Brené Brown Wants You to Drop Your Armor

Brené Brown Wants You to Drop Your Armor

Brené Brown is everywhere.

If you didn’t catch her TED talk or her appearance on Oprah’s SuperSoul conversations, you might have seen her recent Netflix documentary “The Call to Courage.”

Even though she’s a shame and vulnerability researcher (which wouldn’t seem to have mass appeal), everyone loves her.

Because we ALL feel shame. We ALL feel vulnerable. It’s actually a relief to get those feelings out in the open.

But when Brené shifted directions to write about business and leadership, I didn’t think her new work would have anything to offer those of us interested in better relationships. How we behave in the workplace has nothing to do with how we date, right?


Given the amount of time we spend at work, our workplace culture shapes us. We learn what other people value most in us. We learn what’s okay to talk about and what’s not okay to share. We adapt to our environment, and those lessons go back home with us.

Problems arise when your workplace culture requires that you “armor up.” You push down inconvenient feelings, you maintain a façade of perfection, and you make sure no one catches you being all-too-human.

This is what Brené describes as “armored leadership.”

It’s when we strive to protect ourselves rather than open up to uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. We want to make sure we look good, even if we don’t feel good.

If you work in a dog-eat-dog environment, that’s often the only way to survive. But then you come back home…

And you find yourself pushing down inconvenient feelings, avoiding hard discussions, and choosing looking good over feeling good.

You take your work armor and wear it into your intimate relationships.

“Armored dating”–my term, not Brené’s—is incredibly common.

We feel as if we have to wear armor to succeed in the dating pool, which can feel as cut-throat as business.

Here’s what some of your armor might look like:

  • You make him do all the work (making the first move, asking you to become exclusive) so that you don’t have to risk rejection.
  • You present yourself as the kind of woman he wants, rather than revealing your true self.
  • You avoid complimenting him or showing him appreciation because you don’t want him to know how much you like him.
  • When something happens that makes you feel uncomfortable, you brush it off because you don’t want to jeopardize the relationship.
  • You focus on achieving the goal (exclusivity, commitment) instead of considering whether momentum is what you really want.
  • You play it cool even when he hurts your feelings, because you don’t want to let him know he’s gotten to you.
Continue reading

The Power of a 6-Second Kiss

The Power of a 6-Second Kiss

New couples make out…

Old couples give each other a peck on the cheek.

The longer you’re together, the more habitual your kissing becomes. You don’t need to make out for hours when you’ve been sleeping in the same bed for years. You take each other’s physical presence for granted.

But maybe you’ve noticed you’ve lost something else aside from those epic make-out sessions…

You don’t feel as connected.

You don’t feel as wanted.

Some women are fine with that. They complain that their partners only kiss them if they want something from them. They’ve stopped craving kisses from their partner, because kissing feels like an expression of need rather than an expression of love.

The Gottman Institute wants to change all that.

They want to bring makeout-style kisses back…

Even if you’ve been together forever.

Kissing releases a chemical cocktail into your blood, starting with oxytocin, the hormone that makes you feel close and connected.

Kissing also releases dopamine, the chemical of pleasure that motivates us to seek rewards.

Next are epinephrine and norepinephrine, which makes your heart beat faster and butterflies flutter in your stomach.

Finally, kissing reduces cortisol levels, lowering your blood pressure and making you feel less stressed.

All of that can happen in just seconds.

Kissing makes you feel better. It brings you closer and reminds you how pleasurable it is to be with your guy.

But not all kisses are created equal. The best kisses are at least 6 seconds long.

Continue reading

Why Loss Hurts So Much (Even If You Never Liked Him in the First Place)

Why Loss Hurts So Much (Even If You Never Liked Him in the First Place)

Kelly didn’t even like Jonah.

And yet here she was, glancing down at her phone every few minutes, listening to breakup songs.

She met him on Tinder. He seemed nice enough. They went out a handful of times. Enough to make her think they were dating, or at least moving in that direction.

