How to Handle Shame in the Workplace

We can’t ever get rid of shame, but can minimize the impact and potential damage it can have on our business relationships.

Shame, according to famous researcher Brene Brown, is “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”

What can do with it then? We can develop resilience to shame.

When you start to feel small and not enough, rather than get mad and angry and lash at coworkers, boss or clients or bringing yourself down with negative self-talk, tell yourself something different.

“I’m in a moment where I’m feeling shame. I refuse to talk, text or type what happened until I can process it more fully.” Take a walk around the block. Listen to some music. Read a chapter in a book. Go for a run. Meditate. Whatever it is, do that before you do anything else.

You’ll be able to process it more and ask yourself what triggered that feeling of shame. Remember, to talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love and care about.

“Geeze, I really screwed that up. I need to circle back with some folks, be accountable and clean it up. And I need to give myself a break.”

You can also have a conversation about it with someone you trust. Shame can’t survive being spoken about. Shame lives in silence, secrets, and self-judgment. You destroy when you talk about it. Your courage speaking about it filters shame out your life.

That will help you figure out how to have a conversation about it.

You’ll find you’ll get into fewer conflicts and do much less damage to your relationships

We all struggle with shame, and most of us will continue to do that. But how you handle it is a different story. You can either own your story and write the next chapter or let the world around you write your story about you.

Invest In Yourself Not To Grow More But To Contribute More

Had a great time on this podcast with Jamie Newman. It’s called Your Best Manager. You can click to listen or check out the show notes below to see what we discussed.

Jason Treu Interview Notes:

2:04 Jason Treu’s Career Path
Jason talks about how a simple interview question during his pursuit of a great job out of college led him to do something different… something that would lead to happiness.
4:07 The Trap of Success in Pursuing Happy
5:21 When you have success, how easy is it to take the next risk?
6:01 Don’t Successful People Have Resources?
7:11 “The problem is, we live in a world in which asking for help, investing in yourself, being curious and learning… are not qualities that are prized and that are not put up high enough today. With the millennial generation, it’s definitely changing at some level but it still is not significant. …All the skill sets you’re going to need to be successful are all learned behaviors and if you don’t have them today in your arsenal… that’s why 90% of the managers out there, probably even more than that, are operating at a very low level, in my opinion, for the success that they could be having.”
8:01 How important is the change you are looking for?
9:10 In order to change, there is a level of pain that you need to be in.
“There’s two places to come from when you want to change and that’s either; One, you’re in a massive level of pain or two, you’re in a generative state, meaning you want to generate some action and you are willing to do what it takes to get there because the path ahead is so compelling.”
12:05 “The key is, you’ve got to invest in yourself and be in a constant state of learning and being curious and not have an ego that says, ‘I know more than you do’”
12:25 Ego Is The Enemy, by Ryan Holiday
12:56 What if you’re not in pain? How do you find that reason to change?
Growth, “I want to do better” vs Contribution, “I want to make an impact”
16:15 The “What If” Project
What if I do?
What if I don’t?
17:10 It’s all about perspective
19:06 Having Resources VS Being Resourceful
“You have to ask for help when you need it, but you’ve also got to put money in the bank before you do it”
TIP: Become a connector and start making introductions within your network
21:39 “You’re one interaction away from getting everything you want, you just don’t know what interaction that is. The key is, you’ve got to leverage people because people are what make the world go round. It’s not business, it’s not money, it your social capital that is the most important capital on this earth.”
23:18 Vulnerability and Sharing Your Story
There is tremendous power to build relationships through sharing personal information
23:58 36 Questions to Bring You Closer Together (Study by Arthur Aron – Psychology Today Article)
26:39 “Belonging is in our DNA”
29:44 Two books related to networking and relationship building
Social Wealth: How to Build Extraordinary Relationships by Transforming the Way We Live, Love, Lead and Network, by Jason Treu
Never Eat Alone: And Other Sectrets to Success, One Relationships at a Time, by Keith Ferrazzi
30:16 Who was Jason Treu’s Best Manager?
Jason talks about the ownership he took to find opportunities to learn from many of his managers and pursue personal development through independent investment.
31:15 How do you really get to know people?
33:06 Soft Skills vs. Performance vs. IQ
35:09 Are you a memorable manager?
35:39 What’s Exciting Jason Treu today?
Jason will be speaking at TedX soon & “Cards of Connection”
Jason is also starting some new group coaching and starting another book

The Power of Vulnerability

Love Brene Brown and this is an incredible TED Talk. It will help you be a better leader, manager and more successful in business.

