Trying to do anything creative or different is a risky business. You might end up looking stupid. Your efforts might fail in a way that makes you unhappy. Try it at work and you could lose your job.
In the balance of putting yourself on the line versus playing safe, the scales are tipped heavily towards safe. That’s because the opposite of safe is vulnerable, and most people don’t like to feel vulnerable.
I remember coming across the trade off when I studied interpersonal psychology at Birkbeck years ago. We looked at the odd ways people behave when they try to talk to each other. All those strategies aimed at saving face, not giving away too much, keeping your exit routes open.
I watched a great TED talk earlier in the week called The Power of Vulnerability. Brene Brown explains why we try to avoid vulnerability and how – just maybe – the secret of happiness is to accept it. Or even to embrace it.
I used to feel vulnerable a lot. Sometimes I still do. Quite often, actually, now I think about it. But it doesn’t bother me so much. I go looking for opportunities to make myself vulnerable. I read stories to people in the street, I prance about on stage, I try to write words that move people.
I’m not sure when this change occurred or why. But I’m glad it did.
I think if you want to make a connection with people, you have to take the risk that it might all go horribly wrong – or maybe just a little bit wrong.
You can play safe and put nothing at stake. You’ll limit your losses. But then you’ll limit your rewards, too.