Coming up on this episode of the doctor’s pharmacy.
Dr. Mark Hyman:
Talking to someone straight, having a difficult conversation is really important. And it’s easier when you set it up properly. It’s easier when you frame it in the right way, when you start in the right way.
Welcome to the Doctor’s Pharmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman. That’s Farmacy with an F. Place for conversations that matter. And today we’re going to talk about a topic that is often challenging for people, which is being a people pleaser or as I call it, a nice-aholic, which I am guilty of and have been one most of my life. I’m really working on it. It’s not that I’m not inclined to be nice, it’s about telling the truth and not people pleasing where you make you unhappy and try to make everybody else happy and then nobody ends up being happy and it’s a big mess. So who relates? I bet you a lot of you relate out there. It’s important to take these things on because they affect the quality of our lives and our relationships, our effectiveness in life, our ability to do what we want.
So I encourage people to listen up on this one. It’s in our new format called Health Bite, which is a little bite of health tips to help you make small steps in your life that can create big changes over time. You know that I’ve talked about this before, I’ve written about it, and I thought it was really important to kind of talk about it again because it’s such a problem for so many people who feel no, right? Where your heart says no, your body says no, and your mouth says yes. Who can relate to that? I think many of us, and I’ve had that happen most of my life because I grew up in a situation where I had a rage-aholic stepfather who if I told the truth or I didn’t try to keep him pacified, it would be like hell. So I learned very early that it was good to lie or to not quite tell the truth.
I have a joke with my friend, he’s got the same problem. We call it [inaudible 00:02:04], which is sort of not quite being straight and not quite telling the truth and trying to people please. Actually it ends up being a very manipulative way of relating because you’re trying to control the other person’s emotions. You’re trying to control their reaction instead of having an authentic relationship based on the truth. That doesn’t mean you have to be mean, it just means you have to tell the truth with love. That’s a hard trick to do. But there’s a skill. It’s a skill like any other skill and you can learn how to do it. So maybe you’ve asked how I gave up being a nice-aholic. Well, I’ve built that model for myself of actually learning how to tell the truth and actually avoiding a lot of the disappointments from the conflicts that happened when you say yes, when you actually mean no.
Then I would complain about it and then I would get called out on the complaining, I’d work with my coach and she was basically like, “Oh, stop being a nice-aholic and a people pleaser. So really, really important to learn how to deal with what’s really going on in your life and face it straight on and being willing to deal with the consequences of whatever might be the reaction. It might not be something you like or who knows, it might be something that is even better than what you can imagine. Instead of dealing with the reality by actually telling the truth, you’re often avoiding people pleasing. So I think I learned I could do it and I learned there were really steps that helped me do it and I want to share some of those with you. It just kind of helps me to reset.
I still sometimes get this problem when I get an email from somebody or someone wants something, I want to help them, and I’m sort of too overloaded and I sacrifice myself to help them, which isn’t always a good thing. If I learn how to say no with grace and with love and with wisdom and kindness, then usually it goes fine. Talking about this and working with someone on it for a long time. I was able to reset these patterns and I’m going to share with you how you have a difficult conversation and it’s really important to learn how to have difficult conversations. There’s great books on this called Nonviolent Communication. I think there’s one called Difficult Conversations or Courageous Conversations, something like that. It’s really about how do you actually have an honest conversation. I grew up in a family where people didn’t do that, where you kind of had to manage each other’s emotions where it would be a blow up or a stuffy situation. They’re not great.
So what do we mean by communicating in a healthy way? What do we mean by grace? Well, you want to talk in a way that people can actually hear you. It actually required me to practice. Like in tennis. You can’t just go and play tennis and hit the ball and expect you can have a 400 backhand to serve and a net game overnight. You literally have to learn the strokes, you have to learn the technique, you have to practice it over and over. You have to write it down. I have to write often down what I’m going to say. Once you get good at it, once you do the mental, physical and emotional preparation for any conversation, you can do it in a way when you’re out of the activated state, you can do it when you’re calm and collected and cool. Then you can do it without blaming the other person or exaggerating what happened or making it about something bigger than it actually is.
It’s also about being curious about what the other person’s experience is. You don’t actually hate even have to agree with them. You don’t have to have the same perspective, but you can really listen and get where they’re at and have an understanding of it even if you don’t have that experience yourself or you don’t agree. So you don’t have to agree to actually have a relationship with someone, believe it or not. So also means actually being curious about the other person’s perspective, what their experience was and listen to what they said. So basically it’s a technique called active listening. You inquire about what someone’s feeling. You ask them to share, you listen, you don’t react. You don’t have a narrative in your head of what you’re going to say or how you’re going to rebut what they’re saying or why they’re saying is wrong or what you want to do to correct them or all this sort of stuff that goes on in your head.
