Robin Roberts thought that she was done for. She was the anchor sent by ABC to cover Hurricane Katrina because she was from that area. But while covering the devastation live on TV, she couldn’t help herself. She started crying. Her family home was in disarray. Her home town was devastated. There was so much pain and so many people suffering that she just couldn’t help herself.
After her segment, when she was off-screen, she was further devastated. Because she thought that her life was ruined as well. Who would want to retain a host that cried? She was sure that she would be fired.
But you know what? The opposite happened! People connected with her. And she became famous!
The courage in vulnerability
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Because vulnerability makes you seem authentic. Vulnerability helps you connect with your audience. It makes you feel human to them. Their empathy starts rooting for you!
In 2012, Roberts was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome – a rare type of cancer. Because of which, she was forced to take a break from her work as a host of the show Good Morning America. But while on the medical break, Roberts allowed the show to chronicle her treatment and recovery!
The whole coverage earned her a Peabody award!
On reflection, Roberts created her mantra:
Make your mess your message
Marshal Mathers had a sad childhood. He lived a life in poverty. Being a minority white boy in a black neighbourhood in Detroit, he was bullied a lot. He failed in the 9th standard three times!
He found solace in rap. But whenever he participated in rap contests and battles, he was booed off stage – for being white. His first music album didn’t get any love from Detroit area disc jockeys! The constant feedback he received from them? “Why don’t you go into rock and roll?”
This made Mathers really angry. And thats when his music changed. It became angrier. He talked about his struggles with poverty and drugs and his suicide attempt! He became his own worst critic and dissed himself in his own songs. He slashed open his messy life. And thats when people connected with him!
Eminem’s next song recording found its way in the hands of the producer Dr. Dre – who was moved by it. And Dre helped launch his career. Eminem’s album The Slim Shady LP broke a lot of records – and was triple platinum certified within the year!
By talking about your mess, you shock people into paying attention to you. Because no one else does it. You make it easier for them to connect with you because it makes you seem authentic. Being vulnerable has a lot of upsides.
Of course, it has its downsides too.
Angela Merkel’s vulnerability
Angela Merkel was the German chancellor who was bitten by a dog in 1995. And since then, she has been deadly afraid of dogs.
When she met Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2007, Putin took advantage of this vulnerability. And called his big black labrador in the room during the meeting! He threw Merkel off balance!
People can use your vulnerability against you. But even then, leading with vulnerability is worth it. Because as Merkel found – a lot of people sympathized with her over the dog stunt! A lot of people started cheering for her!
- Vulnerability makes you look authentic and makes it easy for people to connect with you. So don’t hide your mess. Let people know about your struggles and your fears.