They key to better relationships

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Think about some of the successful professionals you know, the ones you like and trust the most. What is it about them that makes you feel closer to them?

My guess is that it’s because they’ve been transparent with you about certain aspects of their professional and personal life, revealing to you a weakness or flaw.

Vulnerability is a key to better relationships. Showing people that you have flaws, things you struggle with, problems like everyone else.

Contrast that with people who never have a hair out of place. They have a “perfect” life. Everything is under control. They don’t have any problems or weaknesses. At least nothing they tell you about.

And that’s the problem. We don’t trust this. It’s not. . . real.

If you want better relationships–with other professionals, with clients, with friends or family–one of the best things you can do is be transparent about certain aspects of your life.

Let your clients see that you don’t know everything. Let other lawyers and referral sources know you do better with certain types of clients or cases. Let people know about some of your mistakes.

Not everything. Not all the time. Selectively, with the right people at the right time.

You don’t want to blurt out your flaws, you want to be intentional about this, so I suggest you give this some thought and choose a “safe” weakness you’re willing to own up to.

What’s safe? Something that doesn’t irreparably impair your character or core set of skills.

You might reveal that you still get nervous on the first day of a jury trial. You might share the time you lost a case (and paid dearly for it) because you didn’t listen to your partner who warned you not to trust a certain witness. You might admit that you have a soft spot for clients who don’t pay on time.

A weakness, a flaw, something you’re not particularly proud of. You know, the kind of stuff that makes you human.

At the same time, be prepared to talk about what you have learned about yourself, or how you got the problem under control. For example, if you confess to being a perfectionist and how this causes you to take too long preparing documents, you might say that you have adopted a strict rule about the number of re-writes you allow. If you are lax about billing, explain how you’ve turned that function over to your merciless partner.

Once you have a few safe flaws you’re willing to reveal, look for safe situations where you might reveal them.

Not with everyone, not all the time. Selectively, when it is appropriate.

One thing you’ll find is that as you open up to people, they will often open up to you. They’ll tell you they have the same issue, and share how they dealt with it, or they’ll tell you about something else.

This is how strong relationships are built. Sharing vulnerabilities and trusting each other with that information.

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