A Coaching Power Tool created by Sreenivas Nagappa
(Executive Coach, INDIA)
The words Secure and Vulnerable bring to mind very different images. If one had to give personalities to these two words, what would they be? Probably Secure is confident, competent, strong, outgoing & caring. And maybe, Vulnerable is diffident, lacks certain skills, shy, weak and maybe a little aggressive because of the many perceived attacks on him.
The dictionary definition follows similar lines.
As per the Oxford dictionary:
- Secure: Happy, firm, certain, safe.
- Vulnerable: Weak, easily hurt physically or emotionally.
What do these two sort of opposite states mean to the individuals in that state?
Before we start to explore the dimensions of Secure & Vulnerable, it is worth remembering that, as in all Power Tools, it is a continuum i.e. there is no black & white. In situations that we are very familiar, e.g. a job that we have done for a long time, or a strong relationship that has been nurtured over the years, or a city that we have lived in for many years, all of us are Secure i.e. we are confident, we do not feel threatened, and we are in our comfort zone. But the same individuals in a new environment e.g. a new job, a new relationship or a strange city could be Vulnerable i.e. could be nervous, may feel threatened or anxious and could exhibit certain characteristics of fear. So, it is worth exploring why an individual could spend time in both these states and is there a value in time spent in these states ; specifically, is it beneficial to be sometimes Vulnerable and if so how is it to be managed ?
Impact of External Environment
In unfamiliar situations, it is normal for one to have a sense of heightened anxiety and stress and to feel vulnerable. However, it is important to distinguish between external factors causing this sense of being Vulnerable and the person’s innate state of being.
Take an example of two friends, Josh & Stan. Both are a few years out of college and have recently located from a small town on the west coast to New York City because of work opportunities. Both are somewhat wary of the big city having heard many unfavorable accounts.
Josh approaches this by doing research and speaking to people who know, on areas to stay and which to be careful about. Through his research, he has an idea of what the rentals are in his desired locations. Armed with a map, he spent the first week end exploring the subway system and specifically, how to get to his place of work. He used his contacts at his old Runners Club to gain an introduction to the nearest chapter in New York. He reached out to others at his place of work who had moved to the city a few years ago and gleaned nuggets of information that helped him settle down quickly. They also took him to new places and he met a lot of different people. He bought an extra dead bolt for his apartment door and made friends with the building security supervisor. He kept a couple of emergency contact numbers with him at all times and also passed these onto his family back home who worried less as a result. And most importantly, he constantly reminded himself that he moved to New York by choice, that it was an important step in his career, and given that he might live in NY for many years, it was upto him to not just cope but to thrive.
Stan approaches this move with the words of his old uncle ringing in his ears “Never trust a city slicker”. He is wary of making new friends for fear of being cheated or worse. For the same reason, he declined an offer to share a very nice apartment that was centrally located. After many months he is still not comfortable with the subway and feels sad that his one friend from his home town who lives in NY has not made time to show him around. All his social life is now on the net back home and the dominant theme of his conversations with family are about “this miserable city.”