Our palms are sweaty.
Arms are heavy.
But on the surface we look calm and ready to YELL AT THE FINE LINE BETWEEN BEING VULNERABLE TO CREATE CONNECTION AND MAKING YOUR PEOPLE KIND OF UNCOMFORTABLE.
So lemme stop the tired Eminem gag and tell you exactly what I mean:
Right now I could spend this email spinning you a long yarn about the fact I have passed out on my couch every night this week with my phone on my chest as the evening news plays in the background.
But I Digress…
(Note: This episode was originally published November 5, 2020, right before, you know…The Election.)
I could tell you that I’m supposed to be eating more leafy greens for dinner but I’ve been slamming pizza and wine instead.
I could share that I added 20 pounds to my deadlift yesterday because adrenaline was pumping so strong I could’ve lifted a car with one hand (or… at least a Fiat), and that I actively bellowed as I lowered the barbell to the ground after my last set — to which my trainer Marcus responded: “Whoa.”
But the question is… is that making you feel better right now?
W.A.I.T: Why Am I Talking?
Is it boosting your confidence in the ultimate outcome of the US election — which is completely out of both of our controls?
Is it wow-ing you with my knowledge and expert brain?
I’d imagine the answer is: nay.
BUT! What those very true stories might be doing is making you chuckle a little, and relate.
“Phone on your chest??” you might think. “I’ve been conking out with my MacBook in the bed with me…. AND I DON’T HAVE APPLE CARE.“
“Pizza and wine? Pfft — amateur. I’m 3 chocolate cakes and 4 bottles of tequila in.”
“And the deadlift? Talk to me when you’re stress-benching 200 lbs+.“
Vulnerability Vs Oversharing
Imagine if I were in your inbox every day with an update about how stressed I’m feeling — regardless of who’s president?
Imagine if I was constantly sharing every bump on the road to growth…
And every eat-my-feelings binge…?
Eventually, it might feel a little weird.
Not because you don’t honor my feelings, or have complex emotions of your own.
But because that’s simply… not why you’re here.
Your Audience is Not Your Support System
You’re here to read a little, laugh a little, catch HAMYAWs, and (hopefully) learn a thing or two along the way — not be a receptacle for my emotional ebbs and flows.
And THAT, my friends, is where the vulnerability vs. oversharing line lies.
And THAT, my friends, is the topic of today’s new episode of #HAMYAW.
So in the spirit of keeping you distracted from your F5 key, click here to catch today’s episode where we dig into:
- ️The difference between “authentic vulnerability” and “inappropriate disclosure”
- ️Why your audience is not “your friend” nor “support system” (although I do love you guys and feel like we’d definitely be friends IRL)
- ️Why catharsis is disrespectful and can be an abuse of your audience
- ️The deceptiveness of “engagement rates” when it comes to this kind of content
- ️The appropriate place for boundaries with your content (and why boundaries are different from inauthenticity)
️AND SO MUCH MORE
You Can (Over)Share with Us!
If you’ve ever wondered if something was “appropriate” to share or struggled with feeling like “OMG I’m not being authentic enough! People don’t know the real me!” — this episode’s for you.
And let us know in the comments, as always: where’s the line for YOU?
Where does “Ah, I relate to this!” end, and “… are you OK? Do you need some help?” begin?
And what are you sharing in a moment — and pandemic — like this?
We wanna hear all about it (and not JUST so we stop desperately searching for election updates on our phones.)
Click here to catch the episode right now– and we’ll see you over there.
In the meantime: stay safe and sane.
And write on,
I’m not saying this correctly, hang on. How do I close this out without sounding like a fucking asshole? Hang on. (Margo laughing) (Hillary grunting)
Just sounds like one. What is the show for?
(laughs) What show is this? (upbeat music)
Welcome back, marketing nerds of the world. It’s time for another episode of #HAMYAW, and today we wanna talk about the difference between vulnerability and what I think Brenee Brown calls inappropriate disclosure. You’ve heard us drop this term a time or two on the show.
Mostly because Margo needs to remind me what it is ’cause I’m always reaching for it. Because especially now the way the world, as it is, there’s been a lot of conversations about how much people are struggling.
