In an innovative and self-care focused episode, host Adriana Linares talks with author, professor, attorney and self-proclaimed “poster child of introversion and shyness” Heidi Brown. Hear how she learned to succeed in the high-pressure atmosphere of legal practice.
Learn to untangle your communication traits and internal turmoil. Listen to your mind – and your body – and understand your strengths and abilities. If you struggle to speak up, to confidently share your ideas, or understand how you process information and energy, you are not alone.
Brown, author of “The Introverted Lawyer: A Seven-Step Journey Toward Authentically Empowered Advocacy” and “Untangling Fear in Lawyering: A Four-Step Journey Toward Powerful Advocacy,” delves into the feelings of stress and anxiety that can hold us back.
Plus, we have a special upcoming mailbag edition on Office 365 and all things Microsoft. Got a question? Contact us at [email protected]
– It’s OK to be introverted or shy as a lawyer. Acceptance can help you work through your unique challenges.
– Understand feelings of stress and anxiety (and the difference between being shy and being an introvert).
– Just like any professional athlete or performer, you can seek outside help, coaching, mentoring, and other services to help you be your best.
Special thanks to our sponsors, Lawclerk, Alert Communications, Abby Connect, and Clio.
Adriana Linares: Before we get started with today’s episode, I want to make sure and thank our sponsors: Alert Communications, LAWCLERK, Clio and Abby Connect.
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Intro: So, if I was starting today as a new solo — entrepreneurial aspect of becoming a lawyer; to help young lawyers; what it needs to be fulfilled, editorial authenticity, new approach, new tools, new mindset, New Solo. And it’s making that leap.
Adriana Linares: Are you an introverted shy or socially anxious law student or lawyer? I bet there are a lot of you out there that are and maybe you don’t even realize that you are. Well, I am pretty stoked to have Heidi Brown, Professor at the University of Brooklyn Law and an ABA author talking to us today. Hi, Heidi.
Heidi K. Brown: Hi. Thanks so much for having me.
Adriana Linares: Oh, man. I’m so excited to have you because I think this is the type of topic that my listeners, our listeners are going to be interested in whether they themselves are an introverted lawyer or they know someone who is, I think this will be super helpful. Let’s start with just talking a little bit about you. Are you a shy introverted person?
Heidi K. Brown: Absolutely. I am sort of the poster child for introversion and shyness and I’ll explain a little bit later, hopefully, that there those are kind of two different things, but I am both of them.
Adriana Linares: Oh my gosh. I was going to ask you too, to help us define the terms so that if some of us have some of these characteristics we can properly identify them.
Heidi K. Brown: Yes. It’s a huge revelation when you do identify yourself either as introverted or extroverted or in between. There’s ambiversion, which I didn’t know existed until I started researching this, but introversion and extraversion are just the ways we process energy and the way we take in stimuli.
Extroverts process energy by engaging with the outside world. Introverts absorb a lot of stimuli. We can get very exhausted from a lot of stimuli. It doesn’t mean we can’t perform at a high level, but we need to retreat to solitude or quietude to replenish energy. Whereas extroverts tend to gain energy from a lot of stimuli.
Shyness and social anxiety, totally different. That comes from a fear of judgment. You can be a completely confident introvert, but just need, when you run out of steam, to go back to your office, or your home, or your car, the gym to quietly, on your own, to replenish. But for me, I have both, so not only did I need time alone to do my best work and to replenish my energy, I also had this fear of judgement and sort of a shame-based trigger that would help me scared to perform. I have the layers of both of those and it took me researching introversion and extraversion, but also the difference between introversion and shyness and social anxiety to understand how to delve into and untangle all of those different things and understand how I could work on each layer separately.
Adriana Linares: Did you know these things about yourself before you went to law school or did you discover them during or after? And kind of a weird question, but did you pick law thinking because I’m kind of shy, maybe I can just be a lawyer and I can sit in an office and do research and I won’t have to talk to a lot of people, because some areas of the law do lend themselves to that, not everyone has to be a litigator that goes into the courtroom and puts on a show.
Heidi K. Brown: To be honest with you, I had no idea what I was doing when I went to law school. When I was in high school, I was a very good student in high school. I was quiet, but I was very good student and my dream was to be the first female orthopedic surgeon to the Washington Redskins football team. However, we had a Saint Bernard dog growing up and every time my father would tote me along with him to the vet and they took blood from the dog, I would promptly pass out so I had no medical career ahead of me.
Adriana Linares: Oh, it’s not going to happen to you. Okay, plan B, plan B.
