Getting Unstuck: How to Free Yourself From Negative Lifestyles

Getting Unstuck: How to Free Yourself From Negative Lifestyles

Michael Gelb, an author, pioneer in creative thinking, and innovative leadership coach leads us through a journey in cultivating self awareness, courage, and compassion for self-betterment, improved relationships and meaningful leadership in our lives.

We discuss what makes a good leader and what it means to be a good listener. Acquiring a variety of communication skills and learning to give and receive feedback is extremely important in order to improve ourselves and create a positive impact on the people around us.

All of us have bad habits of taking things personally, judging, depending on social validation, self-pitying and victimizing. By recognizing the patterns in our behaviors - our proclivities, and by actively choosing positive courses of action we can free ourselves from a passive lifestyle and develop a habit of positive change and betterment. Join us as we dive deep into the various habits of the human psyche and explore how we can change our current lifestyle for the better.



In This Episode We Discussed:

  • Humility
  • Acknowledging our proclivities
  • What makes a good leader?
  • Creating a habit of self-betterment
  • Spreading courage and optimism
  • Creating a positive environment for ourselves
  • Liberation from social judgement
  • Not taking things personally
  • Avoiding self-pity and victimization
  • Building a tool belt of vast communication skills
  • The exchange of energy in relationships
  • The significance of giving and receiving feedback
  • Managing expectations
  • How to be a good listener
  • Recovering from stressful situations

People Mentioned:

Related & Recommended Links:

A Personalized Path to Higher Consciousness Through Transformative Technology
Meditation as a Technology of Consciousness with Dustin DiPerna
How We Lost Our Sovereignty, and How to Get It Back with Jordan Greenhall

Books, Tech & Products Discussed in the Show:

The center for nonviolent communication
Purchase Michael Gelb’s books

Show Notes:

00:00 Intro

05:05 Embracing humility – Becoming a better leader and a better self

09:33 Recognizing our behavioural proclivities and living as an agent of compassion

14:29 Creating a habit of self-healing and continually striving to better yourself

20:46 Disposing of the toxic forces in our lives and surrounding ourselves with positive environments

25:57 Freeing ourselves from the shackles of social media and social judgement

28:29 Why we shouldn’t take things personally - being a wise judge of social situations

32:05 Being present and avoiding self-pity and victimization

37:28 The importance of building various social and communicative skills

41:16 The exchange of energy in a relationship: the givers, the takers and the matchers

44:52 Managing expectations

48:50 Giving quality, positive feedback and learning to receive it

1:05:15 The art of communication and listening

1:14:27 Recovering from stressful situations   

1:20:29 Discussing Michael Gelb’s books and seminars

Full Episode Transcript:

Heather Sandison:00:00:00: Welcome to Collective Insights, I'm your host Dr. Heather Sandison. I'm a naturopathic doctor and the Medical Director of North County Natural Medicine. I'm also a medical advisor to Neurohacker Collective. So today, I'm thrilled to introduce to you a teacher of mine, Michael Gelb. 

Heather Sandison:00:00:16: I met Michael soon after starting my own clinic, and as I was realizing how little I knew about hiring, leading, and creating a team, I just had these thoughts, it's been 5 years with my head buried in medicine - the labs, the treatments, the herbs, the pharmaceuticals - and I hadn't really delved into how to create a team. I had learned a lot about communicating with patients, but not so much about hiring, firing, and managing a business. So I signed up for a course, that was taught by Michael, called "The Art of Connection", and it was subtitled "The Seven Relationship Building Skills Every Leader Needs Now". So I was, clearly, very interested quickly. Over that weekend, I learned a ton about myself and my communication style. But it also helped me to build practical skills that helped me communicate with my staff, for sure, but also every single human that I encounter. 

Heather Sandison:00:01:12: So that's my personal story of how I connected with Michael, and I've asked him to join us today on Collective Insights because when I ask my patients about their health, the things I'm most interested in are the causes of disease, and the things that promote health and optimization. Those, that list of things is not very long, this might be kind of surprising, but the way I distilled it down is that there's really only 5 things that cause disease: an imbalance in nutrients, structure - either molecular structure, like at a genetic level, or the macro structure, I'd say at the spinal level - toxins, stress, which is why Michael's here, and then infections or immune imbalance. 

Heather Sandison:00:01:53: So when I break down stress, and almost everyone comes in with stress, right? That affects the health of all of us. But there are 3 primary causes of stress in our lives. One is relationship stress, either at home or at work. Two, is that existential stress around purpose in our lives. And three, is typically financial stress. So Michael is an expert in how to reduce both personal relationship stress and work stress, excuse me, work relationship stress, and also finding that purpose. So he's written two books, he's the author of both "The Art of Connection" and "How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci". So I've asked him to come here today to describe some of the tools and things that you can learn by either reading the books or taking some of Michael's courses. So welcome to the show Michael.

Michael Gelb:00:02:41: Thanks so much, great to be with you.

Heather Sandison:00:02:43: So I thought we'd start by, you can just tell us a little about how you got into this, how you learned so much yourself about connecting and finding purpose in life.

Michael Gelb:00:02:56: Sure. Well I was lucky, I found my purpose in life very early. I was wondering what it was, I didn't just want to go get a job, or get some qualification and take my place in the massive bureaucracy of life. I wanted to really, I had some really clear criteria. I knew I wanted to do something that would help me learn and grow, and I knew I wanted to do something that would help heal the world and help be a service to other people. And I really didn't know what that was, I thought of actually going to medical school, but in those days, they didn't have holistic medicine, mind-body medicine, natural pathic medicine was not really, excess training programs weren't easy to find. I also thought of getting a PhD in psychology, but again, you had to study neurosis and sycosis and I was interested in full self expression and the fulfillment of the human potential. So there really wasn't a career path laid out, but I knew what my criteria were. I knew I wanted to learn and grow, and I knew I wanted to help other people. 

Heather Sandison:00:04:06: And that's exactly what we're interested in here at Hacker Collective.

Michael Gelb:00:04:13: So I just was looking how to find my way to an ideal blend of disciplines that allowed me to discover and align with and live a life around a higher purpose. 

Heather Sandison:00:04:29: That's exactly what we're interested in here. So in "The Art of Connection", you talk about these relationship building skills that anyone can use, whether they're in a leadership position or maybe they're the leader of their household, right? So the first chapter talks about embracing humility, and you set up these 7 steps, so I would like to just go through them. So the first one is embracing humility, can you tell me about that manifests and how we can show up in a way that we harness that humility in a good way?

Michael Gelb:00:04:56: Yes, that's a really important question because there's false humility, there's "Oh, that's nothing", self-deprecating remarks, pretending like you don't matter, that's not what we're talking about. I think when it comes down to it, it's not taking yourself too seriously. 

Heather Sandison:00:05:15: Being able to have a little laugh?

Michael Gelb:00:05:19: Yeah, being able to laugh at yourself, to be light-hearted. Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly. That's a quote from G.K. Chesterton, which I love. And I think it's also recognizing that although we have different status in life, different people have different positions, different degrees of wealth, different degrees of fame or renowned or reputation, that fundamentally, on the level of the deepest self, all beings are fundamentally one. We're not just equal, we're actually, share one consciousness. So our seeming separate selves are just fractions of one consciousness.

Heather Sandiso:00:06:22: It's hard not to be humble when you think of yourself in that context, as a piece of universe versus the separate self.

Michael Gelb:00:06:29: It's just, and if you think you're really this fabulous, separate self and whatever, well then what happens when that dies? Which it definitely will. In other words, the illusory, temporary self is just a little sneeze of the universe. I mean, it's not, it's so temporary, obviously, just obviously, we're not certain of many things. The one thing we're certain of is these bodies will not be around indefinitely. 

