Knowing how fear kills communication makes you a more effective leader, whether that’s in your home, classroom, or as the CEO of a $30 billion company.
In episode 22 of The Authentic Wife Show, you’ll learn how to talk your way through conflict and why it’s the emotional part of our brain, not the logical part, that is driving thinking.
You can also watch today’s show, and you’re getting me just as I am (no makeup, frizzy hair) because I didn’t intend to publish the video for this episode. 🙂
(This is the largely unedited auto-transcription.)
Beth Rowles: [00:00:00] Welcome back to the show. I’m so happy that you are here today and that you are taking some time for yourself and for your family to learn how to become not only more authentic, but more present in the moment, more attuned to who you really are, but also more connected to who the people you love really are.
Because that’s really the point of coming here, right, is really connecting to other people and growing together, using each other to grow, using those interactions, especially the ones that we don’t like, as an opportunity to uplevel, which directly relates to our topic today, which is about how fear kills communication.
And I wanna give you some facts about what we know about the brain and how it affects problem-solving and how it affects communication. And I want to [00:01:00] encourage you that a lot of the things that I’m gonna talk about today do not last forever. In fact, the more you address fears, the less there are and the more there is a marrying of these two parts of the brain that we’re gonna talk about today, Let’s begin because this is one of the biggest challenges I had before I worked on my marriage that I see other people have with their partners and literally is like the cause of so much conflict and drama and everything in the world. So if everybody knew what you’re about to learn today, then there would be no more fighting because everybody would have the tools to do this. Okay.
Depleting Emotions vs. Energizing Emotions
So basically what’s happening when we are in conflict is that some, I’m gonna call it fear because basically if we can like, put all [00:02:00] depleting emotions into a bucket, I would just call them fear, but they’re not really, like, there’s nuance to that. There’s fear, there’s guilt, there’s shame, there’s anger, there’s apathy, there’s depression, hopelessness, sadness, grief, those are all depleting emotions, which means that they take energy from. Don’t restore energy. They take energy from us. They’re depleting. There’s a message in them. They’re not bad. They’re just depleting. And then if we lump all the energizing or positive emotions together, I would just call them love. But again, there’s nuance there. There’s joy, bliss, contentment enlightenment, but we’ll just call all those love. So there’s almost like a threshold where we go from these energizing positive emotions and then something happens and we’re pushed down into the depleting or negative emotions.
So there’s, they’re either giving us energy or they’re taking energy. [00:03:00] And when we get into conflict is when we move down into those depleting fear-based emotions. Okay? Once we get there, that message from those emotions must be processed. It must be processed before we can come to a rational problem-solving place, which is what we usually need to do with other people, right?
Like there’s a competition of needs because there’s your boundary and there’s the other person’s boundary. There’s your wishes and desires and beliefs and opinions, and then there’s the other person’s wishes, desires, beliefs, and opinions. Needs and their needs. There’s this, you know, we’re working with two people, but if you already are in this like split inside yourself, you’re not gonna be able to bring that out into the relationship.
Assume Everybody In’s a Depleting Emotion
Right. That’s why I talk about a lot, like you have to bring your inner work out into the relationship and apply it [00:04:00] with the other person. We are all human. We all have these moments of depleting emotions. We all have quote-unquote bad days. So you’re going to run into a person who is in a depleting emotion, and because most people repress what they’re feeling, Everybody you run into is in a depleting emotion.
They’re lying to themselves that they aren’t, cuz they have just ignored it and repressed it and shut off their heart to it so they don’t have to feel it. So just go ahead and assume that everybody you talk to is in this place because so few people are actually doing this work. To heal and shift up and do their daily emotional hygiene so that they can move back into a loving place.
Because remember, if you’ve listened to me before, you know that emotions are messages rehearsal to take action. They are guidance that something in your life in the moment, either external or internal, [00:05:00] is not aligned to your authentic self to what I call your soul. That’s all they’re doing. They’re trying to get you back in alignment.
But we aren’t raised with the tools to understand those messages. And we definitely aren’t raised with the tools to help other people understand those messages. So when you work with me or you do a lot of therapy, or you go to a coach or you begin this personal growth journey, hopefully in there you are excavating those old, repressed emotions and you are learning about emo, like you have that emotional intelligence.
