How To Win Every Argument-Jose Rodriguez Ph.D.
José I. Rodríguez
Professor, Consultant, Trainer, and Speaker
Depth of Experience
Dr. José I. Rodríguez began teaching at the university level in the late 80s when, as a junior at Long Beach State, he was recruited to teach a facilitation course, focusing on interpersonal communication. He is celebrating his thirtieth year of teaching communication and a variety of other courses and workshops at colleges, universities, and organizations throughout the country.
Making a Difference
One of his heart-felt goals in life is to make the world a more empathic place through the practice of mindful communication. He is immensely grateful to his over 10,000 students, in the last decade alone, who have shown him what works and doesn’t work in an ever-evolving approach for helping people become effective communicators.
Focusing on Communication
A proud communication strategist and data scientist, with an eclectic background in rhetoric and performance studies, he holds several advanced degrees, all with a communication focus, from Long Beach State (an MA in Communication Studies) and Michigan State University (a Ph.D. in Communication). His diverse research is published in top-tier journals such as: Text & Performance Quarterly, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, Western Journal of Black Studies, Communication Research, and Communication Education. Blending big data with thick, rich data, he developed the first psychometric measures to assess the effectiveness of sexual assault interventions that use proactive performance, which features the highest level of audience participation and collaborative engagement
Advancing Research and Community Engagement
Dr. Rodríguez has received awards for the quality of his research from the National Communication Association (NCA), International Communication Association (ICA), and Association of Teacher Educators (ATE). His work has been featured on ABC7 Eyewitness News and KMEX 34 Univision in Los Angeles. He has also found the time to serve as a trainer and consultant for public and private organizations across the nation, partnering with brands to create communication solutions for strategic change. As a volunteer in his local community, he facilitated role performance training activities in a 16-week program, serving the needs of homeless, female survivors of sexual trauma—some of whom were combat veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
Going Global, Multicultural, and Multilingual
In his role as Coordinator of Multicultural Innovations for the Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity program (BUILD), Dr. Rodríguez created interactive workshops to cultivate a culture of inclusive excellence through conversations that make a difference in daily discussions. As a native speaker of Spanish who has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and North America, he is updating the 2nd Edition of his latest text, Interpersonal Communication for Contemporary Living, to reflect the embodied and authentic experiences of multicultural and multilingual traditions throughout the world.
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resolving conflicts is a problem that I would say almost every couple has. This next guest really goes into depth on how to work through resolving a conflict both together and individually and really get step by step instructions and very, very helpful. Let me introduce him to you. Dr Jose, I Rodriguez began teaching at the university level in the late eighties when as a junior at long beach state. He was recruited to teach a facilitation course focusing on interpersonal communication. In 2018, he celebrates his 30th year of teaching communication and a variety of other courses and workshops at colleges, universities, and organizations throughout the country.
One of his heartfelt goals in life is to make the world a more empathic place through the practice of mindful communication. He is immensely grateful to his over 10,000 students and the last decade alone who have shown him what works and doesn't work, and an ever evolving approach for helping people become effective communicators. A proud communication strategist and data scientists with an eclectic background and rhetoric and performance studies. He holds several advanced degrees, all with communication focus from Long Beach State and Michigan State University. His diverse research is published in top tier journals such as text and performance, quarterly journal of multilingual and Multicultural Development, Western Journal of Black Studies, communication, research and communication education, blending big data with thick rich data. He developed the first psychometric measures to assess the effectiveness of sexual assault interventions that as proactive performance which beaches the highest level of audience participation and collaborative engagement.
Dr Rodriguez has received awards for the quality of his research from the National Communication Association, International Communication Association and Associates, creation of teacher educators. His work has been featured on ABC seven eyewitness news andK , m e x 34 univision in Los Angeles. He has also found the time to serve as a trainer and consultant for public and private organizations across the nation, partnering with brands to create communication solutions for strategic change as a volunteer in his local community. He facilitated role performance training, yes activities and a 16 week program serving the needs of homeless female survivors of sexual trauma, some of whom were combat veterans, Operation Iraqi Freedom in his role as coordinator of multicultural innovations for the building infrastructure relating to diversity program build Dr. Rodriguez created an interactive workshops to cultivate a culture of inclusive excellence there, conversations that make a difference in daily discussions as a native speaker, Spanish who has lived in the Caribbean, Europe in North America. He is updating the second edition of his latest text, interpersonal communication for contemporary living
to reflect the embodied and authentic experiences of multicultural and multilingual traditions throughout the world. Really accomplished amazing person. Can't wait for you to meet him. Let's get started.
Hi and welcome to make more love not war. This is Tara Harrison, a licensed professional counselor and relationship expert. This is her husband, Jeff Harrison. Have no qualifications whatsoever. Just a normal dude. I'm here with Dr Jose Rodriguez. Thank you for coming to the show. Welcome.
Thank you so much for having me. A pleasure to be here.
I always start off with the personal side of things and so I'd like to know what led you to being passionate about communication studies?
Well, you know, not too long ago in a place not too far from my heart, I discovered this memory that I use to navigate and answer that question. One of my favorite professors said something that I will always remember. His voice spoke to me. I listened and he said something like this. He said, I like you, you have an intuitive grasp of the obvious. Now at the time, I wasn't sure if that was a compliment or an insult. You see, insignificance was my first name. Insignificance was my middle name, and insignificance was my last name. It was like the Trifecta of insignificance. I was the first person in my family to go to college. Uh, English was my second language and I came from a family of refugees. So the intersectionality of my reality was, was obvious and hidden at the same time. So I wasn't sure what he was noticing and, or not noticing about, you know, my performance of self.
