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  • Valerie Hope

Ep. 28 - Time To Come Alive: Being Vulnerable At Work With Amber Hill, Asst. Director Of Training & Development At The Joule

Updated: Jul 2

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Time To Come Alive: Being Vulnerable At Work With Amber Hill, Asst. Director Of Training & Development At The Joule

Good morning everyone, good afternoon, or good evening depending on what part of the world you're in. I want to welcome you to the show. This weekly conversation is an opportunity to, first of all, become more conscious of something special, interesting, or important in your own life so that then you’re able to better connect with other people and therefore create something of value in your life or on this planet. I'm so grateful that every week, I have an amazing person that I can talk to about some fantastic and interesting subject. This is no different. In a moment, I will introduce my special guest.


In the meantime, if you are reading, please post that you are tuning in to the show. This will be an opportunity for you to have some great conversations with your family, your friends, and your colleagues. It will be an opportunity for them to come in and also understand maybe a different perspective about our topic for the day.


As we get started, I'd like to always begin with a little mindfulness. The mindfulness exercise has two purposes. One of them is to get us focused on this experience or this conversation that we're about to have, but then more importantly, it is to prepare us to read the conversation that we're about to have or to prepare ourselves so that we're able to engage more deeply.


In order to do that, I'll ask you to sit comfortably. Wherever you're standing, you might want to plant your feet and ground it. It might be helpful if you either close your eyes or soften your gaze. Start with taking a couple of deep deep cleansing breaths. I want you to think about where you are and what you are doing.


Where in any area of your life are you trying to look good for others or perhaps even seek the approval of other people? Notice it. Don't judge it. Don't assess it. Don't evaluate it. Notice where that might be. Maybe there's a relationship, a special situation, or an environment. Notice where you might avoid looking bad in front of other people, be it perhaps avoiding actively feeling judged or avoiding taking on blame, and how you manage in those situations or how you manage those relationships. Take a deep breath. Notice it. Notice the energy that it carries when you live in that way.


I want you to repeat this affirmation. I'll read the affirmation and in your own mind, I want you to repeat it for yourself. It is, “May I continue to look deeply into my mind, my heart, and my body? May I see things and meet things as they are? May this clear and sustained knowing free me for the sake of all beings?” Take another deep breath. You may refocus your gaze or open your eyes. Welcome back. Nudge your partner if they fall asleep.


I would like to introduce my special guest. Her name is Amber Hill. I want to say a couple of things about her. Amber and I met a few years ago. The reason for our meeting is because, at the time, Amber's supervisor knew that Amber needed some additional support in the role that she was taking on. She brought me in to help her identify and figure out some ways in which she could organize herself in that role. Amber and I began our coaching relationship a few years ago. We’ve been working for a whole year.


One of the things that I was struck with in working with you, Amber, is your willingness to take on a challenge. Sometimes, it's not comfortable. There were moments when I had to ask you questions or ask you to do something as in an assignment and you were like, “What are you doing to me?” What I admire so much about you is your willingness. We talked about it. You reflect to me, “This is hard. I'm not sure we'd work through it,” and then we’d move on. You are one of the most courageous people I know. It was in conversation. It's not like we're jumping out of planes, but it creates some of the same tension for some people on the things that we worked on. Welcome. Thank you so much for being with us.


I'm so pumped to be here with you.


First of all, I wanted to start off by asking you, and this is probably no different than why we were working together in the first place, why did you say yes to being on this public forum to talk about some of your transformations, especially about being vulnerable? Why did you say yes?


When you say the word vulnerability, it is beginning to come to the forefront for people, especially with Brené Brown. She's on Netflix and she has all these books. People are starting to go, “This vulnerability thing complained to all parts of my life. What is this?” People are starting to become more open to it, but even when you talk about it in the workplace, and you said the word vulnerability, the general response is, “I don't speak that language. What do you mean? What are we talking about with vulnerability?”


I have been asked many times by people, professional and personally, “This coaching thing you did, what does that look like? What is that about?” This is going to be a really nice way for people to be able to read this and go, “I have a little snippet of what that was and what that maybe could be for me.” Also, it's very healthy for me and my own journey of what we walked through and the different milestones. It's going to bring about even more saturation, awareness, and probably some areas of application that I've either overlooked or haven't stepped into enough.


Let's start with this. One of the things that I'd like for you to share is what was it like. Before we started working together, you've never worked with a coach before, right?