There’ve been conversations about how difficult it has been with the various challenges due to COVID, due to childcare, due to, you know, lowered sales due to business being a struggle, life being a struggle. All of these bits and pieces, and we understand that there’s a lot of catharsis in sharing your pain on social media, in getting that feedback. In sharing that transparency, and feeling authentic in this way.
However, y’all knew there was a however, sometimes oversharing can be a little detrimental for your results. And we want to talk about why. We want to talk about what the difference is between vulnerability(TM) and inappropriate disclosure. We have so much to discuss today.
Margo, talk to me about your relationship to social media catharsis. [Laughing]
You know I think there’s a really thin line because of the explosion of content and social media, and sort of the democratization of distribution without gatekeepers, that we have really confused the line between: I’m a brand and a personality! And: I run a business.
Because before, like if you, Chrissy Teigan’s a really good example of someone who like, she shares a lot, she self discloses, a lot! Some people think it’s inappropriate, some people think it isn’t, but she’s not ever going in for a sell on the thing she is like disclosing to you, right? She’s disclosing something separate.
Or it’s like, there’s relevance there. If you guys have been following social media you probably saw that Chrissy and, uh, John Legend lost a baby. And she just posted like no words with a picture of herself and then she ghosted.
So, you can share with people what’s going on in your personal life, but not let them in. Like there’s boundaries on what you are, who is your support system. And I think the failure happens when you start to think that your audience are your friends. And you start to think that your audience is part of your support system.
Like, our support system is a small, tiny, tiny group of people who’ve earned the right to hear your story. That’s a Brenee quote, right?
So when we talk about being vulnerable, when we talk about the courage to show up, that doesn’t mean to spill your guts inappropriately in inopportune times when no one asked! And I think it’s especially true during a during a pandemic, when we’re all feeling really siloed, really isolated, very hungry for connection, and we have these – it is real connection with your audience.
But the relationship is different in the same way, like your relationship with your husband is going to be different than the relationship with your kids or your mom. Like we show up in different ways and they’re all authentic.
Yeah. I love that you brought up this vulnerability piece as well because I think it’s very you know, that it can feel good. To have that response. We talked about this a little bit in our, should you be yourself online?
Show, I want to say like a year and a half ago, it’s a great episode. Go check it out folks, wherever! We never include the stickers, but we always point, so just go find it, wherever you can.
But I think that where part of the problem is, is that we get validation when we overshare on social media, often from the people who follow us, because they’re glad to know that we’re human.
That’s a relief to know that we’re struggling too, maybe they’re going through the same thing. And that’s actually, I think a really powerful moment of connection. But it’s possible to misread that as something that people need to know about. Or that it’s something you should be sharing about more often.
I think transparency has a time and place, but I think where it gets tricky is because in business as we run it, you know, in the service provider industry in the personal brand industry, it’s your personality and your skillset, right? You’re selling both, you’re selling yourself. And no industry kind of has this problem.
But can you imagine, if your doctor walked in on your appointment being like, “Oh my God, I couldn’t stop crying last night. It’s just been, it’s been really, really hard. And I really haven’t slept.”
“My hands shaking, my husband and I had a huge fight.”
Having that twitch again.
Before I got here, this stain on my shirt is cereal from what my toddler threw on me. I haven’t had time to change and I stink and I haven’t showered.”
“How are you today? How can I help?” You’re gonna be like, could you like go home and nap, and we can like reschedule? You know, I think that where it’s so important to draw this line is because if you are selling your skills of yours, an authority, an expert, and you’re also a personal brand, it is difficult, for people to unsee things about you.
You know, when it comes time to sell, be like, join my program, join this. This is an industry where the struggle is really key. It’s an unusual struggle, but it’s very common. So I think it’s really important for all of us to figure out what the line is for ourselves.
Because it’s really hard to go from “I am struggling, everything sucks, I haven’t, I’ve cried every day for a month,” into “buy my stuff.”
It just gets weird, in between those faces.
I want to channel our inner Michelle Warner.
Follow her, you should check her out,
Friend of the show.
Friend of the show, but she, like her big mantra is like sequencing, sequencing, sequencing. And I do think a lot of this is a question of timing. Like you can share things, but not right now.