So, so you might imagine where my thoughts went, um, and please excuse my Spanish and not French, but in my head I thought, you know, what's, what's happening with this governor on, is there something going on, you know, and I kind of did some swearing in Spanish in my mind, but I knew then that, you know, I couldn't say those things out loud because that would be disrespectful. It was somebody that I liked. It was somebody that I respected. And even then when I knew nothing of mindfulness, I knew enough to take a second look at my first thought. And so I paused, I'm, I reflected and I asked myself three questions, you know, who am I in this situation? Uh, what is my purpose and what can I do? And that's my version of those age old questions like, who am I, why am I here? And is this all there is? And sure enough a response came and um, I said to him, the mic going again on this one day again edits and I asked him, do you know what that means? And he shook his head no. And of course I knew that he didn't know and I said, well, let me tell you what it means. It means tell me who you hang with and I will tell you who you are.
And so it was crickets. Silence. Right? And what he said next really changed the trajectory of my life and what he said next really launched the start of my word. He turned to me a whispered with a tenderness that really touched my heart. And he said, what is not so obvious to the many is, oh, so obvious to the few like you
Oh Wow, man, master Yoda has entered the building. Right? So I thought, is he exaggerating his, he just being nice? Is it some type of a Jedi mind trick? But I realized looking back now that those moments with him really helped me feel seen for the first time. It brought me out of the darkness of insignificance and into the light of a person who mattered in the moment. And so my work and communication has really been about finding ways to create conversations where people feel seen, valued, and heard so that we can build connections, move forward in ways that are helpful, useful and preferable.
Yeah. And the power of being seen and feeling heard can take you from feeling like you're nothing to knowing what your true potential is.
Exactly. Exactly. So, you know, so many of us in life really don't feel seen. We don't feel heard. We don't feel valued. Um, especially in our society where there are so many distractions. And when someone takes an opportunity, uh, to share what they see in you lay, serve the role of a mirror in your life for all the beauty that we all have. And that's what he did for me and what I do in my own way for others through the study of communication.
Well, what do you see as the major pitfalls and communication and interpersonal relationships that lead to conflict? This is something that our listeners have asked about a lot.
There are a lot, as I'm sure your listeners have been asking you, that could be the subject of seven podcasts. So let's just focus on, on a couple, um, a couple of topics or ideas that are pitfalls. The first one I like to call, how will you deal with how you feel? Okay. And um, for me that comes down to the idea of mindfulness and how you deal with, um, how you feel. And I want to just talk a little bit about what mindfulness means because we hear that all the time and people often say, okay, mindfulness, what the heck does that mean? Does that mean that I need to sit in a corner and meditate all day? And, and again, if you're a monk, that's great and that will work for you. For most of us in the 21st century, uh, here in the United States or any place in the world, really, that may not be the thing that, that we need to do or that we can do.
So mindfulness is really this idea of being aware of what is arising for you in a moment or in the moment. And then being able to navigate the interaction or the conversation in ways that are thoughtful or preferable and what I want to do is just share a four step process that I use and that I have my students use, my clients use. And that process I think gives us some insights into how mindfulness can work every day, every moment in some very helpful ways that are useful. All right, so the four step process. Let me, let me just give you some basics here of the major categories. Um, the force that model has these pieces. Notice who were pause, breathe, reflect, and choose. And let me go into each of those a little bit more specifically so that you know what that means. The first one is to notice or to bring awareness of a negative feeling or the trigger as quickly as possible.
And practice recognizing the early warning signs of emotional reaction saying or reminding yourself this feeling is a reaction that I can pay attention to right now. Right? Oh, I just got triggered. Oh Gosh, I'm feeling this anger, or I'm feeling this emotion. Or, ah, I'm noticing in this moment that something is coming up for me. That's number one. Number two is to direct attention to the breath. Now lie the breath. The breath is really important because think about what you do when you get triggered. I don't know about you, but when I get triggered, the first thing I do is I go and I stopped breathing, which is horrible because my heart starts going crazy. My central nervous system thinks that I need to fight something and it's just terrible, so allowing yourself a sense that you can breathe in that moment and just take a breath and let go of any physical tension and I know that that's easier said than done, but just take a moment and breathe and we can do that right now.
Wonderful, and allow that natural quality of the breath to be a calming source of comfort where you're just breathing and allowing a very natural sensation of the air coming in and out of your body and just relax. Then the third step is this idea of reflection and reflection is just taking a moment to ask some very important questions. One is, is there a pattern in this reaction? The second one is, have I seen this reaction before, or what is this reaction about what's going on here? Um, the next one might be how does this reaction come up?
And in response to all those questions I might find, for example, ah, there's anger, or I'm feeling hurt or I'm feeling nervous, or whatever it is. So let's just go with anger. I'm feeling angry and usually I'm feeling angry because there's something underneath the anger and underneath the anger might be a feeling of hurt or frustration or not being seen. And then once I realized that, once I say, ah, there's this anger, I can then do step number four and make a choice, choose all right, what am I going to do with this anger? What can I do that is under my control to make a positive change? Or what would be helpful in this situation? What would be useful? What might I do to make things better? And then I just pause. You can just pause and give your mind and your body of woman to think, ah, maybe I need to take a break.
Maybe I need to hit the pause button and say, Hey, listen, I feel very angry right now and I just don't think I can continue the conversation. So can we talk about this later? Or Hey, I'm really feeling angry right now. Can we? Can we just have a conversation about that? Or can you just pause for a moment because I'm feeling triggered or attacked or hurt by what was just said. Those are all different ways of choosing to speak in a way that doesn't amplify the anger but acknowledges it and then allows it to be okay or to pause. I'm one of the things that is very important to realize as we talk about anger, for example, is that sometimes we just need a break. We just need to hit the pause button. There's no name to continue a conversation to its logical conclusion, especially in the midst of anger because anger, you're likely to say things that you might regret or that come from the voice of anger and not from the voice of love or compassion or understanding.