What was it like for you to begin that process of opening up and sharing some things with a virtual stranger? Outside of the fact that Lisa introduced us, that was pretty much all you knew. We had a phone call before we met in person and that was it. What was it like to start opening up that way?


This is the importance of a relationship. There are two people that we mutually know. They were very affirming of doing something like this, like, “This could be really good for you. Valerie is this kind of a person and brings about these kinds of results. If you're willing, it could be beneficial.” I'm a big person on relational equity so when I have people that I respect go, “This has my vote,” I'm already more open to it.


Even then, especially in more of a professional setting, that adjustment that you have to make in your heart and in your mind of, “I'm not coming in here to look good and look a certain way. If anything, I have to look not so good so that I can hear what I need, help, support, guidance, or even a challenge.” It is like, “You're off there, and let's talk about that. Let's talk about why.”


It also reminds me growing up of my mom who is the wisest person I've ever known. She would tell me from young and I wouldn't even fully get it until I got older, “No one lies to you more than yourself. Keep people near you who love you enough to tell you when they think that you're not on the mark.” She is right. There are times I was like, “Where did you come up with that? That is not even true, but it will take other people who know you and love you for you, whether that's personal or professional, to go, “I care about you enough to say that you might be off.”

No one lies to you more than yourself, so keep people who love you enough to tell you anything when you're not on the mark near you.

I'm curious. What were some of the things that you discovered in this process of peeling back that layer where you may have made an assumption about yourself that perhaps was a challenge?


One of the biggest things was realizing that I would revert to non-feeling words. I will go into how it affects other people and how it affects operations. When you say, “What about you, where you are, and how you feel?” You would have to say to me regularly, “That's not a feeling word. I'm asking you how you're feeling.” You have to send me a feelings word list for me to be able to go, “It is that one. That's the word I'm feeling. That one.”


I have the list right here.


I even said that to a couple of people. I'm like, “That's not a feeling word. One of those isn't feeling words. Let's talk about that.” I still have to reference it and be like, “What do I feel right now?” Feelings have been demonized. It's where we’re like, “Don't be too emotional. Don't feel so much. Don't make such a big deal out of it. Stay objective. Stay logical.”


Logic and objectivity can hold hands with your feelings. Feelings can help inform you and where you really are so that you can unpack those feelings and then use your logic with something that's sustainable. It’s not, “This is what's needed right now,” but thinking maybe more long-term like, “What are the possible implications of this on me and the people around me?” I still have much more to unpack there, but it has begun to give me a little bit more of a framework to go not just logic and strategy, but, “Where are my feelings in this?” That's been a big one that has tentacles and everything.

Not Quite Strangers | Being Vulnerable At Work
Being Vulnerable At Work: Logic and objectivity can go hand in hand with your feelings.

Let's go back to something that you said earlier that you had a tendency to use non-feeling words. When I say non-feeling words, meaning that it wasn't describing an emotion of some sort. First of all, let's talk about why that was such a strong tendency to avoid. Think of an example where that showed up. Give us a before and after, if you will.


There was a period of time when you were helping me with how to influence relationships more. There were times when you were helping me unpack what was going on in that relationship or, “Why was it a challenge? Why are you struggling? How has this impacted you?” It is something you'll regularly ask me. You’re like, “What has the impact been on you?” I would not go inward. It was, “This is how it's impacting my work. What I feel is impacting my effectiveness. What I think is impacting my effectiveness, not what I feel.” I would say that regularly. You're like, “You're saying you feel that that's impacting this. I'm asking you how it makes you feel.” It was a sense or a taste of feeling, but it wasn’t.


To be challenged on that like, “Go back. What do you feel?” I’m like, “In this relationship, I feel discouraged. I feel disheartened. That opened up the pathway for you to say, “Now where has that taken you?” or, “What have you seen that brought about where the walls that were up before didn't really make room for that?”


To give some people context, you work at a company as the assistant director of training. Part of your job is to really help grow other people. You have to be caring, listening, experiencing, and influencing on a regular basis. It's not an option. You're not sitting there crunching numbers and doing spreadsheets. You're interacting with the public.


It’s a hospitality company. You are working at the duel we would meet in the environment. When you talked about some of those situations, we were talking about human challenges as your job required you to influence and work with other human beings. I wanted to give people a context for the kind of work that you do and why we were working on that.


That’s important.


Tell me what has been the impact of identifying and being more connected to the emotion for you?


It has really begun a journey that I have much more to do. I don't think it will stop in this life, but I'm at the beginning of it. It is validating.


