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Bring Your Whole Self: The Power of Vulnerability in Experiential Learning

By XINNIX | October 31, 2022 | Training

Think about some places where you feel the most comfortable opening up and being yourself, where you can share your dreams, fears, and insecurities. Hopefully, your home is a place that comes to mind. Maybe you’re involved in a church or organization where you’ve formed a strong community of people who make you feel safe and supported enough to share vulnerably. It would probably surprise you that vulnerability is also essential for the experiential learning process. I’m guessing the need to be vulnerable in a sales or leadership program never crossed your mind. Why on earth would that be an area that requires us to be our vulnerable selves? After all, shouldn’t training be all about showcasing our successes instead of revealing our insecurities?   At XINNIX, we have spent over twenty years training salespeople and business leaders to be the top performers in their fields. Our students are successful because we don’t engage them in a dry, strictly informational learning process. Instead, we use the principles of experiential learning. As a part of this process, we ask them to bring their whole selves—even the most vulnerable parts—to the classroom. To reach the pinnacle of business success, we must be vulnerable about what’s holding us back and what we need to change to move forward.  

Leave Your Ego at the Door

Let’s be honest with ourselves—we, as salespeople, are not typically known for our modesty. To succeed, our standard mode of operation must be confidence. We assure our clients that we know what they need. If they trust our expertise, we can set them up with the product, service, or experience that will get them exactly where they want to go. We make a career out of knowing what we’re talking about. Constantly putting our most confident foot forward has its drawbacks, though. Don’t get me wrong; confidence is a great thing. But what happens if we can’t ever admit that we’re not the smartest person in the room? Suddenly, healthy confidence has morphed into an overly-inflated ego, and we can no longer recognize any need for improvement. This is especially problematic in the training arena. The entire purpose of training is to learn something new and to improve. Improvement can’t happen if we refuse to identify areas where we’re not perfect. None of us are perfect. If we were, there would be no need to learn. The very act of enrolling in training is an admission of imperfection. It’s an act of vulnerability.

Vulnerability Is Opportunity

At XINNIX, honesty is a course requirement. We know that our students can’t grow without it. We ask them to be honest about themselves, and as their trainers, coaches, and accountability partners, we are also honest about what we see in them. Though we work hard to handle these conversations with love and grace, they are not always easy. We have them anyway because we know they are not just helpful but necessary for the success of our students. Recently, I was working with a student enrolled in one of our courses which, to put it frankly, found no value in vulnerability. Every time we asked her to open up, she would shut down. She just wanted to learn new strategies, pass a test, and get out of each session as quickly as possible. She openly questioned why we were asking her to share with us. However, after several weeks, I saw a light switch flip. She started to share how much she struggled with the coaching process. She felt a lot of resentment about what her coach pointed out as areas for improvement. Her coach touched on her insecurities, those places that made her uncomfortable, and those weaknesses she kept trying to ignore. Finally, this student started realizing that if she was going to reach the next level of success, she needed to change her mindset. Her future success didn’t depend on the things she was already good at; it depended on if she was willing to address her areas of struggle. This was her opportunity to become the best that she could be.

Embracing Honesty and Experiential Learning

Growth expert and leadership coach  Kathy Caprino says, “Vulnerability allows you to recognize when something needs to shift or change, either in yourself, your employees, your leadership, or the organization’s processes.” She says that by embracing honesty, we can find the courage to make the change we need to succeed. So let’s stop pretending like we have all the answers. If we are going to engage in the experiential learning process fully, let’s raise our hands and shamelessly say, “I need help!” When trainers and coaches show us where our saw can use sharpening, let’s lay down our pride and embrace the opportunity to grow. Success is waiting. We just need the courage to reach it.

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