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My first big lesson on the link between vulnerability and ideal client attraction came about six years ago when I was feeling courageous and wrote a blog post about my addictions. Up until that point, there was no way that I would have opened up about it, but something clicked inside me, and I felt a huge calling to save lives.
My fear was that I would lose business. If people knew the truth about me, they would run far away, and everything would crumble. I would probably end up back living with my parents. The worst-case scenario stories in my mind continued.
But a few hours after I hit publish and shared on social media, I started to get messages. Messages like “I’m going through the same thing, it really helped me.” I feared not being hired, but the opposite happened; the trust my vulnerability created was like a magnetic effect.
It was a big turning point because it allowed me to experience people differently, but most of all, it shifted my awareness: While I was fearing judgment from others, in reality, I was judging them.
Related: Being Vulnerable Is the Boldest Act of Business Leadership
A real-world scenario: shutting down vulnerability
Let’s consider a real-world scenario that is happening in the business world right now on a daily basis —more than you may think.
Sarah is running a boutique marketing firm in New York, and through a connection, she is invited onto a successful podcast with around 500,000 listeners to chat about her growth. Looking sharp, she sits down opposite the host, and they start chatting about the business. You can tell Sarah is in her element. But then the host drops an unexpected question.
“Can you tell me about some of your personal struggles when growing the business?”
This is unexpected for Sarah; her body freezes, and she replies, “Oh, you know the normal stuff.”
Being a good host, he digs deeper. “Like what?”
He sees her face shift like a deer in headlights, and he gives her an easy pass: “Work-life balance?”
She replies, “Yes,” and they move on. Phew.
Related: Vulnerability Makes a Leader Strong, Not Weak
A real-world scenario: embracing vulnerability
Here’s how the conversation could — and does — play out on a regular basis.
Same question: “Can you tell me about some of your personal struggles when growing the business?”
Sarah: “Well, you know what Steven, at the start of the pandemic, I was going through so much with the business and my family, and I struggled to be present with my husband, and we almost split up. He just wanted me to be present with him and the kids.”
At this moment, the host has a tear in his eye. Something resonates with him about the words “present with family,” and they connect more deeply. Normally, the episode goes on for sixty minutes, but this one is two hours, his longest yet. As a result, the planned headline of the podcast changes, and it ends with the listeners noticing a different side to both the host and the guest. Instead of 500,000 downloads, the episode gets 1.5 million downloads.
Sarah’s inbox is flooded with other entrepreneurs who are going through the same thing. She has one-on-one conversations on Zoom with three of them. One happens to be the CEO of an entertainment company (who she lands as a dream client), and a year later, Sarah is featured on a TV documentary about female leaders. She now has a waitlist and needs to hire five more marketing executives.
Related: Your Vulnerability Is Your Power
When we own who we are, we don’t have to avoid vulnerability
So what’s the difference between the two versions of Sarah?
In the first example, Sarah has not fully healed, and while she presents herself as confident, the question from the host triggers a deep-rooted fear of being judged and a fear of losing business. She doesn’t want to speak about what’s real and true because it would expose her, and that is frightening her ego (false self). While she isn’t conscious of it, Sarah is taken back to a moment when she was ten years old at school when she was laughed at for standing up and being honest about something. This event shut her down from opening up as an adult.
In the second example, Sarah has gone through the work to develop her emotional intelligence, take ownership of her story and process the emotions from her past, and she’s taken courageous steps to heal the little girl inside her that is constantly triggered by emotional threats.
This is an example of how working on ourselves and doing the tough, honest work to heal helps us have vulnerable conversations without fear.
When we fully own who we are, vulnerability does not become a “thing” to avoid. It’s not even an issue in most cases. It’s a way of being because self-expression becomes a new norm instead being withheld from fear. This is hard to comprehend until you’re on the other side.
This was the biggest realization for me and now for my clients as I help them live a life true to themselves.
The byproduct of embodying this life is that you will attract clients who are a match to the real you rather than the persona that you give off to protect yourself. I recently saw a well-known marketer speak openly and vulnerably, opening up about his faith in God and saying that he feared judgment from his audience if he spoke about it. I went from liking him to respecting him. As a result, I started to purchase his products.
Because his video came from the heart. It was honest; it wasn’t intended to get business, but was a result of him being him. Many people sense when vulnerability is just a means to an end.
The clients who work with you when you’re vulnerable are “dream” clients because they are typically more open, more honest, communicate without fear and make doing business with them a lot easier.
The future of business is more and more authentic, and if you struggle with it right now, working through it will significantly help you and your business. Always do it for yourself. But now, maybe you’ll be more motivated to do it because you understand the great success it can bring.