How do you know what you don’t know? Tony shares an example of what it feels like to speak to a group of people when you seek validation versus speaking because you care deeply about the topic you are presenting. Often we hear people talk about being authentic, but what does that look like in real life, and what additional benefits come when you live and operate from a place of authenticity? Tony also discusses what it means to stand in your “healthy ego” vs. “pathological defensive narcissism,” and finally, he discusses Marshall Rosenberg’s book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life from a summary by Pamela Hobart https://fourminutebooks.com/nonviolent-communication-summary/
If you are interested in being coached in Tony's upcoming "Magnetic Marriage Podcast," please email him for more information. You will receive free marriage coaching and remain anonymous when the episode airs.
Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode 345 of “The Virtual Couch”. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist. Certified mindful habit coach, writer, speaker, husband, father of four, and creator The Path Back, an online pornography recovery program that is helping people reclaim their lives from turning to the unhealthy coping mechanisms of pornography, go to pathbackrecovery.com and the rest you'll find out all the information you need there. It's an incredible program and I'm very excited about that.
And the “Magnetic Marriage” paid subscription podcast that is going to cost less than less than even a half of one session with me. And you're going to get access to a year's worth of these coaching calls. It is going to launch in the first week of December. So please go to tonyoverbay.com and go to my contact page. And reach out and say, I want to know when this launches or better yet sign up for my newsletter, go to tonyoverbay.com and just find the little place there that says “sign up” because it is good. It is really good. We're going to try to get some samples out soon. So you'll get a feel for what that is going to sound like, but I have a lot of episodes recorded and even a couple of second episodes with people, follow up episodes, and it's phenomenal. It really is phenomenal. And I really cannot wait until you get to see what it looks like to be couples therapy or couples coached.
So sign up and find out about that right now. Let's start. Story time. So I have changed some of the finer details and timeframes to protect the innocent and that alone sounds very dramatic because I simply want to tell a story that will show probably more of my own emotional immaturity, as much as anything else. And this starts with a speaking opportunity I had with a group of youth just this past Sunday.
And, okay, so quick side note. If you are listening to this episode the first week of November in real time, I think I'm recording this on November 1st and you happen to be single and over 30 and live in the Phoenix or Gilbert or Queen Creek area of Arizona. I'm going to be speaking this Sunday, November 6th at the Casa Grande's state center in Casa Grande, Arizona, and the topic of my talk is nothing less than the secrets of life. Now I joke, but honestly, I feel like I'm putting together a big old package of what we really didn't know that we didn't know about life and relationships and how we show up. And that is going to include bonus content of what to do with that information, once you have the information of what you didn't know that you didn't know, and then how to slowly but surely change your inner landscape or what it truly feels like to be you.
So if you're in the area, it is free and I would love for you to stick around and say, hi afterward. All right. So this gig, this past weekend, I did not know the youth. I had not presented at this particular church congregation. And typically I'm asked to speak and standing in my healthy ego, we're going to talk about that a little bit more and a bit, I'm almost exclusively asked to speak these days by people who listen to the podcast or who've taken a course of mine or who have read my book. So a couple of weeks ago, a fellow therapist said that this particular congregation was looking for a speaker. And they couldn't do it. So they asked if I could step in and my family was for the most part, all out of town. So I said, no problem. I would love to. So I was contacted by somebody in leadership for this congregation and the person was incredibly nice. And they asked me if I could give them a call.
So they could see if I would be a good fit. Now, emotionally immature response. I am taking ownership of this. Emotionally immature. Response number oh, uh, wondering if I'm a great fit, we'll I am a great fit. All right. And I will send you, let me individually send you 450 links to podcast episodes and interviews. And did I mention that we are talking in an airport right now as I wait to board my plane back home from speaking to an entire state full of marriage and family therapists.
But yeah, let's jump on the horn and see if I have what you're looking for. And I thought, oh my goodness. Okay. That was incredibly emotionally immature. Thank goodness I did not say those things, but I thought, where did that come from? And it was my ego, that is on me. If this guy does not know me, then he does not know me. How dare he ask me if I'm a good fit to talk to, the future people of the world, the youth who attend his congregation. Oh, the horror. Instead I texted back and I said, yeah, no problem. And we ended up talking in that airport that day and he was incredibly nice and caring and we had a really good chat and he had asked if I had any examples of some of the talks I've done with youth. And I literally the week before, just on a digital virtual fireside talk to an amazing group of youth in Ririe, Idaho of all places. And I had the video to prove it. So I uploaded it to my YouTube channel. And I sent him the link and thought, okay, we're done with it. He'll see that. And he'll say, okay, this guy's fine. But he texted a few days before the event and then asked if we could go over the content.