So hitting that pause button, taking a break, letting your partner know, hey, listen, I care about you. I'm concerned about you. I, I, I want to have this conversation, but right now I just feel angry and I just need a break, so let's circle back to this conversation in 20 minutes or an hour or maybe tomorrow or let's watch a movie so that when we come back to have this conversation, we can come from a place of caring about each other and using our language in a way that is helpful to the relationship. So those are the four steps I'm noticing. Reflect a great breathing, reflecting, and she was a notice. Pause, breathe, reflect, and choose. Does that make sense?
It does. And what I really liked that you would like to point out and what you said is in the last step of how to communicate this to your partner, where a lot of times what I see as people say things like your making me angry, you're making me so frustrated and it's really more directed to the other, but what I want to highlight, what you're saying is taking responsibility and acknowledging your own feelings. Not Directing it towards the other end saying, I'm really feeling angry. I'm feeling disappointed. I'm really feeling frustrated with this situation. Doesn't happen. Not necessarily you with the situation and being really mindful of how you communicate that back to your partner and then letting them know that you need a break. Not that your creating the break that everyone has to take, but you need it. And then also that you're going to get back to them and 20 minutes or an hour or tomorrow, but letting them know. Because a lot of times with couples where the situation happens, where one person wants to resolve in the other person needs a break, is that person that wants to resolve, fills, abandoned, but if that person needing a break is able to say, I need this amount of a break and I'm going to come back to it, then that has a much better resolution. So I just wanted to highlight those things that you pointed out. I think those are really important.
Amazing. Yes, I agree with you. There's, um, there's that tendency to want to resolve things right in the moment because there's, there's the heat of it, and let's be honest, let's get real as this happens in the real world with real people and times a person who is very interested in resolution wants to be met, right? They want to be met in that moment of frustration and they don't want you to leave. That is completely understandable. And at the same time, the other partner might need to take a break, which is, which is legitimate. And so understanding this process, this four step process is a way for everyone to come to an awareness that we're not ignoring each other. We're not trying to be disrespectful, we're not stonewalling to be mean or hurtful. What we're doing is we're being very respectful of the relationships and about the importance of the conversation and allowing ourselves to take some time to just take a break and then come back when we're involved in a in a better space to deal with the issue, whatever it is, in ways that are much more helpful, constructive or useful,
coming, coming to the conversation from a place of curiosity and acceptance versus defensiveness, which you would have been in if you didn't take that break.
You would have definitely been in that space of defensiveness, of anger, of blame, and then the conversation turns into a blame game. Turns into accusations which really amplifies the conflict instead of bringing it to a place of resolution, which is ultimately what everybody wants. What everybody wants is to get along and to move through it and to feel heard. And when we understand that in this process, I think we can learn to be more patient with each other and find ways that we're.
Yeah. I wanted to just add one thing to what you said about that adding the time where you say, Hey, I'll get back to this in 20 minutes or Gimme Gimme til tomorrow. I just need to think about having something like that. Sort of like the progress bar. Like when you're downloading something, you have a progress bar if you have no idea when it's gonna happen, you feel like it's never gonna happen. And that reminds me of. I remember hearing something. So I lived a little, uh, I spent some time over in London when I was young when I was riding high school. And I remember like when you're sitting there waiting for the subway, it would actually have a time there that would count you down to exactly when the train was going to show up. So you walked in there and say, okay, the next one's going to be in two minutes.
And it, we counted it. You would know exactly. And it would show up right or perfect, and I remember hearing somebody talk about that that said, hey, that was one of the greatest things I ever did for the subway. Because when people know that, hey, the thing's going to be here and this amount of time, or gives me some perspective, there's so much more calm and so you're allowing the other person by giving them a time to be more calm about it, that it's not just in the wilderness, it's never gonna show up that, that this decision never going to happen.
That's exactly right. So giving a timeframe, giving a a parameter, and again, the couple needs to arrive at that timeframe, on their own. I can't tell you a priori whether 20 minutes is going to work for you or an hour or a day, people are going to work that out in conversation with each other. But giving, giving the other person a preview, right? I'm 20 minutes and hour the next day or whatever, uh, allows for that perspective that you just shared, Jeff, where there's a, there's a reduction in uncertainty and people feel less anxious about what's coming up next and we can come into a place of understanding
Well often with these conversations, you know, especially ones that are really triggering where you, where you need to really go through those steps. The reason they're so triggering is because people are talking about issues and where they, they each have a dream and the conversation is where their dreams seem to be opposing each other. And that could be like in another podcast we talked about a, a, a dream of being generous versus a dream of saving money when people are talking about money, which, which can really go into deep conflict and being able to resolve that and work through dreams. And so that's where I've seen with the couples I've worked with, that the conflict is so much deeper and it's really hard to work through those feelings of wanting to persuade and feeling defensive instead of being instead of really being in that place. Of curiosity and acceptance, do you have any other tools that you've seen in your studies and communication to help people move from defensiveness and wanting to persuade to being open to understanding?
So again, I could go on for longer than we have time for, but uh, you know, one of the things that I hear you, uh, addressing that I think is, is very important is the idea of what I've come to understand in the literature as empathy and empathy is a variable that we've looked at quite a bit in the literature over the last 30 years and we have a pretty good handle on how it works. So I want to talk a little bit about empathy, the, the factors that are connected with it and then walk you through kind of a little causal model that helps us get a sense of it. Um, I like to think about in, in three in three factors. One is this idea of understanding and we call it, we call it technically perspective taking, which is, I understand or I get it, or I understand what's happening with this person or with you.
Right? And that's Kinda the first step of empathy perspective taking or understanding the other person's point of view and then usually when we were able to do that, what arises pretty organically as a feeling of concern, um, where I feel a sense of concern for the welfare of another person and we'd call that empathic concern. I am caring about you and I'm concerned about your wellbeing. And then the last part is action a or a movement to action because when we're concerned about somebody, we want to do something to be helpful. Uh, we wanted to do something to be helpful. I always give the example of imagine that you're walking down the street and you see a, uh, a woman and she has a bunch of books or packages and she can't really see what's ahead of her. And all of a sudden she stumbles and she falls.
