Brene Brown: Boundaries, Empathy, and Compassion


Transcript of the video…

One of the most shocking findings of my work was the idea that the most compassionate people I have interviewed over the last 13 years were also the absolutely most boundaried.

I’ll give you the definition of boundaries that I use in the book, boundaries is simply what’s okay and what’s not okay.

What I think that we do is that we don’t set boundaries.

We let people do things that are not okay or get away with behaviours that are not okay and then we are just resentful and hateful.

Me? I’d rather be loving and generous and very straightforward with what’s okay and what’s not okay.

That I learnt from the research. I was the exact opposite.

I assumed for the first 35 years of my life that people were sucking on purpose just to piss me off. That’s what I assumed that whether it was someone who work for me or a family member who was constantly critical and judging and I was like why are they choosing these things, why are they making those choices? They should know better …

And then this thing came up with my therapist:

“What if people are doing the best the can?”

My husband had the most beautiful answer to that question:

“I’ll never know if people are doing the best they can or not, but when I assume people are, it makes my life better.”

Now, I think I am not as sweet as I used to be but I am far more loving.

Generosity to assume the best about people is almost an inherently selfish act because the life you change first is your own.

So my question is BIG:

What boundaries need to be in place, for me to stay in my integrity and, make the most generous assumption about you?

But generosity can’t exist without boundaries.

And we are not comfortable setting because we care more about what people will think and we do not want to disappoint anyone, we want everyone to like us.

And boundaries are not easy.

But I think they are the cue to self-love.

And I think they are cues to treating others with love and kindness.

Nothing is sustainable without boundaries.

I think compassion and empathy are different things and again I am relating on my data for this.

I think compassion is a deeply held belief that we are inextricably connected to each other by something rooted in love and goodness. I call that God, not everybody will call that God. My dad will call it “fishing”

Compassion is a deeply held belief.

I think empathy is the skill set to bring compassion alive.

Empathy is something we can teach. It’s something we taught our kids since they were very little. It’s about how to communicate that deep love for people in a way so that people know that they are not alone.

I think there is a lot of new interesting information out there about that empathy not being a good thing. There is a argument that says if (Travis) someone is in struggle, and I practice empathy with you, I’m taking on your darkness, and it leads to burn out and it leads to… but empathy is not feeing for somebody. It is feeling with them.

It is touching a place in me, that knows where you have been, so I can look at you and say, “Me too, brother, you are not alone in this.”

And I find empathy to be infinite. I think it gives back 10-fold what you put out.

Empathy (quoting Travis interviewer) if you have done your work and set your boundaries, you can thread that water forever. Amen. It is not finite.

And it keeps giving back to us.

And so this idea and here is where we go back to why we start this conversation.

Empathy minus boundaries is not empathy.

Compassion minus boundaries is not genuine.

Vulnerability without boundaries is not vulnerability.

So you see, there is a huge rift here, which is boundaries are freaking important.

And it’s like they are not fake walls; they are not separation; boundaries are not division; they are respect. It is here is what’s okay for me; and here is what’s not.

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