What Angelina Jolie Can Teach You About Vulnerability and Friendship

When Angelina Jolie announced to the world that she’d had a double mastectomy there was almost universal praise for her bravery and honesty in sharing her feelings. She explained how she feared she would die of breast cancer as her mother had and she wanted to make sure that would never happen and deprive her children of their mom.

The honesty and vulnerability Angelina displayed are very attractive qualities because they show people we are like them, it shows everyone we have fears, worries and self doubt just like everyone else, only we are one of those with the courage to admit it. When it comes to getting to know people better and to really connect with those we love it’s necessary to let them know who we really are. The more we accept ourselves the more we can share our true thoughts and feelings. And when we do we become more interesting, our true nature shines forth and we express what makes us unique. These are also the qualities that make us who we are and being honest about who we are differentiates us from everyone else. Over time we grow into who we really are and drop the pretence of being bland, always on top of things and just like everyone else.

Shy people often err on the side of sharing too little about what they really think and they worry that people will judge them or criticise them for being different when in fact unless you have some qualities that make you different it becomes very difficult for people to want to get to know you better. While some overly talkative people can be guilty of sharing too much information (TMI) those who lack social confidence often go to the other extreme and share too little information (TLI).

When you share too little information the conversation can become very one sided with the other person sharing their stories, thoughts and opinions while you shake your head, agree and listen attentively but without recognising that at some point you need to contribute your own personal stories and perspective if you are to give the other person a chance to get to know you better.

I used to make this mistake and then wonder why as I got to know people better they really didn’t understand me, they didn’t know what I really thought and for some reason the friendships remained polite and cordial but rarely grew to be deep life long friendships. One day I was talking to my friend Nicole and she said to me, “It’s as if you just turned up here from another planet with no past and fully formed as you are now.”

She was right. I never talked about my failures and successes in the past, I didn’t share my fears or worries and I rarely asked anyone for help when I had a problem. Why? Because I was afraid of criticism, rejection and being ridiculed. My fears were stopping me from connecting with people and the barriers I put up made it almost impossible for new people to get to know me.

What I subsequently learned is that, like Angelina Jolie, when you share some of your vulnerability you become more likeable because people can now relate to you. Kind, decent people will listen to you, care for you and become friends you can count on. Will some people criticise you? Yes! Even Angelina in her hour of greatest honesty and humanity had people condemn her for her choice. You know what? Some people are negative, some people are critical and some people are just deeply unhappy. You can never please them so don’t even try. Instead identify who these people are in your life and just for them adopt a policy of not sharing much personal information.

How to Share More of Who You Are:

Here are some pointers you can use to be selective about who you share your true self with.

1. Work

At work it’s smart to be friendly with everyone but still realise that most work colleagues are not friends other than a few good friends you have in the workplace.

When it comes to colleagues err on the side of sharing too little of your true feelings. I remember one time years ago when I told a colleague I regarded as a friend that I really didn’t feel like flying to Amsterdam to represent the company at a trade fair. I went back to my office and within minutes she was talking to our boss about my lack of team spirit, five minutes later I was sitting across the desk from the boss explaining myself.

In any competitive work place it’s often hard to know who to trust, honesty and vulnerability can be used against you so it’s best to put on your work mask in those environments.

2. Gossip

Let’s face it some people like to gossip and they just can’t help themselves. A good friend of mine likes to gossip, he’ll always apologise later but that’s no consolation when he has already broadcasted your personal news to everyone that knows you.

When talking to a gossip filter what you share, only share personal stories that you would happily share with everyone in your social circle. Never expect a gossip to keep a secret because secrets make the best gossip!

3. Minor disclosure

When you want to get to know people better it’s time to share more of who you really are and it’s time to talk about what you really think. When you do this keep the conversation on a positive track and steer clear of dark fears and oppressive worries by sharing a minor disclosure. A minor disclosure could mean mentioning that you signed up for an art class because it’s something you always loved doing when you were younger, it could mean saying how proud you are of your brother who just got a promotion or it could mean saying that you are looking forward to a weekend away with your partner at the end of the month.

For me it could mean mentioning that I just released a new book on Amazon, I regard this as a minor disclosure because I have no fear of disapproval over it and the whole world can see the book listing anyway even if I don’t tell people.

It’s good to share a minor disclosure for two reasons. Firstly, because it’s low risk for us and we don’t have to worry so much about being criticised, and, secondly, we want to assess the response of our friend. Do we get a positive, supportive response or are we faced with a lack of interest?

If you get a positive response, you’ll often find the other person responds with a minor disclosure of their own and the conversation takes on a more intimate nature. On the other hand, if the person is disinterested or even aloof you can test a few more times with some more minor disclosure to see if he warms up. If he just isn’t interested it’s an indication to keep the conversation at a superficial level.

4. Major disclosure

A major disclosure is one I’d recommend you only make with someone you know likes and respects you. This is generally family and close friends. These important people in your life will get to know you better if you are more open, they’ll then start to like and appreciate you even more as they find more to relate to.

A major disclosure would be getting fired and phoning a close friend to announce the fact, it could be visiting a relative to let them know you are moving to a new area to build your first home or it could be announcing to a group of good friends that you just met the love of your life.

Reserved people can be slow and exclusive about who they share good and bad news with but remember those who care about you want to know how you are getting on, they want to share your success and they want to support you through the lean times. The more you keep them in the loop the warmer and better your relationships will be.

Little by little, starting with minor disclosure you’ll notice who your true friends are but from that point on it’s good to be selective and only share the major disclosures with your closest friends. Do this and you’ll build a close knit group of great friends who love and appreciate you.

You don’t need to reveal all your greatest fears and personal battles but you can learn a lot about vulnerability from Angelina Jolie. That courage and willingness to be true to yourself and to share who you really are will enrich all the friendships that matter most to you. You’ll be happier, more expressive and an interesting friend to spend time with.