Heidi K. Brown: No. Plan B. In college, I double majored in foreign affairs and French. I took a lot of different language classes and I was a good writer, so I thought I’m going to apply to law school, but I really had no — unlike a lot of my students, as I teach law now, a lot of my students know they want to be lawyers. I didn’t really know much about the legal profession except that I thought it was a lot of research and writing and I was good at those two tasks. Not so great at the performing and getting up and talking in front of people aspect of it, which I didn’t — I knew from television what lawyers in court do in film and TV, but I didn’t really know what law school entailed when I got there.
Adriana Linares: How did you figure all this out about yourself and even get to the point where, as someone who I read on your bio, you were afraid to speak publicly? You are now a professor who speaks publicly all the time and you got yourself to the point where you wanted to write a book because through the ABA, it’s called ‘The Introverted Lawyer’ that you wanted to share your — how did you get there?
Heidi K. Brown: It has been a long interesting circuitous serpentine journey. When I was in law school, I thought law school was going to be just like college. In fact, I went to the same institution. I went to the University of Virginia for undergrad and then right out of college, I was 21 years old, I set foot in my first law school class and it was nothing like college.
In college, I love school. I love being a student and for some reason, I was never afraid to speak in my foreign language classes. Speaking a foreign language was not intimidating. I wasn’t that good at it at the time, but I —
Adriana Linares: That’s was weird.
Heidi K. Brown: I wasn’t afraid to make mistakes. My first law school class, I had done all the homework. I done all the reading. I always joke about how I would have highlighter ink all over my hands from staying up all night reading my case books, but the moment that a professor would call on me, cold called me in front of 80 of my classmates, I froze. And I write my book, I have a very robust blushing response, so I would turn bright red. I was sweating. I was basically a hot mess in all my law school classes and I was terrified. I thought, what if I’m not cut out for this?
Again, I love the research. I love the reading. I loved my legal writing class, but I really struggled. Any time I was called on or had to do a simulated oral argument or simulated client interview, I just froze. I thought, oh my goodness, can I not do this? But the mantra back then, fake it till you make it. Let me tell you how many times I’ve heard fake it till you make it. Just do it. That great Nike slogan, toss on a pair of Nikes and bungee jump your way into —
Adriana Linares: You got the New York Marathon in the bag with your Nikes on.
Heidi K. Brown: Right. But back then, I was very un-self-aware. I did what everybody else was doing. They were all much better at it than I was. I would love to retreat into the library and do my work, but I thought there was something wrong with me.
Fast forward, I end up getting an amazing summer job at a firm that just happened to specialize in construction litigation. Not only did I pick litigation, which at the time I didn’t know the difference between litigation and transactional work. Neither of my parents are lawyers. I don’t have lawyers in the family. Not only did I pick litigation, but I chose the hard-hitting field of construction law, but I loved the work.
Again, the summers, I worked there both my summers in law school. The assignments were fascinating. We had to learn about architecture and engineering, read blueprints and I did the work. Well, mostly I was researching and writing. Fast forward, I end up getting a job there out of law school. I took the bar. I passed the bar, started working and immediately, the firm threw us into performance activities. Go to St. Louis. Fly to St. Louis and take your first deposition. Go to court. Make this make this oral argument. Negotiate the scheduling order with tough opposing counsel. I was again like a deer in headlights. There was a lot of faking it and not much happiness.
Adriana Linares: That must be really hard. I mean, there’s one thing to say fake it till you make it, but the stress that faking it creates is really awful. It’s awful.
Heidi K. Brown: My stress levels in my 20s and early 30s were really through the roof. Getting to where I started researching introversion about 15 years, so I tried to fake it for 15 year.
Adriana Linares: Holy shit.
Heidi K. Brown: Did well in the writing aspect of my job. Yeah, exactly. I used to say that basically every day. I did well in the writing aspects of my job. I was a brief writer, but anytime I had to take a deposition or go to court or negotiate, I had just extreme high levels of stress. I ended up going out to California to work on a big power plant litigation that we had that was taking two or three years to go to trial. I moved out there just because I wanted the Great West Coast adventure, Great West Coast experiment and I ended up being invited to teach legal writing while I was still litigating.
I walked into my first law school classroom as a professor terrified. I was again terrified. And what I observed though, over that year, was that my best legal writing students, my most creative problem solvers, my deepest thinkers were also my students who were the most afraid to raise their hand in class, to get cold called to do oral arguments. That’s what prompted me to start researching some way to help the next generation of lawyers. But first, I had to understand myself. I had never studied my own habits and my personality traits.
