Reacting vs. Responding

In the latest edition of Brandler Bits, learn the difference between a reaction and a response.  Learn the strategies for responding and improving your communication skills with important people in your life.



Relationships During Covid

On this edition of Brandler Bits we discuss how relationships have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.  Many relationships have been strained, others have been broken.  Learn how to improve your relationship and make it one that can handle the next phases of covid.


The club

There are many clubs in the world. In a world with many self unaware people, here is a club that you wouldn’t want to belong to– the -100 club with a special section reserved for people with narcissism. Learn about narcissism and how it effects others. Also on the show, a special communication technique called “And Stop”


Communication (part 7)

Another blog about communication?    We are communicating about communication for the 7th time.  This must be an important topic or I am an incredibly redundant communicator.

To read the first 6 entries, click on the links below:

crimes between us

listening to you

communication part 2

what’s old can be used in the present


communication strategies

Communication can occur in many ways:

    • People can talk about the day; “how was your day?”
    • They can address feelings as part of that day; “I was really angry at my boss today…”
    • They can share more personally;  “The reason I was angry at my boss is he had that smug look on his face like my dad did”.
    • They can share their deepest darkest feelings “that look, that smugness, I wanted to slap it off of him, like how my dad slapped me, how he beat me, how he embarrassed me in front of my friends, all with that look”

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#008000″ class=”” size=””]in order to have intimacy you have to be vulnerable[/pullquote]

To go from superficial to intimate requires a loving, trusting relationship.  It requires that the listener listen and be able to hear what’s being said.  The listener needs to be nonjudgmental and be unconditional. The speaker has to know that what they are saying is safe.  They have to know that it will be heard and not used against them in a future fight.  If he or she is able to take the risk they will have  the intimacy and closeness that is necessary in a good healthy, stable relationship.

This is really risky and it is WAY easier to have superficial, a little off the top relationships.  It is even easier to tell people what they want to hear, and take no risks at all.  In  this video from  Grammy Award winner Tracy Bonham, she tells the mother what she wants to hear:


In this conversation between mother and daughter, the daughter gives all of the right answers.  She tells her mom, how great she is doing, how “everything’s fine” . She is able to be authentic and personal with the audience as she tells us all of he pain.  It is only at the end of the song when she says “I miss you  I love you” is she communicating in a genuine way.

We ultimately get to chose the quality of our relationships.  Do we want the mother -daughter relationship in “Mother Mother”  or do we want something else?  If we want something else, then it requires healthy risk taking.  It requires having the communication skills to handle the storms that may occur–the misperceptions, the arguments, the conflicts.  It requires speaking in ways that our partners can hear.  It requires  the hardest skill of all, listening.

If we listen and we trust, our relationships can grow. They can grow deeper, and become more meaningful. Meaningful interpersonal relationships are what we need to be good people, to have a good quality of life, and have inner peace. It starts with the risk.

Change is possible.





Too Much Information

Too much information running through my brain
Too much information driving me insane
Sting 1981

Have you seen these posts on your social media?
At home depot
At target
Eating at bagel shop
At bank

Did you recognize some of those posts as yours? Have you asked yourself why we need to tell people where we are, and what we are doing?
If celebrities posted like we do about where they are , this would be exciting– Scarlett Johansson is at the dry cleaners.- drop off or pick up?. Tom Hanks is at Cluck U Chicken—wondering what he ordered? Bill Wilson just went to the Denville AA meeting(I’d pay to see that since he died in 1971). I haven’t seen TMZ follow me to the dry cleaners—(shirts, pants an occasional sport jacket if you really wanted to know).
It seems that the social media phenomenon is creating a group of people who want to be the next reality stars– the next Duck Dynasty, the next Kardashians or worse the next Ice Road Truckers, or Moonshiners? These reality “stars” tells us that anybody can get on a television show in spite of how little talent they have. The dumbing and numbing of society!
We’ve even lowered our standards of fame—it used to be 15 minutes, now 15 seconds will suffice! 140 characters of twitter gold and the entire universe can know your immediate thoughts on ARod, the NSA, Snow, the NFL or Obamacare. But do we really care? And what’s the impact of all of this connection on our real interpersonal connections. If I’m wired to the universe do I miss out on right here right now, in the moment, living?
Sherry Turkle, a Harvard psychologist, is a prolific writer about social media and society. She conducted a Ted Talk entitled “Connected But Alone” in 2012. Her points in this talk are worth paying attention to:

