Brené Brown Starts Every Meeting With These 2 Words

Brené Brown

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April 22, 2024 at 3:53PM UTC

In a remote work setting, it can be difficult to understand exactly how your teammates are feeling. Meeting over Zoom can make it impossible to read body language or chat a bit in the hallway before getting down to business. And coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, when women are more stressed, burnt out and exhausted than ever, putting on a happy face for work can feel like putting on an act for a part we don’t want to play.

TED Talk-famous researcher, author, and professor Brené Brown has defined a practice on her podcast Unlocking Us that puts empathy  center stage during virtual meetings—without making things awkward or triggering evasiveness. Directly asking your reports how they're feeling usually results in a quick “I'm fine,”  making it difficult to understand and empathize with them. So, to gauge emotion, Brown starts each meeting with a two-word feeling check-in.

Each member of the team, including Brown, kicks things off by naming two emotions they’re feeling. It’s quick and it gives people permission to share their authentic emotions without feeling judged. It also acknowledges that there are more feelings than “good” and “bad,” and grants permission for professional relationships to carry on even if you're openly managing complex emotions.  

After everyone has named their two emotions, Brown says the air is cleared and they can get to the core of the meeting. But if someone has said two emotions that concern her—like anxious, overwhelmed, or scared—Brown follows up with them after the meeting to check-in. For Brown, checking in isn’t telling her coworker that she’s worried about them, but rather offering active support. 

“What can I do to best support you right now?” Brown asks.

By asking this question, Brown gives her coworker a safe, empathetic space to ask for help—without any guilt. She says these kinds of check-ins allow her coworkers to ask for what they need, whether that’s help with a project or a few hours off to tend to something in their personal lives.

Supporting people, in all of their complexity, during these turbulent times encourages greater productivity and morale, and allows for the trust that results in more effective teamwork. Plus, it feels good for everyone involved. 

Una Dabiero is an associate contributors editor at CNBC Make It. Prior to joining CNBC, she managed the editorial career advice at Fairygodboss. 

How do you check in and support your coworkers? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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