What do you mean?


It is validating why I feel this way and the impact it has had in my life personally and professionally. Especially in the hospitality industry, you exist to serve.


I'm going to interrupt you because we’ve done this in our coaching sessions. Respectfully, remember to use I versus you.


In the hospitality industry, I exist to serve others and create an experience for others. In doing that, it can be very fulfilling, but there is a tendency. I have a tendency to overlook, “Where am I at in the journey and the process of creating and serving others?” Let me check in with myself. I've been in this industry for fifteen years. When you've been doing that for so long, and it's very rare that you're challenged, what about you? Where are you at having a specific role in an industry that is very much for the support of others?


I'm internal and behind the scenes. I was front of house operations, more front desk and banquets. I then moved into more of the internal support. When you're internally supporting hundreds of people, I don't even think about, “Where are you? How do you feel about where you are?” It is not where I am as a title. That's not what I'm talking about. Where am I emotionally and mentally and the health of that? You give out, but there also has to be that exchange as well.


We both have an individual that we respect deeply who would tell us this. It's that emotional bank account. There are debits and credits. This is perfect because I have more of a structure or a framework to take that credit and debit analogy and go, “I can bring this home for myself. Where are my credits and my debits?”


Maybe there have been seasons, especially if there is something new that I'm rolling out or as a company, we're rolling out. I'm specifically in a support department, so there will be these specific seasons of giving, supporting, and patience. At the end of it, it's like, “I didn't even ask for help in that process. I didn't ask to be seen. I didn't ask to be supported.” That is also something that we've worked on when you said to me, “You're a part of creating the reality that's around you.” It is having to realize and say out loud, “I'm a part of creating the fact that I didn't feel supported. I didn't even ask.”


Talk about that. What was it about asking for support that was difficult to do?


Some of it is my innate personality and not asking for help. I'm more of a problem solver. I’m like, “Let's get it done. Everybody has a lot on their plates so I'm going to continue on and figure it out.” There’s some of that, and then you bring in the hospitality elements of we exist to serve others and to create that experience.  It's ego, ultimately. I could say all day, “It's only because I want to serve other people.” That's part of it, but there's also the ego of, “I don't need help. I don't need your help. I can figure this out.” Even though there can be some good intentions, it also has some not-so-good things. Ego is never good. It hurts things, people, and yourself.


That resonates with me because I grew up that way. I'm 1 of 4 children. I'm in the middle. I have three brothers. I was the one that my parents were like, “You're the responsible one. Make sure that this gets done.” I innately took on a little bit of leadership even as a child. I remember when they would drop us off at our grandparents' house to be babysat or spend some time with them and my parents would go off and do whatever. Before they came back, I was already rallying the troops like “Let's pick up our toys. Let's get your stuff.” This is Valerie at six years old. She said, “By the time we were there, the little bag was ready to go as well as the toys, clothes,” or anything that we needed to take back home.


For so many years because I was that person, I get what you're saying. The expectation was that's how I got a lot of attention. That's how I got a lot of responsibility. I got a lot of ego strokes out of it for being the responsible one, being the one to take care of business. Working alone and doing my own thing served me really well for a long period of time. It wasn't until much later on, in the last couple of years or so, that I realized that it was lonely. That's a lonely way to work. It is a lonely way to live. There was little connection even with my siblings because I was taking care of things.


Beginning to peel back that self-sufficiency, that pull-myself-up-from-straps mentality, or that do-it-yourself kind of thing and challenging it, I found that there's a whole different world outside of that where I can ask for help and support. I could create some really phenomenal things because then, people bring in different talents and skills. I get what you're saying. It's not an easy jump to make. It's like a muscle. It is working out a muscle. I'm curious. Talk to me a little bit about your family life. You mentioned also that this not only applies in the workplace. How does your family life or your being in your family life impact you and the way you work?


This is also something that started a little bit before our coaching sessions. It is some of this awareness and the realization that there are some things still to unpack from childhood. That was very much triggered through the coaching sessions as well. Why do I not think of my feelings? Why is it so hard for me to identify a feeling word?


The term you use, self-sufficiency, is so accurate. At times, I've even referred to it as the idol of self. Self can get you pretty far, but we only achieve so much alone or on our own. It's the greatness of unity, togetherness, and collective growth that requires individual awareness and growth for collective growth. It's not just about the individual.


We only achieve so much on our own; it is in the greatness of unity, togetherness, and collective growth, which requires individual awareness.