It’s amazing to me that we are creating a society of non-interpersonal communicators who are happy to tell us about  all of their low intimacy behaviors. If we do not have personal, intimate conversations with others, then we lack depth as people. It’s a new year and time to make some changes happen, so the next time you want to tweet or Facebook or text someone, how about using some old school technology—TALK.

Happy New Year-

change is possible


Listening to You

In our blogs about communication (also known as communication 1 & 2), we examined using the I word, and using validation. Now we need the hardest part—listening. It would seem logically that speaking would be easier than listening. However listening requires hearing & understanding. When we listen to what people say we are validating and communicating an understanding of what they are saying.

When communication goes awry, people don’t hear. They react, and then their partner reacts to the reactions. The result is conflict. I find it amazing and fascinating to watch how couples communicate in my office–they do not hear what their partner is saying.

Let’s look at how this goes:

P1: I’m having a hard time at work, the boss is really driving me crazy
P2: You’re having a tough time, all you do is talk on the phone all day, how could that be a problem?
P1: Well all you do is going to meetings, how could that be hard, to sit down, and fall asleep!!!
P2: Fall asleep?…………….

you know where this is going………………………..

Let’s put some listening in this:

P1: I’m having a hard time at work, the boss is really driving me crazy
P2: I hear you, my job is stressful.? I just feel lots of pressure
P1 I think we both are pretty stressed, but I think my boss is crazier!!!
P2: You’re right!!!

ah much better………………………….

In the second example, partner 2 does not react to partner 1. Partner 2 listens and understands, and doesn’t play the “can you top this” game. It leads to a shared moment for both. Now you’re gonna argue with me about this and say if you got screaming kids and aerobic dinners, there’s no way to have this conversation as nicely as you outlined it. I would say, that you are totally right!! The time to have this conversation is not around the screaming kids–it’s necessary to have this conversation after the kids are asleep, in that very delicate window between pre-coma and coma. Couples need to listen and understand and validate and communicate with each other on a regular basis. They need to share the daily business of the day, the scheduling, the coming events. They also need to share their feelings? about day to day things and about meaningful things. They need to have richness and intimacy in their lives. So their relationship can be this:

Listening to you I get the music.
Gazing at you I get the heat.
Following you I climb the mountain.
I get excitement at your feet!

All of these feelings come from communication–speaking, listening, sharing, understanding. This is very doable stuff, but takes lots of hard work and practice. The rewards are greater than the risk, but listening is the key ingredient. From the couples that I’ve worked with, the improvements that they made gave new life to a relationship that was going the wrong way. Ultimately the partnership that was put together with communciation was long lasting and fulfilling. How can you do that with your relationship?


Communication part 2

Reprinted from old blog Oct 27, 2009

After the Jets win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, I was reminded of the phrase that Al Davis the maverick owner of the Raiders is famous for: JUST WIN BABY

Couples need a version of his great slogan. Just Validate Baby!!!

In a previous post, I addressed the need for communication using the 15 words of less model of communication. If we take this a step further, communication can now have specific 15 words of less. It can have validation, a confirmation of the communication which tells the listener: I understand/ what you are saying makes sense to me/ you are not a martian.

Why is this so important? Let’s find out:

Person A: I’m really afraid that our kids are going to grow up to be bad people, I mean they do all these weird things?

Person B: Don’t be so dramatic, you always blow things out of proportion?

Person A: I can’t talk to you, you never listen to me; you always put me down.

