When attending a small private university, odds are you’re going to run into the same people on a consistent basis. There’s beauty in that though; the fact that I can walk from Maher to the UC’s, and ALWAYS be stopped somewhere in between to chat or exchange a quick hug is very comforting. I feel fortunate that I get stopped several times throughout the day because it’s a reminder of how hard I’ve worked to maintain the relationships that have blessed my life.
While some of these relationships just sort of happened, most of them required a little more work than a message on Facebook or “sliding into someone’s DM’s.” It took actual face-to-face communication and more coffee dates than I can even count. “Wow! Face-to-face communication? What is a face? What is communication?” It’s sad when you realize that good rhetoric and simply sitting down and making conversation are forgotten arts, a mere illusion to a time that once was. When did speaking from the heart and emotionally connecting with the rest of the world become so antiquated?
Sorry, I’m just so “busy.” I hear this a lot from people these days, but what does that mean? Are people “busy” because they accidently spent 30 minutes checking their social media and now have to catch up on school work? Or are they “busy” because the very act of sitting down, looking into someone’s eyes, listening, and conversing has now become a phobia plaguing our generation? If I had to give an answer to this, I’d say it’s a little of both.
Face-to-face communication is something we think we don’t have time for nor are we comfortable in doing. Instead, we rely on a host of social media platforms to avoid this dilemma. We give ourselves the illusion that we are forming “strong” relationships and getting to know people for who they really are. We live in a #nofilter world, yet have become so comfortable living in an alternate reality, that filters begin to surface here too, not just in the confines of our Instagram photos. Long story short, here’s what I’m really trying to get at: our generation has become so afraid of being vulnerable with one another that it prevents us from truly getting to know all of the wonderful people around us. Every day on campus, you may pass by the same guy or girl, but due to our crippling fear of communication, you neglect to converse with that person. And what’s scary is that that person could be a best friend or a significant other just waiting to enter your life, but you’re never going to know because you didn’t have the guts to say “Hi” or “How are you?”
Now, I’m not urging you to go out and say “Hi” to literally every person on the street with a pulse. But I think there’s a difference between asking the rote “How are you?” and the thought-provoking “How are you, really?” The latter is more empathetic and asks the individual in question to open up and become a bit more vulnerable.
It’s such a powerful and anxiety-producing word. It’s so easy to encourage someone to put themselves out there, but in actuality it takes so much practice. But, once we make that giant leap of faith and break through surface level conversation to the deep inner levels of a person, you quickly begin to see that the risk was worth it. The fears that you had before becoming vulnerable somehow melt away as you unveil the hidden gem that is the soul of the person sitting in front of you. You find someone that is either so akin to you or the polar opposite, providing you with an awesome and entirely new perspective. And it’s crazy to think that it all started with “hello.” Adele would be so proud.
The definition of ‘vulnerable,’ according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is having the ability to be physically and emotionally wounded. I think the biggest issue that people have with vulnerability is that they view it as putting your weaknesses and the darkest parts of yourself on display. We believe these parts are embarrassingly unforgettable and warrant judgment from the outside world the minute we let them in. On the contrary, I think there’s immense strength in showing your scars, because this is all part of the human experience. Being sad is human, being happy is human, and having flaws is human. I think we’re missing some of this humanness in the world and it starts with being able to ask someone “Not how are you, but how are you really?” Give someone the opportunity to share their experience with you. Everyone has a story that is waiting to be told, and they’re desperately waiting for the right person to come along to listen.
This blog is a small window into the benefits of vulnerability and communication. I encourage you to be vulnerable because it’s such an amazing skill to have and will equip you with the ability to form fulfilling, long-lasting relationships. For me, getting comfortable with vulnerability, happened through a slow, ‘baby-steps’ process. I recommend you start with random acts of kindness, like complimenting a stranger or helping someone find their way on campus. Odds are the other person is just as afraid of speaking up as you are, so they’ll be happy that you made the first move. Self-disclosure is a beautiful thing, so make the effort. Take risks, do something scary every day and be your beautiful, unfiltered self. That self is so much more loved and appreciated by the people around you than any variation of yourself you could ever imagine. Get out there! You’ll never truly know who you could meet or what kind of conversation you’ll strike up that could change your life forever.