Heather Sandison:00:07:00: So humility, you work with a lot of CEOs, you do some business coaching for very high level CEOs on the east coast. And I just can't even imagine having this conversation with some, you know, a head honcho. So [crosstalk 00:07:17]-

Michael Gelb:00:07:18: You'd be surprised how the really best CEOs get this, and they have a natural humility, and they treat everybody with fundamental dignity and respect. And they, it's actually one of the distinguishing characteristic of the finest CEOs that I've been lucky enough to work with over the years. It's also the kind of CEOs that wind up hiring me are, tend to be more enlightened and more humanistic and more compassionate and they want support in that part of their own growth and evolution. But they just have a natural, in their leadership role, people want to follow them. But those are the best organizations to work in, where people say, "No, we want to work for her because she just has this gift, she brings out the best in everybody. She's respectful and present with everyone," versus what we see all too often is the person who's arrogant, is narcissistic, who's only agenda is their own self interest, and those people obviously are able to rise up in a hierarchy and seem to be successful for a while. But they variably come to some kind of demise that's more or less dramatic, and we just, all we can ask for those folks is that they get their karma sooner rather than later.

Heather Sandison:00:08:57: You know part of that karma may be their health, right? Because it's not a healthy approach to relationship if it's this hierarchical, dictatorship sort of approach, very power-driven, or eco-driven, and there's so much more health, there's so much potential that's tapped into the health of, like you were saying, not only your own health, but the health of the system, the health of the community if you can come at it from this place of humility. You're more accessible, more available, more approachable, more open, present, receptive, responsive, and unarmored is the list you have in the book that I like to go back to. 

Michael Gelb:00:09:33: Thank you, yes. And that means then also you're open to being informed by energy greater than that of your own mind-body system, the separate unit that you seem to be occupying as you move your way through life. So it's, one can draw on sources of energy that are transpersonal, and this is also a great secret of fulfillment and leadership and finding your purpose, is to find the transpersonal within the personal, to feel, experience that within yourself and to see that deeper, richer element within all beings. It's, and it mitigates stress! Cause stress is only when we see ourselves as separate, and I have to get this, and I'm afraid of that, which we all do, I do as much as anybody else. But then, I catch myself, and it's the moment of waking up where you say, "Oh, I don't have to be caught in this maze of ego and endless attempt to satisfy these short-term ego needs that..." really what good does it do? 

Michael Gelb:00:11:05: I mean, it's futile, and it's absurd, so learn to see yourself, and that's why, when you read the book and you were on the seminar, we help people understand their proclivities. We realize we all fit into different types. We all have different default settings, programming. Some people are introverted, some people are extroverted, some people are more kinesthetic, physically-oriented, other people they tend to focus on their senses and what they see as their main means of being in the world, where as other people listening more. So we all have these different orientations and these different combinations thereof, and it's really useful the way we learn about yourself in terms of your proclivities, the more you can say, "Oh, yeah, that's how this type tends to respond in that sort of situation, how fascinating." And it's easier to be more compassionate to yourself, but it's also easier to change. 

Michael Gelb:00:12:14: And then it's easier to see other people. When you realize other people are doing what they do, usually because they're just unconsciously acting out what they're wiring gets them to do in that situation. They're not doing it to get you, they're not doing it, it's really not personal. So when you see that, it's, again, it's a little easier to be afraid, and it's a little easier to not get all worked up about it. And you still act in a way that optimizes the situation, when it's still totally legitimate to do your best to meet your needs, but if you're wise, you're also figuring out what are the needs of the people around you and how can you help meet their needs while you meet yours. And that's where you start doing creative thinking, it's where the Da Vinci book comes together with "The Art of Connection" cause, so think creatively, what are the needs of all the people in this situation? What haven't you thought of yet for meeting everybody's needs? That's the essence of leadership, it's not that complicated, and yet it's incredibly rare.

Heather Sandison:00:13:26: Yeah, so you get to that, rare listening, and how to listen so you can really understand what people's needs are. And at a very deep level, not just a superficial, like, "Okay, I heard you need money," or, "I heard that you need time off," or whatever it is. But that you can really understand okay, at base level, at a very visceral level, this human is looking for this, for validation in this way, or this in that way.

Heather Sandison:00:13:52: So that's chapter 6, before we get there, tell me about chapter 2 "Being a Glowworm". So that's a fun analogy, can you tell me more about that.

Michael Gelb:00:14:01: Sure. Well it comes from a quote from Winston Churchill, who said, "We are all worms, but I do believe that I am a glowworm." And if you think about it, Churchill's added to his optimism in the face of adversity, his courage, inspired a whole nation and helped save the world from tyranny. We think of it now, it's in the history books, and we take it for granted that The Allies won the second world war. But it wasn't clear during the 56 days of nightly bombing of London, and it's hard for us to imagine what it's like to have your city bombed every night for 56 nights in a row, and everything around you being destroyed, you're living in the subway system or you sent your children out to the country to be safe from this bombing, and you're in the subway system every night. Winston Churchill's in a bunker beneath London planning how to respond to this, and he does these radio book broadcasts, they inspire people now to give up and to persevere an unwinnable situation, which indeed they did. So one person's attitude and courage can make tremendous different to inspire others. 

Michael Gelb:00:15:24: And unfortunately, one person's negative attitude can also depress and bring down many other people. So emotions are contagious for better or for worse. So how do you catch and spread courage and optimism and joy and obviously, I know you know this very well, that's the greatest pharmacy. Your attitude changes your physiology moment to moment. So if you are worrying, if you are blaming, if you are hating and incriminating, you are not creating the healthiest cocktail for your [inaudible 00:16:17] and your spleen and your kidneys and your whole system. If you are being compassionate, if you are forgiving, if you are laughing, if you are blessing, you are fitting your physiology to a much more life-affirming balance, and that's just more powerful than even any natural medication that you can take, natural remedy, you are creating your own psycho-pharmacopeia moment to moment. And it's more fine-tune to you than, even a brilliant doctor like yourself, you know, and I know you know cause that's why we're having this conversation, so if we can get people to have the self-healing attitudes that will sustain and strength their fundamental immune system and overall sense of well-being. The other thing then is then they're much more, if we give them the herb you found as right for them, it's going to help them even more because they'll be attune, their system will be attune to get the benefit.

Heather Sandison:00:17:33: Michael, I couldn't agree more. I tell patients that all day long. The best medicine is meditation, even if that means going for a run or exercising, I think of moving meditation. There's nothing better than that, maybe food and sometimes diet can be a big player there too. But really meditation is the number one exercise that you could do to help to strengthen your body, mind, and soul right? To help you reach your highest potential and optimization. And although I'm not the expert in that, I'm not the one that delivers it, I refer out to it all day long because I could not agree with you more. It's that attitude, it's that way we show up, and also I think that the magic is really in, it's that space between the trigger and the response. You were talking earlier about how we have these ingrained, learned responses that aren't, they don't always feel like a choice, but once we're aware of them, we can make those choices, and we might even have a responsibility to make that choice to be aware of these patterns, these habitual patterns, and then change them.

Michael Gelb:00:18:38: Yes.

Heather Sandison:00:18:38: And that there's so much freedom in that, in that knowing okay, I have this habit and now I can change it, and now I'm going to show up at a different way with other people, and in my work, and in my life. And my health will be better because of it.

Michael Gelb:00:18:52: Yes. And I want to come back to something that you said about important to diet, and of course, it's really critically important what you eat, and eating healthy, wholesome diet is high priority practice for wellness and mediating stress, and so on. Having said that, the attitude you bring to what you eat may be at least of equal importance to whatever it is that you're eating. You can be eating the healthiest, most natural, wonderful everything, and if you're feeling miserable because you have to eat all this health food, you're not going to be getting the benefit of it, and you could eat things that are less perfect and pristine, but if you pause and give thinks, and have a sense of gratitude, and you're savoring the taste of everything, and you're bonding with other people while you're dining, you're probably going to wind up in a much better state. Now, of course, the ideal thing is, be grateful, bond with people, and eat really healthy, wonderful things-

Heather Sandison:00:20:02: Exactly.

