Can Vulnerability Be Strength?

No one likes to appear weak. Oftentimes, we perceive vulnerability as weakness. But can it actually be strength?

Appearing vulnerable means, necessarily, displaying a shortcoming of some sort. That, in turn, means showing some sort of weakness. That would seem to be a bad thing.

But might there be a hidden benefit to appearing vulnerable, and therefore weak? What might those benefits be?


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the question ‘What belief do you have that might be wrong?’ Stay tuned for a bonus question, ‘What makes a place feel like home?’


Alternately, it might be best never to show your vulnerabilities. Is that even possible? Or desirable?

Can you think of situations or instances where revealing a weakness might be a good thing? Can vulnerability be strength? When might that be? What risks might there be?

Related questions: When is a lie justified? When is it useful to fail? What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken? What is uncomfortable but rewarding?

When Should You Criticize Someone?

Being critical of someone else can be a tricky endeavor, even if it is well-intentioned. If you criticize, it might be interpreted as a personal attack. If they respond with a defensive posture, it might make effective communication more difficult.

When To Criticize

Sometimes, it is important to challenge someone else’s ideas or comments. If a friend or family member expresses an idea that you strongly disagree with, particularly if that idea is hurtful or dangerous, it should not remain unanswered.

By engaging with someone, you might be exposing him or her to a point of view they may not have encountered before. That can be a very valuable thing, particularly in this era of online bubbles of group-think.

But sometimes being critical does not serve any defined purpose. The person being criticized is unlikely to change, and might not even listen to the criticism. If all that can be achieved is hurt or angry feelings, then keeping silent may be a better course of action.

How To Criticize

So knowing when to criticize and when not to is important, but then so is knowing how to do it. How can you get someone to listen, to accept your opinion in a constructive way? How can you avoid a personal attack, or at least avoid such an appearance?

It can be a fine line between denouncing someone’s ideas and insulting who they are. A person’s strongly-held belief can be a cornerstone of their identity. In that case, condemning the idea may seem akin to condemning the person. That is no way to get someone to keep an open mind, and get them to consider other points of view.

So really, there are two closely-related questions: When should you criticize someone? And how should you criticize someone in order to get them to listen?

Related questions: How can we encourage debate? What words have the most power? How important is respect? What makes a good friend? How can we encourage meaningful conversation?