Adriana Linares: Well most of us don’t.
Heidi K. Brown: That’s what led to the research.
Adriana Linares: Like who sits around going, I have nothing else to do. I’m going to study myself. Well, that’s amazing. In an effort to make the environment better for others, you found it all within yourself too.
Heidi K. Brown: Yes. It was quite an interesting journey to read. I basically read 26 books about introversion, the difference between introversion and extraversion, but then that led me to understanding that shyness and social anxiety, which is the more intense version of shyness are totally different from being an introvert. It was like a light bulb had been turned on after 15 painful years of trying to make my way in the profession.
I realized, oh, wow, we quiet individuals, whether introverted or you’re shy, or you’re socially anxious, quiet individuals bring incredible assets to our profession that are often overlooked. And then because we don’t talk about that, we don’t know how to amplify our voices authentically when we need to make ourselves heard because obviously, we don’t have the luxury to always be quiet and sit in our offices with our doors closed or squirrel away to the library. We have to speak and make ourselves heard because we have important things to say, but we don’t talk enough about how to do that.
Adriana Linares: Well, that’s great. I hope you’re going to give us some tips on how to do that. Let me back up before we move on and ask you a couple of quick things based on what you just said, which is there are probably listeners who don’t realize they are either shy, socially anxious, introverted or maybe even extroverted, but yet shy, like the combinations that you talked about. Are there some telltale signs that you could rattle off that a listener might go, “Oh wow, that is me.” Or “Yeah, I do behave like that.” Do you have some ways you can help us figure out if we have any of those characteristics?
Heidi K. Brown: Yes. I’ll first talk about introversion and extraversion. Introversion again is the way, it’s some of us process stimuli in a particular way in which it takes us a little bit of time to listen to a question. We want to ponder the question. We want to think about it. We are sort of vetting and testing our ideas and theories and solutions to problems. We do that internally.
Sometimes in a meeting, I notice when I’m in a meeting, I’m usually the last to speak. My brain is full of ideas, but I’m going through the process of testing even the language I’m going to use. Extroverts do this totally differently. They process thoughts and ideas and solutions out loud.
Adriana Linares: We’re blurters. Are you calling us blurters?
Heidi K. Brown: They’re blurters in a good way. Extroverts can be blurters but you imaging in a courtroom or in a negotiation or in a law school classroom, the extroverts tend to get a lot of the attention because they seem more engaged. But actually, the introvert can be just as engaged and is thinking really deeply about the problem or the opportunity in front of them. They just take a little longer to step into the conversation.
That’s one sign that if you like the sort of think through, if you prefer writing to speaking, the chat feature on Zoom is just a miracle worker for introverts. I’ve seen it in the classroom and meetings because we can think, put our ideas in the chat, and then hit send or hit enter —
Adriana Linares: Backspace, edit.
Heidi K. Brown: This amazing impact without having to interrupt someone. That’s another telltale sign. If you resist interrupting people or you feel like you get sidetracked when people interrupt you, that’s another somewhat introverted trait.
And then, as we mentioned, energy replenishment. As an introvert, I can go full steam ahead for hours and hours and hours in a very highly stimulating environment, but then I hit a wall and I need to run. I actually have this — I’m a big fan of the band U2 and I have this awesome t-shirt that has a lyric from their song and the front of the t-shirt says, “I want to run.” And the back says, “I want to hide.” And that is my introversion t-shirt.
Adriana Linares: Great song by the way.
Heidi K. Brown: It is. And then shyness and social anxiety, that’s completely different from the energy management or stimuli processing that we were talking about.
Shyness and social anxiety manifests through a fear of judgment and that can take the form of public speaking anxiety. I had public speaking anxiety, extreme levels of it in law school in practice and as a new law professor and still sometimes now, I do a lot of public speaking, which I find hilarious and ironic that I wrote a book called ‘The Introverted Lawyer’ and now half of my career is public speaking.
Adriana Linares: I think that’s amazing.
Heidi K. Brown: It’s fun, but I have to untangle. I like the word untangle, not just conquer, but really dig into why I have this fear of judgment and why I get embarrassed if I blush in a presentation and untangle all that fear of judgment and realize I have systems that I undertake each time I’m stepping into a performance scenario and I just remind myself, if I reach one person with my message, I’ve done my job and then I step in and work on it.
Adriana Linares: I’ll tell a quick story about me. I have never had a fear of speaking in public. My first job out of college was at SeaWorld in Orlando and I was what they called an instructor and they gave me a microphone and a little book and said, “Learn the facts in this book and then go and stand outside in public and give a talk about.” I can even still remember my pinniped speech. “Welcome to Pacific Point Preserve. This is the home of three species of pinnipeds.”