Michael Gelb:00:20:03: [inaudible 00:20:03] to do in our lives. 

Heather Sandison:00:20:07: I love it. So tell me more about being a glowworm. So Winston Churchill set this great example for what a glowworm can be like. Do you have other examples of people, like Da Vinci is certainly someone we can all look up to, are there other glowworms you can point us to as examples of this?

Michael Gelb:00:20:24: Well the simplest example, it's interesting to think of, you think of the people who inspire you the most, who are leaders that inspire you the most, who are the people you want to be around because you feel uplifted, you feel energized. You know the person that comes into the room and your posture changes for the better? The person comes in the room and people sit up because they're just excited to be in the presence of that person, and they might say something. In just being with them you feel uplifted so whoever that is for you, and that can be real or virtual. This, now whoever it is today, last night I was watching Ramana Maharshi on YouTube, you know one of the most inspiring spiritual teachers for me, at the highest level, of teacher that I've come across. And, that's, so I fill my mind and heart and energy system with inspiring role models. That's something I wrote about in Leonardo Da Vinci, I wrote another book called "Discover Your Genius" where I profiled 10 geniuses. 

Michael Gelb:00:21:33: So, we are designed to learn by imitation, for better or for worse, so [inaudible 00:21:43] the hotel the other day, and I was giving a seminar in Philadelphia, and I want to have my, go down and have coffee in the morning, and the coffee place, they have the TV playing with the CNN and Fox News on. And it's toxic, I don't want to see that. [inaudible 00:22:07] what the default setting on our society, I don't want to see, but just as important as what I'm eating, is the nutrient for my psyche and the default setting of that war, crime, violence, misery, and stupidity. Do you remember the last time you randomly turned on the TV and there was something beautiful, intelligent, inspiring, elegant, exquisite, uplifting, so that's all, I don't, so I purposely don't look at it. 

Michael Gelb:00:22:45: I just get my coffee, and I go to a beautiful place, and I meditate a little bit, I have a moment of gratitude, I taste the bite of my coconut almond, delicious thing, and my yummy, delicious coffee, and just you have to be, so you're doing this for yourself all the time, but you know, because when I was there to lead a seminar in leadership. So I know it's part of my responsibility to be a glowworm for those people. Anything I say doesn't matter if my energy and my posture and my facial expression and my connection with the people in my class doesn't match what I'm saying.

Heather Sandison:00:23:27: You make a good point, it's easier to be a glowworm if you're avoiding the tapeworms. 

Michael Gelb:00:23:32: That's right. Thank you, that's right. So avoid tapeworms, avoid the people that suck your life energy who are crazed narcissists and learn to expunge them from your life. Avoid being an enabler, avoid making excuses for them, avoid them.

Heather Sandison:00:24:01: And really add the beauty, and the mindfulness in that space, and the good food, and the good people, those other glowworms, attract the other glowworms. So then-

Michael Gelb:00:24:11: One, by being around them and the more you're around them, the more you're consciously embodying that, and it's so good that you can do that virtually now. I mean I watch, the night before, last night I watched Ramana Maharshi. In the course of the last couple of weeks, I've watched documentaries about Churchill, about Michael Faraday, great discover of electromagnetism, about Isaac Newton. I watched-

Heather Sandison:00:24:48: And you have that choice. You can watch that instead of watching CNN, or Fox, or all of these new-

Michael Gelb:00:24:53: And it's great.

Heather Sandison:00:24:54: Right. You can just [crosstalk 00:24:56]. Or Law and Order, even these, the, they stress me out so I can't wait it, but there's all these shows on TV that are, they're very, they create a stress response right? Kind of by design cause they're kind of addictive, but you can choose not do that. You can choose to look at things that are more uplifting. So and that's part of attracting the glowworms around you and being one yourself. 

Michael Gelb:00:25:20: Correct.

Heather Sandison:00:25:20: So then chapter 3 is "The 3 Liberations". So the first one, freedom from like and dislike, will you go into that a little bit? It sounds like some judgment.

Michael Gelb:00:25:33: Well, it's weird, the world we live in, if it's online everything encourages you to either click on this or this.

Heather Sandison:00:25:42: Like?

Michael Gelb:00:25:42: Like [inaudible 00:25:43]. Well I gotta get so many likes on my page. Anyway, of course I get it, you want to attract people to subscribe to whatever you're reporting, and that's all fine. Just that, like and dislike, is it immediate, automatic, reptilian brain response toward your environment. Your almost fundamental program is, "Is this good for my survival? Is it not good for my survival?"

Heather Sandison:00:26:17: Which is certainly served us at one point or another.

Michael Gelb:00:26:20And it is. It's not going away either so it just, you don't want your whole life to be run by what you like or don't like. It's a very low level of consciousness, it's very limiting. That doesn't mean you can't refer it, doesn't mean you can't listen to music you like or [inaudible 00:26:43]. Of course not, but take off that limitation of your perception of the world. Notice if you like it or you don't like it, but then explore it. Be more conscious, more aware of the world, free from that filter. You can still decide what you want to do, or not do, based on moving towards like [inaudible 00:27:10], that's fine, but be aware that you're doing it. That's really the coaching here, is wake up.

Heather Sandison:00:27:16: I mean, again, it's those ingrained, those habitual patterns, if we can be aware of them then we can really assess, okay, do I really not like that or does it just make me a little bit uncomfortable because of some habit, or some preconceived notion, right? And then if I take a step back and instead of deciding, "Oh, I don't like that. I don't like that," I explored a little bit, there's a window that opens there, a window of possibility that opens where potentially, I could be exposed to something new, that I didn't know existed right? That I used to be shutting out, just out of habit.

Michael Gelb:00:27:48: Yes, well said. Very well said, thank you. 

Heather Sandison:00:27:52: And then the freedom of taking things personally, the second liberation. You touched on this already, but tell me more about this.

Michael Gelb:00:27:59: Sure, it's probably the single greatest stress management methodology, is just don't take it personally. 

Heather Sandison:00:28:08: It's not about you.

Michael Gelb:00:28:09: I'm a hot [inaudible 00:28:10] actor, passionate, emotional person who tends to take everything personal. And so I've learned, I'm way happier if I can step back and remember or recognize that people do things because of their wiring, then it feels like it's about me and that it's either inconsiderate or obnoxious or hurtful in an intentional way designed specifically to bother me as much as possible. But it isn't really. 

Michael Gelb:00:28:51: I saw today a funny story about this, so I have this old friend, and we had a falling out many years ago. So I hadn't been in touch with him for years, and a mutual friend contacted me and said, "It seems that he has a brain tumor, and he might not have that long to live."

Heather Sandison:00:29:20: How terrifying.

Michael Gelb:00:29:21Okay, so what's so interesting is what I felt instantly, all my judgment about him, all of my defensiveness about all the things I thought he had done that were wronging to me, all of that melted away. My heart opened up with complete compassion, and I just thought, "I've gotta reach out to him and find him. I'll go see him in the hospital, I wanna be there with him, tell him I love him," you know, just want to love flowing through the essence of the person. Then I get another call from the same friend says, "Oh, turns out it was a false diagnosis. He's fine." I was thinking, what a jerk.

Heather Sandison:00:30:01: Imagine if every person who wronged us if we could think, "Oh, maybe they have a brain tumor." 

Michael Gelb:00:30:06: You got the idea, so I just now just like, obvious brain tumor because no rational person would do something so obnoxious, so I have to forgive them because they know not what they do. 

Heather Sandison:00:30:17: Great. Yeah so that freedom from, and there's some judgment in that too, right? The like and dislike of what was happening between you or what's happening in any interpersonal relationship with that taking it personally but also judging what's going on. And when we can take away both the judgment and the personally part, that it's about us, then these are freedoms, these are about liberations from this human interaction.

