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The Courage to Send an Email - Government Practice News

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Government Practice News


Posted on: Feb 7, 2021

By Michelle Allen, Indiana Office of Administrative Law Proceedings

If you haven’t heard of Brene Brown, you should look up her documentary “Brene Brown: The Call to Courage” for some laughs and solid advice about how to grow into a better version of ourselves by embracing vulnerability. She describes vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” Basically, all those icky feelings you have when you step out of your comfort zone. Yikes! She also says that so many times we make up a story in our head about what someone thinks, or why someone is taking an action then we obsess over it. We keep it inside our head and it hurts our brain and our relationships rather than if we had stepped into that uncomfortable situation and addressed that story. 

That feeling of being in discomfort is more readily accepted when you’re facing big things such as a project at work, a job interview, or a new relationship. Those are big events where we easily remind ourselves that there there is a reward on the other side of this, because overcoming that uncertainty will often create a milestone for you. But what about when we’re faced with the small, everyday things? Such as that email you don’t want to open because you’re too afraid of what’s inside of it. Or the meeting that is scheduled tomorrow with your boss. What do you do? It’s the same concept. Be vulnerable, assess the story you’re telling yourself and address it out loud.

I tried a Brene Brown trick two months ago. I felt certain a professional relationship had broken down based on the last conversation I had had with a person. I avoided emailing for weeks. I finally convinced myself to respond because I was going to address my the fear and put it out in the open. I wrote, “the story I am making up in my head is that you’re upset with me based on the how the last conversation went. I am hoping we can rebuild that relationship.” Send. (Nail bite!)

What happened? To my great relief this person replied with surprise and said that’s not at all what happened! She had just had many new projects begin and those had distracted her. Phew! I think of this interaction more and more as the little things provoke those icky stories in my head and distract me from getting things accomplished or feeling positive about events. I remember that being upfront about the situation can overcome it. So each day I try to conjury this vulnerability more quickly so that I can gain control over the small trials and focus on the big uncomfortable moments that make milestones.

I’ve found Brene’s advice and questions about our human actions to be thought-provoking and helpful. So if you’re back to commuting a few days a week to work, then you might also check out Brene’s postcast Unlocking Us. She writes about her own thoughts, but recently interviewed Emmanuel Acho, Dax Shepard and Melinda Gates.

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