The struggle, in terms of a sales pitch, is really helpful in a retrospect, right? You want to sell that you’ve overcome the struggle, you don’t need to share it while you’re in it. With, but, but, like giant caveat right? Like there are qualitative differences. If your brand is: I am trying to learn cooking, and I really suck at it.
So come with me on my journey as I suck at cooking and watch me learn? Okay, fine. Be vulnerable about your cooking and your feelings and all the things that are happening. But that’s part of the positioning.
But if you’re like: I’m the chef and you’re going to get these amazing recipes, and I went to this great school, and then you spend all of your time talking about how none of your recipes tastes good?
None of it works, help me.
I really actually suck and I never get timing right, so, buy my recipes where I put the timestamps on. It’s like, what? There’s like a disconnect here that we’re not seeing. I also think there is a little bit of self-indulgence happening.
And I’m guilty of this too.
I think anyone who is in this space, like it again, that thin line between, you know, I want self-expression, and I need to be taken seriously as a leader. Like it is a thin line and I love the prompt actually, Hillary, you gave one of my hot seats. I think it was during Ignition or one of my writing workshops.
I can’t actually remember which one it was. But someone was asking you this question and you just looked at them and said, well, what do your people need to hear?
Like that was the prompt. And I think if you’re wondering how to share or when to share, or why to share, it all comes back down to like, what is the purpose that serves?
Like, does this serve the end user? So when I, there’s a lot of stories that I have written that live in a draft folder, because they’re not really relevant to my audience right now. They might be in a couple of years, but I don’t need them to see it right now. It’s not relevant to the direction I’m going in my business.
I might stick them in a book, I can use them somewhere else. But this, this need for immediacy to tell you everything on my mind right now, I actually think that’s a red flag for when you shouldn’t share.
Yeah. Yep, I think so too. I think it’s a bright red flag. And I would say too, that it’s easy to get confused when you’re hearing good feedback from people about a radically vulnerable post from a quote?
Um, and actually something that’s valuable. And I think that it is easy to get it mixed up and be like, Oh, people want more of this from me, I want to be transparent. And I had this experience earlier in my career, and I’ve told this story once or twice in the show. So, I’m going to tell it again.
Um, where I was launching my course: The Wordshops. And it was like the night before the launch started, and I was super fried, but I remember getting on Instagram stories and being like, this scares the shit out of me.
And this has been so hard.
I’m excited, but holy shit guys, like this has been like pushing a boulder up a hill. And I got a message from my, I got a DM from my coach at the time, who was like, don’t delete this. And I was like, whoa, I was like, ex-squeeze me?
And she was like, people don’t want to see like, they want to see the end result. They want to be wowed by you. They don’t want to know that you’re struggling. Don’t let them see you sweat.
Like and I remember her words were, “Give them the fantasy baby.”
And at the time, I was like, no, this is wrong. Like, I believe in transparency. Like I think people should know that this is difficult. Like I stand by what I said.
And as years have gone by a part of me has been like, well fuck, she’s fucking right.
Because if I think about it, like, you know the recent investment in my college was 20K. Right? And I’m working with this woman and she’s awesome. But if you know, the, the day after I had invested in her, she had a story being like, I’ve been crying every day and…
We’re losing sales.
Yeah exactly. We’re losing sales. It’s been a terrible year. I would have been like, like I feel for you and I love you and you’re amazing.
But at this time, what I would like is to be working with somebody who I feel inspired by. Somebody who I feel is gonna be able to show me the way.
And that tends to be, I think the difference – it creates that, I don’t think it’s going to turn everybody off from you, and make people feel like you’re wholly incompetent. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case at all.
When we think about the responsibility we have to the people that we serve, and the people that we lead, and the people who look to us; for information, for encouragement, for support for direction; we owe it to them, not to spill our guts on social media all the time.
And be vomiting up emotionally.
That is not to go full, stiff, upper lip British with it, but frankly your people aren’t prepared to hold that space for you, and it’s not their responsibility.
So, I think that this is, as you were saying, Margo, about the small circle. Like if you need to spill your guts, go to your group chat. Like, don’t go to Instagram right now. Because people, while they might be interested to see behind the scenes, it might be a cathartic release for you, and similarly a cathartic release for anybody reading.