Michael Gelb:00:30:48: Exactly. Judgment doesn't go away. The tendency to judge doesn't go away but once again, we can watch the judgment taking place and now there is a conscious, witnessing presence that can then direct your response so it's not based on taking it personally, it's not based on the judgment. But instead it's based on wisdom, instead it's based on compassion, instead it's based on the values most people say they believe in but don't act on because they take it personally and because they act on judgment.

Heather Sandison:00:31:28: Great, and then third liberation, a freedom from blaming and complaining. 

Michael Gelb:00:31:37: Right? So people, this is a false way of connecting. People connect by sharing their misery around various...

Heather Sandison:00:31:48: Commiserating 

Michael Gelb:00:31:49[inaudible 00:31:49]: together, yeah. And people love to do this. "Oh, you wouldn't believe what happened to me." "Oh, that's nothing, what happened to me was worse." Blah, blah, blah. But you're really just basking in your own stress hormones when you do that. And you're not really finding solutions. It doesn't mean you can't say, have empathy but empathy and storytelling are different. Empathy and one-upping people with your own misery, that's not really empathy. So again, notice the tendency to want to commiserate and, instead, ask what we can do to improve the situation.

Heather Sandison:00:32:34: Yeah, it can be a bit of an indulgence, right? Like, "Oh okay, somebody's talking about what's making them miserable, maybe I'll help them to feel like they're not alone in this," or something like that. And I get to share my story, but if the goal is really productive communication then really it should be about getting out of the misery, right? And what are the solutions, what are the creative solutions?

Heather Sandison:00:32:55: So freedom from that will help us get there. And a few occasionally, and I hope it's okay because I do this occasionally with my girlfriends...

Michael Gelb:00:33:05: Yeah, yeah, sure. 

Heather Sandison:00:33:05: Sorry, I'm really tired. It was a long week, right. So I don't want to be too hard on everyone, or myself mainly, but that...

Michael Gelb:00:33:14: See if you tell me... It was interesting, you tell "I'm really tired, it's been a long week," I could say, "Yeah, me too. You couldn't believe it." Or I can say, "How can I help you recover? What would bring you the most energy, right now? What do you need? How can I help?"

Heather Sandison:00:33:38: Right.

Michael Gelb:00:33:38: And then I'm tuning right in to you.

Heather Sandison:00:33:43: Or [crosstalk 00:33:43] experience. I have to just reflect that just hearing you say that was, and actually my week's been great, but just you hearing you say that, there's a relaxation in my body that if I take a minute, my shoulders just relaxed. 

Michael Gelb:00:34:01: Yeah.

Heather Sandison:00:34:01: And this even just kind of role play right now, right? It's not even a real situation. Can you imagine?

Michael Gelb:00:34:08: Yeah, in terms of how we respond or just the other thing to learn to do is just to be present. That's the beginning of everything, is just to be present within the real moment, what other people are sharing without having to do anything about it. So that's a very important capacity to have and to cultivate. Maybe the most healing thing in its own right is when someone giving advice, or doing anything other than actually listening and tuning in.

Heather Sandison:00:34:50: It's really that space.

Michael Gelb:00:34:55: Yeah.

Heather Sandison:00:34:57: Yeah. So yeah, chapter three was about those three liberations, and then chapter four goes on to transcending fixations.

Michael Gelb:00:35:10: So we were talking about that indirectly throughout, but fixations are your proclivities, your tendencies, your wiring, your default setting so learn to transcend that. And we do that by becoming aware of them first, and then I like to joke, 'cause I'm a big Seinfeld fan, about the classic episode where George realizes that the secret to life is doing the opposite of the role of his natural instincts. Turns out that this actually is a powerful secret of personal development, the Jungian psychology it's learning about your inferior function, the aspect of yourself but to undergo and learning to develop that undeveloped aspect. So on the simplest level if you're an introvert, you want to learn to do the opposite and go introduce yourself to people, and engage in conversations. Get out of your habitual modality of just retreating to be by yourself, and if you're an extrovert, do the opposite, learn to be quiet and let other people speak. Learn to have times of silence.

Heather Sandison:00:36:35: You can see why this comes after chapter three, right? You have to be free of that judgment of the like and dislike, you have to be a little bit okay with some discomfort to be able to try this on.

Michael Gelb:00:36:46: You got it.

Heather Sandison:00:36:51: So, again, cultivating versatility is a big piece of this right? So that in any interaction, you're not just going back to that default mode, but you have options in how you interact.

Michael Gelb:00:37:03: That's really [inaudible 00:37:09] readership, because as the workforce becomes more and more diverse you have more and more different kinds of people, and they might need to be led or managed using different styles. So one person needs a lot of emotional connection and encouragement, someone else just wants the facts, tell them what to do, give 'em the measurables, and that's all they need. Someone else needs some coaching and guidance in order to improve. Someone else wants you to just inspire them and give them the underlying principle.

Heather Sandison:00:37:58: Even as you say this I think about my friends who have multiple children, and they're all different, each of the children are. In your own home and your own family, you know, you have that crazy uncle, and then you have your cousin who you're closest to, and then there's the kids and each one of them can have these vastly different personalities, but if we can cultivate that versatility then we can connect with each of them.

Michael Gelb:00:38:23: Very good. It's in parenting, it's in personal relationships, and obviously in a professional situation. The ability to shift, and this comes in when you're able to be present with different people, tune into them, see what they really need, and have the versatility within yourself to respond in that way instead of, you know, the old fashioned thing was, "We'll do it my way or the highway." That does not work in contemporary organizations.

Heather Sandison:00:38:57: Right, right. It's very limiting and probably would limit someone's success as a leader. So this greatest point of leverage, you talk about the Costanza Principle of doing the opposite. I know you've done so many seminars, and probably have some really funny stories. Has anything really hysterical come out of this that you can share? To doing the opposite. Even the George in that episode, I have watched a bit of Seinfeld myself, but he has this ridiculous experience when he does the opposite.

Michael Gelb:00:39:33: Well yes, so he's at the diner and there's a very attractive blonde woman sitting at the counter, and Elaine says, "George, that woman just looked at you," and George says, "Well what am I going to do? Bald men who are unemployed and live with their parents don't go up and speak to strange women," and George says, "Oh my God, okay." He summons the courage, and he walks over to her and he says, "Hello, I'm George, I'm unemployed and I live with my parents," and she looks at him and says, "Hi, I'm Victoria"

Heather Sandison:00:40:22[crosstalk 00:40:22] gonna hit you.

Michael Gelb:00:40:24: And then he says, "Jerry, I'm telling you, this is my new religion. From now on, I will do the opposite."

Heather Sandison:00:40:38: I love it. So then in chapter five you talk about balancing the energy exchange. Tell me more about that.

Michael Gelb:00:40:49: Well all relationships are exchanges of energy, and in healthy relationships there's a abundant, flowing, generous exchange of energy. In average relationships, there's a quid pro quo accounting of the flow of energy, and in unhealthy relationships it's every person focusing on themselves and trying to get as much as possible for themselves without consideration of the other party. So the last one is like Hell, the middle one is like Purgatory, and the first one I talked about is like Heaven, so where would you like to live? 

Michael Gelb:00:41:29: In Heaven, and in Heaven everyone is caring for everyone else, so the work of the wonderful professor at Wharton, Adam Grant who wrote the book, "Give and Take," he's done the research on this. He talks about the three kinds of people: givers, takers, and matchers. So most people are matchers, they're looking at the quid pro quo and trying to find a fair and even exchange of energy in their relationships. Takers are just focusing on taking, taking, taking, and givers tend to focus on the needs of others. So Grant studied these people to find who is successful in life and how do these energy management styles result in what happens in your life. 