So here's where things get interesting. And what is really framed where we're going to go today. I still wanted to essentially tell him to Google me. Which is, how immature is that? So I noticed that thought and I did not express it. But he said that he would love for me to address the dangers of social media and how the youth need to curb the need for social media and that they're on their phones too much and could I make sure and let them know that, in not so many words.
And while I absolutely can see where he's coming from. And I agree with the message he is sharing with me. And the father in me thinks those things often, but that's not the message that I personally can deliver authentically. The, hey, how about you get off your phones and go outside? And because while I'm at it, I might as well tell them that it would be easier if they did what I asked them to do with their chores for the first time. And if they could not take food into their rooms for the thousandth time, and maybe I can even throw a bit of, hey and all your online friends aren't actually your age. They are men in their sixties in Velour sweatsuits, trying to lure you into their layer via two years of daily interactions playing call of duty with you.
But every, I feel like most, every youth under the age of 20 or 25 has grown up with an incredibly steady diet of being reminded that us older folks played outside and we didn't have phones. And I really don't know if I've ever met somebody under that age who has heard someone like me tell them that, and then have them say, man, you know what, tell me more about that old man, you know, I think I'm going to get rid of my phone. And I think I'm going to try to call my friends on a rotary phone. But what I can do is talk about how the brain is a don't get killed device. It is a comparison making machine. And how the need to fit in is so hardwired into us as a survival mechanism. So comparisons are natural.
But when we don't feel good about ourselves, we naturally want others to validate us. We want external validation. And we think that will happen through posts and likes. And I can ask the youth how they feel when they check their number of likes or posts. But if I'm being asked to tell kids to get off their phones, then oh, no, I won't be saying that.
But an interesting thing occurred. We traded some messages and I made myself available. He ended up having to go out of town and we didn't even have that conversation. But what that caused me to reflect on was, again, another experience just, it was a few years ago and I have been speaking to groups and youth groups and adults and training for literally about 25 years before I was a therapist. I spoke in the computer industry. And then before that I wrote a humor column in a newspaper. And so I would find myself in situations where I would speak often. And I thought about this and it was really fascinating to me.
That I would often say, okay, well, what would you like for me to say? What would you like for me to say to your crowd, your audience, your people. And I would be told what to say, and then I would do my best to say it. Now I am oversimplifying this, but I think you'll get the point because I would say what they wanted me to say. In essence, I was just the vessel, the delivery vessel.
And then I would want validation. I would say things like, oh, I hope that's what you wanted me to say. Or I hope that things came out the way you were hoping for. I hope that was okay. Did I do good? Or then I would find myself saying, man, not many of the people came up to me afterward and told me I did a good job. And then the ones that did say you did a good job. Well, what else were they supposed to say? They had to say that.
So there was no winning there because I was just repeating words that I wanted people to validate. And then if they validated me, I thought, well, of course they have to say that. And if they didn't validate me, I got to say, man, I must not have done well. And they must be really disappointed with me.
So, because at the core of that entire situation, is the fact that I was not speaking from a place of authenticity. From a place of real, like a passion or a connection. I was being told what to do and what to say by somebody else. Now, again, I'm not saying that that is one of the number one problems in society. No, I feel like that's what we do.
We do that until we don't do that, especially if we're in jobs that we don't necessarily feel connected to, or we don't feel confident in our marriages, we don't feel like we have tools or the opportunity to really speak what matters to us. Or it might be our church where we feel like, okay, if I express my opinion, that I'm going to be banned from the group. I'm going to be kicked out of the tribe. So if we're struggling with our faith or with any of these things, are we still just placing our happiness so often in the hands of others? Saying, well, what do you think about me or what I'm doing or what I just said?
And if the other person invalidates us, then over time, what it feels like to be us is we don't express ourselves, because we feel like I can't even believe I'm thinking that, nobody else is talking about this, or when people do talk about the things that I probably want to talk about, then other people say bad things about them. So when we're still coming from this place of just desperately needing that external validation, we are not going to feel connected or happy or authentic, or any of those things.
But when you're coming from a place of authenticity, when you are talking about the things that you know and that you care about, and you don't have to be an expert, but it's things that you care about. It's the things that line up with your values. It's the things that you've always been interested in because they are the things that you are interested in. And you are the only version of you that has ever walked the face of the earth. Your thoughts, your feelings, your emotions, all those things, are absolutely valid because they're your thoughts and feelings and emotions. So, when you are really living from this place of authenticity, or in alignment with all the things that matter, you are far less likely to be swayed by or to feel bad about other people's opinions.
I still have people say, oh, hey, I think something different. But when you're coming from a place of authenticity, really feeling like you're living your best life, then the answer to somebody saying I disagree is, oh, thank you. Tell me more about that. Not, oh yeah. Well, you don't know what you're talking about.
