Relationships: How To Choose Your Words Wisely

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

The language you use reflects how you see the world, but it can also affect how those in relationships see each other. Certain words you use to describe someone else or their behavior strongly affects your attitude towards them in the future. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen continue their discussion on the power of words by exploring the ways that language can shape the dynamics of a relationship.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years, using tools brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more go to
Welcome back to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. We are talking about the power of language and the power of the words you use. The language you use actually become your experience, it's the way you see the world. In this podcast we're talking about how language affects your relationships.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And I always say to my patients, there's ways to say things and there are ways to say things. So I clearly know that I could get you spun in a bad way.
Tana Amen: Oh yeah,
Dr. Daniel Amen: By the words I use.
Tana Amen: Right. Thank god you don't, rarely.
Dr. Daniel Amen: After what? 13 and a half years I know how to calm things down by the words I use with you.
Tana Amen: Yeah, you do.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And I notice that, when I notice what I like about you, which is thousands of things, I actually get more of the behavior I want.
Tana Amen: You do.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Than if for some reason I become psychotic.
Tana Amen: It's very rare.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And get into a critical mindset. So you can shape the behavior of your partner with the words you use.
Tana Amen: So one thing I would like people to think about in this episode and post, if you would, is what kind of language are you using that is not getting you the behavior that you want and how could you change it? So by the time we're done, stick with us, think about that, and post it. You can tag us Brain Warrior's Way, #brainwarriorswaypodcast, and you can go to either, you can either go to Tana Amen on Instagram or Daniel Amen, but let us know how this is going for you. We want to know what you've learned in this episode.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So both of us have been married before.
Tana Amen: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Daniel Amen: And probably we were not as skilled.
Tana Amen: No.
Dr. Daniel Amen: At using.
Tana Amen: I definitely was not.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The words.
Tana Amen: No. When something upset me, I was very vocal about it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, you're still very vocal about it.
Tana Amen: But I'm vocal-
Dr. Daniel Amen: You're just more skilled at it.
Tana Amen: Right, I'm vocal in a different way now. Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah. Let no one think you're a mouse.
Tana Amen: I don't think anyone thinks I'm a mouse, but. No, I actually, I remember consciously, it's funny, you made fun of me early on. That is one, those are words you use for me, and it's okay because we understand each other, but he likes to call me a black widow now and then. It's not that I was a black widow, it's that when we got together I was very commitment phobic because of my divorce, it was a really rough divorce. I knew I didn't want to be married again until I had figured that piece out. I knew that I did not want to repeat that cycle. So the one thing that I could work on wasn't my ex, it was how I take myself into this relationship, how I learn from my past and how I can take responsibility going forward. Responsibility is one of my favorite words. So until I figured that piece out I did not want to go forward.
Dr. Daniel Amen: No, and I was patient enough.
Tana Amen: You were.
Dr. Daniel Amen: [crosstalk 00:03:58] Let you do that and then.
Tana Amen: It's one of my favorite things about you.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Started calling myself the widow tamer.
Tana Amen: Yes, you did. So see, those are words, but it doesn't bother me because I knew what my goal was. I knew what reason I had for not doing that. But I love that you were so patient with me.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And when I reframed it, not as a rejection of me, but as a period of time you needed to figure things out in your own head, and we were friends during that time.
Tana Amen: You became my best friend.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So when I used the words in my head, it's not a rejection of me, you just needed more time.
Tana Amen: In fact, you became my best friend and I fell in love with you.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And then it worked. So the words I was telling myself, they really matter.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: To perhaps the rest of your life, right? Because if I would've used rejection language in my head, then I'd be torturing someone else I suppose.
Tana Amen: Well, and let's take it a step further, because when people do that, let's just say you actually used verbally rejection language with me. What happens when you use that language with someone? What happens when you use certain language with people? They respond in like, right? So you may not have even meant that, it may have just been because you were hurt or you were sad because you really wanted me in your life, but because you were hurt, you responded a certain way to me and I in like responded a certain way to you, when in fact all I really wanted was time. So do you see what happens when you choose certain words?
