I Win, You Win - Tips for Effective Communication

I’ve had many people come to me with concerns over how they are being perceived, with frequent feelings of being misunderstood. Much of the time, issues in this realm boil down to communication styles and patterns.

Bringing awareness to ones communication style, can be very helpful. Often, I will suggest some assertiveness training, so that when communicating with others, people can adopt a sense of, “I win, you win” instead of simply trying to, “get what we want.”

Quiz: What’s your communication style?

Being assertive isn’t only good for your relationships, it’s good for reducing stress and anger, and communicating better according to the Mayo Clinic. It can also help boost self-esteem.

We all have different ways of getting our points across. Most communication styles fall within four categories: Passive, Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive, or Assertive.

Passive aggressive  communication action is a deliberate but covert way of expressing anger (Long, Long & Whitson, 2009) and is most often motivated by a person’s  fear  of expressing anger directly.

Passive aggressive communication action is a deliberate but covert way of expressing anger (Long, Long & Whitson, 2009) and is most often motivated by a person’s fear of expressing anger directly.

What type of communication style do you typically use? Does your style change depending on your audience? In which situations would you be most likely to try to improve your assertiveness?

When someone comes at you more aggressively, it’s important to consider the source. Why might this person be saying what they are saying? It might have nothing to do with you, maybe they’re just having a bad day, or a hard time. Try and take a moment to reflect before responding. If it is personal, not all criticism is bad. In this case, can any of what they are saying be true and helpful? Is there something to learn and grow from here? If so, maybe say to this person that you hear their perspective, and you would like to do better. Ask if they have any specific feedback you can use to improve. Then remember that this is just someone’s opinion. Sometimes you will want to take that in, and sometimes you won’t.

The next time you draft an email or text message that could be interpreted different ways; re-read it to yourself and imagine someone was sending you the same message. Is there anything you would change?

Read more about assertiveness here

Contact me if you would like to work on your own assertiveness skills, or for a company training.

Take Control of Your Mood
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Research supports that life events influence health and well-being. Pleasant and unpleasant events are happening constantly, and much of what goes on is beyond our control. It’s difficult to turn on the news or read the paper without coming across something very upsetting, that we seemingly have no ability to change.

You get a bill in the mail, someone steps on your foot, rear ends your car, your child is whining and crying, the person in line ahead of you is taking forever… The list can go on and on. The lack of balance between pleasant and unpleasant events can contribute to sadness and anxiety. It’s easy for people to begin to feel frustrated and burned out.

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The well-known relationship expert, John Gottman found in his research that the magic ratio for partners is 5:1. This means that for every one negative event, feeling or interaction, five positive feelings or interactions are necessary to neutralize the negative one. Similar numbers were found in the workplace, “Praise to Criticism” ratio. If we take this information and generalize it to life events, it’s easy to see how things can spiral downward fairly quickly in terms of mood and well-being. Pleasant or unpleasant events can contribute to how, “up” or, “down” you feel.

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The good news is that there are plenty of things we can control. We can make choices about many of the events that happen in our environment. The key might also be in our perceptions, and a little cognitive reframing can go a long way. I talked a little about cognitive therapy and how our thoughts influence our feelings in previous posts.

You can also help yourself feel better by intervening behaviorally, making sure your day has plenty of pleasant events that bring you pleasure. Pleasant events don’t have to be huge activities that require a lot of planning. These things can be as simple as: Listening to a song you like, taking a short walk, chatting with a friend, appreciating nature, meditating, getting a mani/pedi, getting a massage, massaging yourself, reading, tidying up your house, eating your favorite meal, looking at the clouds… It really doesn’t matter what it is, it matters how you categorize and perceive it. Anything you like to do is a pleasant event!

