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Whether we’d like to admit it or not, our own behaviors subconsciously teach other people how to treat us. So how can we teach others to treat us better? In this episode, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen use some of the material from Dr. Amen’s new book Feel Better Fast and Make It Last to teach us the communication skills that will keep us from being constantly treated poorly.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain, to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit brainmdhealth.com. Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We're talking about feel better fast and make it last. We've talked about brain and rational mind. The A in our brain xl pneumonic is attachments, and I'm completely attached to you, and that makes me happy. So take care of yourself. I have so many of my patients, their spouses are mad at them, because they're not doing the right things for their health-
Tana Amen: Yeah, that would upset me.
Dr Daniel Amen: And they're like, because you're doing the wrong things for your health, you're going to leave me early and abandon me, and I really love you. That really upsets me.
Tana Amen: It actually feels selfish, to me, when I actually don't ... if I start to get too far away from taking care of myself. If I don't exercise for a week or whatever, it feels selfish, for me, because of my family.
Dr Daniel Amen: So we've been talking about this pneumonic. Pneumonic is relating. You want to improve your relationships. So R is responsibility, E is empathy, and in the book, I actually talk about the Golden Rule, which is do unto others as you'd have them do unto you. And so, it's so important to get outside of yourself and see things from their perspective, rather than just your own.
Tana Amen: One thing I do when I'm praying and meditating is I do what I call the 30,000-foot view. So I like to pray and meditate and try to look at the whole situation from a distance with me in the situation, and try to see, almost removed from it, how would someone who's not attached to it see it, because then I can see what I would do better or differently.
Dr Daniel Amen: The L is listening. Now, I often have said to my patients, "Relationships require two things." Bonding, actual physical time together, which we'll talk about, and listening, and-
Tana Amen: You've helped me with this a lot with Chloe.
Dr Daniel Amen: As a therapist, one of the first things you learn is active listening, that patients can solve most of their own problems. They just need someone who will actually feedback what they hear, and listen for the feelings rather than give your two cents, and that's hard for me, because I'm like, "You should do this, or you should do that."
Tana Amen: It seems easy, right.
Dr Daniel Amen: But when you do that, you are not listening, and you're not teaching them to solve their own problems.
Tana Amen: Well, and there's another thing with kids, especially teenagers. They really will talk to you and they want to talk to you, but they won't if they think that you're just going to jump in, and so if you're just-
Dr Daniel Amen: If you're going to talk over them.
Tana Amen: But if you just are quiet, which is really hard to do, and you've actually really helped me with that and I learned to sit and listen, especially when I'm driving. They will just open up. They're like onions. They'll start to peel back the layers, and they'll just begin to talk. But you have to really learn how to not just jump in and start giving them advice.
Dr Daniel Amen: And that's so hard.
Tana Amen: So hard.
Dr Daniel Amen: Because it's not natural, but I've had so many parents go, "Oh, he said he wouldn't talk to you. He wasn't going to see a psychiatrist because he's not crazy, and he's not going to talk to you." And I look at the parents, and I go, "I know. It's hard, but let's see what I can do." And you can't shut the kids up, because you're listening. You're not jumping in every two seconds, telling them how to feel, how to think, what to do. You're not solving their problems, you're empowering them to actually solve them themselves. That's one of the beautiful things about Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. It taught men not to solve their partner's problems, because their partners are plenty competent. It's to be a good sounding board-
Tana Amen: But see I'm like a guy. If I come to you, it's because I want you to solve it for me. So, just FYI.
Dr Daniel Amen: So let's about 10 ways you mess up communication in the relationship. And number one is you have a poor attitude. You expect the conversation to go nowhere, so subsequently you don't direct it in a positive way. Negative assumptions about the other person feeds into poor communication. You have unclear expectations and needs. You expect other people to guess what you want or need.
Tana Amen: Oh, my God. So many women do this, my friends. I know so many women who do this. Some of my friends, and they'll come tell me, "He just doesn't get it. He doesn't understand." And then they'll start, and I'm like, "Did you tell him?" I don't understand the whole guessing game thing. I totally don't get it, but they play this guessing game.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, and I actually tell people-
Tana Amen: It's weird.
Dr Daniel Amen: That they have to say it multiple times, especially because guys are distracted.
Tana Amen: But they do this thing, "He should know. He should know me by now." No. No. You need to say it out loud. What is that?
Dr Daniel Amen: We teach people how to treat us, and so you're actually very clear. And I like that, because I want to know, because my goal, kind, caring, loving, supportive, passionate relationship, well if we're not on the same page, I'm not going to get what I want, which is a kind, caring, loving, supportive, passionate relationship. The third way we mess up communication is no re-enforcing body language. Body language is so critical, because it sends both conscious and unconscious messages.
Tana Amen: Is it only 7 or 13% of communication verbal?
Dr Daniel Amen: Yes.
Tana Amen: Most of it is body language. So you can say ... you can sit there and smile and say, "Yeah, I love you. Mm-hmm (affirmative)." But if you're smirking and glaring at somebody, it sends a very different message.
Dr Daniel Amen: Four is competing with distractions. So we've had that issue.
Tana Amen: Everyone's got distractions.
Dr Daniel Amen: You try to talk to me in the fourth quarter of a Lakers' basketball game-
Tana Amen: No, I've learned to deal with the mistress. I have learned to deal with the mistress.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Lakers?
Tana Amen: No.
Dr Daniel Amen: The phone?
Tana Amen: The phone.