From a very young age, my parents’ marriage was incredibly unhealthy. I have two sisters. They were our favorite people on the planet, but we were exposed to way too much of these dynamics in our parents' marriage. They never got divorced so it was this continued environment of us living in a lot of uncertainty. We stepped into survival mode and coping mode.


My older sister is two years older than me. My baby sister's four years younger than me. Me and my older sister spent a lot of time trying to shield my baby sister from the arguments and the fighting. There's coping there, and then coping of self, not being able to talk about what was going on in our family life. From a young age, probably I can register as early as ten, I stepped into, “We have to survive. We have to cope.” Part of that meant you put on a mask. My mom passed away from cancer when I was 22. I knew from the age of 10 all the way to 22 this incredible dysfunction. I started working in hotels when I was fifteen.


That was not even legal age. We won't reveal anything else beyond that.


You had the blending of these two worlds happening where at times, for our guests, you have to hold it together. She's still a leader in my life, but she was a leader back several years ago. She was telling us, “Many times, you're going to have guests that will come up to you angry. You don't understand why they're angry, but they are. That's unavoidable.


Think of them like a mirror. They're a mirror that has a lot of cracks. They are cracks that you may not understand that are easy for you to judge, but there are cracks. You have a choice to either reposition yourself to where you mirror their cracks or you stand firm in kindness and respect and hope that they will move and then mirror you.” Hopefully, your mirror has fewer cracks than theirs. It's not from a place of judgment or, “I'm better.” It is, “How am I going to meet this anger?” Ultimately, it's about kindness.


However, even in that analogy, it can go too far. I would take it too far. I have all these dynamics happening in my family, and then I have these dynamics happening at work. It’s, “Kindness. Think of the other person. What do they need?” It can be good because kindness and laying yourself down for somebody else is always a beautiful thing, but if it's at the total expense of your own heart, it's not healthy and sustainable.

Not Quite Strangers | Being Vulnerable At Work
Being Vulnerable At Work: If something is at the total expense of your own heart, it's not healthy and sustainable.

I have a couple more questions, but in the meantime, I want to ask those who are tuning into this conversation. Please feel free to tell us what you're getting outta the conversation so far, what questions you have about what we're talking about, or something that you'd like to introduce into this conversation. Start thinking of your comments and questions in the meantime.


It’s one thing for us to identify where we might be feeling a certain way and how we might be projecting or reflecting somebody else’s emotions. Since you started to see the value of connecting to yourself this way, I'm curious about what has been the impact on your family or with your colleagues at work as you've begun to express things that perhaps in the past they weren't used to seeing.


It's important to note this for people. If you are on this journey or you want to start this journey, have you seen Bambi when he's on the ice?


I've never seen Bambi.


It is a baby deer on the ice. It's everything. You feel a little awkward. You're trying to get from point A to point B. I would feel awkward and feel like a little baby deer on the ice, but it's worth it to keep going and worth it to keep trying. I did fall down, but that's part of any true growth. You have to be uncomfortable. We had a few exercises. Part of my homework was to do this with certain people I was in regular touchpoints or regular relationships with at work. Referencing the nonviolent communication method is helpful because that helped me to remove some of the clumsiness from stepping into more of these direct vulnerable conversations.


I know you're being really respectful of your colleagues by not mentioning names. There are a few of them that may not want to be mentioned, but to give our audience some context, if you could paint a picture, like an actual conversation that took place or a way in which you approached the conversation after learning some of this.


A good one would be when I, through our conversations realized, that I needed to apologize to one of my coworkers who was one of my leaders.


Why did you need to apologize, and then how did you approach it?


Through our conversations, I realized that I'm all fired up. I'm upset. I’m like, “Why are they not doing this? This is my expectation. They're letting me down. They're letting the organization down.” Maybe some of those elements were true, but in our conversations, you helped me to realize that I was being judgmental, that there were things that I probably wasn't aware of, and that I'd never given this person the opportunity to even hear it or respond to maybe give some context.


In a one-on-one that I had with this individual, I jumped onto the ice. I said, “I need to apologize to you because I've been judging you. I perceived A, B, and C. I perceived that you should have stepped into your role in this way and brought this kind of support. This is what I saw which felt like the opposite, and because of those two pieces or those things combining, I feel like this has been the result which has been a letdown, disappointment, or a lack of efficiency in our operation.


I've realized through these coaching sessions,” because they were aware that I was in these sessions, “that I've judged you and that it's wrong. I haven't even given you the opportunity to talk to me about this to give me feedback. Even if you don't want to give me insight or even if you don't want to give me any feedback, it was wrong and I'm sorry.”