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My wise mentors in graduate school, Drs. Dolores Gallagher-Thompson, Ph.D., and Larry Thompson, Ph.D. implemented the research findings on pleasant events with caregivers of dementia patients to increase well-being in this extremely stressed out population. I’ve used these methods successfully with my clients over the years and have found it to be fairly generalizable. The idea is that at the beginning of each day, you decide on several things you will do to take care of yourself that day. Four (or more) pleasant events a day, that are consciously chosen, and deliberately done, will keep the blues away. This can work retrospectively as well. If you forgot to plan your 4 CCDD things (consciously chosen and deliberately done), you can take a moment to think about what things you did because you were doing them to take care of yourself. Pat yourself on the back for prioritizing self-care. We all need it.

Give it a try and see if your mood improves!

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Positive Psychology 101 - The Science of Gratitude

Instead of focusing on maladaptive patterns and behavior, positive psychology focuses on helping people function at an optimal level. Positive psychology aims to better understand and apply factors that help individuals and communities thrive and flourish (Seligman & Csikszentmihay, 2000).

Well-being can be achieved or increased through deliberate interventions.

One of the earliest documented interventions involved guiding people to adopt traits present in happy people (Fordyce, 1977, 1983).

To date, many interventions have been developed that have been shown to increase well-being including:

Practicing forgiveness (McCullough, Pargament, & Thoresen, 2000)

Participating in happiness training (Goldwurm, Baruffi, & Colombo, 2003)

Keeping a gratitude journal (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)

Thinking about positive experiences (Burton & King, 2004)

Writing a gratitude letter (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005)

Engaging in acts of kindness (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade, 2005)

Counting one’s blessings (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005)

Engaging in productive activities (Baker, Cahalin, Gerst, & Burr, 2005)  

 Reliving positive events (Lyubomirsky, Sousa, & Dickerhoof, 2006)

Nurturing relationships (Lyubomirsky, 2008),

Participating in goal-setting (MacLeod, Coates, & Hetherton, 2008).

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One of the first things that comes up when you start researching Positive Psychology is GRATITUDE! Gratitude is strongly correlated with greater happiness and better relationships When we tap into a state of gratitude, we elevate our functioning and see improvement in a variety of areas.

This is a summary of over 40 research studies on gratitude. Click the picture to link to the source.

This is a summary of over 40 research studies on gratitude. Click the picture to link to the source.

A simple thing we can do to tap into gratitude is to create a gratitude journal. Just write down 5 things that you are grateful for. You can start a notes page on your phone, or can write these down on a piece of paper. Take a moment to rate your sense of well-being before writing down your gratitude list. Write down your list, then re-rate your sense of well-being.

P.S. This can work even if you go through the list mentally, but better if you write it down.

What's Up With Meditation?

I was introduced to meditation in 2002, by my mentor Dr. Dolores Gallagher-Thompson. She taught us how to lead guided imagery sessions with caregivers of dementia patients, to help promote relaxation and to relieve stress. Caregivers tend to be an extremely stressed-out population, who are particularly vulnerable to mental and physical illnesses. We emphasized that one must prioritize self-care, in order to better care for others. (This is true for anyone!) I saw first-hand how quickly these techniques worked, and how powerful they were to help promote a sense of well-being. We taught a different meditation tool each week. There are various types of meditation, not every method works for everyone. I’ve used the techniques from our caregiver research with many clients over the years, and for myself. I also use various apps and web based recordings/videos. I love, love, love, how meditation affects me personally. For one thing, I notice that after I meditate, I feel a sense of calm, and I have a little more, mental “space” before reacting. This is so helpful as a parent. This is true even if I only do a, “signal breath.” There is so much research out there that champions the benefits of meditation to help everything from: stress-reduction, improved cognition, better sleep, pain reduction, decreased inflammation, disease prevention, anxiety, to lower blood pressure… the list goes on. Click the Buddha to read some of the research. The benefits of building a meditation practice seem endless. It’s also so, “mainstream” now, Jimmy Fallon even meditated on television.

Please don’t be discouraged if you try it and don’t like it. Try a different method! I really like the Insight Timer app because there are thousands of teachers, it’s free, and you can sort meditations by the length of time you have to practice. You can try for a minute a day and build up!

Click the pictures below for more info.

Science of Meditation - Research

Science of Meditation - Research

As always, if you are in crisis, experiencing any suicidal or homicidal ideation, please seek immediate medical attention.