Michael Gelb:00:42:33: He finds that givers are either the most successful or the least successful. They're most successful when they're around other givers and matchers. They're least successful when they're surrounded by takers. So he recommends, and I agree, to cultivate what he calls becoming a "otherish," which means that you are fundamentally a giver, but you develop the matcher competencies. If you have the matcher, you go forth, but if you're in a situation where you're giving to a taker, be very cautious. So it's erring on the side of generosity and giving, but being wise and somewhat calculating about it so that you don't find yourself giving, giving, giving to a taker, taker, taker 'cause those are the givers who wind up with nervous breakdowns and multiple bankruptcies because they are enabling people who will not balance the exchange of energy. And this is in your love relationship, family relationships, work relationships. You want to just cultivate this quality, and surround yourself with people who appreciate what you give to them, and feel grateful and respond by giving to you in a way that leads you to appreciate them and feel grateful.

Michael Gelb:00:44:16: Then when there is a disconnect in the system, you have the communication skills to solve it in a positive way. To learn to give and receive the feedback, so that you can fine tune your ability to anticipate and meet each other's needs.

Heather Sandison:00:44:35: Right, and you know I think this was the chapter, and the part of the seminar that I got the most out of personally, and there was some nuance in here that I found super insightful. So this whole idea of managing expectations, right, so that you can approach things with this other's perspective, and certainly we need to have some mindfulness and some ability to be versatile and all of these other steps and have to preclude that, but then also to come into these relationships with this "otherish" approach, and be able to manage other people's expectations, because you can be a giver, but if you've over promised then people are still going to feel let down by what you might deliver if it's not going to hit that expectation that you've set. But then somebody else can create very low expectations and over deliver, and have a really different experience. So there was some nuance in here that I'd love for you to go in to, and the other one, as we get there, is this feedback piece that you referred to, and how giving feedback can be such an important part of this.

Michael Gelb:00:45:39: Yes, well, that little chapter in the book on promise low, deliver high is one of the secrets of life. It's really one of the most important secrets of life. The problem is that for a lot of givers, they want to meet the needs, they're oriented to giving, so they over promise 'cause they want to please other people, and it's a discipline to learn to be accurate in what you know you can deliver, really assess, and so therefore you get more and more conservative about what you promise you're going to do. Just savvier and savvier about only promising what you know you're going to be able to deliver, and then if you go beyond that people are thrilled. 

Michael Gelb:00:46:44: The simplest example is, when I am planning a seminar with a client they say, "We really need to get people out of there by five, by five-thirty, so why don't we say we'll finish at four-thirty?" I say, "No, lets say we'll finish at five, and then we'll let 'em out at four-forty-five," and they're thrilled, which we tell them we're gonna let 'em out at four-thirty and we let 'em out at four-forty-five, same time we let them out, but now they're unhappy and angry with us. We kept them too long. So it's [crosstalk 00:47:29] let 'em out at four-forty-five. This is not that complicated, but the expectation, be really careful about the expectations that you set, and then if you do and you outperform the expectation you've set, you're a hero, and if you don't you're a villain.

Heather Sandison:00:47:48: Right, and it's all about how people feel, right? I forget the quote exactly, but it's all about how you make people feel that is how they remember you, and so if you've made them feel like you've performed above and beyond, and then they leave with that experience, then they'll likely picture future experiences with you, future interactions, being positive is much higher.

Michael Gelb:00:48:09: Yes.

Heather Sandison:00:48:09: Right. You know, it was a ton in this chapter about feedback, about giving smart feedback that I'd love you to expand on. And receiving, I don't want to lose that part because I think when we think about feedback a lot of times as a leader it's about giving it to other people, but this piece of receiving it is paramount, it's also very, very important.

Michael Gelb:00:48:39: Sure, well, you know I learned this because years and years ago when I was teaching my first co-teaching seminars with a colleague who was ten years older than me brought me in to these programs and then we used to teach them together, and at the end of each day of teaching we would give each other feedback. We made this agreement that we're going to be as specific as we could be in what we could improve and do differently and we're going to frame it on actionable things. Things we could really change or improve.

Michael Gelb:00:49:20: So we did this every day after teaching, and the agreement was to just listen when the other person was sharing feedback, without responding or explaining why you did that, or making any excuses and so I learned to just listen to this critique of what I had done, and instead of being defensive or taking it personally I would just say, "What specifically can I do differently so that I'll be a better teacher next time?" So I just listened to him and I wouldn't say anything. Then I would give him feedback, and to his credit, even though he was more experienced than me, he was really open to what I had to, and so he trained me to watch him and be able to give him feedback that he could really do something about. So we didn't say generalizations, like, "That was terrible, you lost the audience." Well, what do you mean specifically? "Well, specifically, this person sitting third down on the row, raised their hand and asked a question, and you just kept talking about what you were talking about before and you didn't really acknowledge that person's question, and you never got around to responding it. I watched his body language the rest of the time, he was uncomfortable because I think you lost him at that point." And my friend said, "Oh really? Wow."

Michael Gelb:00:50:58: So we just started thanking. He really changed to try not to miss anybody, it's measurable, you're improving right away, then what we would do is we would give each other feedback on the things we did that worked. And we wouldn't say anything, just listen, and it's really great having somebody catch you doing all these things that really worked and acknowledge you for it and you always finished with the acknowledgement of what worked, 'cause it leaves you with this endorphin rush. [crosstalk 00:51:41] exactly. 

Michael Gelb:00:51:45: So we did this every day that we would teach, so I just learned to listen to feedback and adapt to it, and figure out how I could improve and to catch people doing things well, and acknowledge them for it, and again, being really specific. If I just said, "Oh, Heather, you're a wonderful interviewer, thank you so much," that's nice and you smile, but if I say, "Heather, the way you specifically are taking the content of the book and it's part of why I'm enjoying this conversation with you..." It doesn't even feel like an interview, it feels like a conversation, "...this conversation because my impression is that you came on the seminar, you really thought about these things, you're really applying them, you're really exploring them, you seem to be genuinely curious about them." Is that accurate?

Heather Sandison:00:52:39: And now my smile is so much bigger.

Michael Gelb:00:52:41: Yay!

Heather Sandison:00:52:44: Right, for those of you who can't see me. Yes, absolutely, it's so fun. There is this bit of celebration at the end of that when you can end on a high note. You know, I had an experience when I was in medical school where we would learn physical exam techniques, and we'd go up and there would be an instructor in the room, and it would be a small group, four to six people, and we'd be doing physical exams on each other, and I remember for like the first few weeks of it I was like, "Ah, stop telling me what to do." You know? I was feeling very irritated by the feedback and what I felt like was an intrusion, and there was one day where it all switched, where I was like, "Oh my God, this is what I'm here for, this is what I am paying for, is for someone to give me that critical feedback," and my whole experience of feedback changed after that and I began to seek it out. 

Heather Sandison:00:53:36: I think that you make such a good point, it's about the quality of the feedback. If it's like, "You're not doing that right," then that's not very helpful, but if it's more like, "Oh, you can push a little harder." In this context it was an abdominal exam that we were learning to do and I remember I was struggling with it. I was like, "I'm not really sure, am I feeling the liver? Am I feeling the spleen? Am I feeling what I'm supposed to be feeling? Am I pressing hard enough?" And I realized how valuable having someone there who was watching who was experiencing it, the patient on the table at the time, how getting that direct, specific, in the moment feedback would change how good of a doctor I would be. We can apply this to everything.

Michael Gelb:00:54:18: Wonderful, wonderful, that's a really specific, detailed, lively example of what the book is all about. There's another way that this applies for people in the healing professions because I often find people in the healing professions, that they're very caring, but the way they use language sometimes has the opposite effect of the healing that they're trying to facilitate. I'm passionate about working with and coaching fellow healers on how to reframe their use of language. I'll give you an example. A while ago someone was working on my shoulder, she said, "Ah, this is really tight. Wow, that's really stiff." I'm lying down on the table and I'm thinking, "Yeah thanks, I know it's tight. I'm in pain. That's why I'm here. I know it's stiff. I don't really need you to tell me that." So I tease this particular friend and say, "What's a way that you could communicate the same information, that would be facilitating the healing as you shared this with me?" And she said, "Oh, well what if I said something like 'Ah, wow this shoulder really wants to release. Oh, there's so much opportunity for deep letting go, release, and expansiveness in this shoulder." Come on, you know? Please, tell me this[crosstalk 00:55:59]. 