I got it transcribed for people that prefer to read than watch or listen.



So, I’ll start with this. A couple years ago, an event planner called me because I was going to do a speaking event. She called, and she said, “I’m really struggling with how to write about you on the little flyer.” I thought, “Well, what’s the struggle?” She said, “Well, I saw you speak, and I’m going to call you a researcher, I think, but I’m afraid if I call you a researcher, no one will come, because they’ll think you’re boring and irrelevant.”

I said, “Okay.” She said, “But the thing I liked about your talk is you’re a storyteller. So I think what I’ll do is just call you a storyteller.” Of course, the academic, insecure part of me was like, “You’re going to call me a what?” She said, “I’m going to call you a storyteller.” I was like, “Why not magic pixie?” I was like, “Let me think about this for a second.” So, I tried to call deep on my courage. I thought, you know, I am a storyteller. I’m a qualitative researcher. I collect stories; that’s what I do. And maybe stories are just data with a soul. And maybe I’m just a storyteller. So I said, “You know what? Why don’t you just say I’m a researcher storyteller?” And she went, “Ha, ha. There’s no such thing.” So I’m a researcher-storyteller, and I’m going to talk to you today … We’re talking about expanding perception and so I want to talk to you and tell some stories about a piece of my research that fundamentally expanded my perception and really actually changed the way that I live and love and work and parent.

This is where my story starts. When I was a young researcher, a doctoral student, my first year, I had a research professor who said to us, “Here’s the thing, if you cannot measure it, it does not exist.” I thought he was just sweet-talking me. I was like, “Really?” and he was like, “Absolutely.” So you have to understand that I have a bachelor’s in social work, a master’s in social work, and I was getting my PhD in social work, so my entire academic career was surrounded by people who kind of believed in the life’s messy, love it and I’m more of the life’s messy, clean it up, organize it and put it into a bento box.

So to think that I had found my way, to found a career that takes me … Really, one of the big sayings in social work is, “Lean into the discomfort of the work.” I’m like, knock discomfort upside the head and move it over and get all A’s. That was my mantra. So I was very excited about this. So I thought, you know what, this is the career for me, because I am interested in some messy topics. But I want to be able to make them not messy. I want to understand them. I want to hack into these things that I know are important and lay the code out for everyone to see.

So where I started was with connection. Because, by the time you’re a social worker for 10 years, what you realize is that connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter whether you talk to people who work in social justice, mental health and abuse and neglect, what we know is that connection, the ability to feel connected, is neuro-biologically that’s how we’re wired, it’s why we’re here. So I thought, you know what, I’m going to start with connection. Well, you know that situation where you get an evaluation from your boss, and she tells you 37 things that you do really awesome, and one “opportunity for growth?” All you can think about is that opportunity for growth. Right? Well, apparently this is the way my work went as well, because, when you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak. When you ask people about belonging, they’ll tell you their most excruciating experiences of being excluded. And when you ask people about connection, the stories they told me were about disconnection.

So very quickly, really about six weeks into this research, I ran into this unnamed thing that absolutely unraveled connection in a way that I didn’t understand or had never seen. So I pulled back out of the research and thought, I need to figure out what this is. It turned out to be shame. Shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection? The things I can tell you about it. It’s universal; we all have it. The only people who don’t experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it, the more you have it.

What underpinned this shame, this “I’m not good enough,” which, we all know that feeling: “I’m not blank enough. I’m not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough.” The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability. This idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen. And you know how I feel about vulnerability. I hate vulnerability. So I thought, this is my chance to beat it back with my measuring stick. I’m going in, I’m going to figure this stuff out, I’m going to spend a year, I’m going to totally deconstruct shame, I’m going to understand how vulnerability works, and I’m going to outsmart it.

So I was ready, and I was really excited. As you know, it’s not going to turn out well. You know this. So, I could tell you a lot about shame, but I’d have to borrow everyone else’s time. But here’s what I can tell you that it boils down to. This may be one of the most important things I’ve ever learned in the decade of doing this research. My one year turned into six years. Thousands of stories, hundreds of long interviews, focus groups. At one point, people were sending me journal pages and sending me their stories, thousands of pieces of data in six years. I kind of got a handle on it. I kind of understood this is what shame is, this is how it works.

I wrote a book, I published a theory, but something was not okay. What it was is that if I roughly took the people I interviewed and divided them into people who really have a sense of worthiness, that’s what this comes down to, a sense of worthiness, they have a strong sense of love and belonging and folks who struggle for it, and folks who are always wondering if they’re good enough. There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. That was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy.