And all the books are packages fall all over the floor. Now, for the average person, for the average healthy person, the natural response is, oh my gosh. I'm like, can I, do I want to help her? And here's somebody where I understand their situation. I have a feeling of concern and I am moved to help and I believe that that process of going from perspective taking to impact that, a concern to comfort him or support is what we need in navigating conversations with our relational partners. And it speaks to the issue of curiosity that you were talking about earlier, right? If I, if I'm curious, then I'm very likely to understand your perspective, right? And have a sense of concern of maybe helping you live your dream, right? Because I'm concerned about you. I want to be healthful and aligned with your dream and then I feel organically moved to, um, help you in that, in that direction.
So those are, those are three pieces. And notice the last one is kind of a move to action, right? And people always ask, okay, how do we move to action? That's kind of a tricky part, right? Because we're talking about change and change is scary. It's terrifying because change requires us to resist our automatic reflexes, right? Um, and we need to then choose mindfully, intentionally alternatives. And often we need to act in ways that are the opposite of our automatic reflexes and act in ways that are novel, unusual, frightening, and all those things are very, very difficult. And I'll share a story as a metaphor to help us understand what I mean here. And I call it resisting the running reflects an angry dog in a strange neighborhood. That's the story. Okay. So not too long ago, not too long ago, uh, my dad was, um, he was riding his bike in a strange neighborhood and he was riding along and all of a sudden he caught a glimpse of this huge dog that was starting to run after him and the dog kept coming.
But my dad said, well, you know, I'm on a bike. I can outrun this dog. But the dog kept gaining and gaining and gaining. And my dad had to make a conscious choice. Was he going to continue in flight mode right on automatic pilot or was he going to do something different? And he decided to do something fairly radical. I don't quite know how he did it, but he got off his bike. God his bike and put it in between him and the dog bone. When that happened, the dog came to an absolute standstill. I would imagine. The dog said to himself, oh my gosh, big human metal thing between me and human. Better stop, assess situation, danger or something like that. That's my best dog. Impressions aren't right, and then in that moment it created a gap, a moment where everything that was going on in that scene stopped and just about a half a block away, the owner came out of the house and said, buffy, buffy, where are you girl?
And calling the dog. Buffy who's like a 120 pound rottweiler, but, but the idea is my dad did something that was not an automatic reflex that is actually very counterintuitive and that probably saved him from the pain of being bitten by a dog. That was probably pretty close to catching him and taking him down. So that's a great little story to help us understand that even though we might be driven to pursue kind of an automatic reflex, we can take time as human beings to create that gap. To make a different decision that might move the interaction in a way that is kind of helpful, useful, or changed the trajectory of a situation and in those moments where we see that choice as possible, we really create opportunities to be more loving, more caring and more compassionate toward our partners.
That was so interesting that you were talking about your dad and the dogs and everything. I had a very, very similar situation myself. So I was. I was actually at my parents' house and I was outside on the phone and these wild pit bulls that were neighbors, they got out of their backyard and these dogs had been terrorizing the neighborhood. They came out and I'm on the phone and they start running around me and I'm just standing there, no big deal. And then all of a sudden I'm like, wait, these aren't going away. That usually they'll come dog barking. The would go away. And uh, sounds like, oh, I need to go back inside the house. So I got off the phone, I turn. And as soon as I turned to walk back into the house, they bit me and I was like, and as soon as I turned I went, oh, that's it.
And I can't run. I thought I can't run because if I start running they're just going to jump me. So, so I just turned around and put my hands up like I was a bear or something and just started making a bunch of weird noises and once they saw that I wasn't running and they didn't know what I was doing and I just slowly as slow as I could back into toy towards the house, they did that same thing. They were like, okay, this is different. I have no idea what he's doing right now. So let's just step back just like your dad did. It was kind of interesting that you said that.
Excellent, excellent example confirming this idea of um, you know, resisting the running reflex, right? I mean it goes back to things that we've heard about in psychology for a long time, you know, the fight, flight or freeze response, right? And you had a moment of mindfulness to say, hi, I am not going to run here. No Way, right? Because if I run, I know that they're going to bite me, so I'm going to choose something different. I'm gonna choose, excuse me, to act like a bear for example. Now what's wonderful about that story is that it gives you, jeff and all our listeners an example of how you've done in the past. Therefore you can do it again in the future, in a moment of anger and a moment of desperation in a moment of frustration. Because if you were able to do it with the pimples, let me tell you, you're going to be able to do it with your partner.
Well, and I love how you both have brought up this physical example of what we have to work through emotionally to develop empathy because there is that resistance and people ask, well, what is empathy? And it is. There is a resistance that you have to go through emotionally to be able to take someone else's perspective because you're pushing through like, this is always how I think. This is my dream, this is, this is about me, this is what I want, and the fear of the other person not understanding you. You have to push through all of that to do something different, to have a different way of seeing something and be able to see their perspective without them, for seeing yours. And that is like being attacked by a dog and having to change the way you'd react. And that's such a great example. I love it.
Thank you. Thank you. I think you're right on. Um, you know, we do feel attacked. That's the truth of it. You know, uh, you know, dancing around the issue is, you know, are talking about it in some other fluffy way just doesn't really help. It helps to just be very honest and say we do feel attacked. We do feel threatened. We do feel triggered for all the reasons you just articulated. And so that metaphor of, you know, looking at times in our lives where we've been, where we feel attacked and yet we've turned and done something different. Something creative, something helpful helps to create a memory right in our hearts. And our bodies of, Gosh, you know, I've done this before. I can do this. Come on, I don't like, Gosh, of course this isn't anything new. It's just a matter of being able to, I guess, pull from those resources that all of us have available to us in those times of conflict, of controversy, of doubt and, and to just be able to drop into those moments of vulnerability and say, hey listen, look right now I'm just feeling very triggered. I, I'm feeling very angry. I'm scared, I'm afraid. I'm frustrated. Whatever the feeling is. And then speak from that place. I tell you, if there is anything that brings two people together, is naming it, whatever it is, the frustration, the anger, the vulnerability that hurt, name it,
and then speak from that place. And when you hear people do that, seven times out of 10, the other partner says, oh gosh, honey, I'd had no idea. I'm so sorry. I didn't know. I didn't have a clue. I didn't know that this was so important to you. I didn't know that you were so angry. I didn't know that. What I said was so hurtful because many times the other person, the other party is not intending to attack you. They're coming from a place of not knowing and so when you open up to that not knowing and allow the conversation to come from that place, we can come together and be more loving and kind.
