any kind are the sum of a series or one ongoing conversation. 

Communication is vital, as required for life and well-being. I am all for honesty, clarity, transparency, elaboration, discussion, collaboration, and sharing of ideas and feelings connected to that conversation and relationship. 

The request is often one-sided, vague, and open-ended in today’s cultural thirst for vulnerability. The way it is used to pressure another to speak to something not defined in the asking is now more a form of emotional shaming than the positive relationship-building depth of dynamic sharing that it is espoused to be. 

I personally do not want to put anyone at risk or feel exposed to potential harm or attack. Nor do I like to volunteer to feel attacked or harmed. I want to create an environment where communication can flourish organically and a genuine dialogue that goes as deep and extensive as possible at that moment can be expressed.

How can one expect a genuine, emotionally profound relationship and an in-depth discussion of thought and feelings when the desired state, vulnerability, by definition, open oneself or the other to harm or attack?

Let’s stop pushing vulnerability and be honest. 

Being honest in what we feel when communicating with another will promote an atmosphere of honesty in the response and open exchange to expand and grow deeper.

Context is king. Being specific and transparent about what we feel when we enter into an emotional or potential discussion with another will create space for transparency. 

Specific questions encourage specific answers, while vague questions produce ambiguity or guessing in response at best and confusion and distrusting accusations at worst, with neither being productive in an honest and open personal discussion.

When you hear vulnerability, try to think of transparency; when you want transparency, lead with it. When you feel you have it, nurture it to grow as deep as the environment you create for it will allow.

Words and their correct use are essential as a foundation for any conversation. Understanding that people hear and respond to terms differently, especially between men and women, is crucial in an intelligent, emotional relationship and any conversation.

Please share your thoughts and insights in the comments and remember, this is a vulnerable concept and conversation to have publicly online, not set in stone, and can become as valuable as we choose to make it.

We can do better!

Dr. Don

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