gender, transsexual, communication-6188940.jpg
vulnerability. The quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. 

Panicked is an understatement, I could feel my face reddening as I wished myself invincible. From head to toe my body filled with adrenaline. My mind, my mind was spiraling in a wave of embarrassment. 

I had to escape. Get me out of here.

But from what?

My sheer panic was internal. 

The cashier, noticing my obvious disarray tried to lighten the now heavy atmosphere. I was simply buying a few groceries. How did everything go so wrong?

Reflecting back on the experience, on top of the mortification, I was also fighting the feeling of shame. 

Isn’t it wrong for a person of good intention to feel this level of discomfort? I should be able to be more objective. Doesn’t everyone make mistakes? I’m a good person and shouldn’t let overwhelming experiences like this one take me down. Or, should I? 

That’s my inner thinking. At times, I can tend to get too much in my head. Although, it was a time such as this that my head-heart connection was needed. This is also a time where I am reminded I first must understand who I am, what the influences are on my life, and why I think and act the way I do (Stedman Graham, Author). After all, how can I understand the world if I don’t have a grasp on who I am in this world? 

You’re probably wondering why I panicked this way? You see, I struck up a conversation with the person in front of me in the grocery store queue, not something I normally do being an introvert and all. Pat on the back for me for stepping out of my comfort zone. Wait for it. . . It gets worse. Having a full conversation with ‘her’ about our produce selections, I received a kind smile and correction on my incorrect gender reference. She was a he

Now, I could go into this entire spiel to remind you I consider myself to be a good person, dedicating my life to diversity and inclusion and all. A solid education and network. After all, that would be a great way to save face. Instead, I remind myself, I am also human. With my humanity comes strengths and opportunities for growth. So, what did I do? I intentionally stepped into vulnerability. I had to own my error at the risk of opening myself up to being more wounded. 

Quotes on Vulnerability: "Give vulnerability a shot. Give discomfort its due. Because I think those willing to be the most uncomfortable are not only the bravest, but rise the fastest." Tim Ferriss; "When you shut down vulnerability, you shut down opportunity." Brené Brown; "Vulnerability is the only bridge to build a connection." Author Overlyxclusive; "Out of your vulnerability will come strength." Sigmund Freud; "To love is to be vulnerable." C.S. Lewis
Quotes on Vulnerability

To avoid rationalizing my error, I chose to cultivate connection. Reading his body language, I  engaged in empathy and curiosity to create an open space and address the elephant in the grocery queue. Empathy was practiced when I engaged in compassion, not by overly apologizing, but rather by the sincerity in my apology of causing any discomfort to him. His acceptance allowed me to privately contemplate what I was thinking and feeling, both positively and negatively. Showing up to the experience allowed me to continue a conversation with him finding commonalities and allowing for an authentic connection to be made. 

How did this challenging conversation pivot to a respectful encounter? Barbara Waxman recaps what I did in five easy steps. 

5 Easy Steps to having a difficult conversation: (1) Start with the heart; (2) Speak from the "I"; (3) Take temperature of the situation; (4) Be curious; and (5) Clear is kind
5 Easy Steps to Having Difficult Conversations

Taking those overwhelming, unstable feelings and doing something that offered me the opportunity to grow is what equity consciousness is all about. Brené Brown identifies vulnerability as the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. Tap into your influence for the positive, embrace it, allow it to help you see things [vulnerability] differently. You offer a unique combination of life experience, perspective, position, and history. No one else in the world brings to equity and inclusion what you do. Bring what you have a little more boldly and you might surprise yourself in how you transform not only your life but also the life of others. We [SEE] you. Want to join our movement? Pick one, or two, or three, or all. You’ll be so glad you did.

You can listen in through PodBean.


Brown, B. (2011).The power of vulnerability. YouTube: .

Graham, S. (2019). Identity leadership: To lead others you must first lead yourself. Center Street  publishing. 

Waxman, B. (2019). 5 easy steps to having a difficult conversation: Here’s how to turn any challenging conversation into a respectful and productive. Thrive Global: .

Skip to content