Earlier I had stated that I was going to stand in my healthy ego, so I really do. I jotted down a few notes. I think I want to go back and take a second and explain. Because I really feel like this concept cannot be shared enough. I say it so often that I assume that people know what I'm talking about, but here's what I mean when I'm talking about a healthy ego. So in the article, the truth about narcissistic personality disorder, we didn't know we were going down the narcissist path today, did we?
But in the article, “The Truth About Narcissistic Personality Disorder'' by Eleanor Greenberg from Psychology Today, she is addressing the question that I have been asked on several occasions and it's somewhere around the concept that a four time leading Virtual Couch guest, Jennifer Finlayson-Fife shared with me on one of her appearances where we were talking about narcissism and she said, “Well, you know, we're all a little bit narcissistic though. Aren't we?” And I remember at first I thought. She called me a narcissist. But are we? But I know, I know where she's coming from when she first shared that, I thought that that was pretty interesting. Then I went on my “Waking Up to Narcissism” podcast, I think it was 8, 9, 10 episodes in, to record an episode called Am I the Narcissist?
Where I shared, first of all, that, if you're asking yourself that, the answer is no. But I shared that the actual narcissistic personality disorder really only applies to somewhere around 2 to 3% of the population. But when we're talking about emotional immaturity, well, I think that we are all emotionally immature until we, I don't know until we become more emotionally mature and it's a process.
You are not aware of the things that you're unaware of. How often are we just wanting to control someone to manage our own anxiety? Or we want to feel like we are special, so that people need to do the things that we ask them to do. So, again, that's all coming from a place of emotional immaturity.
And the growth process from that takes awareness and takes being aware that that's even a thing. Am I being emotionally immature? Then it takes introspection. It takes self confrontation. And it takes being able and willing to self-sooth. Not to rely on others to manage your ego or manage your anxiety.
Or to continually validate you. So at the heart of a simple phrase, like, well, you know what I want you to do? As the assumption that you know, better than I do. And that I would do incredibly well to listen to you, to abide by what you are telling me to do all the while without the person first coming from a place of curiosity. First checking in and asking me about what my experience is. So in the earlier example, rather than starting with, hey, what are your thoughts about social media and what direction would you go with this topic? It was presented as, hey, here's what I need you to say.
And speaking to aren't, we all, a little narcissistic, Eleanor Greenberg shares the concepts of healthy and unhealthy narcissism. And because narcissism is an incredibly charged word, I made the decision in that episode, and have done so since, of replacing the word narcissism with the word ego. When talking about the healthy version.
So in this article, “The Truth About Narcissistic Personality Disorder”, Eleanor says “normal versus pathological narcissism”. She says, “unfortunately, in the English language, the word narcissism has come to mean two entirely different things. Depending on whether it's being used formally as a diagnosis, as in narcissistic personality disorder.
Or informally as a synonym for positive self regard”. So often, do we hear it used as a synonym for positive self regard? I don't even know if that would be possible in this day and age with the way that the word narcissism is thrown around. And that is coming from a person who hosts a podcast, literally called waking up to narcissism.
So she said, “I am often asked, isn't a little bit of narcissism healthy and normal?” And so Eleanor says, “I would like to clarify that distinction.” So normal, healthy narcissism, and I am now taking ownership of Eleanor's words. They're wonderful. What you're about to hear, but I'm going to say normal, healthy ego.
So she says, “this is a realistic sense of positive self regard that is based on the person's actual accomplishments. It is relatively stable because the person has assimilated into their self image. The successes that came as a result of their actual hard work to overcome real life obstacles. Because it is based on real achievements, normal, healthy ego is relatively impervious to the minor slights and setbacks that we all experience as we go through life. Normal ego causes us to care about ourselves. Do things that are in our real self-interest and is associated with genuine self-respect. One can think of it as something that is inside of us.”
When you find those things that make you tick, those things that you are passionate about, now you can start to step into that healthy ego because it is going to be relatively stable because. This is because it's been assimilated into your self image by the successes that came as a result of your actual hard work.
So the more that I learn about mental health, the more that I talk about helping somebody navigate a faith journey, using the stages of faith. The more I use my four pillars to connect a couple and help them be able to communicate like they've never communicated before. And the more that I learn as the brain is a don't get killed device. And the reason that anxiety is there and how we all fear this abandonment, we have these attachment issues and these things that I just feel such a passion about. Then I'm going to stand in my healthy ego and I'm going to answer questions based on the things that I know, because I have gathered those things as a result of my actual hard work to overcome real life obstacles. Because those things are based on real achievements, my normal, healthy ego is relatively, not completely impervious, but relatively impervious to the slights and setbacks that we all experience as we go through life.