You’re learning what those emotions mean moment by moment, and you become a regulated person who knows how to use them and then move up to that energizing place. Hopefully you are, and once you do that, then you can do what we’re talking about today. So let’s just go back a minute and understand how the brain works and what’s happening in that moment.[00:06:00]
What’s Happening In The Brain During Communication
I guess it’s not necessarily about like all the nitty-gritty of the brain, it’s kind of more of an overview, a summary of it. So a lot of this I learned from the wonderful book, Never Split the Difference by former FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss. Fantastic book. Go watch his masterclass. I talk about him a lot.
So basically what’s happening is that when we’re in fear, we can’t access our prefrontal lobe, we can’t access the part of our brain that does the logical, rational thinking. And so when we come to our husbands and we want them to do something, we might be in a rational place, but they won’t necessarily be.
The Harvard Negotiation Project’s Fatal Assumption
So back in 1979, the Harvard Negotiation Project was founded to improve the practice of negotiation. Now, when I originally heard the word negotiation, I was thinking like sales, but negotiation refers to any kind of discussion with another person to get [00:07:00] everybody’s needs met. When you need somebody to, like, in his case, let go of a hostage and not kill them, you have to negotiate.
So almost any conflict is a negotiation. Any conflict between two or more people is a negotiation. That’s what has to take place. So they were trying to study this and understand it and get really good at it. Obviously, it’s in their best interests that they can negotiate with somebody, right? So the co-founders of that project were Roger Fisher and William Ury, and they had a core assumption that the emotional brain could be overcome through a rational joint problem-solving mindset.
Their system, their idea was to separate the emotion from the problem, and it seemed really smart. So for several years, that’s the approach that people took. Like the emotion is, is non-consequential. It doesn’t even matter. Like let’s just [00:08:00] talk about the problem. But that’s not human, how humans work.
Behavioral Economics Showed Us Emotions Are A Thought Process
It’s just not how humans work. So, I think it was a few years later, two professors from the University of Chicago ended up launching this field called Behavioral Economics. They were an economist named Amos Tversky and psychologist Daniel Kahneman, probably butchered his name, I’m so sorry, who won a Nobel Prize for what he discovered. So he showed that humans are irrational, and that feeling is a form of thinking. If you go back to the way I describe it, like your soul tapping you on your shoulder, telling you that something is not right about your life right now, it absolutely is.
It’s almost a higher level of thinking. Usually it’s when we repress it, that it becomes what seems like [00:09:00] not a smart system, but if you think about it, emotions are what keep animals safe in the wild. They’re what cause you to keep yourself safe. You have a fear response for a reason. It’s there to literally keep you safe in danger and you don’t have to think about it.
It just exists, right? It is incredibly smart. Your emotions have access to information that you don’t have, or aren’t even aware of yet. So I love this. He’s like, feeling is a form of thinking. And he said that it is self-evident that people are neither fully rational, nor completely selfish, and that their tastes are anything but stable.
People Are Emotional, Not Selfish
So the assumption before with Fisher and Ury was that the other person at the table was selfish and just wanted to get their needs met. And that was it. There was nothing more to it. So if you could just like go to the logic place, then you could convince them and you could get what you [00:10:00] wanted because the logic would overcome, like the spreadsheet would convince them that this was wrong.
Like the statistics on climate change would cause them to immediately change their behavior or whatever, that we could prove it from a very logical mathematical, analytical place. But that’s not true, we can’t do that because first there is that part of their brain that is changing what they think about the logic, right?
Cognitive Bias Thought Process
So they prove through decades of research that all humans suffer from cognitive bias, which is an unconscious and irrational– meaning that it’s not based in logic and judgment– process that distorts the way we each see the world. Now remember, we are all looking at things through our own perspective, from our own life experiences.
We have [00:11:00] learned different lessons in our life. We all have experienced different things. We come from families and schools and churches. That all gave us different belief systems or different agreements about what things are in the way things should be in the world. One of the ways I like to describe it is like, imagine that you are on the south side of a mountain and your husband is on the north side, right?