No problem, I could talk all day and then I went to Toastmasters and learned how to hone my speaking skills and I would give talks and the story I’m about to tell you is one day, I was speaking to 700 lawyers, which I didn’t know, no problem. Walked right on stage, gave my speech, came back. And then later in that week, I was going through a master’s program at Rollins College and had to give a presentation to my classmates which were, at that point, 20 of my friends, completely lost my ability to speak.
It was so strange because they were people that I knew versus strangers. I was so embarrassed. It was just awful but thankfully, in a supportive environment, it was fine, but I thought, “Oh man, that was really — that was a lesson for me about my comfort level and when I choose to speak.” Anyway, it was just one of those very weird experiences for me.
Heidi K. Brown: I’ve had similar situations. I gave a speech to 600 people and I didn’t think I knew anyone in the audience. I felt great and then afterwards, someone came up to me and said, “Oh, we worked together 20 years ago.” And then I started rethinking everything I said.
Adriana Linares: You’re sweating.
Heidi K. Brown: My sweating and blushing started. I was a mess.
Adriana Linares: Well, that seems perfectly normal. Before we move on to our next segment, I just want to close the circle on you and your background. You went to law school, you worked for the construction company litigation firm, went out to California and started teaching there, and then are you full-time professor now? Back to New York.
Heidi K. Brown: Yes. Through my 15 years of law practice, I was actually at three different firms. The first firm was a boutique litigation firm that did construction law. I worked there for six years. Moved to New York, did the Big Law thing. Then —
Adriana Linares: The soul sucking life of a big lawyer, big firm.
Heidi K. Brown: It was rough. It was definitely rough. And then I switched firms again to become a brief writer for a small 10-person law firm. And that’s the firm that I was working on a big power plant case out in California. I moved out to California. I got my first teaching job. I really miss the East Coast, so I moved back to New York and then started transitioning into full-time teaching and now, because I direct a legal writing program at Brooklyn Law School, I’m full-time teaching.
Adriana Linares: Cool.
Heidi K. Brown: It’s wonderful. I love teaching and I consider myself also a full-time writer as well. In fact, when I fill out forms sometimes and they say, “What’s your occupation?” I like to give myself regard as an artist so I write writer.
Adriana Linares: Damn straight you should.
Heidi K. Brown: Yes.
Adriana Linares: Did you ever have a mentor during those law firm years that ever said to you, “Heidi, you’ve got a lot of talent, you’re just kind of shy. Get that out of the way.” Was there anyone that ever encouraged you along the way to — I think we talked about mentoring a lot in law firms. I’ve been around law firms for a really long time.
Unfortunately, I see very little mentoring. I’m just wondering if you ever had an experience like that or maybe we have some listeners who are the partners or the more senior associates that you might be able to help them recognize younger attorneys or even older attorneys. You don’t have to be young to have not figured out that you have these characteristics, something you might say to them that would be helpful.
Heidi K. Brown: I reflecting back, I got great mentoring on the substantive and tactical aspects of my job. I got great mentoring in writing and legal strategy. I got zero mentoring in terms of tapping into my authentic strengths and there was a lot of messaging around, “Grow a thicker skin.”
Adriana Linares: Right. That sounds mean!
Heidi K. Brown: I literally heard that message. How does one grow a thicker skin? It was the message and these are well-meaning people, very strong personalities, a lot of yelling involved. I admire their strengths. I had totally different strengths and when I was coming up through the ranks, there was not a lot of mentoring around how to recognize the assets that you do bring to the profession and at the same time, learn how to — I like the phrase “amplify your voice authentically.”
I knew I needed to amplify my voice, but what I learned was their version of that was mirror the behavior that was being displayed across the table, which in my couple decades of law practice, I worked in a very male-dominated industry, construction law, there are very few women that — now, it’s changed.
But back then, all my opposing counsel were these angry men, very strong personalities and I was this quiet younger female and I thought I had to act like them and I now wish I could go back and redo all of those performances, because I would have done it in the way that I know how to amplify my voice now, which is not yelling. It’s not swearing. It’s not pounding table. It’s just being smart and sticking to my written plan, relying on my writing, and then doing a lot of the physical stuff that I’ve learned how to do to calm my shyness and social anxiety to take all that energy, that anxious energy and convert it into power.