So, a normal healthy ego causes us to care about ourselves and do things that are in our real self-interest. Not being self-centered, but in our real self-interest and is associated with self-respect. So one can think of it as something that is inside of us. So when I say that I am standing in a place of my healthy ego, it is that I'm about to communicate something that I feel confident about and that I feel passionate about.
Now I have come to learn the things that I have learned from things that I did not know. So one of the most amazing things I feel like when you really find you are working in a place of alignment with the things that matter to you is of course you don't have the full story. Of course you don't know everything that you don't know. So that gets exciting. So here's what I know now.
And I'm going to continue to explore. When I go back two or three years ago, I wasn't talking about differentiation. I was talking about my four pillars. But I wasn't talking about differentiation. I didn't have my big abandonment and attachment speech all down. I didn't really understand the concepts of external validation and boy coming up over the next two, three months, I've been learning more about just being able to hold this frame, this presence, to an unhealthy radiance. And I'll talk more about that in the coming episodes. But so that is a normal, healthy ego. Now let's talk about what Eleanor says is pathological defensive narcissism. So maybe we could call it, I've never actually done this, but pathological defensive ego, because again, the narcissism word is so triggering.
But she says, this is a defense against feelings of inferiority. This is why when you see somebody that is just throwing a fit, an adult tantrum, or they need control over everybody around them. That is a defense against feelings of inferiority. The person dawns a mask of arrogant superiority in an attempt to convince the world that he or she is special. Inside, the person feels very insecure about their actual self-worth.
And this facade of superiority is so thin that it's like a helium balloon. One small pinprick will deflate it. So this makes that person hyper sensitive to minor slights that somebody with a healthy ego would not even notice. Instead, somebody with this type of defensive ego or defensive narcissism is easily wounded.
I think the kids call it butt-hurt these days. Or probably a decade ago. But they frequently take any form of disagreement as a serious criticism. And then they are likely to lash out and devalue anybody who they think is disagreeing with them. They're constantly on guard trying to protect their status. So pathological narcissism or pathological defensive ego can be thought of as a protective armor that is on the outside of us.
Protecting people from really seeing inside and seeing who we are. When I was living my life in that computer industry, I absolutely was working out of a defensive, pathological, ego where I needed people to think that I was special because I felt so insecure. Because I was in this job that I did not feel a connection with. Yet, I was on the hook to provide a living for my family. And at that point it was my ever-growing family and trying to buy a house and living in California and my wife wanting to be a stay-at-home mom.
So I needed people to think that I was something special because my fear was that if they saw inside of me, then everything would crumble. Everything would fall apart. And then I would be a failure. But little did I know that I didn't even understand what a healthy ego could look like when one truly finds the things that matter to them.
And you find the things that matter to you, because again, you're the only version of you. So things are going to matter to you that may not matter to other people. So, why do I bring that up? Let me talk a little bit more about my days working in the computer software industry.
So I was in that industry for over 10 years and I did okay. I mean as a career, financially, that sort of thing. I spoke at conferences. I gave a lot of presentations. I spoke in Europe and Japan and Russia and China. And many places where I talked about the technology that we were selling. But honestly, I didn't know what I didn't know about speaking from a place of authenticity. So I learned about my product. We did device drivers. And if you're not familiar with device drivers, they are not exciting at all. So I had to be excited to talk about code that helped move data. Data on CD's, data across hard drives. And then we branched out a bit from there, but I was basically memorizing our feature set.
I was learning the selling points. And then if I was asked detailed questions, I would have a programmer with me, and then he would either baffle the crowd with insanely low level programming talk or worst case, we would just say that we couldn't answer that question because that would be sharing proprietary information.
So in essence, we had an out. So I was absolutely operating from a place by definition of pathological defensive narcissism or defensive ego. I wanted people to think that I knew what I was talking about. And I absolutely was insecure about people thinking that I didn't know what I was talking about, which is so fascinating now, as I speak from the heart, I share what I'm passionate about, which gets me less in the mindset of, well, what do you think about what I said or how did I do? And you can see how it's borderline me sounding like a jerk is I think one of the biggest worries when you start acting in alignment with your values or your true sense of self. Or you find these passions. That then you, when you speak confidently, there's always that fear of, oh, am I being prideful? But if you are letting your light so shine, so that others around you will be lifted, then I feel like that is truly stepping into who you really are as a person. And maybe what your purpose is here upon the earth to, to spread light and knowledge, the things that you know, and truly understand, and not from a place of, so that people will like me, but from a place of, oh my gosh, this I am so grateful to know the things that I know, and I want to share those things. And then if people have a different opinion, then I can say, tell me more about that. We're differentiated. I want to hear more because obviously I don't know what I don't know. And what a chance to grow, but if I'm coming from a place of pathological defensive ego or defensive narcissism, then I'm going to lash back out and try to attack you about the things that you don't know, what you're talking about.
