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[The following is the full transcript of this episode of The Brendon Show. Please note that this episode, like all TBS episodes, features Brendon speaking extemporaneously–he is unscripted and unedited. Filmed in one take, The Brendon Show has become one of the most viewed unscripted, direct-to-camera self-help series in the history of YouTube. It has also been the #1 Podcast in all of iTunes and is regularly in the top podcasts in Self-Help and Health categories around the globe. Subscribe to the free motivational podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.)
I call it the three Es. Okay, the three Es of a relationship. This is when I know a relationship is great and can improve in a conflict situation. So if I’m mediating or counseling or coaching, here’s what I do. I watch for, in those initial interactions, when they’re coming in, they’re describing the problem as an example to me, I watch for the three Es.
First one, empathy, empathy. Does it look like the person, the other, is listening and is caring what the other person is saying, and can understand it even if they don’t agree with it? Can they understand it even if they don’t agree with it—that’s a big one for me. Can they understand it even if they don’t agree with it? Ah, that to me is empathy. They care that the other person is hurt or confused or upset about something, like there’s just empathy. Often it’s non-verbal, I can see that, the nonverbal stuff is the easiest but often what people don’t understand is a lot of times empathy looks like listening. Even if you don’t agree, like this can be empathy, literally, this can be empathy.
You think they’re crazy but you’re giving them the allowance to speak, it’s empathizing enough, like we all believe that empathy is warm hugs and sunshine but a lot of the time empathy is allowing turn-taking, asking a question, waiting, nodding, not arguing, or it’s saying, “I heard you say this, I see it this way.” It’s those simple notes of validation, time, openness, that make all the difference.
Second thing I look for of the three Es, so the first is empathy. Second E is enthusiasm. I think enthusiasm is the master of all emotions, right? Even more than love. If you’re like, “You’re crazy.” I’m like, no, no. I know lots of people who have love but there’s no enthusiasm in the relationship anymore. There’s no intimacy, no pop, no vibrancy, no variety; it’s like they care for each other, but there’s no energy behind it.
I think the energy behind things is enthusiasm. When we’re excited about building our life together or when we’re excited about solving this problem together.
I remember the first, like I was doing a divorce referred mediation, I was in grad school and I knew this couple was going to survive, it was like five minutes into this thing because they were just like, “We are so excited to solve this thing together, and I was like, “You’re going to be great.” I immediately knew and it was so well resolved because there was enthusiasm. Even if we don’t agree, enthusiasm for the solution, enthusiasm to move out of this crappy time. I love when people do coaching or counseling and I’ve talked to therapists who go, “Oh my gosh, they were so happy to finally share their hatred for each other. They were so enthusiastic to get it out and to talk about it and to start working on it,” the enthusiasm to work on it, the enthusiasm to improve it, the enthusiasm to build that future together, the enthusiasm to resolve it. That is such an indicator of things. So how do you feel? Are you enthusiastic to improve that relationship, to grow it? Are you enthusiastic to go deeper, enthusiastic to do the things for your other, who just loves it? Are you enthusiastic about them and their life? So important. Empathy, enthusiasm, and the third one, encouragement.
The strongest relationships are built on encouragement, right? We know this from the social sciences. I know many of you guys have heard me recommend, you know, for the last decade, the work by John Gottman and his wife in research and relationships. I love that work and one of the critical things that came out of that was such a simple distinction that happy couples tend to praise each other five times more than they complain or negate. And whether that ratio is true in all relationships across all cultures is probably not super validated, but what I do believe is the simple way to break that down is, encourage your partner a lot. Encourage them, cheer them on, you know they got a big day, do something. Look here, I got this, on this laptop over here from Denise. It’s just, it’s a post-it note that she gave me like six months ago. I still have it on my computer. It says, “I love you, I appreciate you, I know you are doing big things.” It was just a post-it note she put on my computer in a really, particularly difficult week I was having and we’re both pretty good about leaving little notes around for each other, especially when we’re traveling or we’ll be apart or something like that but also throughout the day, like she puts something over there that she likes, or she doesn’t, I’m like, I love that, good job, that’s amazing, and we don’t say that flippantly, like we were like, that’s, that’s great, that’s amazing. Like we cheer each other on a lot and I think that’s huge.
The ability to encourage one another is so vital.
Okay, so the three things: empathy, encouragement, enthusiasm. I look for those, I’ve watched for them, but listen, don’t just look for them, cultivate them. If you don’t know how to do it, ask your partner! Be like, “Hey, how can I demonstrate empathy for you more? Hey, how can I bring some enthusiasm in this relationship? Hey, do you feel like I encourage you enough? What could I do better?” Because ultimately all these things we’re talking about, remember you have to do together. It’s about the relationship first. You’re going to build this life together.
The most important phrase to me, if I was advising him, I was like, “You’re co-creating your future together.” Co-creation. People support what they create. You create it together and you support it together and that’s everything.
So it’s never like, “I’m mad at you for this reason.” It’s like, “Ugh, we’re in that situation, it didn’t seem to go well. What can we do better?”
It’s the “we” story, not just the “me” story.
It’s the understanding that we must communicate together, plan together, and work together to build the ideal future together, to build the energy, co-create the energy together, these things matter, but they’re open dialogues and you don’t have to be right and they don’t have to be right. You get a turn, they get a turn. You understand if they’re not going to agree with you, you understand, it’s fluid, it’s dynamic, and that’s what makes a relationship great, versus it has to be this way, or it has to be that way. Or we butt heads.