077: Five Simple Ways to Boost Your Happiness–#4: Resolve a Conflict with a Friend or Family Member

This topic may SEEM simple, and the rewards can be tremendous–but it requires courage, lots of practice, and the death of the ego!

Most of us, and perhaps all human beings, run into conflicts with family members, friends, and colleagues from time to time. And as we all know, these conflicts can weigh us down and rob us of happiness. In this podcast, you will learn how to transform anger and bickering into intimacy and joy.

I’ll bet you know someone who

  • complains endlessly, but ignores your good advice and just keeps complaining
  • argues defensively and always has to be right
  • won’t listen
  • criticizes you unfairly
  • only cares about himself or herself
  • refuses to talk or express his or her feelings

Does any of that sound familiar?

And if you’re a therapist, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if you run into conflicts with angry, critical patients from time to time as well. Sometimes that happens to me, and it can feel intensely demoralizing.  But when I resolve the conflict, and develop a deeper and more rewarding relationship with the person I was at odds with, it is exhilarating.

Here are some fairly common complaints therapists sometimes hear from patients:

  • You don’t “get me.”
  • You don’t really care about me. . . You’re just in it for the buck.
  • You’re not listening.
  • You haven’t helped me. . . in fact, you’re making me worse!
  • Aren’t you just a student? Do you think I need a real therapist?
  • This therapy sucks!

In today’s Feeling Good Podcast, you will learn about a powerful “Intimacy Exercise” which David has developed. This exercise is designed for therapists and for the general public alike. It’s designed to help you fine-tune your communication skills, so you can develop more rewarding relationships with the people you care about. You may have listened to some of the five previous podcasts on the Five Secrets of Effective Communication, but this is the first time this training technique has been illustrated.

David and Fabrice are joined by Jacob Towery, MD, as well as Lida Sharlin, LMFT, and Eleanor Scott, a certified marriage and Family Therapist. Jacob is one of the teachers at David’s weekly Tuesday evening psychotherapy training group at Stanford, and Lida and Eleanor attend the group as students. Jacob is a psychiatrist and author of the Antidepressant Book for teenagers, recently released as an audiobook. David and Fabrice are very grateful that Jacob, Lida, and Eleanor volunteered to participate in this podcast. Hopefully, their real-life examples will make the podcast far more dynamic and interesting for you!

This is not a trivial statement, since the key to learning involves the philosophy of “joyful failure”–Lida and Eleanor will have to be willing to learn from their mistakes, which will be pointed out immediately while they are role-playing. This exercise is especially challenging, since just about everybody makes all kinds of mistakes initially. For experienced therapists, this can be a shock to the system, since they thought they’d mastered empathy skills in graduate school–but that is rarely the case. If you check your ego at the door, as Lida and Eleanor have bravely done, the learning potential can be tremendous.

As you will see, the exercise involves one person who does the criticizing, and a second person who attempts to respond effectively, using the Five Secrets of Effective Communication. Then the role-play suddenly stops, and three types of feedback are provided for the person who was trying to respond effectively:

  1. Your letter grade (A, B, C, D, or F)
  2. Here’s what worked and what didn’t work.
  3. Here’s how you might improve your response, using the Five Secrets of Effective Communication.

I think you will enjoy seeing Lida and Eleanor, struggle to respond effectively to two patient conflicts, and two personal conflicts, while Jacob and David provide feedback and tips on how to improve.

Responses to two stinging (and real) patient criticisms are illustrated first:

  1. “This session sucked! I ended up feeling worse at the end.”
  2. “You’re so invested in giving me homework assignments during our sessions that you don’t pay any attention to me, and how I’m feeling!”

After that, two angry criticisms from loved ones are illustrated:

  1. “You’re selfish and only think about yourself!” (My sibling said this.)
  2. “You’re always so self-righteous! How could I ever confide in you!” (My son said this.)

How would you have responded?

If you would like to delve deeper into this topic, pick up a copy of David’s book, Feeling Good Together, on Amazon.com. There are many exercises to help you master the Five Secrets of Effective Communication.

Coming Soon

Next week David and Fabrice will conclude the last of five podcasts on how to boost happiness. The focus will be how to change the way you think and feel when you fall into a black hole of insecurity and self-doubt and beat up on yourself with negative thoughts. Sound familiar?

And the following week we will have Podcast 079: What’s the Secret of a “Meaningful” Life? Live Therapy with Daisy.” This will be a very special podcast that Fabrice and I feel very grateful to be able to share with you. The podcast will be based on an actual therapy session with a young woman who is struggling tremendously with depression, anxiety, and self-doubt because of fertility issues, along with strong. societal messages that women should have children and should want children.

The live therapy we have published previously–with Mark, who felt like a failure as a father, and Marilyn, who was confronted by a sudden and totally unexpected horrific diagnosis of Stage 4 lung cancer–received tremendously positive feedback from our subscribers. Now we are proud to present yet another live and inspiring therapy session in just two weeks! So mark your calendars!

Fabrice and I hope you like our Feeling Good Podcasts, and also hope you can leave some positive comments for us and five star ratings if you like what we’re doing!

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At least one listener has had problems leaving an iTunes review from his i-phone, so Fabrice has created some simple to follow instructions if you need help.