Because I'm so afraid that you will see through me and see that I'm not being my authentic self.
So again, this little side note here is that I didn't even realize again, that when you find your passion or when you find things you're truly interested in, you are more curious about those things. So then you live in a way where you read more about the things you care about. You talk more about them, you find yourself around more people who also care about those things that you care about.
And here then is the interesting bonus. Just standing in your healthy ego. That as you lean into the things that you actually do care about, the things that matter to you, I personally have found it far easier to acknowledge the things that I don't know. It seems so much easier when you have a healthier ego or a sense of self to simply say, oh, I don't know.
I brought on a social media team and I'm so excited about them and it's so easy to say, oh, I don't have a clue how any of that works. I even went back two or three years ago, and I thought, oh, I know what I want to do with my social media presence. While that really hasn't worked, has it? So in that scenario, I don't know what I don't know. So at times they'll say, well, are you okay if we do this? Or what do you think about this? And I say, oh, I have no idea.
But I know that that's what you guys do, and I know that that's what you know, and I'm excited. I'm excited about that. Being able to step into the things that you really care about and are acting in more alignment with really the, your passions have allowed me to give up on a lot of things that I used to pretend that I thought I needed to know. At one point I went to a quick book seminar because I thought, well, I better know how to do QuickBooks, but I made it through a few hours and then I was starting to nod off and I left and I think I called my wife and we ended up having a fantastic weekend because it was it was in a whole different city that was within driving distance of where we live. But, oh, I know nothing about that, but why should I, that's not something that is a passion of mine. And I'm grateful that there are people that like numbers and math and all of those kinds of things. So then that is not something that I feel is in alignment with my values or something that really speaks to me.
As well as I went on forever trying to do my own website on the various plug and play, build your own websites. But I don't know that stuff either. Not a big fan. So the more that you find the things that really matter to you, the easier it is to let go of that idea that you need to know everything, because that knowing everything is coming from a place, that I feel, of pathological defensive ego, where if people think that I don't know things, then they might not think I'm cool and they might not like me. And they might boot me out of the tribe and I'm going to be devoured by a saber tooth tiger and die.
So I have found myself, far far more often saying, oh, I don't know. Because I know the things that I do know. So let me give you a quick example. And pay attention to how often people around you are saying, well, you know what I think, I think that this person really does know, I think they know what they're doing and I think they just don't want to admit it. To which I used to say a lot of things like, yeah or maybe they're just forgetting, or maybe they think this, or maybe they think that, because I want the person I'm talking to to value my opinion.
But now, because I absolutely feel confident about the things that I do know, it is far easier to simply reply to the person and say, oh, yeah. I don't know. We'll probably have to ask that person. Let me give you a hypothetical example. This one came to mind. We're doing a little bit of traveling again, going to Arizona to speak over the weekend. So let's say that my wife asked me, oh, do you think that we'll be able to make the connecting flight in Vegas? The time between flights is only 55 minutes and I don't know how far away the next gate is. So I feel like in the past, I would definitely want to manage her anxiety. I would want to reassure her and I might say things like, yeah, I'm sure they wouldn't let us book a connecting flight if it was going to be that close, or I might say, yeah, that's not something you really need to worry about right now.
Or I might say, you know, we can change the second flight, if that will make you happy. And although that may be true, is she looking for me to fix it or does she simply want validation? Is she needing me to help manage her anxiety? So remember when we don't often feel good about anything and I'm talking about ourselves, or a situation like this one about whether or not we'll be able to make a connecting flight, that causes us to have anxiety. Anxiety comes from uncertainty. And if we aren't operating from a place of a healthier ego, then we are most likely looking for someone else to make us feel better or to manage our anxiety. We're looking for that external validation.
But we aren't exactly sure what it will take for us to feel better. So there is a good chance, actually, an almost certain chance that whatever I say in that scenario about the flights is not going to be exactly the right thing. And then again, in this situation, my wife will most likely then feel like I just don't understand her.
Because she may not be wanting me to fix it. She just wants for me to hear her, to validate her, to say, man, that sounds hard. Or if I don't hear, she might even go to the place of, you know, he must not care about me. So, coming from a healthy ego and feeling more authentic in life allows us to show up differently in those situations, it allows our partners to start operating more from a place of trust because we feel more confident in the things that we do feel confident in.
Because now we're doing things that we care about, that we feel connected to. So in those areas, we're going to speak from a place of confidence and healthy ego, not requiring or relying on external validation. So when you come to the table, feeling more confident and connected because you feel like you are living in alignment with your values and what matters to you, then you speak with authority and confidence of the things that you know and you believe, and therefore, of course, you say, I don't know, do the things that I'm not certain of or that I'm not connected to. And that doesn't make me less than, that doesn't mean that my wife is going to think that I am less than, as a matter of fact, it's quite the opposite.
