Other people view your vulnerability more positively than you do, study finds

Perhaps people aren’t judging as harshly as we thought [Photo: Pexels]
Perhaps people aren’t judging as harshly as we thought [Photo: Pexels]

Letting your guard down isn’t easy.

Whether it’s admitting to your housemate that, no, his favourite house plant didn’t kill itself, or telling a colleague you’ve been feeling down lately, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in front of others is challenging.

Why? Because we fear rejection, or being viewed in a bad light.

But according to a new study, doing so could have the opposite result.

Psychologists at the University of Mannheim gathered up hundreds of participants and asked them to imagine scenarios in which they or another person displayed intentional vulnerability.

As Research Digest explains, “intentional vulnerability” in this context could be admitting to a mistake or feelings of romantic love for someone, for example.

Don’t let a fear of rejection hold you back [Photo: Pexels]
Don’t let a fear of rejection hold you back [Photo: Pexels]

They then either rated their own vulnerability – on if they felt they had displayed courage or weakness – or the other person’s vulnerability.

Repeatedly, the participants perceived their own vulnerability more negatively than other people’s.

In another task, the researchers had the participants perform activities that almost made them physically display, not just imagine displaying, vulnerability.

They were told they would either sing in front of a panel of judges, or join the panel. They didn’t actually end up singing, but when asked to rate themselves or another person, they again rated other people’s vulnerability more positively than their own.

Seeking advice takes courage [Photo: Pexels]
Seeking advice takes courage [Photo: Pexels]

The study’s authors concluded: “Even when examples of showing vulnerability might sometimes feel more like weakness from the inside, our findings indicate, that, to others, these acts might look more like courage from the outside.”

They added: “Given the discussed positive consequences of showing vulnerability for the relationship quality, health, or job performance, it might, indeed, be beneficial to try to overcome one’s fears and to choose to see the beauty in the mess of vulnerable situations.”

Which sounds like pretty good inspiration for your next job interview.

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