What you're talking about here, a kind of reminded me of they're in. There's a book called never split the difference and it was written by an FBI negotiator and he talked about tactical empathy is what he talked about. So, so you have. Let's just say you've got A. Somebody who's got some hostages or something like that and he said, don't feel their pain. Label it. If you can label their pain and say things along the lines of it seems like you don't want to go to jail. You're afraid that we're going to. It seems to me that you think we're going to come in with guns blazing and just labeling the things that they're fearful of and saying it over and over and over again. Once they start to do that, they start to feel like they're being heard and then ultimately they'll just sort of give in, basically is what would happen over and over again. But he isn't sitting there saying, Oh, I understand you're, you know, you're scared or you're that or you know, he's, he's, he's really called it tactical empathy. It was this whole thing, just like you said, labeling it.
I think that the idea of tactical empathy is, is a wonderful one to talk about. Uh, um, uh, an intense situation, right? With hostages, right? And here are professional, hostage negotiators. Speaking about empathy in a context where we wouldn't normally think that that would be a factor to consider. But yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And, and Jeff, I really appreciate those examples because those examples lead us into the wonder of dialogues and notice the questions that were asked, Huh, I get the sense or it seems to me that you might not want to go to jail or it seems to me that you might be feeling angry or I get the sense that your feeling afraid and then asking a question, is that right? Am I in the ballpark? Does that make sense? Am I getting that right? Please help me understand. And then you go into silence
and let them respond. And then that opens the door to dialogue. So I think Jeff, you provided a wonderful segue because, you know, not only are we talking about empathy, but we're really talking about opening the doors to dialogue so that the other person feels heard and seen. And then you ask a question about what you're noticing and allowing them to fill in the blank. And I'd tell you there's nothing more beautiful than somebody saying to you, hey, listen, I, it seems to me that you're feeling hurt or frustrated. Am I on the right track? Am I missing something? And then they allow you to answer and you were invited into dialogue and in that moment you can't help but feel validated, confirmed scene and all of a sudden you don't. You probably don't want to fight as much as you did before because you're. You're getting the thing that you want them. So I think those, those questions and that noticing and labeling are awesome.
Also like what you both pointed out, which is that you to have empathy doesn't mean that you have to actually take on the other person's feelings. I think a lot of people are afraid of having empathy because they feel like, well, I have to take this on. And so I think that the big key to remember here is that the compassion, the empathy comes in having the boundaries of knowing that you can understand someone else's feelings, but you don't have to take it on. You can allow them to pour their glass into yours, their fear, their, their sadness, their fear, but then you can just pour that glass right back out. You don't have. You can hold it and hold a space for it, but you don't have to take it in. And so that, I think it's a huge point so that people understand, like it's not going to be overwhelming to feel empathy because you don't have to keep it. You don't have to keep the other person's feeling inside of you. It's not yours, it's theirs.
You don't have to feel it. Um, so, uh, that's a wonderful distinction. I think that it can be very confusing. So I want to make a distinction between two things because that's very real. That's very, very, very real. Some of us are very impassive, some of us are very sensitive. Some of us, some of us pick up on energy or vibes in the room and a very powerful way. So I want to make a distinction between two concepts. One is this idea of empathy or empathic concern, which is a of concern for the other person. All right? And so I hear what you're feeling and then I feel concerned for you. That's what we're ultimately shooting for. But then there's another feeling that comes along very often, especially if you're sensitive, especially if you're very empathic and that's what I call emotional contagion, which is their depression or their anger.
You actually feel it in your body because that happens. It just does, right? So what do you do with that? Well, that that can be very difficult for you if you're taking it on just unconsciously or just because you're in the same room with them and that's when you might need to say, Hey, I need to take a break. I need that 20 minutes. I need that hour. I need that extra day because right now in speaking with you, I am feeling the anger so much. I am feeling the depression, or I'm feeling this frustration and I need time to process this. I need to go take a walk. I need to go watch your movie and then let me come back when I can kind of be in a space to speak about this because it's very difficult for me right now. So I think that those two distinctions are very valid and very important to realize. Sometimes we will go into a emotional contagion by feeling the feelings of other people and that can be overwhelming in the moment, but now we know that through mindfulness we can hit the pause button, right? Take a break and say, hey, let's come back to this later and see if that works to make the conversation more productive.
Yes, and I love those techniques that you're talking about. That's something that I personally struggle with as a highly sensitive person and I've learned to set boundaries with Jeff when I'm like, you know, I know you're excited but your energy is too much for me right now even though it's happy energy and I need to take a break from this conversation. And so we've worked at that out between each other and it's, it's been a difficult road for me to understand that about myself and for him to understand that about me. Like, well I'm happy. Like why is this overwhelming to you? So I mean that is definitely a very real issue issue that couples come into.
Right? And, you know, we all have difference ways of moving in the world in different temperaments, different personality styles, different ways of processing information and being respectful, right, of those different ways of moving in the world and saying, Oh gosh, I get it. Um, yeah. You're not trying to be mean by walking away. You're just overwhelmed and needing some time to kind of get into a space where you can have a conversation with me and then I can understand. Oh Gosh, I'm really excited and I want to share this with you. Can I share it with you? Maybe just for five minutes and then you can go to another room and then I can share with you maybe in another five minutes later on because I just, you know, I love you so much and I want to share this with you, but oh my gosh, I know I can be a little overwhelming. I'm sorry, but I right. And then taking that moment right is great.