That was a little scary, especially because it was a boss that’s way up there. I knew that if they were not a person who was willing to hear an apology or wanted to hear an apology, then it might not be the relationship that I thought it was. They were incredibly gracious and so kind that it made me cry during it. You could say tear up, not cry, but I teared up because I was so moved at seeing this play out. I was so moved at seeing me get out of my own way. What does judgment do? It doesn't bring any value.


They were so gracious. They immediately responded with, “Sometimes, I’ve been questioning myself. Sometimes, I've been judging myself.” I realized how much they’ve been trying, how difficult it is to make that step into a new role, and how many expectations are placed on you by others. Perception is reality. It doesn't always mean that it's true.


That's really brilliant. I remember how challenging it was. We don't often want to look at our role and how we react to what's happening or how we're judging it as we're trying to protect and defend ourselves. There's fallout. One of the things I've started to explore more deeply is the idea of vulnerability. With what you shared with that particular leader, vulnerability is not about expressing the emotion like, “I'm angry,” or, “I'm upset,” or, “I'm sad.” That's part of it.  What you also showed vulnerability in is telling him you told on yourself.

Not Quite Strangers | Being Vulnerable At Work
Being Vulnerable At Work: Vulnerability is not just about expressing emotion. It's as much about sharing your strategy for coping.


Vulnerability is as much about sharing your strategy for coping with something. It can be really tough. I've had some of those experiences because we're trying to look good and avoid looking bad in certain situations. What that does is it brings up the mask. If we can tell people, “This is the mask I'm wearing right now. This is why I'm wearing it. I don't feel comfortable. I don't feel safe. I don't feel supported. The way I handle it is by pretending that I don't need help,” or, “The way I use it is by telling everybody how much of a jerk you are,” or whatever you’re feeling. When we tell people that level of authenticity and transparency, that's a courageous act of vulnerability too. What are your thoughts on that? What are you taking out of that?


I entirely agree. As you were talking, I'm thinking probably some things that I would've thought a couple of years ago if I was listening in. That would be, “Vulnerability makes you weak. Vulnerability is not something that should be in the workplace,” or, “How do you do that? What are the boundaries? What are the limitations?” If you start small, start with the people that you have that direct relationship with, whether that's, “I need to apologize because of this,” or, “I haven't really asked for help before. I know that I have made it seem like I have everything together and that I don't need that help, but I do. This is where I would like to have some help.” In reality, and I'm living this, you're stronger when you do that.


Sometimes, I have heard people say, “Vulnerability is you're too emotional. You have too much emotion.” You don't have to be an emotional wreck to be vulnerable. You can still come to someone and look poised or look poised, whatever that looks like. It's stepping into an honest conversation. What you said is exactly it. It is like, “Here's the mask that I'm wearing.” It is a very scary thing to do because what you're doing is handing that person the power to reject you or embrace you. Maybe to accept you is a better word. That's what we spend our life defending ourselves from. It’s rejection.

You don't have to be an emotional wreck to be vulnerable.


You mentioned the non-violent communication method. There's a book called Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. I've talked about it before. There's an episode where I had a facilitator for that particular work on this program. If you want to check it out, it is about having your needs met. That's ultimately what it is. It is getting our needs met. The challenge is we are generally not present, aware, or conscious enough to know what the need is.

If we're not conscious of the emotion that we're experiencing, there are all these layers upon layers. We use our rational minds to express our thoughts and ideas. We don't really see, “This is an emotion that I have. I'm feeling a little insecure. I'm feeling a little fearful. I'm feeling a little nervous.” We can never request what we need in order to calm the feeling or address that feeling.


I shared with you earlier when I had that guest on. Her name is Theresa Doherty. She's amazing. I'd like to bring her back because it was such a great conversation. She was the first guest that I had on the show. I was exploring the idea of having this show. I'd been up to that point of sharing a couple of nuggets of my truth, Valerie style, and good ideas.


I remember it was my mother. I have to thank my mother for so many things. I appreciate her. She was like, “Why don't you invite someone else? Have a guest. That might be fun.” I'm like, “I could do this myself. I don't need anybody's help.” It was such a notable reaction against engaging someone else in this process and so on and so forth. That happened. Eventually, I was like, “If I brought somebody, it would have to be someone that's good.”


They had to be the best.