To me, the hard part of the one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we’re not worthy of connection, was something that, personally and professionally, I felt like I needed to understand better. So what I did is I took all of the interviews where I saw worthiness, where I saw people living that way, and just looked at those. What do these people have in common? I have a slight office supply addiction, but that’s another talk. So I had a manila folder and I had a Sharpie, and I was like, what am I going to call this research? The first words that came to my mind were “whole-hearted.” These are whole-hearted people, living from this deep sense of worthiness. So I wrote at the top of the manila folder, and I started looking at the data.

In fact, I did it first in a four-day, very intensive data analysis, where I went back, pulled the interviews, the stories, pulled the incidents. What’s the theme? What’s the pattern? My husband left town with the kids because I always go into this Jackson Pollock crazy thing, where I’m just writing and just in my researcher mode. So here’s what I found. What they had in common was a sense of courage. I want to separate courage and bravery for you for a minute. Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language, it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

So these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. The last was they had connection, and this was the hard part, as a result of authenticity. They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection. The other thing that they had in common was this. They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful.

They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating, as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say I love you first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental. I personally thought it was betrayal. I could not believe I had pledged allegiance to research, where our job … The definition of research is to control and predict, to study phenomena for the explicit reason to control and predict. Now my mission to control and predict had turned up the answer that the way to live is with vulnerability and to stop controlling and predicting.

This led to a little breakdown, which actually looked more like this. It did. It led to … I call it a breakdown; my therapist calls it a spiritual awakening. Spiritual awakening sounds better than breakdown, but I assure you, it was a breakdown. I had to put my data away and go find a therapist. Let me tell you something. You know who you are when you call your friends and say, “I think I need to see somebody. Do you have any recommendations?” Because about five of my friends were like, “Woo, I wouldn’t want to be your therapist.”

I was like, “What does that mean?” They’re like, “I’m just saying, you know. Don’t bring your measuring stick.” I was like, “Okay.” So I found a therapist. My first meeting with her, Diana, I brought in my list of the way the whole-hearted live, and I sat down. She said, “How are you?” I said, “I’m great. I’m okay.” She said, “What’s going on?” This is a therapist who sees therapists, because we have to go to those, because their BS meters are good.

So I said, “Here’s the thing, I’m struggling.” She said, “What’s the struggle?” I said, “Well, I have a vulnerability issue. I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. I think I have a problem, and I need some help.” I said, “But here’s the thing. No family stuff, no childhood shit. I just need some strategies.” Thank you. So she goes like this. Then I said, “It’s bad, right?” She said, “It’s neither good nor bad.” It just is what it is.” I said, “Oh my God, this is going to suck. It did, and it didn’t.

It took about a year. You know how there are people that when they realize that vulnerability and tenderness are important, that they surrender and walk into it. A, that’s not me. B, I don’t even hang out with people like that. For me, it was a yearlong street fight. It was a slug fest. Vulnerability pushed, I pushed back. I lost the fight, but probably won my life back. So then I went back into the research and spent the next couple of years really trying to understand what they, the whole-hearted, what choices they were making, and what we are doing with vulnerability. Why do we struggle with it so much? Am I alone in struggling with vulnerability? No. So this is what I learned.

We numb vulnerability. When we’re waiting for the call … It was funny, I sent something out on Twitter and on Facebook that says, “How would you define vulnerability? What makes you feel vulnerable?” Within an hour and a half, I had 150 responses. Because I wanted to know what’s out there. Having to ask my husband for help because I’m sick, and we’re newly married; initiating sex with my husband; initiating sex with my wife; being turned down; asking someone out; waiting for the doctor to call back; getting laid off; laying off people. This is the world we live in. We live in a vulnerable world. One of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability. I think there’s evidence, and it’s not the only reason this evidence exists, but I think that it’s a huge cause. We are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in US history.

The problem is, and I learned this from the research, that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff, here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. I don’t want to feel these. I know that’s knowing laughter. I hack into your lives for a living. I know that’s, God. You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness.

Then, we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. It becomes this dangerous cycle. One of the things that I think we need to think about is why and how we numb. And it doesn’t just have to be addiction. The other thing we do is we make everything that’s uncertain certain. Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty. “I’m right, you’re wrong. Shut up.” That’s it. Just certain. The more afraid we are, the more vulnerable we are, the more afraid we are. This is what politics looks like today. There’s no discourse anymore. There’s no conversation. There’s just blame. You know how blame is described in the research? A way to discharge pain and discomfort.

