Increase vulnerability to increase trust

Published February 27, 2017 by David Horowitz

To be vulnerable is to expose yourself. In other words, increasing your vulnerability makes you more susceptible to being hurt.

Sounds like a bad thing, right?

It did to me, too. Until I realized the connection between increased vulnerability and increased trust.


If you work with team members who aren't comfortable admitting their mistakes, your team has trust issues.

If you work with team members who aren't comfortable admitting when they don't know something, your team has trust issues.

If you work with team members who aren't comfortable admitting they could use help, your team has trust issues.

And in each of these cases, the best way to increase trust is to start by increasing your own vulnerability.

INcrease your own vulnerability

Yes, I said increasing your vulnerability.

Why would you want to increase your own vulnerability? It's actually quite simple. By increasing your own vulnerability, you are implicitly telling your team members, "I trust you." I trust you not to use this to your own personal advantage. I trust you to help me out on this.

Everyone has vulnerabilities. By exposing yours, the next time one of your teammates makes a mistake, or doesn't know something they feel silly not knowing, who will be the first person they will come to? It will likely be you. Because of your vulnerability to them, they will now feel okay being vulnerable with you.

The impact on retrospectives

By increasing your own vulnerability, you give others on your team the space to increase theirs. This leads to increased trust, which is an important prerequisite to effective retrospectives.

If your team is suffering from retrospectives in which it's clear there are things "better left unsaid," it's likely you could use a jolt of vulnerability. Think about it. It takes guts to put yourself out there. But the impact can make it worth it in the end.


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