All of a sudden, I had all of these expectations about this person. It was beautiful that Terry was the first guest that I had on this program because when she and I had our prelim, like a prep conversation, and because she's so gifted at this type of communication where you can identify the feelings and needs, she asked me, “What are you feeling right now? I've been doing a lot of this work.” I was like, “Thank you for asking that. I didn't realize how nervous I was and how anxious that this would go well. I feel like I don't have any control anymore because you're on and I can't manage what you say or don't say or how you look or don't look. It's not about how I present myself. I know I have supreme control where I'm in charge. You're in it.”


That was probably the best thing for us to have had that conversation before doing this program with her because I said, “I have a need to be proficient at whatever I do. I have a need to provide a service. I have a need to make sure that the guests and anyone that tunes into this has a great experience.” She reflected back what she heard, and then I was able to release it.


It was the near act of being conscious of the emotions that I had and the charge that I had around this area, and then being able to express to her the need behind it. All she did was reflect back on what I said. She didn't provide the need. She didn't say, “You want this to be a wonderful experience? Here you go.” She reflected back. Once I was able to share it, it was almost like, “Here's the mask. Take it. I don't need it anymore.” We had a fantastic conversation. I even shared that on the show. To those of you who are reading, you might want to go back and check it out. That’s Valerie 101.


I'm interested in knowing from others who are tuning in what they have to say. What questions do you have for Amber? What questions do you have for me? What insights are you getting from this conversation? I see that there are some people who get it. They say that this is about reflecting or recreating for somebody what they've said. Sometimes, we don't hear ourselves. Therefore, when someone else is able to reflect it back, it's like, “I said that.” As we're waiting for people, what else would you share that you've seen as an impact of your opening up this way, especially at work? That's where we sometimes have the greatest resistance as a leader.


It has been very freeing. Have you ever seen The Man in the Iron Mask?


I have. I don't remember movies well so don’t rely on my movie memory. I may have seen Bambi but I don't remember.


Masks are constricting. It's hard to breathe. You're not getting fresh air. Everything about a mask doesn't work. It doesn't serve you. When I begin to free myself in the workplace it is like, “I know that I'm here, I'm committed, and I care. I am not going to hold back more direct honest conversations and vulnerable moments with people for the sake of a position or placement. It's not worth it. It's not serving me and the people that are around me.” That has been very freeing.


I can tell how much I hold and how much I carry. We will take a lot of the items that are happening in our work and we'll carry them. We’ll shoulder them like, “If only this would change. If we could do this. If this person will  listen.” Instead, it's taking that weight off and going, “I have the opportunity, and I have not necessarily a title but the position because I'm in the workplace or this environment.


I have the position to influence this thing or this person by stating something or maybe giving some insight like, “These are my thoughts. These are my concerns,” but I don't have to carry them. I don’t have to be like, “What are they going to do with it? Are they going to listen? Are they going to change?” I am letting that go. It's not about apathy. It's that my care should be about caring for the other person, not controlling something in the same way my journey takes my time.

Caring should be about caring for the other person, not controlling something.


Someone could have come to this realization that I'm coming to a few years ago. I don't have to hold myself to that standard. I also don't need to judge someone who comes to it ten years later than me. Everybody has their journey. Also, it's not about apathy. It's not about that. Apathy is detrimental to us. It's another kind of mask.


It's a way for us to cover up the feeling. Sometimes, it's for protection. I want to mention one of the questions that came up here from one of our audience. Can you think of a time when you have opened up? You've experimented and experienced getting the mask and being vulnerable somehow but the other person did not react in a positive way that was productive. It wasn't helpful. Can you think of a time when that happened? How'd you manage it?


Yes. That is going to be unavoidable. It was so important that I came into that conversation with the awareness of what I was saying about care and apathy. The times that I have come into a conversation where my well-being is based on the outcome of their response have never been good for me. That's when I'm like, “That threw off my whole day or potentially my week.”


When I have truly approached these conversations from a place of, “I care about you and I care about what we're trying to accomplish together,” I have faced rejection. I have faced minimizing. I'm not going to lie to you. My ego wants to flare up and be like, “Excuse me? What was that?” Coming into it with that awareness, I can keep that ego like, “Ego, you are not on the throne of this conversation. This is about care and kindness and me choosing to be vulnerable for the sake of influence.”


I can't control how they're going to respond. I am responsible for what I believe needs to be said at this moment. That's all that I can do. I'm not going to pretend like it doesn't throw you off or it's not frustrating. It's almost like you're going, “Care, you're going to stay right here. Care stays here,” and to look beyond their response as well.


