I suddenly got clarity on something that had been quite fuzzy for me:

Why are some people better at relationships than others?

So many loose toughts just snapped into place after I saw a TED talk that my friend Paul was kind enough to share with me. I could suddenly see what deep relationships are really made of.

Business is all about human connections. You prefer to buy stuff from people and companies you feel a connection with. The same is true for endorsements or the people you recruit.

This is all very obvious. I know.

But in order for a truly meaningful connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen exactly as we are!

This is much less obvious. Especially in business!

Even though we can’t always put our finger on it, somehow we know when others are the 'real deal'. Take a moment to think about the times you got it wrong.  Was it because you chose to override your intuition with judgement? Think about all those times you decided to mute that inner voice...

True connections come as a result of authenticity.You bond with others because of who they really are, not who they are supposed to be. We are all wired to recognise authenticity form miles away because our survival used to depend on our ability to judge intruders at first sight. We have all the programming in place, yet most of the time we chose not to use it.

I never kept records on this, but when I look back, the people with who I did the kind of business that truly mattered was when I took the risk to venture ‘off script’ and ask them to help me figure out whatever it was that I was struggling with at the time. I opened up and they let me in. We became a team!

This goes against most of what we've been taught. In business you are supposed to be in control because vulnerability equals weakness. Never forget that human relationships have been around much longer than companies and organisations. The topography of our economy changes but human nature is more static.

Even dogs understand this. If you’ve had them in your life you know that we simply can’t resist them when they roll on their back to strike that vulnerable pose of exposing their bellies. This is instinctive behaviour. They know we understand the body language. I guess that is why they have been mankind’s best friend for as long as we can remember.

But most organizations struggle with being authentic despite the fact that the companies they do business with are made up of people. Even decision makers are human and staying out of trouble is usually on top of their list.  The best way to get them to trust you is by earning their confidence and you can only do that by being authentic.

When I work with businesses, I always push them to explore their mistakes and openly tell the stories about what they learned when they got things wrong. Almost every company has difficulty embracing this but when they finally take the leap they realize this is the strongest form of confidence they can convey.

But it doesn't only have to be about mistakes but also about the solutions. Good businesses solve real problems for their customers. Exploring the human dimension of these problems will resonate more with your prospects than any other carefully crafted slick marketing message you could possibly come up with! In order to do this you will need to become human and the only way to do that is by embracing your vulnerability.

Vulnerability is uncomfortable. It’s about putting yourself out there with no protection. It’s about investing in relationships that may not work out. It’s about risking betrayal. Accepting accountability Embracing that there is no such thing as a guarantee. It’s about having to adopt ‘naive’ as you middle name because that is what many will call you. It’s about having to courage to be imperfect. But most of all, it is about opening up to others so they can let you in.

Deep down inside, humans simply can’t resist connecting with those who have that kind of courage.It is the kind of bravery that conveys confidence. And confidence is a key ingredient for good business!

By the way, did you know that ‘Courage’ is a word that originally comes from ‘coer’, the french word for heart. It means acting wholeheartedly.

Thinking about all this makes some big names to mind. People such as Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Dr Martin Luther King, Aung San Suu Kyi, that young man staring down a tank on Tianmen Square and all our religious prophets who will never be forgotten for the power and influence they unleashed with their courage to be vulnerable.

Then think about how historical leaders rode into battle alongside their troops.  It is all indisputable evidence that vulnerability is a special form of strength. That is what makes this insight so counter-intuitive.

This is how you play in the major league of relationship management. It is a game of big stakes and it is not without risk or injury. But if you want to make those meaningful business connections that set your relationships in a special place far away from the conventional, this is what it will take.

If you can feel this I’d like to share my source of inspiration for this piece. It’s a moving and even humorous TED talk by Brene Brown.

And Paul, if you are reading this, thanks so much for dropping this one into my cup!