“One, two, three … one, two, three … one, two, three …” The dance instructor showed us the basic steps to a waltz. I tried to follow along.
one, two, three
one, one, two, three
sorry about stepping on your foot
three, one, two, three
i’ll get this down eventually
one, two, three
Not bad for a beginner, I thought.
It was a warm summer evening, and I took advantage of some free dance lessons in downtown Chicago.
After the lesson, the instructor turned the stage over to the band. For the rest of the evening the dance floor was open, and I practiced what I’d learned.
Some dance partners showed impatience as I struggled with the basic steps. They glanced at the more skillful dancers, wishing they could be with them. They corrected my movements. “It’s not like this, it’s like this,” they told me. Dancing with them, I became conscious about each movement. But the dance moved too fast to take time to think, and I made even more mistakes.
Other people embraced the fact that it was my first time. They took delight in helping me figure out the moves. They’d offer gentle guidance when I missed a step and encouraged me to continue. “Keep practicing, you’re getting better.” they’d say. I relaxed and let my body follow the music. I made fewer errors. And I enjoyed the dance more.
The sole indicator of how well I danced, and how much fun I had, was whether I felt judged or not.
A few months ago, I had a conversation with a friend I hadn’t talked to in a long time. We chatted about life, work, and an array of random subjects.
After hanging up the phone, I thought back on the call. I realized I’d shared a number of personal challenges and struggles that I rarely share with anyone.
Because my friend so openly shared her struggles and weaknesses–including a number of ridiculous ones–I was comfortable being honest. Because she was vulnerable, I was more vulnerable. I was unafraid of being judged.
She created a safe space, and we connected on a deeper level.
Moments such as these make me wonder. Am I leading with vulnerability? Am I creating a space where people can act without fear of judgement? Am I doing this with every interaction and act of service?
Because if not, I’m closing the door on connection. I’m losing an opportunity to learn about another person in a deeper way. I’m missing out on the chance to see them as they really are.