Oh my gosh. I left because that you hit the nail on the head. That is how jeff and I's exchanges go. It's so funny. Yup. Very true. And, and these, and being overwhelmed and being triggered isn't always necessarily in a conflict situation, right? It can happen. It can happen even with excited energy where people need to take a break and that's okay too.
It can be, it can be very overwhelming. And as you were describing your interaction with Jeff, uh, what I hear you saying is that there's humor there too,
right? Yeah, I hear you. I hear you. Right. Exactly. So there's this wonderful. It doesn't have to be this serious thing. Oh Wow. Now I need to go through the four steps and after the fourth step I need to breathe and then I need to tell you to create a boundary so that, I mean, to be like, we go into spock mode, right? We can be funny and laugh. Oh, here we go again with my overexcitement. Oh Gosh. I'm going to overwhelm your. Wait, wait. I'm just so excited. I'm so sorry. We just laugh, right?
Yes, definitely. And I think that thinking about conflict, I wanted to ask you next about repair techniques. So I think that's a great segue into that because for us, humor has been a great repair technique for conflict and for hurt feelings and just I kind of joke and tell jeff that he's like a labrador because he gets really excited like that and sometimes that will diffuse, but I'm like, Hey, you stop jumping on me. You know what? I need to take a break. Um, that diffuses that hurt that he may feel of, of, of feeling like, well, I have something to share and she doesn't want to hear it. He can realize, oh, okay, I'm, I'm like a dog jumping on you. I just need to go take a break and then come back because she does want to hear it. But, but she needs to be able to be present. Um, and so going back to conflict in repair techniques, I think humor is a great one. I'm wondering what other ones that you've seen that work well for people when we're trying to resolve conflict but need to repair some hurt first.
A repair is very important. You know, I know that you're familiar with Dr John Gottman and Julian governments work and I remember seeing him years ago and he said something that, you know, we all know, but it's very important to reiterate and he made the argument that fighting or arguing isn't really the problem. What is really the problem is the lack of repair afterwards. Correct? Right. So people say, Oh gosh, I don't want to fight because fighting is such a problem, or I don't want to get into an argument because the argument is a problem and that's not really the problem. The problem is that people don't engage in the regular practice or ritual of repair. So I love your example with Jeff. I think it's a, it's a beautiful testament to how we can work together. I think humor is exquisite. It works for some people. It doesn't work for others, but I think humor is really good.
I love, I love the fact that you've created metaphors that work for you. Right? Oh, the Labrador thing. And then, and then Jeff says, well, you know, oh gosh, I'm kind of acting like a dog. I met her, just kinda chill, right, and give her some time to adjust, relaxed because I don't want to be acting like a dog. Oh my God. How funny. And that reduces the tension and you've created that in your relationship. You've created that metaphor and it works. And it is a unique creation that you to um, you know, built together. I think that that's a brilliant, uh, the other one is really taking a moment to apologize. Um, and then apologies are, are very important because there's a recognition that, oh gosh, um, you know, I messed up or it's simply my bad. You know, these days we do that all the time.
Oh my bad, right? Or I'm sorry a. But really in an apology, what we're saying is that we acknowledged that something went wrong or that was unintentional. And then to be able to say, look, I, I take responsibility for that. I'm sorry I, I really didn't mean to hurt you. I didn't mean it that way. I didn't intend it. It just came out. And then the last piece, which is what people I think really, really want to hear, is to say, look, I'm going to work on this. I'm gonna do my best to not let this happen in the future. And if it does, please be patient with me. I'm working through it because this is so hard for me. Right? Those kinds of things I think are very healing, right? Not You just say I'm sorry, but to say I'm working on this and I'm going to do my best not to, um, not to do it in the future, but in the event that I do, please be patient with me.
I'm working on it and hopefully I can come to a space where you know, that behavior, you know, doesn't, doesn't come from me anymore because the last thing that I want to do is hurt you. I love you. I care about you. My relationship with you is important. Um, which is another piece that I wanted to just share with you. You know, Dr Gutman and his research talks about the five to one ratio. And this is another thing that becomes very important as notice in my delivery of that message. How many times I said something positive and affirming, right? I'm sorry, I love you. I care about you. I want this relationship to work. You're important to me. You matter. I've said it in six different ways. So the negativity in the language is actually very minor. And the positive things of, uh, you know, my caring for you, my concern for you, my love for you, those are things that are dominant.
So another thing that I think is very important in repair attempts is to focus on all those affirming, positive messages that will create a sense of healing. So just to recap, I think humor is very important. I think that an apology with those features that I was telling you about, hey, I'm sorry I'm working on it. And then really creating a way for us to have that five to one ratio where I'm commenting on what I care about you or what's working, what is affirming and our relationship and how I'm moving toward that. Those are very important repair techniques
and I loved the five to one ratio because it's, I think that's an important thing that you can just be using all the time to remember five positives to every one negative and it really just shows how one negative you need five to build it back up. Just really going back to that mindfulness. Take a moment before you speak from anger because remember how much work it's going to be to repair that as well. You know, just kind of work smarter, not harder kind of thing as well, but just remember it takes five positives just to be able to break down that one negative and then it kind of depends on how negative the negative is too. But yeah. I want to go ahead and go because
I wanted to add one more thing to the. What you're talking about there with the fighting is not the problem and I thought this was something interesting. One of the things that Tara brought up about the, when we interviewed somebody about the money, like money being an issue and everything and how one person maybe wants to save more and the other one wants to spend more whatever the situation is and they're fighting about this and you know, sometimes it's, maybe it's not just, you know, they think it's a fight about money, but the reality is he, he doesn't really understand that maybe his wife grew up in a family that had money problems growing up, so she really wants to save a lot because scared,
but he never, until he becomes sort of a detective to find out what is the core problem. He just keeps thinking that she's just wanting to be too frugal and that's it, but he doesn't know the real base of the problem.