I've had people literally say in my office that man, no I literally find it attractive if he says, yeah, I'm not really sure about that. But we can discover that together or let's find somebody who does know. Rather than the guy saying, don't worry about it. Right. Or you shouldn't worry about that or, well, I'm sure that this is the answer because that does not give us a sense of safety or certainty in our relationships.
It's the opposite. So I may frame the conversation differently, like in this scenario about the airport, I may say, you know, I really don't know how that works with gate changes or time between flights. But I wonder if there's a system that keeps track of that and hopes that people won't miss their flights or, let's Google that together. I don't know. I'll ask Siri a question.
And now we're having a conversation based on curiosity. Off of, oh yeah, I don't know the things that I don't know, but I'm here with you. Let's go through this together. If there was something that I do know, you can be certain I'll share it. Oh, I know this thing. But on the flip side. Yeah, I don't know what I don't know because how could I? Because in that world of emotional immaturity or unhealthy ego, you hear a lot of things like, I'm sure the doctor's just going to tell me it's not a big deal. Okay. How do you? Or you find from a place of emotional immaturity, a conversation I heard recently where someone said, yeah you know, my spouse says that they're not going to go into the doctor because they know more than 90% of all doctors do. Says the person who's never been in medical school or never practiced medicine. Or here's one I hear, you're just going to tell me to start up a mindfulness practice, says the person who has never regularly meditated to the person, me in this scenario, who also spent an entire life well into my forties, also never meditating, until I did. And then I didn't again, and then I did regularly and many, many years later now I just can't believe that I didn't know what I didn't know. I didn't know what that could feel like to have a built-in pause to allow you to then tap into that prefrontal cortex, those frontal lobes and access my tools instead of just sitting around in a fight or flight response all the time. And that has been because of a mindfulness practice. I didn't know what I didn't know. And so now when people are letting me know the reasons why that won't work they tell me that as they haven't tried that over a sustained period of time. Then that can be difficult because I know that they can feel like I am not hearing them. Yeah, no, I don't think that will work. I don't think that will work, says the person who hasn't tried it regularly to the person who did, and it has changed their life.
Let me change gears just a tiny bit. And I think that this will actually resonate or make more sense. It's along these lines because it goes along with needing somebody else to manage your anxiety or telling someone else what to do or how they're supposed to think or feel. Quite a while ago, I had someone reach out to me and they had asked me if I would take a look at a gentleman named Marshall Rosenberg's work around what's called nonviolent communication.
And I remember just not really understanding the term nonviolent communication. And just in that context, that just seemed like those words didn't necessarily go together. Because I think of violence as physical violence, that sort of thing. And I want to turn to a site called four minute books. And this is a summary of Marshall Rosenberg's book about nonviolent communication by Pamela Hobart.
So I, but I really feel like this is a really fascinating concept. And before I even read this, I also saw someone had shared with me and I thought this was just really, really interesting. They shared a quote and this is from a book called, The Yamas and Niyamas, which is about exploring the ethical practices of yoga, which is a really interesting principle or concept. If you really look into it.
And they had shared a page of a book that I thought was so well said, and this is around why I wanted to go down this path of nonviolent communication. In this chapter of this book, it says, “thinking that we know what is better for others becomes a subtle way we do violence. When we take it upon ourselves to ‘help the other’ we whittle away their sense of autonomy. Nonviolence asks us to trust the other's ability to find the answer that they are seeking. And asks us to have faith in the other, not feel sorry for them. Nonviolence asks us to trust the other's journey. And love and support others to their highest image of themselves. Not our highest image of them. It asks that we stop managing ourselves, our experience, others, and other’s experiences of us. Leave the other person free of our needs, free to be themselves, and free to see us as they choose.” So they go on to say, “the violence we do to others by thinking we know what is best for them is dramatically illustrated and they tell a story.”
But nonviolent communication, and the reason I hope you can see why I think this fits, is maybe a nice way to end today's episode is the way to find that true sense of passion, sense of self to be able to actually act in alignment with the values that are important to you. And they're important to you because of all of the tiny little things that you've been through your entire life. The nature, the nurture, the birth order, the DNA, the abandonment, the rejection, the hopes, the dreams, the loss, the growth, the people that have moved, the people that have passed. All of those things that make you who you are, are the things that also guide your values. So when someone else is telling us what they think that we need to do, thinking that they know what is better for us.
