Brené Brown's bio contact us speaking info event schedule books & dvds videos & articles connections certification ordinary courage blog downloads & badges classes & links downloads & t-shirts Brené's favorites


Learn more about the books!

I Thought It Was Just Me


Can't display this module in this section.
  • Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home
    Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home
    by Leigh Newman

    Can't wait! 

  • Einstein's God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit
    Einstein's God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit
    by Krista Tippett
  • The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone---Especially Ourselves
    The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone---Especially Ourselves
    by Dan Ariely
  • Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up
    Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up
    by Harriet Lerner
  • Rhythm And Repose
    Rhythm And Repose

    Tender and beautiful. 

  • Boys & Girls
    Boys & Girls
    by Alabama Shakes

    Love this album! So happy when I saw BrainPicker post this on her site! 

  • City of Refuge
    City of Refuge
    by Abigail Washburn

    Pure magic!

  • Some Nights
    Some Nights
    by Fun.
  • She Ain't Me
    She Ain't Me
    by Carrie Rodriguez

    I'm such a fan. 

  • I'm Your Man
    I'm Your Man
    by Leonard Cohen

    Take this Waltz is on my top ten list of all songs!

  • Babel
    by Mumford & Sons
  • Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey (Original UK Unedited Edition)
    Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey (Original UK Unedited Edition)

    So totally addicted to this series! Absolutely amazing!

  • Zen: Vendetta / Cabal / Ratking [Blu-ray]
    Zen: Vendetta / Cabal / Ratking [Blu-ray]
    starring Rufus Sewell

    Based on your recommendations from a recent blog post! It's another wonderful BBC mystery series! 

  • The Good Wife: The First Season
    The Good Wife: The First Season
    starring Julianna Margulies, Chris Noth, Josh Charles, Matt Czuchry, Archie Panjabi

    One of the best shows on TV. Juiliana Marguiles is incredible. 

  • Doc Martin: Collection - Series 1-4
    Doc Martin: Collection - Series 1-4
    starring Martin Clunes, Caroline Catz, Lia Williams, Stephanie Cole, Ian McNeice

a final lesson from TED: conversations + connection

by Scott CutlerHave you ever had that experience where you're talking to someone and you get the sense that s/he is looking over your shoulder to see if someone more important might be around? I have and it's a terrible feeling. The speaking bubble over that person's head reads, "You're a good pit stop at this party but I think I see one of the cool people coming through the door." 

One of the lessons that emerged from my TED experience is about connection and conversation. I believe that the person in front of you is the most important person in the room - even if that person is 1500 people. That belief informs two of my speaking rules:

#1 - You can't script a conversation

#2 - The only peope who matter are the people in the room (which is why I always ask for the house lights to be high enough for me to see people and why I rarely allow my talks to be taped). 

Ironically, my plan was to break both of these rules at TED. I tried to memorize my talk and my plan was to stay very aware of the fact that the talks are filmed and never, ever go away.

As it turns out, my rules have seeped into my very being and once I got on stage I forgot everything that I had memorized and didn't think once about the cameras. I didn't even go through all of my slides and hit my "six essential points" in the order I had planned. 

It became a conversation and those don't happen in a vacuum. Conversations are a back and forth - a give and take. There's no way to control where they're going. Scripting a conversation assumes that your conversation partner won't have anything to say. It assumes that you don't have to listen. I know. I script conversations in my head all of the time. 

I can have an entire discussion with my husband without him even being home. When he walks in the door I'll say, "We had it out over the schedule for the weekend. You actually loved my new plan." He'll usually respond with something like, "I knew I was worn out for a reason. Now stop talking to me when I'm not here."

It's just so much easier!  

The night before my talk I got an email from my friend, Nilofer. It simply said, "Have fun. Don't worry about going off script. Just talk to us - the people in the room."

I thought, "Damn it! I know she's right but that means giving up lots of control." A conversation from the stage feels like teetering on the edge of chaos.

For better and worse, I had fun, basically forgot my script, and just tried to look folks in the eye and have a conversation.

It doesn't matter if we're on a stage, sitting at the table with our family, checking out at the grocery story, or at a party - the people who matter the most are the ones right in front of us.

That means putting down our cell phones while we check out so that we can engage with people and say, "Thank you" or "How is your day going?" It means not glancing over someone's shoulder to see if someone more important or interesting has walked in. It means connecting.

It means vulnerability and engagement.

