Living Brave Interview Series: Brene Brown Interviews Oprah Winfrey

It was Lucille Ball who said, “I’m not funny. I’m brave.” And so she was. It took a lot of courage in those days, especially for a woman, to do all of the wonderfully “nutty” things that she did.

In the first taped episode of her “Living Brave” series, Brene Brown interviews Oprah Winfrey, and courage takes on a very different meaning in a conversation that is fascinating and illuminating. We don’t often get to hear Oprah answering personal questions and sharing fairly intimate details about her life and her “own truth.”

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Brown, whose latest book is Rising Strong, asks Oprah some pointed questions, the first of which is what vulnerability means to her. The answer: “It is being willing to express the truth no matter what — the truth of who you are. The essence at the core of what you are feeling at any given moment. Being able to open up your soul and let it flow so that other people can see their soul in yours.” That’s pretty powerful, I think, and as the interview progressed, I had a glimpse of seeing my soul in Oprah’s.

When asked by Brown to give an example of what she still feels vulnerable about, Winfrey shared that it’s “not having conquered the whole weight struggle — balancing what it means to be a strong powerful woman in the world juxtaposed with trying to control what you are eating.”

Brown and Winfrey talk about stories — those we create about others and those we create about ourselves, or that others create about us and how we deal with them.

When asked about what fear she still struggles with, Winfrey said, “I’ve worked on the disease to please a lot.” Reading and introspection helped Winfrey learn how to live an “intentional life.” She no longer makes decisions unless she thinks about what her true and pure motivation is for doing something. “The intention informs the cause, and the reason for doing the action is what actually is going to show up in your life. It will come back to you.” Winfrey’s example: “I realized I was often doing things for people who kept coming back for more and I didn’t understand it.” It finally became clear that the intention was she wanted to be liked. Wow, does that sound familiar. Yes, folks, even Oprah felt the need to please.

I found this discussion about bravery and courage to be so important for all us to hear and to really think about. I was particularly affected by Winfrey’s answer to the question: “So what do you do if you want to lead a brave life and not disappoint anyone?” Her answer: “You cannot live a brave life without disappointing people.” It does take courage — especially for people pleasers — to make decisions they know are going to disappoint people, but do it anyway to be true to themselves.

The discussion continues with fascinating topics that include the physics of vulnerability, taking falls and rising again, the two “shame tapes” and how to understand that sometimes the world is “reflecting you back to you.” Says Winfrey: “No one is saying anything about you that you haven’t thought about yourself.”

I urge you all to listen to the conversation. It’s powerful, honest and brave. Oprah Winfrey,  Brene Brown, and yes Lucille Ball, have each found the courage to live her truth.

Esther C. Bleuel
President and Founder
Esther is dedicated to empowering leaders and teams to improve the quality of their work and interpersonal relationships through the mastery of conversational skills. Contact Esther today for assistance with your tough conversations.

Candor In The Workplace: Good News, Bad News

A recent Wall Street Journal article* about the need for blunt feedback in the workplace got my attention. I immediately posted it on Facebook, hoping to start a conversation about it.

The writer’s premise? “It’s time for workers to drop the polite workplace veneer and speak frankly to each other, no matter what.” Referred to as “radical candor” or “front-stabbing,” it is believed to help employees “stop trying to be nice all the time and start speaking up about sub-par work or work-life balance.”


Here’s the thing. Transparency and candor in the workplace are absolutely good and important. The tangible and intangible costs of lack of engagement and collaboration within an organization are substantial. Unfortunately, candor and honest feedback can be destructive when used as, or perceived as, weapons.

Creating and sustaining an honest and transparent culture where individuals are safe to speak truthfully without doing or sustaining damage is the challenge. Most people understand how to recognize and resolve a problem. Many do not realize that respecting the dignity of others or repairing a compromised relationship is often at least as important as solving that problem.

I have no quarrel about the benefits of constructively addressing performance and conducting issues with open and honest communication. With radical candor however, employees are expected to defend themselves or change when confronted with a direct, painful critique of their ideas or behavior. While it is better to address someone directly and honestly, people need to believe in the good intentions of the person providing the feedback.

Even white lies are lies. Time for a little candor?
Even white lies are lies. Time for a little candor?

Accurate evaluations and comments are important for career advancement and personal growth. “Mokitas” — truths that everyone knows and are afraid to say aloud — are often used. Employees are encouraged to speak up and share them without fear of retribution.

Frank, truthful and honest feedback is a good means of getting things out in the open so people know where they stand — their roles and responsibilities, as well as their contribution to the enterprise. However, criticism without consideration of another’s feelings can be hurtful and destructive. Individuals need to trust the constructive purpose of the feedback in order to receive the critique as intended.

Honest, accurate feedback and critique are valuable commodities because we can never see ourselves as others see us — usually everyone sees us differently. Having the opportunity to repair, recover, learn and grow is priceless.

Of course, many subjects are controversial and need to be discussed. Individuals want to be heard, to at least have the existence of their interests and beliefs recognized. Resentment grows when employees feel intimidated, keeping their mouths shut about subjects that management decides are beyond discussion or dispute. The lack of transparency causes people to disengage, feel devalued and alienated, become distracted and stressed while sins of omission become commonplace.

Open dialogue shines the light of day on workplace conversations and relationships and inspires collaboration, commitment and loyalty.

* “When Nice is a Four-Letter Word,” by Rachel Feintzeig. Wall Street Journal, Thursday, December 31, 2015

“PinocchioProfile” by Mrkgrd – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Esther C. Bleuel
President and Founder
Esther is dedicated to empowering leaders and teams to improve the quality of their work and interpersonal relationships through the mastery of conversational skills. Contact Esther today for assistance with your tough conversations.