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IDEAS. STRATEGY. TACTICS. INNOVATION. INSPIRATION.

When Positivity Goes Too Far, from Brene Brown


We all know there are benefits to being optimistic and maintaining a sunny disposition. However, when life presents us with challenging and painful circumstances, ignoring difficult emotions in favor of a cheerful facade isn't the most healthy coping mechanism.


As women in the workplace, we're often faced with the dilemma of not wanting to appear too sensitive or emotional but also desiring to be empathetic with our clients and co-workers. Where is that line between being professional and being human? Renowned author, podcast host and vulnerability researcher, Brene Brown proposes that the best way to be both, without crossing any lines, is to be vulnerable within the confines of appropriate boundaries.


That looks like notifying the necessary people when you think personal challenges might impact your performance, and requesting accommodations so the team's work doesn't suffer. Those accommodations might be additional time on a project, extra assistance from coworkers, or time off. This type of sharing is informative without disclosing too many details. It allows your team to support you without overwhelming them with the particulars that would be more suitable for a friend or a therapist.


On the other side of that coin is how to navigate the news that a teammate is going through a tough time. Some phrases to avoid are: "just stay positive," "look on the bright side," "everything happens for a reason," and "happiness is a choice." These statements shut down the person's experience and can come across as shaming or blaming. A more helpful response would be to listen empathically and validate their experience.


Determining in advance how you will handle adversity within yourself or others makes it just a little easier to inject humanity into your work.