I'm here and I'm all in. You matter to me. Our connection matters to me. It's why we are here.

by Scott Cutler

« The 2012 TED shame smackdown is live! | Main | lessons from TED »

Reader Comments (42)

You did a fabulous job with the talk. I was watching it streaming live with a large group of people and nearly burst out into tears. As one of those people that truly takes myself too seriously most of the time I understand where you are coming from. It is nice to know that fabulous thinkers and speakers like yourself feel the same hesitations we all do. We have this superhero image in our minds of those we idolize and we hold them to impossibly high standards along with thinking they are so much more "whole" than us "normal" people. We hear such an amazing and touching talk and don't think about the underlying things. Keep up the great work! You are teaching us all great things and I know you have changed my life.

Thank you.
03.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRayvin Brewer
Brene, I love what you write and talk about, hearing your truth and experiences inspire me. This post gave me a few pieces to my puzzle and I am truly grateful to you for sharing. Have a wonderful day :)
03.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAinslie Ireland
So proud of you! Way to be an example of courage and being real.
So glad you decided to break your rules and give the first Ted talk 'cause seeing it meant a world of change for me. :) I bet this talk will make a world of difference to a whole bunch of people. Yay you!

03.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSandra
Thank you for sharing yet another relevant and timely lesson from your experiences. Just today, I came across a note I wrote in the margins of a text I'm reading. The note says, "we give lip service to "balance" yet we take our phones to church"... in effort to be available, we miss the opportunity for connection! Thanks.
03.8.2012 | Unregistered Commentersusan
Hi Brene
Thanks for posting this. I gleaned a few things from it. One: giving up control is hard - even for speakers of TED caliber. This is so reassuring as I continue to learn about control and my relationship with it. Two: I love that you have "discussions with your husband" - when he's not there, resolve an issue, and then let him know the outcome when he gets home. It's more the use of humour between the two of you that I think I like. I just may use this with my husband ;)! And three: I loved that you were fully present for your audience and let it happen organically - even though it went against 'the plan'.
I imagine it was a wonderful presentation and the audience fully appreciated all you offered. And in the end - did they know you aborted your plan? Unless you told them, I would guess they were none the wiser and they came away with so much.
I hope you come to Vancouver so I can sit in the audience and experience that conversation.
Sincerely, Jo-Anne
03.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJo-Anne Harrison
Brene' your message is brilliant (as usual!) I just finished hosting session 2 in a 6 week teleclass yesterday, and even on a phone conference that is being recorded, I totally agree that going with the flow of a conversation with the people right there in front of you is such a powerful way to connect. Whenever I let go of my script and engage in my talks as conversations I'm able to share information in a much more approachable and engaging way. It is scary though, because who knows what I might say! Thank you so much for being such and incredible teacher and role model for me.
03.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterIsadora Arielle

I'm not one to comment much but I must tell you. You are warm, engaging, and comfortably funny. Thanks for your good company. Your husband has got to be the luckiest man alive.
03.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMario Piano
So, Brene, when and where can we see the video tape of your talk. Some of us didn't have the fortune to see you face to face, eyeball to eyeball - and would love to hear your unscripted conversation!
03.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarol
I loved the conversation, (it is top of the list of videos above Carol) it is inspiring and struck so many chords with me. I wish that I had the access to the right kind of guidance or indeed the intellect, that you clearly have, to come through my 'shame' and find that worthiness of which you speak. i have been looking for half a lifetime but still it taps me on the shoulder at the most inappropriate times. Thank you and thanks to Ted for making your words and feelings available to me. I watched it in the morning and I had such a breakfast for my thoughts. Thank you.
03.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartin
I think this is why I loved being in your class. You talked to us. You laughed and even on those rough days (every day), for that moment that we were with you, it was real and it was all about being present. I know for me, knowing that you are "famous" and "well-known" really scared me. How would I be able to connect? What would I say? How should I act? But after talking and even spending that one on one time with you at Cafe Express (which I'll always remember) I realized that I see a lot of me in you. It somehow made it easier to let my guard down and be vulnerable and take a risk.