Just be a blank slate and just deeply listen and then try to express back to them what you heard. How do they feeling? What was their experience? Try to get in their shoes and often just by simply having the experience of being heard, people will shift into a more relaxed, calm state. It really, really works. So you have to do that inquiry. Now, in terms of wisdom, that’s the other piece. I think for me, I realized that telling the truth is way better than not and that it’s not necessarily about lying. It could be omission, it could be softening the truth, it could be not being honest and hoping that you’ll just be able to manage the situation by avoiding it. Then all of those are forms of lying, I think. So talking to someone straight, having a difficult conversation is really important.
It’s easier when you set it up properly. It’s easier when you frame it in the right way, when you start in the right way. So you go in with an open slate, not having to prove your point and be right. So someone once said to me, you either can be in relationship or you can be right and you can choose. So often it’s not about being right or being validated in the way you think, but it’s about really getting someone and having them get you and then often that’s enough. So what are those steps to have a difficult conversation? Well, the first is ask for permission. Say, “Hey, I’d love to talk to you about something. Is this a good time? If not, when’s a good time? Let me know when you’re ready. I want to have a conversation about something important.” See what they say.
If they’re really not, that’s okay. You’ll say, “When is good? Is it tomorrow? Is it next week? Is it tonight?” Just give them a sort of a time so it’s not just, “Oh, it’s not good and it’s never good.” You want to be able to have the conversation. Next, explain your goals. To say you really want to understand each other. You want to have a conversation. You want to get more connected, not less. You really want to start with something positive. You want to give them some understanding that you see who they are, that you understand the perspective, you own your stuff. There’s a very simple rule called cop-to-it-iveness. You have to cop to it. If you had a role in whatever the dynamic was, own it. Really share your insights and reflect on what your role was, what you could have done differently.
It’s a little bit disarming for the person because they go like, “Oh wow, they’re taking responsibility.” And it feels like you’re not blaming them, you’re not pointing fingers. So it’s really very helpful. Then you’ve got to kind of draw on your wisdom, your higher self, because often we’re listening to that. I call it the inner asshole, which is our negative inner dialogue and think that’s real, but it’s our lower self. So call in your higher self. Sometimes you need to read. I had a friend who didn’t know how to do this, and I literally coached him and I gave him a script of, “Okay, here’s how you set up the conversation. Here’s what you say first. Here’s what you say. Second, here’s the questions you ask. Here’s how you share what you’re sharing.” It’s sometimes like that, but basically do it without blame or judgment. That’s the key.
You can say, well this is what it seemed like to me, or in my experience, or I could be wrong, but this is what I remember. Next, ask for their perspective. Once you’ve shared what you’ve got to share, and obviously you want them to practice active listening too. So it’s good if you can with somebody, especially a close partner or someone you have a long relationship with, to set up the parameters so they’re willing to be part of it too and work on it together and be tolerant of making mistakes of not getting it right and start over again. I mean, just give yourself some kindness in all of it. It’s really important to ask what their perspective is and what do they think. So give them a chance to really unpack that. How do you remember it?
That really helps. Then you can kind of come up with agreements like, “Okay, well I get this and I’m sorry for doing that and I’ll pay attention to the future and I hear you. I really get why you’re feeling this way about something.” It’s not something you’d have to address or fix, it’s just being heard sometimes enough. So people get relieved to say what’s in their mind, to be listened, to be seen. You might want to be together and as a team and say, “Okay, as a team, as friends, as partners, as business partners, as marital partners, spouse or friends, what is your goal together?” You want to stay more connected, you want to have more intimacy, you want to have more understanding. That’s where you’re moving towards. So it’s always about creating as an us against it conversation rather than us against each other.
It’s really important. So this is not easy. I encourage you to check out resources, we’ll put them in the show notes. But things like non-violent communication courses and conscious communication practices, active listening, really, really important to learn these skills. We don’t learn them in school. We don’t learn how to take care of our health, our money, and our relationships. It’s really important. Those are the three most important things we can do to have a good life. So I encourage you to check it out. How do you do that? Practice it. Don’t feel bad if you get it wrong or screwed up. There’s really no getting it wrong. There’s just learning and it really works. I promise you it works. It can diffuse almost any situation and it helps you build deeper connections and relationships. It’s really at the end of the day, what it’s all about.
So we hope you’ve loved today’s health bite. Share with us how you’ve learned to communicate better, have deeper connections, and to deal with you’re a people pleaser and a nice-aholic because we’d love to hear. Subscribe wherever you get your podcast and we’ll see you next week on The Doctor’s Farmacy.
Hi everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit IFM.org and search their find a practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner, and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.