“Daring Greatly” in the Legal Profession

Today’s post was authored by guest blogger Keith Ecker, who is Vice President at Jaffe PR, a complete Public Reputation resource, devoted primarily to law firms, legal associations and vendors to the legal market.

We often neglect to consider vulnerability as part of the legal profession. In fact, you might say it goes against the legal industry mentality, in which the goal is to craft the best argument and win the case. After all, if you’re not a winner, what are you?

Author and renowned research professor Dr. Bréne Brown has devoted her life to studying vulnerability, shame and shame resilience. Her newest book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, serves as a primer for how these characteristics factor into our everyday lives, making us better spouses, parents and colleagues.

In the Daring Greatly section titled “The Shield: Viking or Victim,” she directly addresses shame and vulnerability as it applies to the legal profession. In this passage, she describes what she calls a type of personal “armor,” a behavioral tactic used to shield an individual from shame and vulnerability, that in her research appears to be widespread among certain professions, particularly law enforcement, the military and law. This armor is dubbed the “Viking or victim mindset,” in which individuals in these professions frequently divide up the world into two categories of people: Vikings and victims. I’ll let Dr. Brown explain what she means:

“Unlike some participants who had intellectual or theoretical issues with the value of vulnerability, these folks shared the belief that everyone without exception belongs to one of two mutually exclusive groups: Either you’re a Victim in life – a sucker or a loser who’s always being taken advantage of and can’t hold your own – or you’re a Viking – someone who sees the threat of being victimized as a constant, so you stay in control, you dominate, you exert power over things, and you never show vulnerability.”

While this might seem like an advantageous mindset in certain respects, Dr. Brown argues that such armor actually inhibits happiness. In effect, this winner-versus-loser mentality becomes our biggest liability when attempting to lead wholehearted lives.

Bringing a level of awareness to the judgments and perceptions we have about ourselves, our colleagues, our adversaries, our clients and our staff is the first step in avoiding falling into a mindset that could lead one down the road of unfulfillment. It takes courage to be vulnerable, especially when we’ve been primed to not be. But in the end, as Dr. Brown’s research shows, it can lead to some incredible outcomes.

Click here to watch Dr. Brown discuss the power of vulnerability in her popular Ted Talk.