If you’re not in the business of cathartic release, rethink it.
Yeah. But like, that’s, that’s such an important point though, because there are some people who are in that business, like we’ve talked about certain writers who, their entire brand sharing is oversharing. It’s oversharing, but they’re like, they’re not then coming in being like, let me life coach you. Right?
So, so I think that there’s a line. Like, if you’re selling books and speaking, and people are paying for your perspective, even then, like they’re still aligned. But, but go in, eyes open, knowing that there are consequences. Like don’t expect that when you overshare that you’re going to be met with love. Or that the love is the same as sales.
So like, I get so much response when I share like when I share something a little personal. But those people don’t buy it! I don’t get the same response when I do like, like a sales pitch. So like, we train our audiences how to respond to us.
Right? We have to be more deliberate about what our relationship is with them. And I think this point that you made really is important: that like, your audience is not your friends. And there needs to be lines between the two. And that’s not a demotion.
Yeah. It’s just a difference in the same way your mom is not your dad.
They are different. And they’re qualitatively different and that’s okay. There’s a time and a place. And I think it takes a lot of self-awareness to know what those lines are. And sometimes you have to violate those boundaries to figure out where they are.
One hundred percent.
But I want to make it really clear that we are not talking about deception. Because I can hear my clients. For sure my coaching clients. Being like this feels inauthentic. It just feels like it’s not really me.
And I’m really suffering right now, and they should know that I am not who I say I am.
And I’m like, first of all, you are who you say you are. And if you’re not, like let’s, let’s distinguish between imposter syndrome and deceiving your fucking audience.
Y’all are dramatic, too.
Because those are not the same. But that’s where the voices go if you don’t voice them.
Yeah, of course. So like, I get it, I totally get it. But there’s a great conversation – you guys listened to armchair expert, I’m a big fan of Doc Shepherd. And he was interviewing Liz Gilbert.
And she was saying how she was about to get up on stage in front of 20,000 people with Oprah in the front row. And she, for the first time, was getting like jitters, like physically, was like this. And she had a conversation with herself.
She was like, this is not the moment to be afraid. Like this is the moment to show up. Because part of what her speech was about was: females specifically, like, being relaxed.
Ahhh. The irony.
And she’s like, right. And so Dax pushed back and he goes, “Well wouldn’t you be more vulnerable and powerful with the audience, if you’re like, ‘I’m afraid right now. I’m scared and I’m uncomfortable and I’m human.’?”
And she was like, I mean, I guess you could make that argument, but it wasn’t my point! It’s a derailment from what I was trying to do. So again, it requires clarity of what you’re trying to do.
Sometimes it’s the right thing to like point at, what do you call it? Point at the elephant in the room, and be like, this is weird, right, y’all? This is weird.
Anyone seeing this giant fucking elephant? [Laughing]
Yeah, and I think that, you pointed it out too, where it’s like the first rule of public speaking is that you never get on stage and talk about how nervous you are, or how your palms are sweating. Or like, or apologize, because that’s all anyone remembers for the rest of the talk.
It’s easy to fall into a pattern of, especially if you get the most engagement on those like radical vulnerability posts. Which again, don’t always equate to sales. But I think that it’s easy to get misled being like well, this is clearly the depth of the conversation. Like this is the most potent and powerful thing I can share. And it’s just not true.
Honestly, I think overall the most potent and powerful thing you can share are reflections on those moments after you feel from them. So you can actually share a lesson of value with that.
Yes. And like, I think this goes back to, we did an episode on turning pro. But this really is relevant here. The context matters. Knowing who your audience is, what you’re sharing, where you’re sharing, why you’re sharing. If somebody is paying you for a service, you do have an obligation and a duty to show up in a certain way. That doesn’t mean be inauthentic, that doesn’t mean lie. That doesn’t mean deceit. That doesn’t mean pretend to be something you’re not. It means, find something true and have boundaries.
Like my fight with my husband is not relevant to them right now. If I came in and I was like, “y’all, like I know we’re talking about inappropriate disclosure but, like right now, I really am so overwhelmed because my husband’s had this dumb thing and he was freaking out.
And I just feel like I’m not going to be able to show up authentically in this conversation unless you know.” And it’s like, no, yes you can! Yes, you can! Like that is the kind of thing where you, you can diary about it, you can get it out. You call your girlfriends! There’s a whole podcast named that!