But recently Jonah had stopped texting her. Occasionally he’d text back if she texted him first, but otherwise she never heard from him.

Her girlfriends told her to forget about him. After all, hadn’t Kelly said she wasn’t sure about him? Jonah was an okay guy, but certainly not her ideal match.

Kelly knew she should listen to her girlfriends. She should put Jonah out of her head. There were a few guys on Tinder who wanted to meet up. She should throw herself back in the dating pool.

But she didn’t want to.

She just wanted Jonah to chase her again.

Why We Hate Losing

You’ve heard it said a thousand times: “We always want what we can’t have.”

But you may not realize there’s an even more powerful principle at work:

We don’t want to lose what we ALREADY have…

Even if what we have isn’t all that good.

This principle is called “loss aversion,” and it’s behind many of our worst decisions.

Researchers have learned that people will go out of their way to avoid losing something they have, even if they could get something even better in return.

In fact, the pain of losing what we have is twice as strong as the happiness of unexpectedly gaining something good.

So, if you lose that $20 bill in your wallet, the pain you’d feel would be two times stronger than the pleasure you’d feel if you had found a $20 bill on the sidewalk.

This principle explains why it’s so hard to get rid of the old clothes in your closet, even if you’re making room for new clothes. It explains why resigning from your job is so hard, even if you’re ready to move onto something new.

And it explains why we feel so much pain when a romantic prospect vanishes on us, even though their absence opens up the possibility of meeting someone better.

But there’s one thing that makes the pain of loss even worse

Continue reading

How Facebook Knows Who You’re Dating— And Why That Matters to All of Us

How Facebook Knows Who You’re Dating— And Why That Matters to All of Us

Imagine two couples.

The first couple, Jack and Jill, have a gazillion friends in common. They met at a party thrown by mutual friends, and it was love at first sight. They’ve stayed with the same social circle, so all of Jack’s friends know Jill’s friends, and vice versa.

The second couple, Bob and Barb, have some friends in common. But they met later in life, when they’d already developed strong social networks on their own. Most of Bob’s friends just know Barb; they don’t know any of her friends. Most of Barb’s friends just know Bob; they don’t know any of his friends.

Which is the stronger couple?

Before I tell you, let me share the story of how Facebook—yes, Facebook—figured this out.

Facebook Wants to Know Who You’re Dating

Back in 2011, a group of Facebook employees were sitting around trying to figure out how to organize your News Feed to make sure you saw posts by the people you cared about the most.

Maybe you hadn’t told Facebook that this girl was your cousin, but you’re going to get mad if your cousin’s engagement announcement gets lost at the bottom of your feed.

Not everyone tells Facebook who they’re in a relationship with, either. But clearly you want your guy’s posts to show up first.

So Facebook got to work developing an algorithm that could figure out who the most important person in your life is—which would usually be your boyfriend or husband.

Back in the old days, researchers used something called “embeddedness” to determine the strength of social ties. The more people you know in common, the stronger your relationship.

Jack and Jill are highly embedded. They have lots of friends in common. Their friends all know one another.

But it turns out that embeddedness doesn’t prove you’ve got a strong relationship. You need more than mutual friends to stay together.

What you need is dispersion.

Who’s the Stronger Couple?

Dispersion is what Bob and Barb have.

It’s defined as “the extent to which two people’s mutual friends are not themselves well-connected.”[1]

Bob is friends with many of Barb’s friends, family members, and co-workers, even though he only knows them through Barb and wouldn’t bump into them otherwise.

Barb is friends with Bob’s friends, family members, and co-workers on Facebook, even though she wouldn’t have known them if it weren’t for Bob.

If Bob and Barb ever break up, Bob would lose a good chunk of his social network, because they’re only friends with Bob through Barb.

On the other hand, if Jack and Jill ever break up, their friends would have a tough time figuring out who to invite to parties, because their ties are equally strong to both Jack and Jill.

What the researchers found was that Bob and Barb are actually the stronger couple.

But why?

Continue reading