Brene Brown, the Merciful


As people rush through a single set of double doors to get to one of 80 circular tables in a massive ballroom, the din comes dangerously close to erupting into chaos.

Once everyone is seated, the excitement builds above the din of conversation and the clinking of silverware and china.

Dr. Brown, a University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work research professor and something of a Ted sensation, was scheduled to speak to us.

There is a good chance that most people in the room had seen her TED Talk on Vulnerability more than once and had been moved by the ideas she raised.

Art of Persuasion
It’s also worth checking out Nancy Duarte’s TED Talk on The Secret Structure of Great Talks, which she presented as well. Nancy makes several allusions to the importance of outstanding storytelling throughout her explanation of the framework.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech in 1963, “I have a dream,” cemented his legacy into the minds and hearts of those who heard it and will hear it for years to come. His speech had cadences that took us from the known to the unknown.

As Nancy argues, all great speeches have these cadences, this framework, which leads the audience from where they are now to where the speaker wants them to aspire to be. Stories fill in the gaps.

Brene Brown has a gift for telling stories. Vulnerability is not a weakness but an indicator of one’s self-worth, so how do you convince millions of others that this is the case? Despite the fact that her research fully supports this, it isn’t enough to sway me. It’s true.

To draw the audience into Brene’s cadences like reeds in a wind, Brene weaves together her research, personal experiences, and her own vulnerabilities.

On that particular morning, I counted 800 ladies leaning in for a closer look. The 800 people in the audience cocked their heads from side to side as Brene went around the stage. She had us completely enraptured.

Within a tale, there’s a story
She recounted a simple tale about her, her husband, and their extended family on an annual vacation, accompanied by a simple picture of an extended family strolling toward a stretch of water.

When she recounted the events leading up to an incident between her and her spouse, they were not spectacular in themselves. Listening to her tale might lead to a change in behavior for tens of thousands of men and women.

Whenever anything goes wrong between two individuals, we tend to invent tales to explain what happened. Instead of allowing the tale to escalate to a point where her husband and she were unable to communicate, she decided to make herself vulnerable three times in order to end the conflict.

As the tale progressed, we were immersed in the action, experiencing her feelings as she did. When she talked and felt, we imagined how we would respond. Her confusion and wrath were shared by us.

Considering what had transpired between them, we were shocked when she returned a third time to attempt to find a solution. We were well aware, as she was, that very few women or men would take such an extreme step. There aren’t many of us who are willing to put ourselves in that position of vulnerability.

She said, “We are hardwired to connect.” It’s what makes our life worthwhile and meaningful.” People who have a strong feeling of love and belonging are more likely to think they are deserving of it, according to her findings.

Only someone who felt deserving of her efforts could provide the connection she was looking for on that particular day.

As we awaited her to share his reaction, she took a breath, as great storytellers do. We all became silent as a result of her presence at that precise time. As she delivered the climax, a crowd of 800 ladies was so silent that you could hear our bated breath and exhale.

Taking a risk to the limit
The identical tale would have been merely an anecdote if it had been recounted at a cocktail party without the background and aim. We would have gained nothing, aspired to nothing, and possibly been a little bored while seeking for an excuse to move on to another topic of discussion..

Brene provided the background information that put everything in perspective for us. She explained to us how she came to take charge of her life. She established a high standard for us to follow. She described what it’s like to live in a world where you don’t take responsibility and instead try to blend in. As she stepped into the ring, she offered us a glimpse of what it’s like to be alive.

She set us up for this narrative inside a story by laying the groundwork beforehand. She provided us a vivid picture of what life might have been like if she hadn’t stayed in touch with her spouse that day. We could all identify with the feeling of “I’m wounded, it’s pay-back time,” but we came away with a new perspective on the importance of being vulnerable. We learned a new way of doing things.

Brene has a purpose when blogging becomes more than just blogging. Embracing vulnerability and “daring much” may have a profound impact on the way you love, live, lead, and parent. That’s what she wants us to take away from her twelve years of study on shame and vulnerability.

In order to have an impact on the lives of others around you, you must convey your purpose in everything you say and do. What you do is less important than why you do it. It’s in your hands to become a master storyteller once you’ve accepted that.

Do you have a tale that can change people’s lives? Is there a way to set the stage for this shift in your next post? In order to influence the way others see your actions, you must ‘venture much’.

Storytelling will always be a need for us.
Whatever we’re doing, we need words to express our beliefs to others.

The difference between the silence in the room when she transformed our perspectives with her narrative and moving on to another topic bored by an anecdote is having a goal and a framework (the equivalent of Brene’s study) from which to communicate.

Cheeky Yes, but I had a specific goal in mind that day. Brene’s fan base is huge and devoted. “What can you do with your clan?” I asked her in the autographed copy of the book I gave her.