You’re both looking at this mountain, but what you both see, your perspectives are completely different. It’s the same mountain, but you see it from different angles, from different points of view, and so both of your perspectives are valid. But you don’t have that exact same amount of knowledge with which to make a decision.
Like maybe your husband’s on the other side of the mountain and it’s on fire and you’re on this [00:12:00] side, and like, Let’s go climb this mountain. It looks beautiful. But he can see that it’s on fire. And so he is like, No. And you’re like, You’re crazy ’cause it looks beautiful. Let’s go. And he’s like, You can’t, It’s burning up, you know, You can’t, you can’t do it.
So all perspectives are valid and they’re based on the different experiences and information that we have at the time, but they get distorted when we have wounding in our childhood and we have emotions that are repressed. So emotional processing, which is basically the end summary of today is so critically important.
Cause we have to get rid of the things that cause us to go into fear when there’s not a reason to go into fear basically. Right. So that’s kind of like, put that in little box we can talk about that at another time, so. We have this cognitive bias. It distorts the way that we each see the world.
I don’t really like the [00:13:00] word distort. It’s almost like we just have different perspectives, right? It’s not necessarily distorted, but we have different perspectives. So they found that there are all these different brain processes like, you know, Scientists, professors. So they wanted to label and put things in a tidy box.
The Framing Effect
So they came up with one that was called the framing effect. And the framing effect means that people respond differently to the same choice depending on how it is framed. So the way you word it, the way you put it, the way you present it is going to cause them to respond differently.
Prospect theory explains why people take unwarranted risks in the face of uncertain losses and loss aversion, which shows that people are more likely to act to avert a loss than to achieve a gain.
So somebody could say, If you do this, [00:14:00] you are gonna get a hundred thousand dollars. People will be less motivated than if you say, If you do this, you won’t lose $5,000. Like crazy, right? But that’s the way we work because then fear kicks in. We don’t wanna lose that money. That seems more advantageous to not lose something that we already have.
And then we could go into a discussion about our ego and how our ego thinks that we are the things we have, but we won’t. So the work from these two professors is in at least one of their books, Thinking Fast and Slow. I haven’t read that yet, but they break it down by saying that we have two systems of thought.
The Two-System Brain
We literally do have two different parts of our brain, but we have two systems of thought emotions thinking. So system one is the emotional part of the brain, the animal mind. It is fast, instinctive, and [00:15:00] emotional. Really. It’s the more efficient one. That’s the one that we all need, We all depend on, and I think Chris talks later in his book about how there’s a book called Descartes’ Error, and it’s all about how emotions literally drive every decision that we make in the end.
Like they’re the ones driving the bus, but then we have system two, which is the prefrontal cortex, and that is this mind that’s rational, which means that it uses judgment to analyze choices as good or bad, like weighing the difference between them, and then choose what it thinks is the best. It is slow, it is deliberate, it is logical.
It’s, you know, interesting that we have these two kind of competing things inside, and the real work is getting to the balance between them. You know, having that integration, making a whole system out of those two systems. And it’s similar [00:16:00] to like the masculine and the feminine. We have these two different things that is animus and anima, you know, we have all these things that seem contradictory in our body, but the real work, the real personal growth journey is balancing the two.
Right? Okay. And so we have these two systems and he says that system one, the emotional brain, animal mind is far more influential. It guides and steers our rational thoughts. Like, I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, but sometimes when I’m comparing a few choices, like when I was trying to put the kids in school or something, you know, I’m creating a decision matrix in Excel, and I’m doing weighting your different choices and coming up with the best idea on paper, that logical idea.
But then I look at it and go, do I agree [00:17:00] with the one that won? Do I agree with the highest number? With things like that, you are still checking in with your emotions and with other things, like when it comes to what tool you’re going to use in your business, then the analytical logical evaluation of your options can be really helpful and can work, but there’s still a part of you that has to rely on emotion and intuition and really getting that full body yes, like, okay, it’s right on paper, but is it right for me? Is it really right for me?
They say that we react with system one to a suggestion or question, and then that informs and creates the system two answer.
So he says, now think about that. Under this model, if you know how to affect your counterpart’s system one thinking [00:18:00] his inarticulate feelings by how you frame and deliver your questions and statements, then you can guide his system to rationality and therefore modify his response. So that part sounds manipulative, right?
