from the


from the Top of the Mind


from the
Top of the Mind

“Dr. Crawford’s presentation was the highlight of the conference and a much needed reminder for all of us (especially nurses) to keep it all balanced. Bill’s psychology background surely protruded through his messages and I know it was well-received by all!”

Nancy Perovic, RN, BSN
University Of Chicago Hospitals, Chicago, IL

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How to Make a Point Without Inflicting a Wound

As I travel around the country teaching my “Life from the Mind” philosophy to individuals and organizations, one of the most common questions I get from participants is, “How can I get my point across?” or “How can I say what I want to say in a way that it is heard and understood?”

This question is understandable, because I’m sure that we have all had the experience of trying to talk to someone about what we believe, only to have them become angry, defensive, and unwilling to hear what we have to say. This often triggers resentment in us, which makes them even more resistant, and a cycle of resentment and resistance is born and exacerbated.

The way I like to address these sorts of questions is to first understand the science behind the problem. For those of you who follow my “Life from the Top of the Mind” philosophy, you know that all of this has to do with how the brain processes information. Our middle brain, or limbic system is the scanner, processor, router part of the brain, and is responsible for engaging either the lower brain (the brainstem) or the upper 80% of the brain (the neocortex, or what I call “The Top of the Mind”.)

Given that the prime directive of this middle brain is to keep us safe and alive as a specie, it tends to interpret anything negative as dangerous, which throws us into the part of the brain designed to deal with danger (the brainstem).

Unfortunately, our ability to communicate effectively with others does not reside in this lower brain, but instead is accessed from the upper 80% of the brain (the neocortex). Therefore, when we try to talk to people, or try to make a point in a way that the other person’s middle brain interprets as criticism, this “inflicts a wound,” so to speak, and throws them deeper into their resistant brain (their brainstem).

So, what’s the solution? I suggest that we start with a model I call “C-Cubed,” which stands for clarity, confidence, and creativity. In other words, in order to access our confidence and creativity in our communication with others, we must first be clear about several things:

1. What part of the brain are they in?

2. What is important to them, and/or what are they worried or concerned about?

3. How does the point we want to make or what we want them to hear address this concern?

For example, If they are stuck in the brainstem and they believe that we either don’t know or don’t care about what is important to them, no amount of logic, or data will get through, because that part of the brain isn’t designed to interpret logic. In fact, those stuck in the brainstem will probably interpret our logic as us trying to convince them that they are wrong (they will feel “wounded”), and, therefore, will resist anything we say.

Sound familiar? To address this problem, I have created a model in the third part of my “Life from the Top of the Mind” system that spells LEAP.

The “L” is for “Listen and Learn.” Here, you not only listen to them, but do so in a way that allows you to learn what’s important to them.

The “E” is for “Empathize,” which doesn’t mean that you necessarily agree with them, but that you do let them know you “get it,” and that they no longer have to convince you that they have a right to think and feel what they think and feel.

The “A” is for “Ask.” Here, I stress the importance of asking what I call a “Top of the Mind” or
“neocortex” question. This is a question about the solution and the future (versus the past and the problem) that blends what is important to them with what is important to you. If done well, it will have them shifting from the resistant brain to the receptive brain where solution-focused conversations are possible.

The “P” is for “Problem-solve,” and is the last step in the model. This means that until:

• We truly know what’s important to someone…
• They know we get it…
• And…We ask a question about the solution and the future in a way that blends what’s important to them with what’s important to us, we will not be in a position to communicate effectively with others.

Or, put another way, if our attempts to make a point only continue to inflict wounds, we will be forever caught in a war of words, and the casualties will be our relationships and connections with others. I suggest, instead, that we take a “LEAP of faith” and begin to communicate with others in a way that inspires connection versus combat, and in a way where healing versus wounding is our Highest Purpose.

~ All the best, Dr. Bill

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