I can understand or appreciate this concept of nonviolent communication because it is not allowing the trust, the other person's journey, love and support. It is supporting them and helping them view themselves as the highest image of themselves, not our highest image of them. In the world of parenting, I know it's a balance because we are the ones that are guiding our kids when they're young, but as they start to mature and grow and start to become them, then doesn't that phrase just fit so well. Nonviolent communication means allowing us to trust our children’s journey, and love and support them to their highest image of themselves, not our highest image of them. When we're trying to manage our highest images of them, I feel like what we're doing is we want them to manage our anxiety.
We are worried that we won't be viewed as a good parent. We're worried that someone will think that we didn't do our job, or we didn't do enough if our kid isn't living the life that we think that they should live. But in reality, we need to help them find the highest image of themselves. And so we need to stop managing our experience of others and let them start to figure out what matters to them. The sooner that we can help our kids do that and the sooner you do that, I promise you the better place that you're going to be operating from. And you are going to be able to do more good for yourself, for your family, for the world, not to sound overly dramatic but when you find what really matters and you act in alignment with the things that matter to you, you are going to be speaking from this place of healthy ego. And it is relatively impervious to the slights and setbacks that we all go through on a day-to-day basis. So I'm going to blast through this four minute books on nonviolent communication, and maybe we can tackle this in a completely separate episode.
So, Pamela Hobart. She's the one that wrote this summary. So she says, “Free speech advocates commonly argue that speech is the opposite of violence. Words can offend us, but they don't actually do harm. So from this point of view, nonviolent communication is practically an oxymoron.” Exactly what I was feeling. So thank you, Pamela.
But then she goes on to say “Communications expert Marshall Rosenberg, begs to differ. According to Marshall, most people's default manner of speaking to others is highly violent. Because he says that is if you consider violence to include attempts at cutting others down to size and coercing them into doing what we want. So that that would fit more in that concept of violence. So whether or not most ordinary speakers are constantly committing literal acts of violence or not, most of us can see the potential benefit in learning to communicate more effectively. Nonviolent Communication, A Language of Life provides one provocative lens per seeing what's morally and pragmatically wrong with many of the things we tend to say in our everyday lives. Nonviolent communication also helps us to figure out what we can say instead.” So Pamela says, here are the three lessons that she's learned from the book, Nonviolent Communications, A Language of Life.
Number one is, “separating observation from judgment is the first step toward reducing needless conflict.” The second thing she says is “connecting actions and requests to people's specific needs points the way towards solutions to any problems.” And number three, she says “you can use nonviolent communication to improve how you talk with yourself too.”
She talks about these nonviolent communication touch points. Lesson one, and I think this one is so, so good. “Keep your observations and your judgments separate in order to keep others from feeling defensive.” She said, “often our brains leap to label somebody, ‘that student is lazy. My husband is careless,’ and so often our mouths rush to speak judgment too,” but she says, “does it really work to go around judging people? How do they tend to respond when you judge them? How do you respond when other people judge you? A person who's feeling judged typically goes on the defensive or just shuts down.” Again, I feel like that's the psychological reactance or that instant negative reaction of being told what to do, being judged. She said, “judging someone is about the worst thing you can do i f what you want is for them to listen to you or admittedly, if you would like to change something about their behavior.”
So I think I could kind of step away and take exception with me wanting to change something about their behavior, but, She makes a good point here. So, Rosenberg suggests a foundational habit for nonviolent communication that we learned to separate observations about what happened from our judgments about them and observation is objective, it's concrete and neutral.
Instead of a lazy student, learn to think that student did not complete their homework. Instead of a careless husband, think he left toothpaste in the sink. Because if you can start from a place of, he didn't complete his homework or he left toothpaste in the sink and we removed the judgment statement. Now we're going to go in there with curiosity. Perhaps he received a dollar every time he left his toothpaste in the sink as a kid. Because his dad worked for Colgate and the more toothpaste they could buy the more his yearly bonus would be. Oh, that was good. Made that one up on the spot. But instead, if we just say, we love this toothpaste in the sink, he must not care about me. He thinks that I'm the toothpaste cleaner.
So in order to separate judgment from what an observation is, then we can get to the conversation. So, she said, “straightforward observations leave much more space for potentially understanding the reasons why people did what they did, rather than making a lot of assumptions. Others' actions might provide a stimulus for us feeling the way we do, but they don't literally cause our emotions. We must distinguish between our own stuff and what happened in the world.” I had a couple recently where someone said, well you’re the one that makes me do this. That old chestnut. But in the world of nonviolent communication, if the person is staring at their phone, if they just say, okay I'm noticing that you're looking at your phone while we're talking.
That is a statement. That's an observation. But if they say you obviously don't care about me because you're staring at your phone, that's a judgment and that's going to put somebody on the defensive. So lesson two in this book, connecting actions and requests to people's specific needs can diffuse tension and point toward possible resolution.