But what you learn from Chris and what is the meat of this is that you have to process the fear. Before you can go into the problem-solving piece, and at that point you can shape their thinking, especially if they’re only so s. A practical example of this is when you are talking about the way that you’re parenting your kids, and they are very focused on what’s happening today, and then you ask a question like, What’s important here?
It brings them back to their vision. The overall [00:19:00] thing that they want for their children. It puts them, it forces them to be put into the future. To think about this from a broader perspective, really from a higher self perspective, your questions can push them into a most beneficial thinking, which I call higher self thinking.
So it’s less like manipulating the answer. It’s more about getting them to the highest place of thinking, the highest order of thinking about something. And if you don’t have the tools to understand, read and manipulate the system one emotional underpinning. They say it’s like trying to make an omelet without first knowing how to crack an egg.
Why We Fight
That’s exactly it. If you try to skip over the emotion and go right to the problem-solving, you’ll get [00:20:00] absolutely nowhere. And that is when they start to really bear down, like whatever they have. Whenever they have to defend a position, they become more entrenched in that position, and if they start defending and attacking, then you go into fear and match them and start to tell stories that are based in fear, have these fear-based patterns of thinking, and then you’re just fighting.
Then the whole conversation has devolved and you’re not going to get anywhere. You’re not going to problem-solve. That’s why when you do this, When you help somebody do the emotional processing, it means that you are either not the Person that they’re frustrated with, not a, I would say almost part of the problem.
We Have To Do The Inner Work First
So you’re already detached or you have already done your work so that you don’t get hooked by their fear, meaning you already know yourself so [00:21:00] well, that you can see that what they are saying is not true. They may think it’s true, but it’s not. For an example was, I get all the time with husbands and wives is the husband will say like, You aren’t making me feel appreciated, or I feel this way because of you.
Well, no, your thoughts, your feelings are your own, because again, you have your own perspective of things. If they had done the work, then they know how to make themselves feel however they want to feel. We are each responsible. For our own emotions. The only exception there is boundary violations. If you are like actively violating their boundaries and telling them their ideas are dumb or hitting them or something then yeah, you are responsible co-creator in their feelings, but the rest of the time our emotions are based on all of our history, all that stuff behind us. [00:22:00]
So because of this work, once they have this new research in place and they understood that the emotions were driving everything. The FBI stopped the quid pro quo bargaining and problem solving training, and moved to an education on psychological skills, emotions, and emotional intelligence.
They are central to effective negotiation, not things to overcome. So now when they negotiate with somebody, when you’re talking to another human, they focus on calming them down. What you do through emotional processing establishing rapport, gaining trust, establishing rapport and gaining trust are require you to be vulnerable and to really listen and accurately reflect what they’ve shared with you.
Eliciting the verbalization of needs. You want to drive the [00:23:00] conversation to get more information from them so you truly understand what it is that they’re needing. And the interesting thing there is that sometimes they have that inner child need, like that need for validation. Sometimes it does go way back.
What’s Really The Need?
Like that’s what I do with my clients when we are in coaching sessions. What is really the need? Is it really about him going on a date with you or is it about something that happened way back in your past that you need to heal and work through? And I’m not saying that everybody has to be qualified to heal the other person, but I.
Psychotherapy research shows that when we feel listened to, we listen to ourselves more carefully and openly to evaluate and clarify our own thoughts and feelings. So just the act of listening and reflecting what you’re hearing oftentimes can be enough or is enough for them to heal and go a little deeper.
Maybe they don’t do the inner child healing, but maybe they begin to understand like it’s a me problem, not a her problem, right? He says, Listening is the cheapest, yet most effective concession we can make. To get there, to get to the goal of the conversation. People want to be understood, heard, and understood, seen.
We become less defensive and oppositional and more willing to listen to other points of view once we feel heard. When we do this, we get to this calm and logical place where we then can problem. So you cannot dismiss emotion. You cannot tell your kids to stop crying and move on. You can’t tell your husband to calm down.
You can’t [00:25:00] refuse to engage when people are upset because that is exactly when they most need to be heard. And if you can really, the, the biggest key to this is that you are becoming the listener. You are not giving output anymore. You are asking questions to help them listen to what they are thinking and saying.
