The following is an excerpt from ORIGIN Magazine
Interviewer: Chantal Pierrat
Chantal Pierrat: On your website, you have a business card that says “Researcher. Storyteller.” And those are not two concepts that normally go together.
Brené Brown: Yeah, let me tell you something about the whole story about the “Researcher. Storyteller” label. I used that to open my TEDx Houston talk and it was something I really hated. Someone was trying to advertise an event where I was speaking and she said, “Hey, I don’t know how to describe you.” And I said, “Just tell them what I do.” And she said, “Well, I was going to say you’re a researcher, but that’s really boring. And then I was going to say you’re a storyteller.” And I was like, oh my god, don’t ever use the word “storyteller” close to my name.
I’m an academic. What are you going to call me, an enchanted drummer on a magic pixie? No. And so it has taken me years to get comfortable with that. But the truth is, I’m a storyteller. And it scares me, because my training as an academic is that the more accessible you are and the more human you are, the less smart you are. It’s a shame trigger for me to be honest. When you don’t put your initials behind your name, and I’ve got tons of them, and when you talk about storytelling or love or gratitude, you’re diminishing your legitimacy and importance in this world.
So it’s been a lot of work for me just to kind of own it and say, I am a storyteller and a researcher, and I’m sorry the world has a hard time straddling the tension of those two things, but that’s who I am. I think a lot of us are multiple things that don’t always fit together neatly in a bio box. And I think that’s the authenticity piece. The truth is, fifth generation Texan? I come from a long line of storytellers. It’s in my DNA.
CP: You’re really funny — you make people laugh. I’m curious: how do you think humor fits into your work?
BB: I’m a huge fan of the poet Billy Collins. I heard him say, “Humor is the door to the serious.” I think that shame is a universal, paralyzing, painful emotion. The only universal language I know of that wraps up joy and gratitude and love is laughter. And so I believe in the healing power of laughter. I believe laughter forces us to breathe. I think laughter between people is a holy form of connection, of communion. It’s the way you and I look at each other and without words, say, I get exactly what you’re saying. And so, it’s important to me.
CP: It’s also disarming.
BB: I agree. The laughter that happens when people are truth-telling and showing up and being real — I call that “knowing laughter.” That’s what happens between people when we recognize the absurdity of the belief that we’re alone in anything. If there’s a feeling you have, other people have it. If there’s something weird about your life, other people have lived it. If there’s something kooky about your body, other people have that, too. We’re not alone. There’s some kind of tremendous relief in that and I think it can only be expressed in belly laughter. This tremendous relief that happens the millisecond we realize, it’s not just me. That’s what good laughter is about. It’s about knowing that you’re not alone.
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