I would remember how I responded when I was a little unhealthier. I'd get a little more defensive. I'd get a little like, “Let's deflect.” Remembering that gives me a little bit of context and understanding for maybe that's where they are as well in their journey and in their life. That's not my responsibility to control. The only thing that I can do is respond to them in kindness like, “I got it. This is why I was sharing it with you.” Fill in the blank however it is you want to close the loop on that conversation, but you’re not marrying those cracks.

Not Quite Strangers | Being Vulnerable At Work
Being Vulnerable At Work: Other people's journeys and lives are not your responsibility to control. The only thing that you can do is respond to them with kindness.


It sounds like, first of all, there's a lot of inner work that goes into noticing if we are attached right. You talked about being attached to the outcome and being attached to how they respond. I love that you said that your well-being is dependent on their response. That's an attachment. First of all, noticing it is one of those things to being conscious of it. It sounds like in those moments, if you haven't done the work where you can notice that you're attached to it, there would be some fallout. Can you think of a time before you had this clarity about your lack of attachment or that you're noticing that you had an attachment?




Before that, what would you have done if you'd opened up and shared something with someone and they didn't react in the way that you were expecting them to or you needed them to?


I probably would have used my verbal communication skills because that has been a stronger area in my life to control the direction of the conversation.


Say that like I'm a ten-year-old.


I would have bullied. That sounds strong, but that would be it. I would have bullied to move the direction of the conversation in the way that I saw fit, whether that's, “We're done with this,” or, “I know you're not seeing it, but.” I've done that.


For everyone to understand, can you explain this whole idea of speaking to a ten-year-old?


Early on in these conversations with Valerie, I would say something like I did, like, “My verbal communication skills.” She's like, “A ten-year-old's not going to understand what you said. Say that again as if I'm a ten-year-old and you're trying to help me understand this concept, this idea, or this situation.” It is simplifying the words or simplifying the idea, which as we saw made it a little bit easier. You’re like, “Bullied. Okay.” It's harder for me to simplify it because it takes it down to more of its basic terms where you have to look at it a little bit more in the eye. It's not packaged up on a bow.


That is so true. You gave me so many opportunities to work on that even for myself. I want to be of service when I coach any of my clients. I want to be able to help, but there were times when I felt that the conversation was so up here. It was so intellectual that it was hard to figure out, like, “Am I even smart enough to understand what this person is saying and help them?” You need to have it figured out. It's very articulate.


It became a game for me to listen to. I don't think I've ever shared this with you. It is not a game that I was playing and taking lightly, but it became a challenge for me to learn to listen closely and identify what's the emotion behind the tone or the words. How am I feeling about how she's expressing herself? I then could go, “I feel a little detached. I feel disengaged.”


When I started to notice that, that was my clue that I needed to look at whatever you're saying in the eye with, “If I'm a ten-year-old.” It’s an arbitrary age, but I do find that when it comes to things that are emotionally difficult and they're emotionally challenging for us, we revert back to our childlike selves. Right. The inner child could get stirred up, and that inner child is not communicating with verbal fluency. It's like, “I want my cereal.” I have nine nieces and nephews. I can see that when I start talking to them like, “What are you feeling at this moment?” They shout.


It glazes all over.


I realized in my coaching that in order to be engaged, be present, and be helpful, I had to listen for what was not being said. I use you as an example because you're in front of me, but this happened with a lot of people that I've coached. This is not unique to Amber. I wanted to make sure that was clear. The idea I've heard and I've done myself is to use language to create some separation. We use it as another mask.


Even saying we versus I.


Intellectualize something. When I say you like, “When you know that when you approach people,” I started to listen for that as well because then, I'm not claiming the words that are coming out of my mouth. They're not I or me. For those of you who were a little wrinkled when I said, “Use I,” that was the reason. You and I have this rapport. I appreciate how gracious you are, but I realize that our language creates division.


To all of you who are tuning in to this, first of all, thank you all so much for your engagement in this conversation. I challenge you, first of all, to be conscious of it. Be conscious of the distance that you might be experiencing because you want to look good. You want to look polished. You want to be prepared. You want to seem competent. I am not saying that you are not, but consider that there's a little extra something that we put on when we want to appear that way. It's not that I know I have experience. It’s that I want you to know that I have experience, so I have to amplify something. Notice when that's showing up.