She says, “Why are we so judgmental if it's not usually productive?” Rosenberg explains that analyses of others are actually expressions of our own needs and values. In other words, when a teacher labels a student lazy, perhaps she's stressed because she doesn't know how to motivate them. Or the wife of that careless husband values neatness much more than he does, but she doesn't see a way to resolve their preferences. So this is why I thought this would be a perfect cap to this episode where I was talking about managing someone else's anxiety. So if we aren't even looking at things as observations, if we're making judgments about them. Then when we make a judgment, we're typically judging that this is about me. That they must not care or the student isn't listening. So that must mean I'm a bad teacher or my husband must not care about me because he obviously leaves his toothpaste in the sink and he should know that I care that I really want everything neat and orderly. So, she said, “people's needs are more alike than different. We have physical needs as well as needs for autonomy, positive, emotional experiences, positive social experiences, spiritual experiences of some kind and the need to play. So the teacher who judges her student, maybe trying to fulfill her need to feel competent at her job. The wife who leaps to judgment of her husband needs to feel comfortable in her own home. So understanding others' frustrating behaviors as manifestations of their genuine needs helps the humanized conflict.” It goes back to my pillar one of my four pillars. Assuming good intentions or there's a reason why someone shows up or does the things they do.
She goes on to say, “people mostly aren't just wandering around trying to cause problems,” validation galore for my four pillars. “They're trying to take care of themselves and they deserve empathy. So if you first find a way to show others that you truly understand their needs, you're likely to receive a respectful response to your request of them whether it's exactly what you wanted or not.” And then lesson three from this book, “using non-violent communication on yourself can alleviate feelings of regret and anxiety. Since all people have needs and deserve empathy, that includes your past and current selves too. So perhaps you're harboring painful, longstanding regrets about something you did a long time ago. Can you find a way to empathize with who you were back then. Which needs were little you trying to get met, however, mistakenly. How were you trying to fulfill the things that mattered to you at that time when you made maybe it was a regrettable decision. Or maybe you're facing a difficult decision right now. And by setting aside what you think you ‘should do’ and focusing on the needs of people involved. You'll enable a comfortable resolution. So nonviolent communication even provides a better way of giving compliments after all even positive judgements are still judgments. And they remind people that you're critiquing them instead of just giving a conventional compliment, try explaining to somebody how something specific they did met one of your needs.”
I really appreciate you cleaning up the house because it really helped me come home and feel more calm in my home. So that was all about me and thanking them for what they do. These kinds of compliments are much clearer and more meaningful than hey, you finally cleaned up. I mean that one has judgment written all over it.
So she said, “a review and some of the ways of speaking endorsed and nonviolent communication,” she said,” do sound a little bit stilted.” But she said, “as she read it, she had a hard time imagining herself saying some of the things. However, the nonviolent communications core lesson seemed sound. It's really about people judging less and then being able to understand people's needs more.”
And given how many problems in life come from communication breakdowns. I really do feel like this is something that really resonates to me, or it really does fit. So I would highly recommend the book Nonviolent Communication, A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg. So in summary today boy, how important is it to really try to find what really matters to you so that you can act in alignment with your core values and some of the bonuses that come from that is, you really do know what you know. And people are going to start to be able to trust you more because when you are saying, I know this thing, it's coming from a healthy ego. It's coming from something that you actually do know, and you care about and matters to you. And then when you say I'm not sure, rather than them feeling like, oh my gosh, you must not care about me.
Then they know that you are just acting in alignment. And I feel like that is a calm, confident, energetic person. And those are the type of people that I really feel like we tend to be drawn to. Because it's a wonderful example of how to live your life. You're still going to have the ups and downs of regular day-to-day life. But when you are acting in alignment with your values and living in a way that feels authentic to you, then you are less needy and less in need of somebody to self-soothe you or to validate you. And we're so afraid of, I think at times, is that if I, then all of a sudden give up this control over somebody else to manage my anxiety, that things will be worse.
But this is part of that, we don't know what we don't know. Imagine a world where you're showing up in your relationship as confident. And it doesn't mean that your partner is going to leave you. It means, oh my gosh, of course we want to enjoy life together because we're both two autonomous amazing, wonderful people that have really found out who we are. And now we can go through life together with two completely different experiences. And the one plus one is three and what an amazing way to live. And I don't need my partner to manage my anxiety. And that is going to look so much different in your relationship. And it is going to cause a connection. The likes of which we really have never known. Because we didn't know what that looked like. All right. If you have comments, questions, feedback on this episode, feel free to send it to me through email@example.com and as always I appreciate the support and I will see you next time on “The Virtual Couch”. Taking us away, the wonderful, the talented, the now on TikTok, Aurora Florence with her song, “It's wonderful”.