Courageous Connection: How Vulnerability Fosters Trust

Jun 17 / Julie Jones

In this fast-paced, often impersonal world, genuine connection can be rare. The foundation of any strong relationship, whether personal or professional, is trust. Research has shown that vulnerability fosters trust and can fuel more meaningful and courageous connection.

According to Dr. Brené Brown, a leading expert on vulnerability, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity”. Neuroscientific studies have also shown that vulnerability and trust are intertwined through the release of oxytocin, the "bonding hormone," which promotes social bonding and trust.


Create Authentic Connections
: Being open about your fears, failures, and imperfections helps others see you as genuine and relatable. This authenticity lays the groundwork for trust.

Overcoming mindsets is one of the greatest challenges to demonstrating vulnerability. Consider some common reactions:

  • Never let them see you sweat
  • Never let them see you cry
  • I aced the test (at least that’s what I’m sharing).

These mantras are like body armor limiting access to your authentic self and relatability.

Reframe Vulnerability as Strength
: Accept that imperfection is part of being human. The evolution of vulnerability as a strength mindset can shift your perspective and provide the courage to be vulnerable.  

Barbara Walters, a legendary television journalist, was known for her ability to connect with people through interviews. She often tackled personal and sometimes vulnerable subjects. Her use of an empathetic interviewing style created  safe spaces for her guests to open up and share their experiences, emotions, and vulnerabilities.

She also shared personal stories and insights during interviews and in her own work. This willingness to embrace vulnerability well before it was accepted, allowed her to connect on a deeper level with both her guests and viewers.

If you want to learn more about empathetic interviewing, explore Barbara’s interviews online to observe her use of poignant questions, active listening, and genuine empathy.

Encourage Empathy and Understanding
: Sharing your vulnerabilities invites others to do the same, fostering mutual understanding and deeper emotional connection. 

I can still remember how I felt watching the movie, Brian’s Song, as an early teen. The movie is based on a true story of the friendship between Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers, two running backs for the Chicago Bears. Competitors for the same position, who became friends and were the first interracial travel and camp roommates in the NFL.

First, Brian supports Gale after a serious knee injury threatens to derail Gale’s NFL career. Then Brian, at age 26, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and Gale became his supporter and confidante. If you haven't seen the movie yet, I encourage you to watch it and feel the depth of empathy and understanding it evokes.

Facilitate Open Communication
: Vulnerability encourages honest communication, which is crucial for resolving conflicts and building transparency.

Atticus Finch, the main character in Harper Lee's, To Kill a Mockingbird, shows the importance of open and honest communication both as a lawyer and at home. In court, he defends Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of a crime, with honesty and courage. At home, he teaches his children, Scout and Jem, to always speak the truth and share their thoughts, even on tough topics. He tackles issues like racism and morality with openness and vulnerability. To Kill a Mockingbird is always on my recommendation list for books to read.


Start Small
: Share minor personal stories or admit to small mistakes to build confidence. Gradually increase as you build trust with others.

Create Safe Spaces
: Support environments where open communication and vulnerability are encouraged and respected. Give others space to share and respect others’ use of vulnerability.

Seek Feedback
: Ask for feedback from trusted friends or colleagues to understand how your vulnerability is perceived and or appreciated.

Practice Self-Compassion
: Treat yourself with kindness and understand that everyone has vulnerabilities. Self-compassion reduces the fear of judgment.

Vulnerability is a powerful catalyst for trust. You open yourself to deeper, more authentic connections when you are willing to be vulnerable with others. In doing so, you not only build trust but also demonstrate true courage. As Brené Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness”.

To dig a little deeper into vulnerability, check out these options:

  • "The Power of Vulnerability" by Brené Brown TED Talk
  • "Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies" by Paul Zak