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We need to normalise discomfort. Really

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown has been one of those books I’ve picked up and put down from time to time. I tend to graze, get a nugget, digest and – here’s a crazy idea – even try to apply some of it in my life!

So this morning as my eyes skimmed my bookshelf, I felt drawn to the title again, picked it up and worked through several pages.

I’m glad I did.

Shame kills creativity and learning

As you may be aware Brene Brown talks a lot about shame. She’s a shame-researcher, in fact. She’s fascinated by the impact that things like shame and fear can have on families, workplaces, schools, churches etc. Shame leads to fear and fear to an absence of vulnerability which leads to disengagement. This disengagement means that creativity, innovation and learning can’t occur. This is a big problem.

Thankfully, she also talks about ways out of cultures where shame is king. You’ll have to read the book for a thorough treatment of her argument but I wanted to mention one point here which I think has huge relevance for Viva as we journey to be “learning from Jesus how to live life here.”

One of the challenges she’s found organisations face when trying to create a culture where shame isn’t king is the challenge of creating a counter-culture of honest, constructive and engaged feedback.

Her research found this was true across families but, surprisingly, also in organisations despite the hoopla about performance review and personal development etc.

No feedback, no transformative change

Brown states, “Without feedback there can be no transformative change. When we don’t talk to the people we’re leading about their strengths and their opportunities for growth, they begin to question their contribution and our commitment. Disengagement follows.”

Hmm. So why don’t we do feedback well? Brown asked.

Her research provided two reasons:

1. We’re not comfortable with hard conversations.

2. We don’t know how to give and receive feedback in a way that moves people and processes forward.

Who likes hard conversations? Who likes feeling discomfort? Who quietly assumes that Jesus’ role in my life is to make me feel comfortable? (… I guess it’s just me then!)

Normalising discomfort

Brown goes on to say that what we need to do is not just get comfortable with having hard conversations but actually to normalise discomfort.

In short, as we journey together, we need to remind each other: “We believe growth and learning are uncomfortable so it’s going to happen here – you’re going to feel that way. We want you to know that it’s normal and it’s an expectation here. You’re not alone and we ask that you stay open and lean in it.” (Sounds a bit like Jesus’ teaching to die to self, doesn’t it?)

I love this. The permission and power in this statement is amazing.

Wouldn’t it be incredible if that was how we do life at Viva?