Adriana Linares: I love it. Let’s take a quick, listen to some messages from some sponsors and when we come back, I’m going to ask you what some of those techniques are. Do you make yourself like Rebecca from Ted Lasso where she makes herself really big and then goes in?
Heidi K. Brown: I do have my own little power pose situation going on.
Adriana Linares: It’s a great show and to me, the star characters are the women because they are in charge and powerful and as put together as they can be. And there’s this one scene where they’re trying to talk this player into standing up for himself. And she says, “Well, you know what I do is I just make myself really big.” And so she’s — you can almost picture her as she’s talking outside of the door where she’s about to go talk to, because she works in a male-dominated world, she owns the soccer team. She says, “I make myself really big.” Anyway, I thought that was such a great scene because obviously, there’s a trick to that. We’ll hear about it from you in just a few minutes.
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Adriana Linares: All right. And we’re back. I’m talking to Professor Heidi Brown from Brooklyn Law. She has written a couple of books and specifically, the one we’re talking about today is The ‘Introverted Lawyer’ but before I forget, Heidi, I just do want to mention your other one, which is ‘Untangling Fear in Lawyering’ and that’s probably a whole nother topic and you have a third book on the way, so you definitely get to write in the profession slot, writer. What’s your third book called?
Heidi K. Brown: My third book is called ‘The Flourishing Lawyer’.
Adriana Linares: Love it.
Heidi K. Brown: The subtitle is A Multi-Dimensional Approach to Performance and Well-being.
Adriana Linares: Well, you’ll have to come on and we’ll talk about that one after it gets published. You said you just admitted it last week, so congratulations. That must feel good.
Heidi K. Brown: Thank you.
Adriana Linares: Back to helping our introverted and shy and possibly socially anxious listeners, you’ve given us a couple of ideas of ways to identify those characteristics whether it’s in ourselves or someone we work with. What are some ways to, I don’t want to use the word combat those characteristics because you don’t want to combat them. You need to figure out, like you said, how to find your voice and then amplify those strengths. What are some of those suggestions that you make in your book or you give to your students?
Heidi K. Brown: Yes. I feel like the terminology is untangled because we’re kind of taking all the stuff apart and then putting it back together in a constructive manner. And that really requires some self-study first and then action.
What really helped me in researching my Introverted Lawyer book, I did a deep dive into the research about introversion, but also shyness and social anxiety. And the themes that kept popping up, we’re really getting to know what’s happening in your brain but also and your body when you step into a performance scenario. There’s a mental reflection piece and then a mental action piece and then also the physicality of it. That was so huge for me.
I thought my performance anxiety all came down to my emotions, but as I started studying this, I realized, oh, there’s a whole physical dimension to this. But if we are unaware of it, we can’t do anything about it. The second half of this plan that works for me is to do a physical inventory, do a physical self-study and once you’re more aware of your physicality, transform that into a physical action plan.
The mental piece, and when I talk to law students and lawyers about this, sometimes they feel like this is a little touchy-feely, but I promise, it has worked for me.
Adriana Linares: I think they’ll take any suggestions they can get.
Heidi K. Brown: Whether you’re grappling with introversion or the shyness and social anxiety, this really can apply to both because whatever it is, sometimes we feel like we’re a little out of sorts in a performance scenario. What helped me was to first listen to my internal soundtrack, my not so helpful soundtrack as I was either anticipating the stressful performance scenario or as I was stepping into one.
And I realized that for literally decades, I was telling myself the most unpleasant things, but listening to it is important. Not just fighting through it, not just pretending. I finally had to listen to it and write it down. And it was unbelievable. It’s like what are you doing here? Why did you say yes to this? You’re going to turn red. They’re going to think you’re incompetent. All this negative stuff. You write all that down, but then I had to realize that those were just outdated messages, they may be well-meaning teachers or coaches or authority figures in my life had had given me “constructive criticism” in the past, but I had somehow absorbed all that and written this script for myself, which was just really unhelpful.
I had to reboot that entire thing.
Adriana Linares: Reprogram.
Heidi K. Brown: Totally. Delete the soundtrack. Let’s write a new one, but it had to be quick enough for me that when all that self-doubt stuff would start to creep in, I’d have to catch myself and realize, oh no, wait, wait, okay, and then for the next 30 seconds, you’ve prepared for this, you’ve done the work, you know what you’re talking about, you care what you’re talking about. You don’t have to talk like, speak like everybody else. You can say this in your own voice, even if you make a mistake or your voice shakes, now get in there and do it.
