Are you as wary of the word "vulnerability" as I am? Yes, after reading, listening, and watching Brené Brown's material, I understand the importance of speaking the truth, even and especially when it is hard.

But when does "vulnerability" cross the boundary into "oversharing?"

"Vulnerability • The emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It’s having the courage to show up, fully engage, and be seen when you can’t control the outcome. Vulnerability minus boundaries is not vulnerability.... We have to think about what we’re sharing, why we’re sharing, and, equally important, with whom. What is my role? What is their role? Does sharing this make sense? Why is it important for me to share this? Am I doing personal work here or am I trying to move a process forward? • We don’t measure vulnerability by how much someone discloses or shares. We don’t overshare."― Brené Brown

I love this quote from her because it clarifies to me what creates a courageous statement, and not just oversharing. This comes up with my clients frequently as we discuss which and how much of their personal stories to share on the stage.

Stories of deep emotion and trauma can be a powerful tool to make a point to an audience. To give them feelings and images that they remember. But do you want your audience to remember your story or an idea/message/lesson for their own lives?

I think deep personal stories are like a strong spice - they bring life to an entire meal or overwhelm it with their powerful sensation.

When thinking about how to share your stories, we can reframe Brene's questions about boundaries and vulnerability above to help us decide where to go:

"What is my role?" = What is the end idea/message/gift I want the audience to receive?

"What is their role?" = What is the audience ready to hear?

"Does sharing this make sense?" = does this story really support the idea/message/gift I'm giving to the audience?

"Am I doing personal work here or am I trying to move a process forward?"

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I say frequently to my clients... think about who is actually vulnerable in an auditorium.

We tend to think that the person on the stage is vulnerable - everyone is looking at them and they could be judged harshly.

Let's flip this on its head.

I believe it is the audience who is vulnerable. They are the ones who have given their time and attention and will never get it back. We as speakers and leaders have the opportunity, and even responsibility to honor their gift of time and attention by being prepared, knowing the gift we are giving them in return, and leading them securely along the path to the gift of knowledge we have for them.

Let's avoid oversharing as therapy. Instead, let's lead our audience responsibly to a new understanding of their world.