Dr Daniel Amen: Yes. Five is never asking for feedback on what you're saying. Do you assume you're being really clear when you might not be clear at all. So you just assume they don't care. Six, so common, kitchen sinking. This occurs in arguments when people feel backed into a corner, and they bring up unrelated issues from the past in order to protect themselves from what's going on in the present. And it's so toxic. Mind reading, where you arbitrarily predict that you know what they're thinking or-
Tana Amen: We talked about that.
Dr Daniel Amen: Eight is so toxic. It's having to be right. When a person has to be right in a conversation, there's no communication-
Tana Amen: But that doesn't include I told you so.
Dr Daniel Amen: There is only debate. I told you so is next.
Tana Amen: No, no, no.
Dr Daniel Amen: I told you so is not helpful.
Tana Amen: No, I like I told you so.
Dr Daniel Amen: I know you do, but it is-
Tana Amen: But it feels so good.
Dr Daniel Amen: It then puts the relationship in a hierarchy. I'm right-
Tana Amen: But what if I was right?
Dr Daniel Amen: You're wrong.
Tana Amen: And I told you so?
Dr Daniel Amen: But is it going to get you what you want? If dominance-
Tana Amen: It just feels good to say.
Dr Daniel Amen: If you're in the ... what is it BDSM? If you're into this specific kind of relationship, then dominance, being the dominatrix, works, but if you're not into that, then having to be right or telling you, "I told you so," generally not helpful. Sparring, using putdowns-
Tana Amen: Yeah, no.
Dr Daniel Amen: Or sarcasm or discounted someone else's idea, it erodes dialogue, and it erodes trust. And people who end up getting divorced, they do that. They have sarcasm and putdowns, and I'm so grateful we don't do that.
Tana Amen: Hold on. Even in this podcast, people hear it. We do use a lot of sarcasm, but not in that context.
Dr Daniel Amen: But it's playful.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: It's not hurtful.
Tana Amen: No, no.
Dr Daniel Amen: And not monitoring or following up-
Tana Amen: I think the difference, to be clear there, if you're using sarcasm in a way that your partner doesn't like or feels put down or tells you they don't want you to do and you do it anyways, that's when it's toxic, right?
Dr Daniel Amen: So quickly, some keys for effective communication. A good attitude, assume the person wants to have a good relationship like you. State what you need clearly and in a positive way. Decrease distractions. Ask for feedback. Tell me what you understood I said. Be a good listener. We're going to talk about active listening. And then monitor and follow up on your communication. You want to feel better fast? Improve the quality-
Tana Amen: No question.
Dr Daniel Amen: Of your communication.
Tana Amen: And your relationships, no question.
Dr Daniel Amen: I think one of the things I taught you that was really important for me to learn is active listening. So when someone says something to you, don't throw your two cents in.
Tana Amen: It's so hard.
Dr Daniel Amen: Repeat back what you hear-
Tana Amen: But once you practice it-
Dr Daniel Amen: And listen for the feelings behind what you hear. I hear you saying this. Oh, that seems like it makes you sad. And the example I often give, if my son came home and said, "I want to have blue hair." If I said that to my dad, he'd say, "No way in hell as long as you live in my house are you going to have blue hair." There's no communication there. It's just dominance. So, I'd go, "Oh, you want to have blue hair?" And then be quiet long enough for him to say things like, "All the kids are wearing it that way." And I've been to his school. They're not all little blue-headed [inaudible 00:11:23]. But if I would've said that to my dad, he would've said, "I don't care what anybody else is doing-
Tana Amen: Are you going to jump off a cliff?
Dr Daniel Amen: "As long as you live in this house, you're not going to have blue hair. If they're going to jump off a cliff, are you going to go with them?" But that just stops the communication, or it starts a fight. Sounds like you want to be like the other kids. Listen to what they're saying. Feed it back along with the feelings, and now he might say, "Well, sometimes I feel like I don't fit in," which is-
Tana Amen: Right. Now you got to the core.
Dr Daniel Amen: The conversation you want to be having-
Tana Amen: That's the core right there.
Dr Daniel Amen: But too often, people interrupt and get toxic in their communication. And so, listen, repeat back what you hear, listen for the feelings behind it, and then someone like Chloe ... see, if you don't listen to Chloe or I don't listen to Chloe, and I just cut her off when she says something and tell her how to think, she'll shut down. But, if I just feed back what she's telling me and listen for the feelings, she'll go on and on. It's awesome, right? And then if you listen, you're bonded. And I love the way you guys are bonded, because you spent so much time, which is not your natural state. Your natural state is you're an ICU nurse. It's we're going to do this. Let's do that-
Tana Amen: Get stuff done.
Dr Daniel Amen: Let's get it done-
Tana Amen: And get it done.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right? Airwaves, breathing-
Tana Amen: But it's become ... circulation.
Dr Daniel Amen: Circulate. Right. But in raising children, that's not helpful-
Tana Amen: But it has become-
Dr Daniel Amen: And you have listened ... you're just masterful at listening to her, which is what has increased the bond. So if you're struggling in your relationships at home, I really want you to learn active listening. It can help so much. Relationships, empathy, listening.
Tana Amen: And as you start to do it, it's actually ... because the feedback for me, and the payoff has been so great, that now it's become something that is becoming more natural at home. Now, I'm still the ICU nurse when it comes to getting stuff done. But at home, I can take that hat off. It took practice, but I can take that hat off when I want to.
Dr Daniel Amen: Correct. When we come back, we're going to talk about assertiveness, so important. Stay with us.
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