June 1, 2022

Brené Brown on the Kindest Thing we can do in our Relationships.


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I’ve never been a die-hard follower of Brené Brown.

Sure, I’ve read a few of her blog posts and some chapters from her books. I’ve listened to a handful of her podcast episodes and watched two episodes of her HBO special, “Atlas of the Heart.” And, of course, I’ve read the endless stream of articles featuring her teachings and quotes right here on Elephant.

But she hasn’t historically been my go-to when I need grounded life or relationship advice.

That said, anytime I’ve read or heard one of her teachings, it has always connected deeply on some level with what’s going on in my own life.

And today, the lesson was so powerful that I felt the need to jump on the Brené Brown bandwagon and write about it.

I write a lot about relationships—not because I feel like I have so much knowledge and wisdom about them, but because writing about what I’ve learned and what I know I still need to learn helps keep me present and accountable in my own.

I’ve written about boundaries and conflict, forgiveness and loneliness. But one thing I haven’t written about is kindness—what kindness looks like in our relationships.

This is where Brené Brown comes in.

During an interview, Gayle King asks Brown: What is one behavior change that you think all leaders need?

And whether you consider yourself (or hope to be) a leader in your romantic relationship, your family, your friendships, or your work partnerships, this answer is everything we need to know about showing up with kindness:


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“It’s going to be simple: Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind. Stop avoiding the tough conversations because you think you’re being polite or kind to people. That’s not kind.”

Shortly after watching this video, I googled the six-word catchphrase and found a post from Brown that explains it further.

“I first heard this saying two decades ago in a 12-step meeting, but I was on slogan overload at the time and didn’t even think about it again until I saw the data about how most of us avoid clarity because we tell ourselves that we’re being kind, when what we’re actually doing is being unkind and unfair.

Feeding people half-truths or bullsh*t to make them feel better (which is almost always about making ourselves feel more comfortable) is unkind.

Not getting clear with a colleague about your expectations because it feels too hard, yet holding them accountable or blaming them for not delivering is unkind.

Talking about people rather than to them is unkind.”

I could feel the truth of these statements buzzing throughout my body. I thought about how many times I believed I was sparing someone’s feelings or side-stepping an unnecessary argument or keeping the peace when all I was really doing was avoiding the tough stuff, the uncomfortable conversations, to spare myself and my own feelings. How many times I was being unkind, even though I didn’t know enough in the moment to recognize my behavior as such. And how many times I had given up the opportunity to show my partner or friend or family member or co-worker a tiny bit of kindness when they truly needed it.

In less than 30 seconds, I learned one more thing to keep me present and accountable in my relationships. I guess that’s just the power of Brené Brown.


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