And when you think about it that way, it takes so much pressure off of you. You don’t have to have an argument. You’re not a lawyer, you know, you’re not battling it out. It’s not a game. You are only. Like the, the challenge there is how intently and in, you know, with basically listen to them. I started to say intuition because you are going to intuitively understand what they’re saying.
Empathically Feeling What Others Are Feeling
If you’re an empath, you [00:26:00] may start to feel what they are feeling. I have a friend now who we are so close, shout out if you are listening Lovely, you know who you are, that when she’s sad, I immediately cry. Like that’s how connected we are. Now I can immediately have tears when she’s sad because we are so close.
I know exactly what she’s feeling. In fact, I think sometimes I even cry when she doesn’t even realize that she’s sad yet. But you will feel if you’re really good and you really have a sense of your boundary and you know what’s yours and what’s theirs, you will feel what they’re feeling. And the problem, the reason why fear kills communication is that if you don’t know that that emotion is not yours, and so let’s say they’re feeling intense fear and you start to feel intense fear. You don’t really know why. So you make up a story about why you should be feeling intense fear right now, because you don’t realize that it’s not yours. So maybe their energy. [00:27:00] Then you start to feel unsafe and instead of knowing that it’s not yours and helping them process what they’re going through, you start to react to it and think, I need to go give myself to safety, this is dangerous. Now, obviously if you are actually, if there’s a real threat, you go with it. And that will be when your fear is so, so, so intense that you really can’t do anything else. You have that fear response, you do the fight, flight, freeze, avoid fawn, all of the, all those things. And you don’t really have much control over it.
But if you just start to feel something, Especially if you felt just fine before, and especially if you know that what they’re saying, like, you know, like if you can get into that system two thinking, you know that what they’re saying is not true especially if it’s about you, then you can go, Oh, I see… I am picking up what they’re feeling. And then that’s like magic because now you can say, you know, it [00:28:00] seems like you’re worried, seems like you’re a little afraid. Seems like you’re angry. Sounds like you’re, you feel like somebody like you need to protect yourself. You know, all those things that those different emotions are.
And if you don’t know what the emotions are, you can go take my class Royally Guarded or even download my emotion assessment theprincessandthepeeve.com to get that or go to my website, the authentic wife and mom.com. I have a whole class on emotions and what they all mean. You’ll be a master communicator.
When you know these things, because you’ll be able to tell people things about themselves that they did not even know because you felt it first. And you know what that emotion means, You know what that higher self guidance is? So anyway, that is the basic rundown why fear kills communication and in this case, it’s your fear responding to [00:29:00] their emotion that kills it.
It’s okay that they are having a big emotion or that they are in fear. It’s you reacting, you going into fear that kills the communication. Cuz once you become unregulated the conversation is going to devolve into a fight. The more you can hang on to yourself and be okay, the better it goes. So people like Chris or people who are still hostage negotiators have to be so aware of what they’re feeling and why they cannot be hooked by what the person on the other end of the phone is saying. Like if they are insulted or they say, well, you must be stupid or something. There can’t be like a little Chris inside who’s hooked by that and it goes back to the time when he was three and his dad said he was stupid, which I don’t know all his history. I’m just making up something.
He can’t be in his head going back to that, feeling retriggered, because he has repressed emotion [00:30:00] and then coming out defensive and trying to prove that they are right and the other person’s wrong, then you can’t finish the conversation because as soon as you make it about your emotions, the other person’s just gonna stay stuck in their emotions. You’re not gonna get to a place of problem-solving. You’re never gonna get to that next step of the logical piece of the, okay, like, you have this need, I have this need, let’s figure it out together. So that’s how fear kills communication. If you have any questions on this, I would love for you to reach out.
If you’re wondering how to start having better communication with your husband so you don’t trigger his fear and can talk without him being defensive, download my 30 Texts To Get More Help. After downloading, you’ll also have the opportunity to purchase my brand new workbook, How To Talk So Your Husband Will Listen.
This workbook shows you how to use my 3-step Share The WOV™ method to share your concerns in a way that makes your husband more dependable, instead of feeling criticized or defensive. No more communication dead-end streets!