Exactly, yes. We don't know what's underneath the behavior or the conflict that becomes so apparent and that's why, you know, going back to some of the topics that we discussed earlier, this idea of curiosity, of opening the space for dialogue. Excuse me, of having a sense of empathy and saying, hmm, how can I, how can I understand where you're coming from? And those are just words that I'm saying right now, but it's an attitude. It's a predisposition and some motivation. It's, it's a place where you come from, right? So it isn't just this idea in my head, oh, I got these nice words now that I can use on my relational partner to structure a conversation. It's not like that. It's. It's a way of being in something that arises inside you as a legitimate, honest, authentic concern and just think about it. Just think the lived experience of being in concern for somebody.
All of us have had that experience in our lives when, when you're concerned for somebody, when you care, that creates all these wonderful feelings of love and tenderness and compassion and softness for somebody and with that, with those emotions, feelings, sensations, motivations, you're much more likely to open up a space for dialogue and not confrontation, conversation and not annihilation. Right? So those are kinds of things that we need to emphasize. These are not just words, these are not just ideas, these are lived experiences that we use to allow conversation and relationships to unfold in ways that are useful, helpful and loving.
I love that. And you know, it really speaks to the amount of strength and courage it takes to be vulnerable. A lot of people have a misconception sometimes that strength is in dominance and being able to win an argument versus being able to understand each other. And really the strength comes in that curiosity. It comes in being vulnerable. It comes in having the strength and courage to work through your own to get to that place. And that's what you've pointed out so wonderfully in this interview.
Yes. Uh, you know, pointing out this. Thank you for pointing out this idea of I love the way you frame that. Uh, especially in our culture. We're very combative. We have this whole idea of being in an adversarial relationship and there are winners and losers and I, you know, I, and I related your argument and destroyed your position and I won and you lost. And it's the most bizarre way, especially in relationships, right? Because you're really not, I mean, I would think that most of us don't want to engage in battle with somebody that we love that in a way that doesn't make sense. If you think about it, you'll want to work with them. You want to be in communion with them. You want to partner with them. In fact, we say, you know, partner relationship partner, significant other, you know, I mean ally, friend, all these different relationships that we have in the language itself.
We see the language of community, the language of partnership, the language of, of coming together. So, you know, when we talk about battle, it seems to be out of step with what we really mean and what's really behind relationships at, at its core, which is getting along. I'm working things out, finding ways that we have things in common. I mean, I think about it this way. If we look at relationships, what we're really looking for is things that we have in common, not things that we have in difference, right? Um, and don't get me wrong. The differences are great and differences can add flavor and differences could add spice. And all of us are different. That's great. But in relationship, what we're really looking for is a bond, a connection, things that we're building together, things that we're loving and caring about together to create a unity that is at the heart of loving relationships in our lives.
Yes. That's beautiful. You know, kind of like my favorite band, depeche mode says people are people. So why should it be you and I should get along so awfully, right? Because everything counts and large amounts.
All right, we are so cool. They're very wise. You know, and I'm not. That song came out over 20 years ago, but it still stands, you know. Oh, well,
I loved it then and I love it now. And I stand by. That was counting, right, exactly. It says if we're hearing it for the first time, I'm hearing it in my head right now and I feel like I'm 16 again. It's beautiful.
Yeah. What you're talking about there with the, uh, the conflict and everything, it kind of reminds me, it's not even just in relationships. I, so, I mean obviously in the news with North Korea and all this kind of stuff that's been going on, uh, you know, some of the, I've heard some people talk about this from the standpoint of they're like, you know, hey, we won by them giving this or we lost because we gave that or you know, these kinds of conversations. And I was listening to somebody talk about that and he said it from the standpoint of he goes, we need to stop talking about it from the thought process of winning and losing. We're all winning. We need to stop that because that becomes. Then it becomes a fight you don't want even in, in geopolitical terms. He's like, that's, that's a bad way to go. You just want it to be everybody's winning. How do we all win? How do we get to the, you know, the good part here? So these are the steps.
Yeah, I think that, um, this idea that we're exploring right now with the adversarial notion of winning and losing punched us and the battle mode and look at the language, right? We lost, they won, we got something, they, they didn't get something. We're on top layer on the bottom. US versus them. It is the language, really. It's the language of war, it's the language of battle, right? And in relationships. Again, why would you want to be in battle with the person that you love? Right? But this is also how we've been trained, how, how we see things in, in media and how we, um, have been kind of conditioned to think about a relationship in many ways. And that goes back to some of the stuff we were talking about earlier of resisting those impulses. Right? Resisting that first thought or that first instinct to go into battle.
And I wanted to share something with you that might be really helpful here. It's a concept that I learned a while back and it's one of my, uh, one of my, uh, developed by one of my favorite professors, one of my favorite philosophers, Marianne Warren. And the concept is moral status. A moral status for her is treating other people with consideration by giving importance to what they need, what they or what would enhance their wellbeing, and I'll repeat that. Moral status means treating other people with consideration by giving importance to what they need, what they prefer or what would enhance their well being. Now, sit back and listen to that for just a moment and take that in. If I grant you moral status that I see you as someone worthy of consideration because I give importance to what you need, what you prefer, and what would enhance your wellbeing, which is kind of what I call the platinum rule, right?
What is it that is important to you? What is it that would be a value for you as a person that has moral status in my world and when I see you in that light, think about it. It's very hard for me to hurt you. It's very hard for me to abuse you into very hard for me to engage in battle with you because I'm considering you. I am looking for what would be preferable for you. I'm looking for what would enhance your well being and when we think about that in communion with our partner, imagine two people having this frame of mind, right? So two people thinking, Hey, I want to give importance to what you need. Hey, I want to see what you prefer and what would enhance your wellbeing. And that goes back to Jeff's question of how is it that we move beyond that?