But, here’s the thing. There’s a very big difference between your diary, your girlfriends, and your audience, and your business. So again, I think it rests on the clarity of the distinction between the two.
And really challenging yourself on what it means to be authentic.
Because I think we try so hard to be seen and wanting to show up in a certain way in the world. And a lot of that can be done not publicly. Like you can share your process later, you don’t need to share it while you’re going through it in a way that makes you so raw and open that people can literally poke you and you’ll fall out of the sky.
There’s a colleague I know who, sharing the story publicly as a bragging point. Where she was sharing that women who were signing up for $20,000 a head, much like you, they show up the first day and the woman full on has a breakdown.
Centers on herself. Makes the entire thing about her.
And she tells the story as if it deepened connection.
But I’m telling you right now, you spend that kind of cash? Like, first of all, you’re doing gymnastics in your head to justify that money. Number two, your first reaction is anger. Like you are not there to support her. That’s not how this exchange works.
That’s like, you know how teachers are like, “I learned more from my students”. It’s a metaphor, y’all. The teacher is teaching.
I love that you talk about it in terms of exchange as well. And I think that’s ultimately what this comes down to as well. Is your audience there to catch you, and catch your verbal vomit in our hands?
You know, they’re following you for different reasons. And the exchange actually goes the other way.
Where you’re there to pour into them. And of course they can give you support, and of course they can cheer you on. And of course, again, if it feels good to have a vulnerable moment and have positive response, that’s not a bad thing.
But you have to think about this in terms of exchange.
Are people coming to you to watch your health go up and down and struggle with you? Or are they there to be inspired by you?
Are they there to be led by you? Or are they there to be taught? That’s a very important thing to keep in mind.
And we’ll end on this note: that like, would you be reacting this way if you were text messaging people?
Like there’s something about the broadcast format that allows us to like abdicate responsibility somehow. And we feel that, like what you were saying about catharsis. It’s like a cleansing. I’m announcing and I’m releasing.
You know, as the woo woo folks say?
But like really that’s a moment take this thing, and you take text, Hillary, give her your verbal vomit. And then she’s like yeah, maybe don’t put that on Instagram. [Laughing]
That’s happened more times than I can count, folks, let me tell ya. About me texting Margo. I just feel like this! She’s just like, okay. Well maybe we do an episode on that in like two months, and then you can, you can fucking relax.
But again, like you have to figure out where the line is for you.
There’s so much that goes into this folks. It really is thinking about the kind of leader that you want to be. Thinking about the kind of exchange you want with your audience. Thinking about the kind of experience you want to offer them. And what vulnerability looks like safely,
…for you. What are the boundaries you need to hold based on how you want to be showing up, how you want people to trust you, and how you want to relate.
Yes. Vulnerability does not exist without boundaries. So take some time for self-examination. Look at what your boundaries are. Where you want to show up and do the hard work. Because if it feels like catharsis, that’s not vulnerability.
Vulnerability is going to be hard and it’s one-on-one.
And showing up in a way where you’re still leading, but you are opening yourself up to people who’ve earned the right. Not simply to the world.
So if you want to go deeper on this, I highly recommend Dare to Lead by Brenee Brown. She has some wonderful, more specific examples and she is actually the expert on this.
I’ll close out with a great, great line from, I think it’s again, Liz Gilbert, but she was talking to a woman who was feeling all of these things.
Like I have all these things that need to be written, but I feel like it’s inappropriate. It’s going to hurt people’s feelings and I have to get it out. And she was like, girl, get it out! But, just because it needs to be written doesn’t mean it needs to be published.
So write to your heart’s delight and keep it in your trash folder. [Laughing]
And on that note.
I am Margo Aaron
And I’m Hillary Weiss.
If you liked this episode, please like it below, share it with your friends, and subscribe to our channel!
We’d also love to hear from you in the comments.
Tell us: what has your experience been with inappropriate disclosure? What did you learn? How have you set boundaries as a result. Or where have you not?
Tell us all the things in the comments below and we will see you in two weeks!
Thanks for watching bye for now guys.
Photo by Juliet Clare Warren