Thanks for teaching me something every day even if it's through a blog, book, tweet, fbook post or simply when I have time to jog my memory about our past times together.
03.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa
LOVED it!!!!
03.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterParul
I love this. I actually did wrong today in the Starbucks drive through. I was trying to talk to my sister and the employee at the same time and I found myself becoming irritated with the employee and trying to make my sister feel like I was still listening. Hahaha!
First: Why was I irritated? I put myself into that situation. I had started the conversation before I decided to go to Starbucks. It would have been different if she would have called me.
Second: Neither one of those people felt important and listened to. Really I was the one getting all the attention.
Third: Even if I say hold on to my sister and cut her off mid sentence to give the employee the deserved attention it is still extremely rude to my sister.

Anyways, I appreciate this post very much. It has shined a spotlight on my behavior and I am committing to do better. I find myself checking my phone way to much around my kids. I need to make sure they feel like the most important people in the world to me because they actually are! Duh!
03.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTammy
so so wise - how the hell do you do this every time?!
03.8.2012 | Unregistered Commenterjane
Thank you so much for your post today. I can't even tell you how much it helps me to focus and feel good about it! ~chris
03.8.2012 | Unregistered Commentermudmaven
Brené, such a great lesson! I will remember this during my workshops. It's SO about vulnerability and engagement! Wow, thanks!!
03.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGerri
You matter to me too. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. :)
03.8.2012 | Unregistered Commenterkelly
Hope we get to watch it soon! So happy for you!
03.8.2012 | Unregistered Commenterzulma
One more time...Dziekuje ! That's polish for Thank you.
03.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterFin
Thank you so much for being here and for sharing...This feels like my standard comment lately, but it's the truth and even though a hundred other people are also telling you thank you, this one star fish among the thousands truly appreciates your efforts and wants you to know. Your insight, humor, perspective, and ability to verbalize your experience with such clarity...I'm very grateful.
03.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
A people loving awesome person... B.Brown :) Keep connecting
03.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSara
Great post! Not always easy to do though. Thank you for your insight!
03.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDouglas Stewart
I love your observation that you can't script a conversation. I am challenged by this on a regular basis with my college students, especially when I've received reports of potential wrongdoing or bad decision-making. I can prepare for the conversation...I can have an idea of what I'm going to talk with them about...but if the conversation is going to have genuine value (for both of us), I have to remain open to what they want to say and bring to the table.

Good thoughts! Thanks for sharing! =)
03.11.2012 | Unregistered Commenterlee
Such a beautiful post as always & a great reminder about keeping our priorities straight. Thank you for your vulnerability & engagement- especially taping it so that it can be shared beyond those who aren't in that room.
03.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmandaD
You offer some great reminders in this post. I too am learning the value of being present with the people and situations you are a part of in the moment rather than being absorbed in something else completely. What love and respect it communicates to someone when we do this.
03.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnna Spencer
I'm so glad you made an exception to tape the TED presentation. Someone shared the link via Facebook and I've gotten so much from both the TED talk and then from reading The Gifts of Imperfection. Even though I wasn't in the room, you had a very positive impact. Thanks!!
03.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Guyer
This is so interesting to me as I am facilitating small groups at present and re- learning that even within the same group - things vary from moment to moment. And I have found that the more I try to stick with any "script" the more I can inadvertently cut off the free flow of ideas and conversation. And so often that need to direct the action comes from the fear of appearing to be less than totally in control. Being well prepared and then being willing to be PRESENT and see what comes up is emerging as the optimal way to guide without overwhelming or cutting off what may be happening in the room. It is such a delicate dance, but the more I just relax and trust everybody sitting there, the better it gets.
03.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia V
I have refined my thought on this.

Why say "vulnerability"? That sounds frightening. Say, instead, "authenticity". That sounds delightful and excitiing and liberating. Do not say "undefended", but "without defensiveness"- we are too defensive, and are rarely genuinely attacked: we can defend if that happens, in the moment.
03.16.2012 | Unregistered CommenterClare Flourish
I've been talking about synchronicity a bit on blog. The timing of your TED talk, and me happily stumbling upon it is validating and freeing and reassuring. My very young blog (about 5 months old) has been grappling with these very topics of vulnerability, courage, opening your heart, being worthy, and yes, acknowledging shame. I was just blown away by your TED talks. You are amazing and courageous, and so darned funny and well spoken and just exactly what our world needs to heal. To grow. I am grateful to have found you! Rock on!
03.16.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Honzel
I found you today for the first time when my Facebook TED link mentioned your talk. What a gift that you give. Thank you for risking at this level. Your work is jaw dropping. Your style is such a breath of fresh air. I have more hope today than I have in a very very long time. I feel honored to receive your delicate and fragile movement through your own pain. I'm humbled.