And sometimes I would literally write that down. And in the early days, I’d write it on Post-Its. Stick it on my laptop or stick it on my deposition outline. Actually, I wish I had stuck it on my deposition outline. I never did this when I was actually taking depositions but my teaching outline and remind myself, okay, you’ve done the work, you know what you’re talking about, you deserve to be here, who cares if your face turns red. Oh, and I read an amazing book by this author, Erika Hilliard. This gets more into the physicality stuff, which I’ll talk about in a minute, but she wrote about blushing. I’ve never read anything more helpful about blushing than Erika Hilliard’s book about shyness and she said, blushing is life coursing through you. When I first read that, I laughed out loud and I’m like, “Oh cool.”
Adriana Linares: It’s a lot of life. Really alive.
Heidi K. Brown: I’m alive! Yey, me! Now, when I blush, because I still blush a lot. I immediately think, thank you, Erika Hilliard, but I immediately think I’m alive, yey me, and then I forget about it and it goes away in a couple minutes rather than firing up for another 45 minutes like it used to.
Adriana Linares: I always say to my friends and to myself, be kind to your mind. We are so mean to ourselves sometimes. We are so hard. Everyone always says, you’re too hard on yourself and it sounds like we need to sometimes sit back and reprogram and recognize that we’re being mean to ourselves and figure out a way to reboot or reprogram and be kind to our minds.
Heidi K. Brown: It’s such a powerful feeling when you realize that you really can delete that outdated soundtrack with a new one. And even if you physically write it out and have it with you tucked in to your notebook or in your laptop or in your phone, it’s totally fine. The next part, though, is even more exciting because it’s less touchy-feely. I find that the physical stuff is a little easier to handle for people that are new to this.
When I realized I had to do the same thing physically as I did mentally and notice what was happening to me physically when I would anticipate a performance scenario or when I was stepping into one. And in addition to my face firing up a lovely blush, I would start sweating but what I realized is that my body’s instinct was to protect me from what it perceived as a threat, because our bodies don’t know the difference between you’re swimming in the water and you see a weird shadow, that kind of fear versus walking in to speak in front of 700 people. Our bodies think it’s the same type of threat.
What happens to me is that my shoulders cave in. I instinctively cross my arms. If I’m sitting, I cross my legs, but all that, it’s like my body’s trying to get as small as possible so I can slink out of the room unnoticed.
Adriana Linares: You need to make yourself big like Rebecca from Ted Lasso.
Heidi K. Brown: Exactly! What I realized was that that whole getting small thing just exacerbated my rapid heartbeat, the sweating, I couldn’t breathe, I wasn’t getting enough air, my energy, because I’m full of energy. I’m a ball of energy when I’m in that situation, but the energy of nowhere to go, because I’m constricting my physical frame.
I learned. I listened to — I know this TED Talk has gotten some controversy, but Professor Amy Cuddy gave a TED Talk about power poses and I know it’s a controversial TED Talk because there’s difficulties with replicating the science or whatever, but I do that. I realized just like I had to catch my mental soundtrack, I realize now when my shoulders are caving in, when I’m crossing my arms, when I’m feeling the blush come up my cheeks. And I realize, “Oh, wait. Nope. Just got to recalibrate.”
Adriana Linares: Just doing a little living over here.
Heidi K. Brown: Yes. And throw your shoulders back, whether you’re seated or standing. Put both feet on the floor. Stand like an athlete or a performer. Open up your hands. If you can do a power pose, put your hands on your hips. I also like the one where you put your hands behind your head and you feel really strong. If you can do the starfish, make yourself as big as possible, whatever works for you.
Everybody’s different, that is another just 30-second reboot or recalibration and I realized, okay, I can calm my own heart rate down, I can feel more powerful and I don’t know if you’ve ever read the book by choreographer Twyla Tharp. She wrote a book called ‘The Creative Habit’ and she likes rituals and routines, because she says they remind her and I’m quoting her, she says, “I’ve done it before. It was good. I’ll do it again.”
And so, when I add the metal soundtrack on and layer on the physical recalibration, I think of Twyla Tharp’s statement. “I’ve done it before. It was good. I’ll do it again.” And then those two things just set me up and then I walk into the presentation and then it doesn’t always go perfectly but it goes way better than it used to.
Adriana Linares: And plus, people are truly so forgiving. I think that’s another fear we often have is that we’re going to be judged. And of course, if there’s an evaluation at the end, which I will tell you, I never look at those and I almost always have them because someone will have invited me to speak. When I started early in my 20s, I gave a speech for ILTA, the International Legal Technology Association, and then they give you the forms, so I looked and of course, they were 10 out of 10, great information, super good presenter, and then the one, the one that said, “Why does she keep twirling her hair?”
