“BRAVING”- The Anatomy Of Trust In The Wilderness

"BRAVING"- The Anatomy Of Trust In The Wilderness

In her book “Braving The Wilderness,” Brene Brown uses the word “BRAVING” as an acronym for defining and developing trust-filled relationships with everyone from kids to coworkers. Now, who doesn’t have trust issues and who doesn’t love a good acronym?

Genius, Brene.

As I was prepared for a Microsoft presentation I gave a couple of years ago, I searched some of Brene’s BRAVING work to implement into my talk, and a ping came up telling me she was presenting in Seattle.


Since the first time I watched her TED talk, (that now has 44.5 million views, FYI) I have had the maddest brain-crush on her. I resonate most deeply with her calm and inviting presentation style and her ability to break down difficult and emotional subjects into chewable, digestible pieces.

StubHub was my new best friend at that moment.

The event was sold out, like immediately, and I believe I got the last remaining, insanely overpriced, back of the back balcony ticket available to all mankind.

I went and it was worth every single penny.

Braving - The Anatomy of Trust in the Wilderness

“BRAVING”- The Anatomy Of Trust In The Wilderness

The show was at The Moore Theatre, a quaint folksy vintage theatre with perfect views from every seat. The venue was ideal because we ended up singing folksy/blues-grassy songs at the end. NOT KIDDING. Although she didn’t touch on the BRAVING content below as much as I would have liked, she did use one “rule to live by” which was my favorite part of her latest publication at that time.




Wouldn’t that be wonderful if we had  “hard backs” when dealing with subjects that need a spine, “soft fronts” when connecting with people different or difficult, and “wild hearts” when chasing after our lives in the most adventurous way possible!

But I want to touch on her research on trust. When Brene presented the BRAVING idea in her interview with Marie Forleo, I realized how impactful this work could be. 

When we connect and relate to people in a healthy way, it is good.

When we break the connection by transgressing our trust-bond, that is bad.

BUT just telling someone, “I no longer trust you” does not leave much room for understanding what went wrong and how to rebuild it. So BRAVING is a way to both communicate our trust-hurts in a more productive way, and build rich relationships.

We can look at all the words that make up the BRAVING acronym and evaluate not just others but also ourselves.

How do we show up in relationships? Are we trustworthy and solid in each area? Such a powerful exercise.

What DOES “BRAVING” stand for?

Clue: It is not about being brave, although, actually it is.

What does Brene Brown’s BRAVING acronym stand for?

“B”- BOUNDARIES: I remember a time when the word “boundaries” was still new on everyone’s lips. I decided to try it out on my mother and here is how the conversation went. (Insert long preceding angsty discussion, and then…)

“Mum, I am just setting some boundaries with you.”


“MOTHERS are EXACTLY the reason boundaries were invented.”

She did not like that very much. Sometimes the people we need to set boundaries with the most are the ones who don’t know or don’t respect the concept. Trust cannot exist without boundaries.  

In Play: “I will say “no” when I feel I need to and I am willing to respect and accept your “no” when you are employing your boundaries.”

“R”- RELIABILITY: You know that person in your life…the one who figures out a way to follow through no matter what is asked.

Michael was my office manager. After demonstrating his infallible reliability, the thought of checking progress or needing to ask twice was never part of the conversation. I hadn’t consciously considered that I trusted him with my life. I just did. Reliability is indisputably connected to trust. Brene talks about trust-building, not in the grand gestures, but in the many small, simple actions day after day.

In Play: “I can only trust you if you do what you say you are going to do over and over again. This means (at work or play) staying aware of your competencies and limitations so that you don’t over-promise and can deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities.”

“A”- ACCOUNTABILITY: In my office, I inducted a practice I learned from one of my friends who was a sorority sister. I guess “clapping” was too gauche for sorority girls so instead they snapped. I loved it. I employed snapping very specifically regarding accountability in practice. If you owned it, whatever IT was: “I jacked up the billing.” “I forgot to schedule that patient.” “That was my fault.” We would snap as fervently as possible. I wanted to encourage public accountability and let my team know our office was a safe place to be vulnerable regarding mistakes. It is imperative to internalize that sharing your stumbles should build relationships, not break them.