So I have a friend who was going through a very, very stressful rough time with one of her children, and I'm on the phone with her and she refers to her child as a witch with a B, okay. And I'm like, "Wow." I was stunned. And I'm like, "That's." We need to back up. That's a word that was like a slap in the face to me to say that about a child. I'm like, "I'm hope you're not saying this to your child." And she's like, "Of course not." I'm like, "Then why are you saying it to yourself?" And she's like, "Because I'm frustrated." I'm like, "I understand that, but do you understand." And I said the same thing to her, "Do you understand that by saying that, even if it's not to her, it becomes your experience of her, and now you're more likely to behave that way, with hat anger and that frustration toward her and it's not helpful. You're not going to be in a resourceful state of mind when you work with her." And she got it, she completely got it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, now you just think of the labels. If you're sitting here listening to this, what labels did you get as a child or as a teenager? Because often you carry them for the rest of the life. So were you the black sheep in the family?
Tana Amen: Brat.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Brat, were you the maverick? I was the maverick in the family.
Tana Amen: See, I don't think that's a bad thing though.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I was the troublemaker.
Tana Amen: So it all depends on how you see it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But it's a separation word, right? You're separated from your group.
Tana Amen: That's kind of a badass word.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It is a badass word, but it all depends on how you take it, and at the time it was it's a separation word.
Tana Amen: In part it's how your dad said it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And hell on Earth is separation from your group, because when you get separated from your group, you can die.
Tana Amen: And part of it is how your dad said it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right? You lose the protection of the group. I mean, now I'm proud of it, right? I mean, I wouldn't actually want to be part of.
Tana Amen: Right, like everyone else.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Everyone else, especially in my profession. It's like no, we need a different way.
Tana Amen: So one of the things I was pointing out to my friend was, are you choosing language that puts you in a resourceful state, or are you choosing language that is disempowering? It's actually taking your power away, putting you in a less resourceful state so that when you approach someone, you can't come up with the right thing to say to get what you want in the end, right?
Dr. Daniel Amen: So the whole point of this week in words matter is we want you to begin to pay attention to the words you use, and then choose more helpful words. Some of the words when it comes to relationships is, will my behavior get me what I want?
Tana Amen: I love when you do that, yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Will my behavior, because we both have the same goal, and we both have the same goal all the time.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Which is kind, caring, loving, supportive, passionate relationship.
Tana Amen: But we come from different backgrounds, so sometimes how we respond to certain things is different.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, no. If I just went with my automatic programming, because my dad could be really harsh to my mother.
Tana Amen: And if you do that with me.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It will not get me the kind.
Tana Amen: No.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Caring, loving, supportive.
Tana Amen: No.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Relationship. Now, it'll get me a hostile female, and having five sisters, I know about hostile females.
Tana Amen: Well because my background was interesting, we'll just leave it at that. So you sort of fought for, it was scrappy, you had to be scrappy to survive, and so.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, so my automatic programming didn't help me. Now I knew that because I didn't like how he talked to her, and I vowed to myself I wouldn't do that, but I want you to just pay attention to the words you use, and are they helping you or are they hurting you, and would you talk to your child that way?
Tana Amen: Yes, and some people do, and here's that, that's what I wanted to bring up. So one thing you really helped me with, because no one can frustrate you like your kids, especially teenagers or very young children, right? When they're throwing temper tantrums. They can frustrate you way more than anyone else on the planet can. So one thing you really helped me with is that when I was getting into that phase, you and Love and Logic, the two things that really saved my life. So Love and Logic really put the responsibility back on her and took it off of me, and that was really helpful, but one thing you taught me is that when I start to lose my cool and I get into that phase where I'm about to say something that I know I'm going to regret, instead come up with a word and then listen, and then just ask a question. That was super helpful to me, that act of listening. Go, "Interesting, Or, "Huh." Or, "Wow." But you got to practice it, right? So that you do it all the time.
So when they start acting like crazy, when she's throwing a temper tantrum you go, "Well that's really interesting." And then just be quiet or then ask a question, right? And then just be quiet. It's amazing how transformative it is.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Okay, so we're talking about relationships, and I started by saying there are ways to say things and there are ways to say things. So when you get frustrated with someone, rather than blame, because blame is one of the biggest red ants on the planet.
Tana Amen: Yeah, not helpful.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's often helpful to say, "I'm struggling with this. How can I help?" So if [inaudible 00:11:29] think of an example, if you're struggling with me.