Well, first of all, I’m not a hair twirler, so I don’t even know why that was a comment, but maybe brushed my hair away from my face, that stuck with me forever. And that was 20 years ago. And now, I don’t even want to see those things because here’s the thing. I’ve done the absolute best job. I’m being asked to speak on a topic that I’m an expert on. Like you said, you know what you’re talking about. And you just have to remind yourself of those things and my suggestion would be don’t take those evaluations. They will literally squash you for years.
Heidi K. Brown: Well, funny that you mentioned the hair twirling, because my oral argument in law school, so most law schools require 1L students to do an oral argument in their first year. I have a mental block about that entire experience because it was so horrible except the feedback from the judge. One of the judges said, “You have to stop twirling your hair.” And I didn’t even realize I was doing it. I still don’t think I actually did do it.
Adriana Linares: See? You know what? That judge was probably in my audience that day.
Heidi K. Brown: Probably. And then I have the same thing with course evaluations. My students give great feedback in the course evaluations and then there’s that one comment.
Adriana Linares: Every time.
Heidi K. Brown: And that’s the one negative thing to stays with me.
Adriana Linares: It erases all the good. It’s like social media. It’s the same thing. One trolly comment, and you’re completely ruined. So, we all need to be better at brushing that stuff off. I was laughing internally when you said earlier, “How do you grow bigger skin?” Because when I worked at these two big firms in Florida, when I got done at Big Law, I would say all the time, “You’re looking at 100 pounds of skin.” I grew so much skin working for these mean angry attorneys sometimes, and they weren’t always like that, of course, but I would always say 100 pounds of skin right here.
Heidi K. Brown: I love that. I’m going to start thinking that way and on the criticism piece, too, as a writer, especially a writer of short articles that I post on social media a lot. You’re absolutely right, it’s always that one negative comment and as a writer, I can’t afford to let that get in my head, because the next time I’m writing a piece, that’s what’s in my head, and I can’t let that derail me so I have a hard time. It’s hard not to read them, but I try not to read them because it’s really not healthy.
Adriana Linares: And then you feel like we’re just living in such a mean world right now. What has happened to us? I want to start a nice movement where we’re just all nice to each other. It’s just kind of not that hard, but I feel like somehow, we have given ourselves permission to be mean to each other and rude and disrespectful and I absolutely hate it. It’s hard. It’s hard enough as we are to be human.
Anyway, before we move on to our next segment, I do have one more question I want to ask you. You have used the word performance several times and I want to clarify, that can be anything from a one-on-one deposition to giving a speech to 600 people, right?
Heidi K. Brown: Completely. To me, a performance is anytime you’re interacting with someone else. It could be one person. It can be three people. It can be 700 people. If you think it’s a performance, it’s a performance.
Adriana Linares: Well, cool. Let’s take another couple minutes to listen to some messages and I’ll be right back with Heidi Brown.
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All right, we’re back. I’m speaking to Professor Heidi Brown, just an absolute delightful conversation so far. Thank you, Professor Brown for joining me on this podcast today. You have talked to us about figuring out who we are, some of us that might have some hidden characteristics we haven’t identified and then some tactics for using those strengths once we’ve identified them. Overall, mental health and wellness is important to you. Everything you’ve told us and taught us so far, I know, is a small piece of a bigger picture back to being kind to your mind, I think. What things do you see in attorneys on either behaviors or stories that that you could share with us? Just a couple of ideas on securing our health from a mental standpoint.
Heidi K. Brown: I wrote a little article for the ABA Journal couple of years ago about trying to treat ourselves like athletes or if the athlete model doesn’t resonate with people, like performers, because that’s what we do. And I like to look at it this way that athletes and performers, whether they’re rock stars or singers, musicians, dancers, comedians, they don’t just focus on the one skill that makes them awesome on the stage or in the arena. They focus on a lot of different things. Especially athletes. They don’t just focus on one physical skill. They focus on nutrition. They focus on mental strength. They focus on emotional strength.
I think we need to do that as law students and lawyers or members of the profession as well because that’s going to make us stronger on the mental health and well-being front. We cannot just focus on our intellect. And so, I’ve been trying to take this approach. There’s a task force on lawyer well-being that identified six dimensions of lawyer well-being–intellectual, occupational, social, physical, mental and even spiritual. And I loved that they listed those six things.
