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I Came Close to the Shame Spiral But The Founder Caught Me

Brené Brown’s recent talk at Hubspot’s Inbound Conference was captured in Inc.com’s article “How to Avoid a Perfect Shame Spiral at Work”, and it was incredibly relevant to me just yesterday.

Brené Brown, behind the famous TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability”, spoke about the common miscommunication that happens in the workplace where parties neglect to speak their honest thoughts, and often spiral into shaming themselves.

Brené gives an example where she had unilaterally dismissed her CFO’s idea in a meeting without a clear explanation as to why. Commonly, someone in the CFO’s shoes would think the worst as to why his idea was dismissed. He’d focus on his greatest vulnerabilities as potential causes.

However, in Brené’s real-world case, her CFO was brave enough to speak to Brené afterwards about the matter. Her reply was that the CFO’s idea was so important it needed its own meeting and action plan.

A similar shame spiral was close to happening to me recently. At one of the companies I’m working with, my role has shifted greatly away from product management and towards marketing. However, marketing-wise, much is in a holding pattern while we wait for campaigns to trigger and the new product to launch. Thus, I’ve stepped back, wary of micro-managing a very capable marketing team.

To the company’s Founder, it looks like I am less passionate in the product and company. In my head, I am aware of timing and thinking how I can best bring value to the company given where we are in the product launch and marketing campaigns. Except, unlike Brené’s CFO, I’ve kept these thoughts internalized till I figure out how best to proceed.

The Founder realized my diminished role and stepped up to talk to me about my situation. We had a great talk about what was happening, and developed a plan moving forward. However, it took him to speak with me, not me being more proactive.

Thinking about Brené’s message, I can fall into a shame spiral often, but hopefully, don’t. If I do fall victim, it’s because I’m afraid of the possible outcome or that I am not good enough. This is where I can improve in being more assertive and viewing these situations as more collaborative rather than my singular view with set outcomes to avoid the shame spiral.

What was a situation where you fell into a shame spiral? How could you mitigate against these occurrences? Also, what are vulnerabilities did you start to rationalize for yourself, and what are you doing to overcome those?

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