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!

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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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Shame Starts Young

I'm at my weekly aerobics class and in the line in front of me is a young boy, about seven or eight, he's come with his mum and aunty and it's his first class.

Halfway through the first song, after throwing himself into the moves, and getting them mostly wrong - it's the first time he's ever done them remember - he rushes out of the front row, sits on the steps at the front of the hall, makes his tear-stained eyes and flushed cheeks invisible to us by putting his head in his hands, and he refuses to look at, or speak to his mum, aunty, or anyone else trying to offer him encouragement.

Disconnected. Shut down. Moved away.

How many of you remember moments from childhood when time stood still because you were told off, or got something wrong, or didn't do something perfectly, or were bullied, or felt like you stood out in the most excrutiatingly painful way? I know I do.

And how many of you are still living those patterns today?

I was struck by how I could be witnessing a shame storm right there, in that young boy. I make up that he tried, he couldn't do it perfectly first time, he quit.

That young boy is a potential leader, potential surgeon, potential politician, potential husband and father, and it's possible that that moment in the class could have frozen him into a pattern of being seen that will show up again and again in his adult life.

He moved with his mum and aunty to the back row, and later in the class I saw him laughing and joining in, safe out of the limelight and able to give being awkward and just learning the steps another.

Ordinary courage is getting up again when you fall.

How are you with getting up again when you fall? I'd love to hear what you think in the comments below.

 

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If you've enjoyed this post, please share it on Facebook and Linked In to the friends and colleagues you feel would enjoy it too by clicking the 'Share' icon below.

I teach around topics like this. If this post resonated for you, please consider taking a look at scheduled workshops.

 

what to do when you fail at empathy

Image credit: Dayne Topkin at unsplash.com

Image credit: Dayne Topkin at unsplash.com

You know those people who never seem to mind or notice what others think of them?

Well, that's never been me.

Once upon a time, I was someone who thought the worst thing you could do was to be disapproved of or to upset someone.

So you can imagine my angst as I read these words, in response to a reply I had written to a fellow student on my course:

'Jacqui, I felt uncomfortable when I read your words, and I don't appreciate this kind of comment'.

Uh-ho. Shame-shit-storm alert. Heart pounding. Time slows down. I'm holding my breath.

Here we were, learning about empathy, connection, and trust. And here's me, having failed at that.

I'm such an idiot.

I got it wrong-got-it-wrong-got-it-wrong-got-it-wrong GOT IT WRONG.

What's a girl to do, mid shame-storm?

Ok. Type reply. Make sure he knows he interpreted my message incorrectly. Put him right. Defend myself. TAKE HIM DOWN.

Typed it. Felt bad. Deleted it.

Stomped around the house, huffing and puffing. Said 'nothing!' in a bright, breezy voice when hubby asked what was wrong. Felt like my insides were coming off. Totally disengaged my brain.

Pause. Wait a moment. Pay Attention.

I'm having a shame attack. Name it. Shame shame shame.

Reach out. Tell my story to someone who has earned the right to hear it. A colleague I trust.

Her reply was like a cooling balm on my burning shame-iness.

"Bravo for reaching out. You're in the arena. I'm here. What do you need?".

Shame can't survive in the warm embrace of empathy, of being seen, and knowing we're not alone.

Ok. Deep breath. Circle back. Put this right.

New reply typed, from a wholehearted, open, honest place. Connection made with original poster. We see each other. This is the work.

 

Over to you.

What's your experience? What happens for you when you fail?  What works for you when someone is trying to understand how you feel?  I would love to hear what you have to say.

 

Share this post.

If you've enjoyed this post, please share it on Facebook and Linked In to the friends and colleagues you feel would enjoy it too by clicking the 'Share' icon below.

I run workshops around topics like this. If this post resonated for you, please look at scheduled workshops.