Heather Sandison:00:55:59: What a different experience. 

Michael Gelb:00:56:06: So you can say the same content of information in a way that creates more stress, more tension, more anxiety, more contraction in the person, or that's already beginning the process of inviting change, and transformation, and healing. So that's a choice we have, in how we communicate a lot of information in everyday life.

Heather Sandison:00:56:33: Right, and the Specificity piece is a big part, and that's the S in your smart feedback acronym, so that other pieces are that it's Monitored, Actionable, Respectful, and Timely. The context in which you give feedback, there's this great quote in here about basically, you'll have to correct me here, but it's about praising people in public and then giving them feedback in private.

Michael Gelb:00:57:03: Yes.

Heather Sandison:00:57:05: When we talk about feedback, we want to encourage this sort of thing. This is the art of communication. But where that happens, the context in which that happens is so important to how it's going to be received.

Michael Gelb:00:57:16: Anybody who's in any kind of relationship, if you've ever said anything to your partner, your spouse, it might be perceived as critical if there's at least one other person around. The fallout from that has probably cost you lots of energy and a lot of work.

Heather Sandison:00:57:38: If not your relationship.

Michael Gelb:00:57:39: Yes, because even being with one other person, that's in public, and you know I learned something when I used to be a professional juggler. I used to juggle with a team of people, we had this rule which was to always make your partner look good. If they make a mistake you cover for them. In public, you want to be perceived as a good friend, spouse, leader, boss, colleague, subordinate. You look after the dignity and the face, as they call it in the East, of the people you're interacting with. Then if there's some important information that they need in order to avoid getting into a challenging situation in the future, to learn from some of the things they could've done differently, then you take them aside and find a time and get them to agree to listen and you share the feedback in a way that is, see what makes it respectful you're giving feedback because you want to help the person grow, and learn, and improve, and develop.

Heather Sandison:00:58:59: So it's that intention. It's not putting down. It's not making someone feel less than. It's about really like, "Hey, I want to invest in you, and I think that this could be helpful."

Michael Gelb:00:59:10: Yes, and when you get really skilled at this, people want you to. They're asking me for feedback all the time I think. "Will you watch my presentation? Will you read my chapter in my book?" And I'm actually super critical. If you want to cook a dinner for me, I can critique it for you. If you were to send me some wines, I can critique them for you, or chocolates or Chinese teas. I'm very critical, because I have really high standards in all of these things. Having said that, I'll tell you my take on how you could improve what you cooked for me, but I'll do it in a way that you're going to feel really good about yourself and what you've done, and that you're in this process, in this journey of excellence.

Michael Gelb:01:00:00: You're done and that you're in this process and this journey of excellence and cooking, so, it's not that I'm not going to tell you what is less than ideal from my perspective, because 

Heather Sandison:01:00:15: It's just the [crosstalk 01:00:15] it comes in. 

Michael Gelb:01:00:16: Yeah and I joke, and this is true though, I never lie about food. Because you might serve me the same thing again. If I tell you “Yeah it was great,” I come back to your house, I've got to eat the same crap, crummy thing again. I'm not going to eat it. And my wife will tell you, If I'm sitting around, if you serve me dinner, and the food isn't good, or you pour me a wine and I don't think it's good enough, I won't be impolite, but I'm not eating it, and I'm not drinking it. 

Heather Sandison:01:00:46: Because you have to [crosstalk 01:00:46] the art of tact. Right?

Michael Gelb:01:00:47: Yeah, tact is in many cases a lost art. So I will change the subject, I will talk about something else, I might even say “ I had some of these just beforehand,” “This is so lovely thank you so much.” As I said there's times to be politely obfuscating. I won't unless somebody asks me directly, critique it. And even then I'd frame it in a way that was as supportive as it could possibly be. So I try to acknowledge what I though was the attempt of the recipe, the idea that was attempting to be executed, and my views on how it might have been executed to be a more integrated flavor profile. Because again, you might serve it to me again, and if I lie to you and tell you it was delicious and brag and say I loved it and it was fantastic, they say “Oh good, we're making your favorite, come back again next week!”

Heather Sandison:01:01:44: Then you're in for it. 

Michael Gelb:01:01:44: You got it. 

Heather Sandison:01:01:48: So this balance of energy, starting with feedback, both giving and receiving, and then I think a big piece of that was ending it with praise so that there is this balance. It's balance in the communication, it's balance in the energy exchange, it's balance in a lot of different ways, but making sure that the end result is that everyone leaves feeling a little more elevated. 

Michael Gelb:01:02:10: Yes. 

Heather Sandison:01:02:10: Does that take away from the balance of energy exchange?

Michael Gelb:01:02:14: Well they sort of get, this is how feedback goes along, but it doesn't mean you will necessarily always finish with praise, but you do always finish with encouragement. Encouragement is different than praise. So praise is whatever you can offer praise appropriately, most people love it, 

Heather Sandison:01:02:38: And take that to infinity. 

Michael Gelb:01:02:41: Yeah, I love if I can see something about somebody, acknowledge them for it, and they give me this “Oh my God thank you so much for saying that. That just means so much to me. Nobody has ever actually said that to me before.” We experience love that somebody saw you. They saw who you are, and then they expressed it to you. What a wonderful skill to develop. Having said that, sometimes, there may not be much that's praise-worthy, and you have to stretch, but encouragement is different than praise. It's complimentary. Encouragement is a general statement that you believe in someone. It encourages them it helps them have the heart, the courage to continue cooking, or public speaking, or writing, even if you wouldn't rank the meal, or the speech, or the essay, they just wrote at the level that they're aspiring to. 

Heather Sandison:01:04:08: Gotcha. And this comes in the context of that creating otherishness. Because giving that praise is very generous, it is an act of otherishness to take the time, to have the tact, to give the specific feedback, it's not effortless. So putting in that time like you said, this is an act of love, and it comes with that intention, and this is part of creating that otherishness, vs the giver, taker, matcher. 

Michael Gelb:01:04:35: Yes, yes. [inaudible 01:04:38]

Heather Sandison:01:04:39: Okay so you alluded to the rare listening. The art of communication right, this would not be anywhere near complete if we didn't talk about the aspect of listening. And you kind of talked about it, I think you referred to it in the context of how to understand what someone's needs are, so that as a leader, or as someone who can influence a situation, we can make sure that everyone's needs are met, and it's not a zero sum game, but really where everyone can be elevated together. Everyone can get what they're needing and more potentially, as there's creative ideas around what we can create. Getting creative I guess. So can you dive in to what being a RARE listener is? I love how you use these acronyms, because it makes it a little easier to remember it, and then when you're in that moment where it's really stressful, you're like “okay, check the boxes.” And I get a name through all of them. 

Michael Gelb:01:05:37: So, RARE is an acronym I made it which stands for receive, appreciate, reflect inquire. And it's rare. It's a rare experience for people to feel that someone really listened to them. Everybody thinks they're a good listener, just lik they think they're good at driving. But they're not, and they're not (laughing). 

Heather Sandison:01:05:59: So how do we get better? 

Michael Gelb:01:06:05: Right? So first thing is assess the timing, the relationship, the intention and the place you're in. That's another acronym I made up, TRIP. Timing, relationship, intention, place. To assess the context for the type of listening that's appropriate. So, sometimes you really do want to give your attention and listen to somebody, but it's not the right time, or it's not the right place. Sometimes, a relationship doesn't justify you giving your full attention for a significant period of time. Although you want to be generous, and air on the side of being as gracious as you can be, as often as you can be, if you try to give your full attention and terrible empathy to every single person you meet at all times, you'll be too much of a giver, and you'll get taken advantage of. 

