015: The Five Secrets of Effective Communication (Part 2)

In Podcast #14, David and Fabrice discussed the Five Secrets of Effective Communication. You can remember them with the acronym, EAR:

E = Empathy

A = Assertiveness

R = Respect

If used skillfully, the Five Secrets can resolve nearly any relationship conflict and transform hostility, resentment and mistrust into intimacy and warmth, often with amazing speed. And although this may seem easy when you first learn about the Five Secrets, it’s extremely difficult in real world situations.

In this Podcast, David and Fabrice discuss a number of predictable emotional and mental errors nearly everyone makes when trying to use the Five Secrets to get close to someone he or she is at odds with.

6 thoughts on “015: The Five Secrets of Effective Communication (Part 2)

  1. Any suggestions as to using the five secrets when the person talks so fast and cover so much ground it is impossible to repeat what they are saying or truly follow all they are saying. I find myself agreeing, listening, using feeling empathy and stroking. I wonder if my assertions are truly heard.

    • I cannot advise you, but can tell you that when I am in this situation, I use one of the three advanced communication techniques called “Changing the Focus.” I might say, “John, you always have a tremendous number of great ideas, but I sometimes have trouble keeping up with you because you speak really fast. I feel badly about it, because I’m really interested in what you have to say, and I end up losing some of it. I’m wondering if maybe I haven’t been a good listener, so you could feel you have to get in as much as possible. At any rate, i find it uncomfortable. Have you noticed this as well? Tell me how you’ve been feeling.”

      You can probably do a better job since you know the person. but the idea is to bring to problem to conscious awareness, rather than trying to solve the problem, which actually causes the problem to continue. However, this is a subtle technique, and some people cannot grasp it. They keep trying to “win” the battle.


  2. I am so thrilled to find these podcasts! Dr. Burns, I attended a workshop of yours in 2004 & one of the greatest gems I learned was the 5 Steps of Effective Communication (especially the Disarming Technique). I have worked with several client populations who “tend” to become easily angered or agitated and may be very resistive or mistrusting of mental health professionals (e.g. stroke/brain injury, dementia, intellectual disability&mental illness, personality disorders, psychotic illnesses, individuals in the forensic system).

    I observe how many of us as health care professionals struggle to acknowledge any weakness or error to clients/patients. Your teaching changed my practice early in my career and I approach each person with the mantra “no ego” in mind. Many times in the forensic setting, patients are wary of any staff and very critical and suspicious of the motives of staff. I commit to validating their truth and seeing their truth as it is through their eyes and it has been the single most effective tool in establishing rapport. It instantly dissolves the barrier.

    When working with individuals with schizophrenia or other psychotic disturbances, although a ‘reality orientation’ approach is often the first approach, I always recommend disarming approaches to avoid increasing distress.
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    • Thanks, Christine, you are SO RIGHT in your comments! Hope you enjoy the BeLive FB broadcast (David and Jill Show) tomorrow! Jill has superb skills with Five Secrets, and I greatly enjoy teaching with her. Kind of like 1 + 1 = 3! All the best, david

  3. The use of “secrets” is odd, for a public (published books, podcasts) conversation.
    Anyways, my physician said New Englanders are notorious for not talking about their feelings, and listening to this podcast, I have to wonder how/why that would be useful. As a New Englander, it seems to be another language for avoiding discussing our expectations, whether they’re exceeded, or fall short.
    I’ve often found some mentions of them entirely irrational. Such as a coworker returning from her daughter’s immunization appointment, angry at the doctor, because shots hurt. ?!?

    • Thanks, Amy, great points! Learning to use the Five Secrets is a lot like learning to play the piano. Quite a lot of practice is required to get good at it. If you want to take a deeper dive, check out my book, Feeling Good Together! If you do, do the written exercises, and then tell me what you think! david burns, md

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