Person B: Who could listen to you, you’re a crazy person!

So how’s this conversation going?

Let’s try it with a little validation:

Person A: I’m really afraid that our kids are going to grow up to be bad people, I mean they do all these weird things?

Person B : I understand that you’re worried about our kids. They’ll be ok, just a little growing pains.

Person A: Do you really think so? They’re just not like us at all?

Person B: Yes I do.

Ok so what’s the difference? Oh a conversation and an argument.

Validation is one of the simplest communication tools, because you just have to, er, um, validate!!!!! Don’t defend, explain, criticize, blame, attack. Just Validate Baby!!!!!

If you’re validating, you’re listening and paying attention. It probably means, you need to at least mute the tv, put down the laptop or blackberry. Most of us can’t listen and do these things at the same time. In our fast paced technological world, listening has become old school. Its easier to text, facebook, twitter or email. These one way communication methods require no listening skills. How would a person practice listening if the new school version requires none of it?

Validation enhances relationships and can lead to greater depth of communication and more intimate sharing. In a future post we’ll discuss how to do that, but for now—Just Validate Baby!!!


These crimes between us grow deeper (communication part 1)

Reprinted from old blog June 17 2009.

The beauty of Sirius radio. You can drive around and listen to anything. You have choices. Last week Sirius radio gave us Dave Matthews radio for one week. I listened to this station a lot. There were live songs, cover versions of popular songs, and older songs.

While driving to work I heard the song Ants Marching which I have heard hundreds of times. The lyrics in the second verse:

She thinks, we look at each other
Wondering what the other is thinking,
But we never say a thing.
And these crimes between us grow deeper.

Hit me in the head. I said. Wow that is a day and a week in my life? This is almost every couple that I see. I have thoughts, I don’t communicate it them, and the crimes? The pain, the resentment, the hurt, grow deeper. Thank you Dave Matthews for additional inspiration!

How do these crimes develop? Is it a function of a lack of communication? Is it an awareness of who my partner is? Is it an awareness of what others couples do that we don’t? Do I look around and see how others act and we don’t? And just like the song that I’ve heard 100 times, why am I noticing this now?

These are all great questions asked by many many people that I’ve seen over the years. For each person the answer is different, significant, and ideosyncratic. One of the major crimes comitted by many couples is felony mindreading. This crime is punishable by lots of hurt/anger and resentment because my partner does not know what I’m thinking. S/he is not in tune with me; if s/he was than my partner would know exactly how I feel! Think about this: I expect my partner to know my thoughts and feelings without communication!!!! This sounds a little crazy to me, but I hear it all the time. The lyrics could just be amended to be—we look at each other, I expect him/her to know what I’m thinking therefore we don’t have to say anything, as a result the crimes between us grow deeper, but that wouldn’t sell. Dave your song is safe!!

As the crimes and feelings grow deeper, what happens to the relationship? It seems obvious—it starts to erode day by day. Communication becomes functional at best. I’m working late, I have to travel etc. Any meaningful conversation leads to conflict based on the you don’t know how I’m feeling hypothesis. How do we stop the crimes, get out of jail, and begin probation? COMMUNICATE!!! What does that mean? It means communicate how you feel, and what you think without hurting your partner.

I have a book which is entitled 15 Words or Less—all good and meaningful conversation can occur in 15 words or less. The first 2 words are simple I feel (I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m hurt etc…) Keep it short, keep it direct, say what you mean. In addition, work on eliminating the word YOU from your vocabulary. In all 50 states YOU is a fighting word! Also eliminate the absolute language always and never. Everyone is a lawyer when arguments occur. Let’s try it out:

Conflict statement: “You’re always mean to me/ you call me names /you are just like your father and your entire family when you do this /I hate this you rotten sob!”

Communication statement: “I felt angry when you said I was a loser.”

Gee—you figure out which one might be easier to respond to!!!!

If we want to end probation and live in the free world, well that’s another subject for another day. For now let’s work on stopping those crimes between us.