CBT Part 2 - Untwisting Your Thinking

The other day, I wrote a little about cognitive distortions. These are unhelpful thoughts that we all tend to have, that are not rational, and can likely cause negative feelings. Most of us do not pay attention to the way we are talking to ourselves; our internal dialogue. Identifying these unhelpful thought patterns is a first step in feeling better. https://www.drericafels.com/building-pathways-for-positive-change/2019/1/16/intro-to-the-cbt-perspective

Today, I present an antidote. Check it out and check yourself!

David Burns is arguably the father of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and has some amazing books and resources to help people with various mood related concerns. Check out his website, blogs, articles, and podcasts to learn more! https://feelinggood.com/tag/fifty-ways-to-untwist-your-thinking/

As always, if you are experiencing severe distress, any suicidal or homicidal ideation, or anything you need help to cope with, please call 911 or seek professional support as soon as possible.

As always, if you are experiencing severe distress, any suicidal or homicidal ideation, or anything you need help to cope with, please call 911 or seek professional support as soon as possible.

Cannabis: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Today I attended a talk with the same title, by Dr. Jeff Chen, MD/MBA. Jeff is the Founder and Director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative. This is one of the first university programs in the world that is dedicated to the study of cannabis. Did you know that endocannabinoids occur naturally in the body and that cannabis has been used medicinally for thousands of years? The first documented use was for pain relief and inflammation by an emperor in China over 2000 years ago. I also learned that prior to prohibition, cannabis was widely prescribed by physicians in America! There are many documented benefits of THC and CBD but most of the studies thus far have been on animals. Research is hopeful, and UCLA is one institution hoping to get human clinical trials going in the areas of cancer research, Alzheimer’s Disease and opiod addiction. More funding is needed to get these studies underway. The universities aren’t eligible for federal funding, and are in a race to get research out into the public domain, before Big Pharma gets the patents. See links to learn more.

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Growth Mindset

Mindset = the underlying beliefs people have about intelligence and learning. There is a lot of research on growth mindset and it’s relationship to praise from parents and teachers. After studying thousands of people, Dr. Carol Dweck discovered the tendency for people to have either fixed or growth mindsets, and that people with a growth mindset will learn more, learn faster, and more thoroughly if they believe that intelligence is not fixed. This has huge implications for parenting and teaching!

Brief Introduction to the C in CBT

Today I’ll talk a little about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Regarding the cognitive piece, the idea is that our thoughts, affect what we do (behavior), and how we feel. One can intervene at the thought or behavior level, to create a change in functioning. Thoughts are extremely powerful and have the capacity to impact how we feel, what we do, and how we present ourselves to be in the world. One way to keep our thoughts in check, is to start paying attention to how we talk to ourselves. It’s very common to have distortions in our thinking, that impact us in ways that we could never imagine. Today, when something is bothering you, pay attention to your thoughts and see if you can identify any of these common distortions in your thinking. Raising awareness about these common, cognitive distortions, and checking your “self-talk,” might be all you need to do, to have a better day.

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Launched, Living, and Out in the Universe

Hello,

I’m a lifelong learner, nature enthusiast, wife, mother, daughter, sister, and psychologist, living happily, in sunny Los Angeles, California. I’ve decided to start a blog to share my knowledge, and to hopefully help others live happier, more fulfilled lives. In this blog, I’ll share information, tips and tricks that I find useful, as well as relevant research, products, and experiences that have impacted my life. I’ve been studying psychology since 1996, obtained my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 2005, went on to study Neuropsychology in a post-doctoral fellowship, and have been licensed as a psychologist in California since 2007. In my practice I integrate information from several fields, including, but not limited to: neuroscience, spirituality, cognitive behavioral psychology, positive psychology, education and parenting research, to help guide others on a path towards optimal well-being.

With gratitude, Dr. Erica Felsenthal

Disclaimer

This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. You can call or email for a consultation with Dr. Felsenthal. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local emergency number or the mental health crisis hotline listed in your local phone book’s government pages.

Erica FelsenthalComment