Vulnerability vs. Weakness

This week I had the privilege of speaking at an event here in New York City called Workforce Live! Along with my co-presenter Steve Cody (a veteran of the New York public relations world and a damn good comedian to boot), I was asked to address the use of comedy as a culture catalyst. Now, I don’t know what a culture catalyst is, but my dad’s Gremlin had a catalytic converter, so I’m clearly an expert.

In the joke above, I admit to not knowing something, which shows vulnerability. I make this kind of joke often in the corporate comedy training I do throughout the USA with strategic communications firm Peppercomm. I never thought too hard about why I do, until Cody and I left the stage at the Workforce Live! event. A human resource manager from one of the companies in attendance asked, “Aren’t you afraid that in being vulnerable you won’t seem strong?”

I was taken aback by the question because that thought had never crossed my mind. Vulnerability and weakness are not inextricably linked. In fact, showing humanity (by admitting imperfections) and being honest (by sharing insecurities) are moves only strong people make! Giving the audience a certain amount of power to hurt me allows them to become more emotionally invested in my performance. This is a comedy trick of the trade that all performers and presenters should master. Being vulnerable takes courage, and those who do it are seen as genuine, open, authentic, and strong.

Pretending to know everything is a surefire way to lose everyone’s trust, and what could be weaker than that?

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