Brain Pickings

Brené Brown on Vulnerability, Human Connection, and the Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy, Animated

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“The truth is, rarely can a response make something better — what makes something better is connection.”

In 2010, shame and empathy researcher Dr. Brené Brown gave us the wonderful and culturally necessary The Gifts of Imperfection, exploring the uncomfortable vulnerability and self-acceptance required in order to truly connect with others. In this charming short film, the folks of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, better-known as the RSA, put a twist on their usual live-illustrated gems and take a page out of the TED-Ed book, teaming up with animator Katy Davis to bring to life an excerpt from Brown’s longer talk on the power of vulnerability and the difference between empathy and sympathy, based on her most recent self-helpy-sounding but enormously insightful and rigorously researched book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (public library).

The truth is, rarely can a response make something better — what makes something better is connection.

And that connection often requires mutual vulnerability. Brown writes in Daring Greatly:

Vulnerability isn’t good or bad. It’s not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light, positive experience. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.

[…]

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.

Watch Brown’s full RSA talk below:

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