Tana Amen: Well, you're easy for me. So it's got to be someone that's not that easy. For you I can actually be rational because you are trained, and you are thoughtful, and you listen. I think maybe a better example is a teenager or someone in your family who is not so evolved, and I think when that happens you're the one that sort of helps me with that, and this is something I had to actually work on, was to do the same thing I would do with a teenager. I actually go back to sort of Love and Logic, and I will stop and go, "That's really interesting." And I'll actually just be quiet for a minute. Sometimes I'll actually just be honest and go, "I'm struggling with this. I'm having a hard time with this."
Dr. Daniel Amen: What about the person the who wants more affection from their partner and it starts by asking, and then it might go to criticizing.
Tana Amen: Yeah, criticizing will not work.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Which then makes all of that other person's muscles tight, so that isn't going to help.
Tana Amen: No.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So blaming and shaming isn't going to [crosstalk 00:12:45].
Tana Amen: Definitely not. So as a female, I think the thing that I, when I talk to women, that my first thought is what would be the most helpful, is to understand why you're not getting it. So sometimes it's because she's tired, or it's because she, I mean, there are so many reasons that women are not going to be responsive. With men, it's often times because there's just so much going on in their head with business or whatever. With women, it's often because they're tired or they start this story in their heads, like he's not helping me enough and I'm tired, and I've got this, and I've got that, and he's not paying attention.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So word she's using with herself.
Tana Amen: Right, and so sometimes if you approach it I think and you just say, "My goal is to be really close to you. How can I do that?" You might hear, "Well you can vacuum." But the point is it opens up dialogue.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Are you saying vacuuming is foreplay?
Tana Amen: Oh yes. Well you do one of the best forms of foreplay that I know of, and that is cooking and doing dishes, so that's just amazing, but yeah, it's really helpful.
Dr. Daniel Amen: When I learned that Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates every night do the dishes.
Tana Amen: That's why you started doing it, really? I thought you were doing it for me.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It was like, oh you can do this.
Tana Amen: You should've just.
Dr. Daniel Amen: No, it is for us.
Tana Amen: You should've left it at foreplay. You should've just left it there.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It was, you know, I can do this.
Tana Amen: Because I got to tell you, it works.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So one of the things I help my patients with is when they're struggling with intimacy is stay away from blame, stay away from shame, because that ain't going to get you anything. It's bring it up as a problem to solve, which is I'm feeling disconnected, and right away she goes, "All you want me for is sex." Which is the words you use, damage the relationship. If there's not enough sex, then one person, if the desire is unbalanced, it can really cause a lot of stress and tension in a relationship. So you got to get the words right and then you bring it up as a problem, and then go, "How can we solve this together?"
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And then listen, that's the most important part. Listen, and a lot of couples blow apart in their 40s, and the reason they do.
Tana Amen: Hormones.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Is hormones are changing at a different rate.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Where testosterone in the man still might be pretty high, where the testosterone in the women has dropped dramatically as well as the progesterone. But if you see it as a problem to solve rather than she's cold or withholding, those words can damage the outcome.
Tana Amen: Well, and this is actually, I've actually had this conversation with, girls talk about this stuff. I've had this conversation with friends, and one thing that I know that I've heard come up in conversation is, she's like, "I just don't feel like it." And of them said, "Well my husband said, 'Well, you're only doing this for me, so what's the point?'" And my reaction to that is, okay, so yes, I'm going it. Yes, the sex might be more for you, but the intimacy is for us, it's an investment in us. Why is this a problem if I'm investing in the intimacy because I care about our marriage, because I want to keep our marriage strong.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, plus the guy wants to feel like a stud.
Tana Amen: Yes, but the point being.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Again, the words he's using with himself set him up for an affair.
Tana Amen: Right, but if she starts using language like, "Actually I'm investing in this because I love us, because I care about our relationship." She may not be feeling the same physical things that he is, she might get into it over time, but if she just goes, "Yeah, you're right, but it's my obligation." Then that's different than if she says, "I'm investing in our intimacy."
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, that's not a turn on.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That's not a turn on.
Tana Amen: I'm investing in our relationship.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right.
Tana Amen: I'm keeping us strong.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Think about the words you use with your partner. All right. So in this podcast, what's the one thing you got about how words matter? In your relationships, what is the one thing you can do differently? Post that on any of your social media sites, use our hashtag #brainwarriorswaypodcast. If you have questions or you want to give us a review, we love those, go to
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