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5 MINUTES WITH DR JOAN VAN DEN BRINK: ‘Create intimate environments so that people thrive.’

December 16 2021

We’re excited to be working with executive coach Dr Joan van den Brink on the campaign for her new book, The Three Companions: Compassion, Courage and Wisdom: The Powerful Keys to Happier Work and a Fulfilled Life. We asked Joan our 5 questions to find out more about her, her book, and her vision:


1. Pitch in 10 - sell us your book in less than 10 words

Discover your Three Companions and learn how to use them.

2. Audience of One - If you could choose ONE person to read your book who would it be and why?

I would choose Brené Brown. She has spent over two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She is regarded as an authority in her field. Brené uses storytelling to convey her findings in a way that is compelling and accessible to a global audience. My book explores qualities that are adjacent to her field of study. It would give her a different perspective on how courage can be employed effectively to improve our interactions and relationships with others.

3. Behind the Book - Who or what inspired you to write this book?

In January 2020 I did some reflective work and refined my purpose as, ‘To create intimate environments so that people thrive’. I wanted to do something in line with this and decided to write a book about something I am passionate and know something about. My work expertise is centred on leadership and executive coaching, however, there are so many books on those topics that I decided I could not compete.

I am a Buddhist and part of our mission is to spread the teachings so that people can reveal their inner Buddhahood. I am not an evangelist, and I wanted to find an authentic way to help others to help themselves and reduce their suffering. The essence of our Buddhahood is courage, compassion, and wisdom. I noticed in my conversations that people rarely felt courageous or wise and they more often related to empathy. I believe these qualities are inherent and wanted to show this in a way that was accessible. I felt that sharing stories of ordinary people displaying these qualities would inspire my readers, enable them to reflect on their own lives, and start to see how they possessed and used their Three Companions.

4. Guess what? Tell us one thing that readers might be surprised to hear about you.

I have a PhD in Organic Chemistry from Cambridge.

That may seem strange given the work I do now. However, from my undergraduate days on, people have looked to me for help and advice about their personal problems. When I was doing my PhD, I was the only person in a large research lab whom the plumber stopped to talk to, the cleaner brought in flowers from his garden for, and the temperamental lab technician would willingly help. I didn’t understand what it was that enabled me to connect with a wide range of people in such a positive way.

As a management consultant, I learnt tools that helped me understand the psychological factors that influenced a person’s behaviour. This gave me some structure to what seemed to come naturally. I specialised in leadership development and executive coaching. Later I was introduced to Nichiren Buddhism. This form of Buddhism is about action to alleviate suffering in ourselves and others. This philosophy resonated with who I am and what I do in my work and personal life.

The Three Companions is a melding of these two worlds for me.

5. The next chapter - what’s next for you?

This falls into two buckets:

1. Application of the findings from my research – The Three Companions is a way of reaching a wide audience with my message that courage, compassion and wisdom are essential qualities that enable us to have meaningful conversations about difficult, emotive, and sensitive topics in a positive way that engenders change in our personal and work lives. One application of this is in developing courage, compassion, and wisdom in organisations. I have created a modular programme that enables this and successfully run the self-compassion element. I want to help create more humanist organisations by running the entire programme.

The second application is to create safe environments to foster dialogue to surface and resolve conflict.

2. Further research – In this first study, most participants were from the UK, with a smattering of individuals in other countries, including the US, South Africa, Uganda, The Netherlands, Ireland, Malaysia. I am interested in studying how the Three Companions are used in different countries.

Another study topic is to gather stories about how courage, compassion, and wisdom are used to create more inclusive organisations/societies.


Find out more about Joan’s work at arabaconsulting.com. To get a review copy or to book in an interview, contact Emma Preece at emma.preece@thebookpublicist.co.uk or Alice Rowe at alice.rowe@thebookpublicist.co.uk

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