Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart

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At Train Together, we’ve all been reading Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart.

Brené is a professor who specialises in shame, leadership and connection. She has researched these for years and is an authority on the psychology of these subjects. As well as this, she’s been through addiction and come out the other side, so knows first-hand about overcoming adversity through meaningful connection.

This culture of connectedness is exactly what Train Together strives for the most, along with encouraging all our learners and staff to be their authentic selves.

Brené’s findings back up what we’ve always valued – that meaningful connection only comes when we’re courageous, by accepting those parts of us we might not be entirely keen on to begin with.


Here’s what we’ve learned:


1. Language connects us with ourselves and others

It’s the raw material of our stories ­­– and we live by these stories, constantly sharing them with other people. That’s how humans have always connected – even before we could speak – by using gestures and drawing images.

So being aware of the language we use is vital for meaningful connection. It’s the most readily available tool we have.


2. Language can also be weaponised

So language is a powerful tool, but with this realisation comes the harsh truth that it can also break connections – again, both from ourselves and other people

This is when we see dehumanisation at play, where dangerous language is used to strip people of their dignity. Through this process, people feel isolated from themselves and others.


3. Our emotional tapestry is bigger than we let on

As part of her research, Brené surveyed 7,000 people, asking them to list all the emotions they felt quite often – the ones they could put a name to. The average was just 3!

  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Annoyed

This obviously doesn’t represent the emotional repertoire we experience throughout our lives. Instead, it shows that on the whole, we don’t connect with what we’re feeling often enough.

Though Brené goes on to mention this isn’t the case when we choose the right emoji for a direct message – a lot of us do take the time to find the one that really signifies what we’re feeling.


4. Sharing our vulnerability increases connection

If we take the time to carefully choose what we say with our words – as much as we do with emojis – we’ll be making the same amount of effort to connect.

This can make us feel pretty exposed and vulnerable – but if we’re intuitive about who to take this approach with, we take a brave step towards being as genuine as we can.

We’re then able to:

  • See how our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all linked
  • Learn from challenges and disagreements
  • Understand different perspectives

According to Brené’s research, that’s the recipe for meaningful connection.


Here’s the trailer for Atlas of the Heart, now available on HBO:

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