Brene Brown

How to talk about shame in the workplace - a worksheet and activity guide

Greetings, fellow brave souls!

I had a couple of people do the Daring Way and then ask for ideas for bringing some of what they learned to life back in the workplace, so I created a two pager which might help with future requests.

Shame can be a trixy topic even in emotionally-intelligent workplaces, so if you're an HR or L&D professional, internal coach, manager or change-maker, or someone who would just value some guidance about how to talk about shame at work - I created this for you. Hope it helps.

P.S. I'd say (based on my experience of facilitating this work for 18 months now) we need to do our own work (inner soul-searching as well as research) before facilitating conversations about shame. It's not for the faint-hearted. The rewards for the well-being of the workforce and its leadership are huge, though, I believe. Enjoy!

 

I would love to know about your experiences with talking about shame in the workplace, or how you see it show up in your team or at work.

Feel free to share in the comments below (remember to maintain confidentiality :-))

I run workshops around topics like these - please see the Daring Way pages for details!

Like this? Please consider sharing it! Thank you.

Self-compassion mantra for ultimate shame-shit-storms

A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.
— Christopher K. Germer

I'm on a call with my Daring Way tribe last night and we're talking about the body of work that was the online part of our training - all the posts and sharings and trust-building that happened there. My buddies are agreeing that going back to re-read the messages is valuable and rich and how much they value still having access to that material.

I have the absolute opposite experience to everyone else.

I haven't been able to look at it since we finished in January, I say.

Something that happened in that online training triggered the mother of all shame-shit-storms for me at the time.

The most responsible way I can talk about it is in me making my entire being Wrong-With-a-Capital-W because someone took exception to a response I had written.

The visceral shame response I had in that moment - insides disappeared, everything slowed down, holding my breath, thought loop of 'idiot', all while saying 'fine!' when hubby asked if I was ok - took a few days to pass.

It was three weeks before I could go and revisit my message to really find out what went on there, and once I'd 'circled back' and practiced what we'd learned and committed to about empathy, I never visited that message thread again.

Going back to the online material, even nine months later, would be too painful. I just don't want to go back there. I notice an invisible, powerful reverse magnetic aversion to even thinking about it.

That's not the point of this story though. It's what happened next that was fascinating.

Me too, says one of my buddies. I had a six week shame-shit-storm and I couldn't look at the logo of the company of the other person involved without feeling sick.

And me, says another. I have a dress I had to throw away because I'd had a shame storm in it and I couldn't bear to wear at it again.

Me too, says yet another. I'm going through this right now. I disagreed with my client for a full 20 minutes before asking a question that would have been useful to clarify at the start of the session, and made up that I am an idiot and I should have known better.

I'm in the same boat, says another.  I just royally screwed up my first meeting with someone important because I was more interested in being understood than listening. Have cried more than a few tears since.

Maybe you know that feeling, too. That's exactly what shame does.

Shame gets us all triggered by something and then tells us we're stupid and worthless and nobody else is anywhere near as stupid and worthless and wrong as we are in that moment.

So we're sitting on our call last night, eyes brimming with the tears of connection and being seen, of sharing our most painful failures, and of being loved right there in our beautiful, raw, messy humanness. It makes my heart swell every time, with gratitude for this work.

Here's the truth. It's impossible for shame to bring you down for longer than a millisecond when your 'back is got' by army of empathy-warriors (or even a single gladiator).

Shame hangover?

Brene talks about 'vulnerability hangover' as that sense of having over-shared, and I think we can have a shame-hangover too - so much so that it anchors us to places, people, thoughts, dresses, that can re-trigger that painful experience.

The antidote?

Share. Speak shame. Tell someone you trust your story. Practice self-compassion. If that's hard - try these words for yourself.

Self-compassion mantra for ultimate shame-shit-storms

Ok - shame alert.  I'm doing shame. It's happening right now.

Shame Shame Shame.

It's okay. I'm okay. I'm just going to breathe deeply over here. In. Out. In. Out.

What do I need?

Who shall I call? Who has earned the right to hear my story?

Self-Hug.

If needed, insert one or two 'sweethearts' or 'my darlings' or childhood endearment/pet name with happy and comforting associations. If that's too 'fluffy' for you, you might need it even more. Let the inner five year old you and the twelve year old you know they're ok :)

I'm okay. This will pass.

May I be peaceful. May I be loving. May I feel free. May I know I am worthy of love and belonging. Breathe.

 

Or as my wise buddies Pam shared the following day after our call:

"Help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is".


Over to you.

What's your experience?  Want to share your story?  I would love to hear what you have to say.

 

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If this post resonated for you,  why not consider coming to one of my in-person workshops in the beautiful English Lake District. See these pages for details.