This is how we move beyond that. We look at what is called in negotiation, win win scenarios, right? Where we are coming into a frame of finding out what works for you and you're coming into a frame of what's gonna work for me. And then in that working together, we find a solution that we didn't have prior to conversation, but our intent is to create a win win scenario. And when, when we talk about that, you know, and I know it sounds kind of lofty and people go, oh, wait a minute, how do you do that? I've never seen that before. That sounds like a great idea, a pie in the sky, but I've never seen it. So give me an example. So here's an example. It goes back to a study that they did years and years ago at Harvard, I think it was called the Harvard negotiation project and they came up with a really cool metaphor for the win win scenario and here it goes.
It says, imagine that there's this orange or this grapefruit and it's the last grapefruit or the last orange and uh, there's no more and you want it and I want it right? And so what do you do? Well, I'm in compromise. You would say, well, let's cut it in half and then you get half and half. But in the win win scenario in suggests a different way of approaching that situation. And that is asking the question, what do you want the orange for? And that's a key question. So in this example a, let's say that you want the orange because you want to make orange juice, right? And let's say I want the orange because I want to make this wonderful dessert from the outside of the orange or the rind, okay? Because I have this wonderful dessert menu, or deserved a recipe from my mom and all this stuff.
Well guess what? Now that we have the answer to this question, I can get a knife and cut the skin from the outside and give it to one person and then the other person can have what they want by having the insight of the orange to make orange juice so each person can get more of what they want or exactly what they want. Because we asked a very critical question, what do you want the orange for right now in that scenario? I'm the first to admit we got that sounds kind of wonderful. It all worked out. Uh, it doesn't always work out that way in life. And I agree. But notice we asked a very critical question that we rarely ask if ever we don't ask, what do you want the orange for? What's your outcome? What do you hope to get? What is your preference? What is it that would, that would be helpful to you? Right? And when we don't ask that question, we close the door to a world of possibilities. So one of the ways to kind of get to these win win situations or these creative solutions where people are not adversarial is to ask a question to open dialog so that each person has an opportunity to talk about their hopes, their dreams, their desires, and see how we might be able to meet those in the sanctity of conversation.
And an example that we're, jeff and I have worked through. That is where Jeff likes to watch, uh, he, he's a race car driver. He likes to watch races on Sundays and I also have Sunday was a family day when I was growing up and so I would like us to have family time on Sundays. So we've, we've sort of negotiated Sundays. But first I needed to know what is the importance of you watching the races on Sundays and for him I learned it was he, he, he's studying the races as part of him. Uh, his career development and what I mean racing means a lot to him. It's a huge part of his identity in his life. And so he needs to watch the races on Sundays. And then we talked about my need for the family time and everything, and so we were able to honor each other's space on that by, by creating those, those, those times. And it may not be like every Sunday we, we both get what we need that Sunday, but we both understand that what's the activities of Sunday mean to us and we give each other what we need because we understand because we asked, like you said, what was that orange for?
Yeah. That orange metaphor really helps to bring it home in my mind because at first when I first learned that it was this wonderful abstract concept, but then when I saw, oh wow, they asked the question and I realized in my life, I rarely ask that question if I'm honest, I, I rarely ask that because the first response is just to go into compromise or to go into solution or to go into right or wrong. And again, I have to pause, reflect, breathe, choose, and say, wait a minute, let me ask, you know, why is that important to you? I'm not, I'm not understanding. Help me understand. And when you open those doors to dialogue, there's a higher probability that you're going to find solutions that work for you and your relationship.
Yeah. And by doing that, you and you create an oasis in your relationship instead of a battlefield.
No battlefields. Oasis. It's a great place to come home too, right? Yes.
It's almost like you want to have it. You want to just check if you could just change the goal of what you're trying to do. Like if you're, if you're coming from the standpoint of, you know, I want to win. And that's what you're thinking. Like you're coming from that concept of winning. Well maybe the one who's one is the one who figured out what is going on with the other person the most.
Winning takes on a new definition, doesn't it? Right. Right. So the idea is I'm winning is maintaining the love that you have. Winning becomes having a conversation. Winning becomes understanding. Winning becomes vulnerability. Winning becomes a getting to a place that you weren't at before this conversation. Right? So creating something that wasn't present before the conversation was happening. And so that takes on a whole new meaning that I think is much more useful and helpful
and it really reframes conflict as a way to win by understanding somebody else. And either way you're going to grow, you're going to win, you're going to connect through the conflict is not something that's scary, it's an opportunity to connect in a deeper way by understanding each other,
by understanding each other. You are finding a way to build a relationship. Right? And you know, and sometimes it is scary, right? And sometimes it's absolutely horrifying because you, you know, you feel insecure, you don't know what you're doing. Let's be honest, sometimes many times we don't know what we're doing, we don't know what to say, we don't know what to do, we don't even know what we're feeling if we're really, really, really honest. Right? And so isn't it wonderful to be in relationship with somebody else where you can have that be a process of discovery instead of a process of destruction?
Yeah. So there you go. I just gave you the title of your next book, how to win every argument that is flying up, flying off the shelf right now in our minds. Just reframe what winning is.
That's funny. That's great. Thank you, Jeff. Thank you.
I would expect the royalties on that one. The acknowledgement. Check my brother.
Who Do you. I mean, Jeff, all these wonderful talents that he has it on top of that. A marketing guru. Man.
He's a renaissance man. I'm lucky to be married to him. There we go. Well, this has been a winning interview. Thank you so much for your time today, Dr Rodriguez. I mean we've learned so much from you. I feel like I need to be paying you for therapy session. This was awesome.
You're too kind. It's been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much.
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