We perfect. If there’s anyone who wants their life to look like this, it would be me. But it doesn’t work, because what we do is we take fat from our butts and put it in our cheeks. Which just, I hope in 100 years, people will look back and go, “Wow.” We perfect, most dangerously, our children. Let me tell you what we think about children. They’re hardwired for struggle when they get here. When you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, “Look at her, she’s perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect. Make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh.” That’s not our job. Our job is to look and say, “You know what? You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” That’s our job.

Show me a generation of kids raised like that, and we’ll end the problems, I think, that we see today. We pretend that what we do doesn’t have an effect on people. We do that in our personal lives. We do that corporate, whether it’s a bailout, an oil spill, a recall. We pretend like what we’re doing doesn’t have a huge impact on other people. I would say to companies, this is not our first rodeo, people. We just need you to be authentic and real and say, “We’re sorry. We’ll fix it.” But there’s another way, and I’ll leave you with this. This is what I have found.

To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen, to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee. That’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult. To practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.”

The last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening. We’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves. That’s all I have. Thank you.

How to Not Lose Money in Business Partnerships

I rarely share podcast episodes I am on. This one I share personal stories that affected me and so do the podcast show hosts (i.e. their marriages). You can “scan” the show notes below to check it out. (listen here: We got into some “meaty” business, personal and psychological challenges people face. Definitely one of the best podcasts I have been on.
Time Stamped Show Notes
[1:56] When in a partnership one side evolves in another direction that means it won’t work in the long term. Or when one side does the work and the other cashes the checks.
[4:20] While researching for his TEDx speech, Jason came up with a way to create friendships and build a better teamwork that maximized performance with a game called Cards Against Mundanity.
[6:30] What the game achieved was the psychological safety ability to trust, to descend and be able to come back up again. Something not possible while keeping all relationships digital.
[10:00] Take care in the engagement with someone and understand their history and stories and their struggle. Communication is key.
[11:14] After helping two engineers flourish socially, Jason began searching for a way to help more people and found someone with a lifestyle coaching business.
[13:12] His motivation was higher than the partner’s willingness to work, he wouldn’t make the meetings with the people at larger markets.
[14:50] Doing a lot of work and not moving forward, and having a narcissistic sociopath as a partner, clouded Jason’s own judgment. Until he found out that the partner wasn’t sending him the money he was supposed to.
[17:49] Having planned his exit, Jason sued his partner but in the end got around 10 cents to the dollar back.
[23:00] The lawsuit was more about letting the partner know that he will not get away that easily.
[24:49] You can’t appreciate the effort and what it means to put it all in until you’ve been there as an entrepreneur. Trust your gut.
[27:20] Failing Forward Segment
What is the bottom line reason of this failure? – “I put myself in a position where I allowed myself to be taken advantage of and I came across exactly the right person who was able to do that and manipulate me.”
What is the single most important lesson you learned from this? – “Believe in yourself and take the leap of faith and it has to be a leap of faith you don’t know where the landing is.”
What are the major ways you protect yourself from future failures? – “If I do this business and it doesn’t work out at any point am I going to be ok with not having the revenue, with not having it work out? And if my answer is yes then I’ll do it, if my answer is no then I wouldn’t go forward.”
Who do you turn to when you need help? – “Every situation is going to need a different person and so I have a pretty large network of people.”
What advice would you give to someone in a similar position? – “What’s your exit strategy and how are you going to evolve moving forward from that and have that fully planned before you have this discussion.”
[37:43] If you’re some in a director level or above, go to to get in touch with Jason and where you can listen to his podcast Executive Breakthroughs
[40:42] Jason’s final thought: “Wherever you’re at right now get yourself in a position where you start pushing all your chips in the middle because I think you learn the most from what you’re capable of doing when you don’t have a safety net.”
Resources Mentioned:
Jason Treu is an executive coach. He helps individuals and teams maximize their performance and fulfill their leadership potential. He is the author of the best seller, Social Wealth, the how-to-guide on building professional relationships.
He is the creator of the ultimate team building game, cards against mundanity, that he debuted at TEDxWilmington in August. He also has a podcast, Executive Breakthroughs, where he interviews trailblazing executives and entrepreneurs to share their insights, breakdowns, and breakthroughs.
TEDx Talk – Jason’s TEDx talk where he shares his incredible team building game Cards Against Mundanity. (http://www.cardsagainstmundanity)
Social Wealth on Amazon – Social Wealth will give you the blueprint and action steps you’ve been looking for to achieve the success you desire and deserve.

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