Michael Gelb:01:07:06: So we have competing priorities, and that's part of what makes it important to assess the TRIP. Timing, relationship, intention, place. Then when you decide you really want to listen, and do RARE listening, you have to be present, and receive what the person is sharing, and the more you do so in an appreciative manner. And this is looking through to the essence of the soul, to the core of the person, and then being able to reflect back what they said. It doesn't mean repeating their exact words, but just reflect back the essence of what they said, and a simple test for that is to ask the person, “Have I accurately understood, and reflected back what you shared?” And its privy for someone to say yes, and if you really want to be skilled at this, you say “ Is there anything else?” Until hat person really feels like “you really listened to me.” And that's the inquirer asking those questions. And that's rare, it's simple. It's not complicated, but it requires full presence, and there's even that wonderful discipline called the appreciative inquiry, which is this process of [00:08:34 French] where you're using the respectful questioning process, to deepen your listening, and your understanding of those around you, and it creates solutions, this is one of the most powerful points of the art of connection, is that these processees, when you really connect with other people, you create a context where problems often solve themselves. 

Heather Sandison:01:09:14: Right and some of this also comes through the non-violent communications that you had discussed at the seminars. You had a new name for it, remind me what was is?

Michael Gelb:01:09:30: Oh yeah, so NBC, not by communication, it was created by Marshall Rosenberg. SO I call it Marshall arts. 

Heather Sandison:01:09:34: I love it. In the seminar, you referred to nonviolent communication and you have another word for that, or another term for that. Would you explain how nonviolent communication overlaps with this chapter?

Michael Gelb:01:09:46: Sure, well nonviolent communication was originated by Marshall Rosenberg, so I like to call it Marshal arts. I also like to refer to it as new context communication. Because it's the kind of communication that's more appropriate to a less hierarchical, more diverse workforce, a more organizational structure, which is increasingly what we see in the world today. So we [inaudible 01:10:16] use language in a hierarchal top-down, be right, don't be wrong, be good, don't be bad. And so onto those terms aren't necessarily as useful as other terms that will skillfully reflect the needs that we're aiming to fulfill in a given situation. So NBC, Marshall arts, or compassionate communication is based on simple notion. 

Michael Gelb:01:10:52: Let's see if we could just lay out an observation about what's happening, something that affects our well-being, without judging it, or framing it in terms of like, or dislike. Can we just lay out the data of the situation? Then, what feelings arise in response to that? And what needs are underlying those feelings? And then what requests might we have to meet our needs so that we have a feeling of mutual well-being? [inaudible 01:11:32] if I could learn first of all of myself, to just say “What's happening here?” Without judging it, or evaluating it, how do I feel about it? Where are my needs underlying those feelings? And what would I like? What are my requests to help meet those needs? Then if I could help figure that out for the other people that I'm interacting with who are affected by the situation. WHat's your view of what's actually happening? What are your feelings? What are the needs underlying your feelings? And what are your requests?

Michael Gelb:01:12:10: And it's so tragic that we go through life, people don't know how to ask for what they really need. It's not a skill we learn. So if you want to be a genius manager, leader, coach, parent, lover, [crosstalk 01:12:21] helping other people figure out what they're feeling, what they need, what they want. And they say “Oh my God you're a genius! You're a therapist! You're a hero! You're the best boss I've ever had! You're the lover I've always dreamed of!” Well, thank you (laughs). 

Heather Sandison:01:12:34: So it's just that simple? Just going through the steps. Really listening.

Michael Gelb:01:12:45: It's a wonderful map that creates many more options for people to really connect and deal with challenging, awkward, difficult situations, and minimize- My first principle of conflict management is, don't make it worst. And so often we make it worst by starting right away by starting right away with instead of our needs, we put forward our conditions. And instead of requests, we make demands. And all those responses tend to exacerbate the problem. 

Heather Sandison:01:13:29: Right. 

Michael Gelb:01:13:29: So do the opposite. 

Heather Sandison:01:13:31: So do the opposite (laughs).

Michael Gelb:01:13:34: The potential here, if we all learn, if those of us who did know were to put the effort, and take the time to communicate this way, the potential is limitless. I mean the whole world can change if this is put into action. That's pretty amazing. 

Heather Sandison:01:13:49: So you were talking about Marshall arts, and the last chapter in the Art of Connection, is Turning Friction into Moment. And this is another place where you apply some Marshal arts. And you've really taken your practice of aikido, and applied it to some of these concepts that you get from aikido into communication. Can you expand on that? Can you tell us more about how you do that?

Michael Gelb:01:14:14: Sure, well, aikido is a Japanese martial art, and spiritual practice, ai is the Japanese character that means harmony, ki is the same as chi, or prana, life-force, and do, like dow means path or way to enlightenment, path or harmonious energy, or spirit. And it's based on the idea that instead of couching force with force, we can find a way to dissipate that force and blend with it and turn it around. Instead of friction we can turn it into momentum. 

Heather Sandison:01:14:59: So you can transform that energy of something coming at you or something threatening into something really healing, or something very creative?

Michael Gelb:01:15:12: Yes. Yes. And then, in order to do that, you have to learn how to not take things personally for one thing, and to remain centered in the face of challenging circumstances. So it's not that you don't lose it, but you have to get it back really quickly, and the “it” that we're talking about is your centeredness, your balance. Literally your physical balance, it goes hand in hand with your emotional, mental balance. So this is part of the genius that aikido teaches you, to maintain that meditative state, when people are grabbing you or pushing you or hitting you, striking at you. 

Michael Gelb:01:15:55: And of course, beginners, these attacks are done in a very minimal way, so you can slowly develop this, but as you get more advanced, people really come at you, and you learn to stay balanced, and dissipate the energy of that attack and it's really fought, it's really cool. And it's a great metaphor for the interpersonal conflict and difficulties, if you [inaudible 01:16:27] somebody says something that upsets you, or you feel insulted, or you feel it's unfair, can you pause, and literally cover your balance.

Heather Sandison:01:16:42: I remember you mentioning that in the seminar, that it's not that you don't get thrown off balance, that's not the point. The point is how quickly do you regain it?

Michael Gelb:01:16:51: Yes, exactly, take cover.

Heather Sandison:01:16:53: And when you're skilled, you get back to that center faster than anybody can see. Right? The perception is that you don't lose your balance even though you have. 

Michael Gelb:01:17:02: Perfect. 

Heather Sandison:01:17:04: It doesn't influence the next step, the decision making, the interaction with the person, whatever it is that's coming next, doesn't get influenced by that feeling off kilter. 

Michael Gelb:01:17:16: Yes. And you even empathize with seeing the attacker. So you understand where they're coming from, or you understand the quality of the energy, and the intention of an attack, the better you can counter it, even if you want to use less ethically advanced responses, so-

Heather Sandison:01:17:46: Can you explain that?

Michael Gelb:01:17:47: Well, in other words, if you threw a punch at me, or insult me and I lose my cool, I probably won't be as good at insulting you back, or punching you back. But if you throw a punch at me, and I stay really centered and I move out-of-the-way so I have an angle towards your center line, I'm in a position where its easier for me to break your ribs, or hurt you, or I'm in a position where it's easier for me to come up with a really witty, nasty insult if that's what I choose to do (laughs). 

Heather Sandison:01:18:31: But you have a choice, so that's why the other chapters come first, so that we have the empathy and tact, and all the things- 

Michael Gelb:01:18:39: The point is that, you're centered, you're better able to choose your response to a situation. 

Heather Sandison:01:18:45: Right, mm-hmm (affirmative), instead of being reactive. 

Michael Gelb:01:18:48: Instead of just being in automatic fight, flight, hunkered down, unconscious mode. 

Heather Sandison:01:19:00: Gotcha. Yeah. 

Michael Gelb:01:19:03: So learning to be centered under increasing levels of stress, or to recover your center as you explained, is a really important skill. It's one of the most important skills in life. 

