I am a huge fan of Brené Brown's work. For anyone not familiar with her, she's a research professor at the University of Houston who has spent the past sixteen years studying courage, vulnerability, empathy and shame. She looks deep into the human spirit in her research and then responds by writing books that, for me, capture the essence of what it means to be truly human. I also highly recommend her TED talk on the power of vulnerability — it's been watched over 31 million times and is an internet phenomenon.
Her latest book is called Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. The publisher's blurb describes it as: 'A timely and important new book that challenges everything we think we know about cultivating true belonging in our communities, organizations, and culture …'
I'd describe it as essential reading in this time of political, racial and gender turmoil. Everywhere I look at the moment, people seem to be hurling abuse at anyone who doesn't share their particular viewpoint. There's little room left for rational debate or even basic respect. Social media now means that hurtful, degrading, insulting and downright vile comments can be dashed off in seconds with the writer never having to come face to face with their victim. We urgently need to come together, to find a way to be true to our beliefs and ideals without fostering division and hatred along the way.
Braving the Wilderness offers us a blueprint for how to do just that. It's certainly not an easy path that Brené Brown outlines, but I think it's an important one, and one that I intend to embrace to the best of my ability. She bases the book around the acronym 'BRAVING':
B - Boundaries. You respect my boundaries and when you're not clear about what's OK and what's not OK, you ask. You are willing to say no.
R - Reliability. You do what you say you'll do. At work this means staying aware of your competencies and limitations so that you don't over-promise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities.
A - Accountability. You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends.
V - Vault. You don't share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept and that you are not sharing with me information about other people that should be confidential.
I - Integrity. You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And you choose to practise your values rather than simply professing them.
N - Non-judgment. I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment.
G - Generosity. You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words and actions of others.
In isolation, this might seem a bit idealistic, but Brené Brown's gift is the way she combines her research findings with real-life examples and case studies to make the theoretical completely practical. She also writes with warmth, humour and in a thoroughly down-to-earth style that is wonderfully 'real' and enjoyable.
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