I’m working on a new project where I’m adding four more because I want us to treat ourselves, give ourselves regard as athletes or performers because when we enter into the arena, whatever our arena is, whether it’s dealing with a person one-on-one or walking into a conference room where we know there’s going to be confrontation or not confrontation, we want to be nice to people and come up with solutions or the courtroom, we cannot just rely on one dimension. We have to build up our strength and all these different dimensions. That’s the approach that I think would help our profession.
Adriana Linares: I totally agree with you. So simple.
Heidi K. Brown: It is simple and people think that it’s going to be incredibly time-consuming. It’s actually not. If we make a conscious choice to understand these different dimensions of ourselves and then kind of get excited about building up, like one of the dimensions I’m adding in this project that I’m working on now is our creative or artistic dimension.
How much fun can it be to treat ourselves like artists and then how can that have ripple effects into our intellectual dimension, or our social dimension, or our spiritual dimension? I think they interact a lot with each other as well, but instead of only caring about our intellect, we really need to take time, not a ton of time. It could take 10 minutes a day or half an hour a week, that if we build up these other dimensions, then when we hit speed bumps or obstacles in a particular dimension, all the other dimensions can rise up and help us get through that challenge.
Because our job is not easy. I mean, I’m not trying to say we should all sit in the park all day long, stare at nature. We have tough things we need to accomplish, but maybe sometimes if we did sit in the park for 10 minutes and get peace of mind, we will be able to step into that tough situation and be like a clutch athlete that journalists write about all the time.
Adriana Linares: I like your athlete comparison because when you’re an athlete, even if you are performing an individual sport, you still have a team around you and behind you and I want to encourage listeners, if you’re having a struggle, there are resources out there for you, for us, whether it’s through the ABA, through your local bar association, through organizations like task forces that you’re running, Heidi, that you really want to get out there and address that and just make your life easier on yourselves.
I love lawyers. I’ve only ever worked with lawyers and when I tell people, “I trained lawyers how to use their computers.” People go, “Oh, lawyers.” I’m like, “Are you kidding? I love lawyers. They’re smart. I always have great conversations with them. There are creative sometimes.” I love that you were going to add that because I feel that’s where I see a lot of — there can be a lot of work done and adding creativity to the lawyering world. I look forward to your third book, which I think you said the subtitle had to do with the multi-dimensional lawyer, right?
Heidi K. Brown: Yes. This new book is called ‘The Flourishing Lawyer: A Multi-Dimensional Approach to Performance and Well-Being.’ And my first two books, I was writing about a lot of these principles, but I didn’t understand that there is a field of psychology called positive psychology. After my fear book came out, I applied to the master’s in applied positive psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania. I went through that program and I learned so much that about the science of well-being and the science of positive psychology and the concept.
One of the chief founder, but also a collaborative founder of positive psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman wrote a book called ‘Flourish’ and so, the concept of flourishing and thriving, it’s not just about feeling good all the time, it’s about functioning well. I look at it as a two-pronged approach. There’s hedonic well-being, which is just feeling good, having good emotions, but then really the they call it eudaimonic well-being and that’s the functioning well.
And that’s where all these dimensions come in, because we can’t function well as human beings if we only focus on one dimension. We have to nurture and cultivate and foster multiple dimensions of our personas and it makes it fun. We can tap into things we didn’t even know we are capable of doing.
Adriana Linares: And life should be fun and lawyering should be fun, so if you’re not having fun lawyers, we need to figure out how to help you have more fun out there. Well, Heidi, thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me today and talk to us. This has been really nice. You’re just an absolute delight and I know our listeners are going to enjoy hearing from another attorney who has untangled themselves and really, just done an amazing job with helping the profession. Tell everyone how they can find, friend or follow you.
Heidi K. Brown: Thank you. Yes, so I have a website, theintrovertedlawyer.com. I’m on Instagram as @introvertedlawyer, and I’m on Twitter as @introvertlawyer, but you can also find me on LinkedIn, Heidi Kristin Brown and I teach at Brooklyn Law School. My bio is on that website too, but this has been really fun. I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you and talk to you listeners.
Adriana Linares: I love it. Thank you. I usually cover a lot of tech topics, but I started to feel like this podcast should be more multi-dimensional and cover a few other important topics in helping listeners become better lawyers and better humans.
All right, everyone, if you have liked what you heard today, throw a five-star rating out on Apple Podcast. And don’t forget, I’m taking a grab back for an upcoming episode on Microsoft Office 365, all the bells and whistles that you get with that so you can either hit me up on social media, LawTech Partners on Instagram, @AdrianaL on Twitter or you can just send an email to [email protected] We will see you again on the next episode of New Solo.
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Podcast transcription by Tech-Synergy.com