Notice when it's showing up as, “I don't want them to know that I don't know,” or, “I don't want them to know that I'm feeling so much about this.” That goes for any relationship. Start to notice where that shows up and what it does to the connection with the person. Notice what it does, what's the impact or the connection that you feel to that person, how honest you feel you can be, how much of the needs are getting met, how articulate you are with how you communicate, and all of those things you might see impacted. This has been such a joy to have you and share this.


It's been wonderful.


Do you have any last comments or words that you want to share with everyone before we sign off?


Don't allow yourself to be so overwhelmed by hearing this that you get paralyzed and don't take a step because it's so worth it. I'm still in the middle of it, but it's so worth it. You're like, “I can never get there.” You can if a little girl learned from ten on, “Wear a mask. Don't do this. Don't do that. You got to survive. You have to cope,” which is going to play into the workplace where people see you. They know who you are, but they don't know some of those depths.


It's not about being fake or being real. It's how much of your depth you are showing and revealing. That can sound very overwhelming and really scary that you don't want to. Take one step. Even if all you do is start with that self-awareness. Ask yourself after this, “What do I feel? What have I felt this week? What did I feel in that conversation that I had yesterday that was really uncomfortable?” Make yourself sit in that for a few minutes. I'm still learning how to do that.

It's not about being fake or being real. It's how much of your depth you're showing and revealing.


I  have an additional challenge based on what you said. First of all, be conscious. That's the number one thing. I want to challenge everyone when you're asked, “How are you doing?” This is classic because generally, we'll say something like, “Everything's good. This is fine,” or whatever. I, one, want you to check in when you're asked the question, “How are you doing?” Check in and then say something that's truthful about how you're doing or feeling.


I’ve had it when I go to a supermarket. The cashier is always very, “How was your day?” I'll say something like, “ I'm 30 seconds from a nap. I'm exhausted.” It's so disarming. They’re like, “Me too.”Most of the time, they get into it. I remember the first time I did this. It sounds silly, but the first time I did it, the person asked me, “How are you doing?” I've been wearing this new pair of boots that I thought looked really cute so I've been wearing them a little too long for a new pair. My feet were killing me. Here I was trying to strut down the supermarket, getting all my groceries, and going, “I can't wait to take these off.”


When I got to the cash register and the woman asked, “How are you today?” I remember having a moment. It was a little game that I played for myself to continue to connect to myself. I said, “My feet are killing me. The shoes look cute, but they are painful.” First of all, she looked shocked and then busted out laughing. She was like, “I get that. I've been in that situation too.”


I love that.


It made our day with that moment. I challenge everyone to find a small way to connect to themselves and then share it with somebody else. It could be that simple, “How are you doing?” and saying, “I'm tired.” It could be like, “How are you doing? I'm a little frustrated,” or, “How are you doing? I feel really chill right now, relaxed, or whatever.” That's an opportunity for us to connect even further.


That’s so good. I love it.


Next time on the show, I have another wonderful person to talk to. There are so many wonderful people on this earth. I'm blessed beyond belief to have had so many opportunities to connect with people like Amber. In the next episode, we have Grace VyVyan, a wonderful friend of mine. We're going to talk about control. You mentioned a lot of that in this episode. It is that need for us to control the outcome, control the conversation, or control what we tell people about ourselves. We'll explore the subject and see where it goes. It will be fascinating.


Grace has been a person that's been working on this for many decades so she has a lot of experience. Some of the experiences are not quite fleshed out yet, but we're going to discover them together in the next episode. I can't wait to have you all join us again. Once more, thank you so much. I love you. I appreciate you. You have been amazing. This is amazing stuff.


I love you back. Thank you. It's been wonderful. I am grateful for you as always.


Thank you so much. Thanks, everybody, for joining us. I’ll see you next time.

Important Links

Dr. Joyce Brothers: “Love comes when manipulation stops; when you think more about the other person than about his or her reactions to you. When you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare to be vulnerable.”


Vulnerability is a hot topic these days. It has a stage at TED talks, a show on Netflix, and a feature in all the mainstream business journals. Yet, in the workplace, there are opportunities for us to go deeper within ourselves and connect more meaningfully with others.


Sharing experiences from her upbringing and work interactions, Amber Hill takes us through her journey from the head to the heart. Learn how her personal experience in leveraging her logic and emotions to be a more powerful influence in the workplace and building trust and partnership with those around her.



•         How our language can create distance.

•         Our well-being is not dependent on another’s response

•         What to do when your vulnerability is not accepted


Connect with Amber Hill via LinkedIn.


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