Thank you.
Robbin Skinner
03.16.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobbin Skinner
I just wanted to share with you that someone shared with me a few of your videos. Please do not stop being filmed, you were a God send to me. I would not have a chance to see you in person but feel that you spoke right to me. You left me so much to ponder upon, and make me a better person. Thank you for this gift that is you!!!
03.16.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnia
I must share. An old friend from my high school recently came by my house for my visit. He traveled from Ft. Worth to Houston to see me. It was a big let down, very disappointing. He kept looking at his phone, reading texts or emails, all while talking to me. I finally asked him to leave explaining that it might not look "good" having him around (as I am going through a divorce). It was an eye opening experience for me. I expected a jovial, animated conversation. In his presence, I felt worthless and very disconnected (my ah ha moment, like I feel around my husband). I deserve to be heard and I deserve to have the full attention of the person with whom I am conversing.
03.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLBM
Your TED talk was fantastic. I loved everything you said. Thank you for going into the arena.
03.18.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnita
Thank you! And the arena reminder was so serendipitously perfect. I shared it with some really brave, strong high school girl athletes whose coaches can't quite muster anything but disappointment and shame even for wins!
03.18.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
Great work Vulnerability TED! :) I enjoyed the talk a great deal and hope you are enjoying the ride! Congratulations!
03.18.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeg
Brene, thanks so much for all you share. I read this post a few days ago and I am so there! I script conversations . .. all. the. time. I'm so grateful for your work. I have benefited so much from reading both "The Gifts of Imperfection" and "I thought It was Just Me". Thanks for being so real - gonna watch the TED link now!
03.18.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTracy
Brene, you are our most greatly daring role model xx Thank you
03.18.2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmma
Thanks so much for your talk. I just learned of you today and your two TED talks connected so many dots for me in my own study and writings on shame, anger, forgiveness, etc. Very helpful. I'm eager to learn more from you. It was so good to hear you say that no one wants to talk about shame because I often laugh when I tell people that I write and talk on shame and anger...the two things no one wants to admit they've got or talk about! Thanks for putting it on the table and helping people understand why we all have shame and the less you want to talk about it the more you've got it!
03.20.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRemy Diederich
Your talk was both moving and amusing, but so engaging because I felt that you were talking to me as an individual. I'm convinced it's because you left the script behind.
I've seen many inspiring, entertaining speakers, but they are still somehow in a different place from me. Not so with you. Stick to your own rules; they work too well to let them go.
03.22.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJane Miller
Loved both your TED and TEDx talks. I wholeheartedly agree that this life is about connection!
I have a question, seek more information, about something you said in your TED Q&A:
Parents can't give what they don't have, how do adults recover from that?
My expression that I cry almost daily, is not due to a sense of loss, or sadness in that sense... my crying is coming from a sense of empathy and happiness.

One of my greatest challenges in life is to let go... to let go of somebody I love and care about with all of my heart... to believe in them and to want to help... but realizing I am helpless... to lose my sense of control... and to have the patience and faith that my yearning will be fulfilled...

My current and deepest yearning is for ** to be healthy and to grow, to move forward, whether or not we are "together". I would like to move forward WITH her... to learn and grow and to move forward myself as well... I write to her and search for the words to express my feelings... but with that expressed, being labelled as "unstable" is something I truly do not believe about myself, even as I try to keep my mind as open as it can be... it brings me the will and patience I have been striving to achieve. I love you **. You are strong.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDerek

I watched your video and it really resonated with me. I had figured out something ealier that day about my own lack of self-worth, and how it relates to my weight issues.

I have ordered two of your books from but they haven't come yet. So it is just because of your TED video that I managed to share a shame with my counsellor which I have carried around for nineteen years.

I was emotional telling her my shame, and even more emotional when she didn't hate me for it. I thought she would.

I feel like I need to re-examine the things I have kept inside now, and see what I can share.

Just wanted to let you know what a profound effect it had on me.

Best wishes,

03.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRuth
Ah yes, 'scripting conversations', how I struggle with this! Working in PR, it's often my job to control the content of conversation but I've brought this habit into my personal life to my detriment. I have gotten a lot better in the last few months, but I am prepared for this to be a struggle for a good while longer. I'm learning! :)
04.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiv

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.