In Play: “I can only trust you if when you make a mistake, you are willing to own it, apologize, and make amends. I can only trust and respect you if when I make a mistake, you are willing to let me own it, apologize, and you will offer true forgiveness.”

“V”- VAULT: I remember in college I shared a girlfriend’s secret regarding whom she had a crush. Not the first time I had maliciously gossiped and certainly not the last, but I lost the relationship over it. She said she could not be a friend with someone she couldn’t trust. I believe saying “it’s in the vault” and meaning it is hard for many. There are so many reasons we share information that is not ours to share: to be in the know, to gain approval, to feel important, to hurt someone else, to make small talk, to try to build a bridge of connection. The “Vault” might be one of the most tender areas of trust-building – The most easily pierced and the hardest to heal.

In Play: “You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share.  I need to know that my confidences are kept and that you are not sharing information with me about other people that should be confidential.”

“I”- INTEGRITY: I got a new car. My first real new car. She had large hips and was a little pesky to park. I was all enamored with the back-up camera, so I was regaling the benefits of said camera while I backed out of a tight spot. Little did I know that a pristine black BMW was parked to my right. I heard a noise. You know the one. I stopped and evaluated the damage. My girl’s hips were fine; the BMW’s nose was not. SO I got back in the car and looked for a pen and paper. My passenger said, “I would not tell a soul if you wanted to leave.” In this situation, I had never considered running the scene. I had not fathomed bailing on doing the courageous thing. Leaving the note was the uncomfortable and “not-fun” thing to do, but it was the right thing. I have NEVER regretted doing the right thing. I have certainly regretted “choosing the fun, fast or easy thing.” I have been in plenty of those situations where I knew what was right but I did what was comfortable.

In Play: “Choosing courage over comfort. Choosing what is right over fun, fast, or easy. And practicing your values not just professing your values.” (Brene’s words)

“N”- NON-JUDGEMENT: My sisters will tell you I speak with great authority at all times. Even during times where I think I know, but I am not sure. Even during times when I am pretty sure I don’t know at all. Needing to sound important because I fear that someone might judge me as “stupid” goes way back for me, and I find I still fall into old compensation patterns as a result of that fear. Not being afraid of judgment when you admit, “I don’t know,” requires great trust in the person you are facing. Conversely, steering clear of judging others when they admit, “I don’t know that much about that,” can require an openness of mind that has to be cultivated consciously. 

In Play: “You and I can both struggle and feel comfortable asking for help. We can freely share holes in our knowledge and skills without fear of judgment. ”

“G”- GENEROSITY: I definitely did not get this one right away. When I think of generosity, I think goods, money and time. I had never considered being generous with my expectations and understanding. What a gift to give someone!

In Play:Our relationship is a trusting relationship if you can assume the most generous thing about my words, intentions, and behaviors. I will do the same. When in doubt we seek to understand before we judge.”

Since introduced, this concept of BRAVING has me considering how I measure up both personally and professionally. It makes me respond differently when I feel like sharing information I shouldn’t, or judging, or taking the easy route.

Brene spent a lot of time talking (In between folksy love-fest songs) about how working on trust in relationships is more important than ever. I am curious, which of the BRAVING letters speak most to you?

Wanna just catch the video broadcast of this post. Here ya go! 

This week, pick one of the BRAVING letters and take a look. Observe your closest friends or colleagues. Observe yourself. Where are areas that could be shored up? What do you need to improve upon to elevate to the next level of being thought of as trustworthy?

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4 Responses

    1. I love that you are reading my work! Thank you and I definitely write better when I am moved by something. This work moves me. xo Love you, Chels

  1. THIS! I have gravitated to Brene’s insights for many years. She is a powerful draw to my scientific brain and emotion-filled heart. This article captures so beautifully how we grow our deeper understanding when nurturing seeds are planted (THANK YOU Brene!).

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