Heather Sandison:01:19:16: Yeah. 

Michael Gelb:01:19:18: Tai Chi, quigong, these are methodologies that teach this, in a very effective and enjoyable way. Then you have the option to be empathic, and you have the option to see what are the underlying feelings and needs and requests that this person would make if they were in a more centered state, and a more inwardly free state themselves. And perhaps you can find a win-win solution to the problem. 

Heather Sandison:01:19:53: What I so appreciate about your book, and what you've shared today, is that this is happening in the context of life. Life happens, people come at you, we interact, we have to be able to interact with people who aren't seeing the world through our lens. And then if we have these tools, and if we're putting them into place, we're using them effectively, then there's so much potential we can tap into, and we can de-stress, right? There's creative solutions that can come out of what might have been a very negative experience, or a negative interaction, and we can find ways to harness that energy, and really move it. We're not assuming that “Oh life is all hunky-dory, and everything's good, and we're all in perfect relationships.” We're assuming in this book that there's going to be stuff to grapple with, and here are the tools. Here are the tools hat you can try on, and see how they work. And you use them more and more, you become more and more skilled at applying them, and maybe even get better and better results

Michael Gelb:01:20:52: Learning to not take that personally, and be curious about the person's response, and actually I trained myself, whenever anybody would disagree, or say something challenging, to empathize with that. And I look for something in what they were saying that I could actually agree with. And I'd reflect that back to them, which almost invariably disarms them, and then you can lead the situation to continue the class and integrate in what they've said, and be respectful of it, or even agree with some element of it, and then provide yet another piece of evidence in response to it that might round it all out, and create an alignment, instead of a disconnect. 

Michael Gelb:01:21:46: So over the years, people come to me after my class and they say “Wow, I'm so impressed with the way you handled that difficult person.” And I'd say “What difficult person?” Because if I'm in a class, and I pay my money, [inaudible 01:22:02] and you pay your money and you're there for the weekend, and it's nice to look at the whales and everything, but you want to have a good class, so you have a right to ask a question. If you don't understand something, raise your hand. If you want to challenge me, I'd much rather you do that then be some passive aggressive person who never says anything, and then writes an evaluation. “Well he never talked about this, this, and this, this, this.” Then those are the more troubling things, people who won't deal with you directly. 

Heather Sandison:01:22:32: Right. 

Michael Gelb:01:22:32: That's a whole other world, that's a whole other book. 

Heather Sandison:01:22:36: And I think the questions that you were just referring to, if you're a leader, a parent, a teacher, no matter what situation you're in, if you're getting one of those questions, it's probably not the last time you're going to get that question, right? Because there's going to be a new employee, a new boss, or a new kid that comes through the class, or the seminar, and you're going to get that question again. So if you're prepared, if you've kind of gone through the steps of handling it once, then that's going to serve you in the future, to take on the next one. And probably, maybe there's some validity in it, right? Maybe there's something there to explore, and if we don't have our judgment up- 

Michael Gelb:01:23:12: You also have to do the disclaimers on your geniuses now, because there's a lot of people who just want to take down anyone who's historically famous. Especially, God forbid it should be a white male. 

Heather Sandison:01:23:27: Right (laughs).

Michael Gelb:01:23:28: So if it's not a minority person of some sort, we have plenty of those, because I empathize that when everybody represented, but there happen to be a lot of really genius, great white males, all of which had huge flaws, as does everyone from every background. So If you can acknowledge whatever the flaws are of the people openly, and not try to put anybody forward as the supreme- 

Heather Sandison:01:23:55: So I'd like to do a little teaser for How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, which is the 7 Steps to Genius Every Day, a book that you also wrote, a national bestseller, and I think that what we'll do, is do a second interview with you, where we can break down those seven steps. I think we've done a lot covering the Art of Connection today, and that personally for me was just such a gift, Michael, so thank you so much for writing the book, hosting the seminar, and then having this dialogue with me about how to apply it in life, and work. And I'm excited to do the same thing about How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. And you ave seven steps, and I'm wondering if just we can quickly list them. Would you mind doing that, so that people can have an idea of what we'll get into the next time we chat?

Michael Gelb:01:24:48: Sure. Well we should also contextualize it, and say that How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci actually came out 20 years ago, this week. It's the 20 year anniversary of the book. And then I wrote Innovate Like Edison with Thomas Edison's great, great, great grand-niece, and I wrote another book called Discovery of Genius, and How to Think Like History's 10 Most Revolutionary's Minds. There was another book called Creativity on Demand, How to Ignite, Sustain the Fire of Genius. 

Michael Gelb:01:25:24: So I wrote all these books about creativity, innovation, and learning from geniuses. The reason I wrote The Art of Connection is you also need to be a genius in communicational relationships if you're going to apply creativity, and you're going to apply innovation. So that's why The Art of Connection, that's where it fits. The previous books, How to Think Like Leonardo, Leonardo is my favorite model for creativity. And The 7 Steps to Genius Every Day, I'll say them in English, in the book they're in Italian. To awaken your curiosity and strengthen it as you get older. To cultivate the ability to think for yourself, be a critical thinker, and appreciate beauty in your life. To embrace uncertainty and learn to cultivate your intuition. To balance and integrate the logical, analytical part of your mind, the more imaginative intuitive part of the mind. To develop your body, mind, coordination, and strengthen your core energy. And then to find new connections, and relationships, and patterns, which is really the manifestation of creativity. 

Michael Gelb:01:26:43: So if you're curious, you think for yourself, you sharpen your senses, the result is you'll enter new territory, but now you're smiling like the Mona Lisa, you can embrace the unknown, you use your whole brain, you strengthen your body and mind, and the result is new connections, creativity. So that's the essential seven steps to genius, in the book How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. 

Heather Sandison:01:27:12: And have your potential, I love it. That is the idea, of how to get the most out of life, how to get the most out of what you're capable of, really show up in the world as your best self. So if you're interested, definitely be on the lookout for the next podcast with Micheal Gelb. We'll have him back as soon as we can both get it on our busy schedules, I'd love to put that on the books. Michael thank you so much for being here today, for all that you do, all that you contribute, for your leadership and communication style, being a great role model to the rest of us, and just really for your time. Thank you for carving out the time in your busy schedule, and sitting down with me, to have a very enjoyable conversation, thank you, thank you. 

Michael Gelb:01:27:59: My pleasure, and you might want to know, and tell your friends, and everyone who's tuning in, that I'll be back at Esalen, teaching the art of connection again, and then I'm doing a five day seminar called Body Learning, Poise, Presence, and Power, with the Alexander Technique, and quigong. 

Heather Sandison:01:28:26: Where is that one? Is that on the West Coast as well?

Michael Gelb:01:28:26: It's at Esalen. 

Heather Sandison:01:28:27: Oh also at Esalen, okay, great, and then- 

Heather Sandison:01:28:31: Go ahead. 

Michael Gelb:01:28:32: If people want to get information about those or the other public programs, they can go to michaelgelb.com, 

Heather Sandison:01:28:38: Thank you. 

Michael Gelb:01:28:38: G E L B, michaelgelb.com, and sign up for our newsletter, it's free, and get free videos and articles and all sorts of fun stuff. 

Heather Sandison:01:28:47: That'll be in the show notes below this on the website, and also we'll have links to the books. You've written, 16, 17 books? 

Michael Gelb:01:28:54: 15 so far, working on 16, 17 and 18. 

Heather Sandison:01:28:58: Oh my goodness that sounds like you do stay busy. 

Michael Gelb:01:29:01: So we'll have links to all of those so that you can learn more, both about the seminars that are available, the books that are available, and then michaelgelb.com, G E L B .com for other information about events, and exciting things coming up. Thank you Michael. 

Heather Sandison:01:29:18: Good to see you. 

Michael Gelb:01:29:19: Take care, 

Heather Sandison:01:29:19: Thanks. 

Michael Gelb:01:29:19: Bye. 



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