Sunday, July 29, 2012

Words Can Change Your Brain by Andrew Newberg, M.D.

Words Can Change Your Brain: 12 Conversation Strategies to Build Trust, Resolve Conflict, and Increase IntimacyWords Can Change Your Brain: 12 Conversation Strategies to Build Trust, Resolve Conflict, and Increase Intimacy by Andrew Newberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good parts - application of very recent studies by neuroscientists and business scholars to interpersonal communication, using personal values and strengths to make job decisions and cut down on stress,

Not anything new parts - active listening repackaged as 'compassionate communication,' progressive relaxation repackaged as 'compassionate communication,' and meditation repackaged as 'compassionate communication.'  I also feel like presenting it as 12 steps makes me want to take it less seriously.  That's me.

That said, it wasn't a bad read, and it never hurts to be reminded of these core concepts.  A few parts from the book that I will follow up on, probably read the original articles the information comes from:

"Extreme brevity keeps the emotional centers of the brain from sabotaging a conversation."
He goes on to discuss how you could use this in business, with limiting people to 30 second summaries.  This might be a good idea to adopt for a departmental weekly meeting, actually.

"Research shows that the best way to deal with negativity is to observe it inwardly, without reaction and without judgment. The next step is to consciously reframe each negative feeling and thought by shaping it into a positive, compassionate, and solution-based direction."
The first sentence of this brings Eckhart Tolle immediately to mind, in The Power of Now. The author of Words Can Change Your Brain is insistent that negativity not be brought up between two people, at all if it can be helped.  I appreciated the underlying principles of this, and even the science, but without complete buy-in by all parties involved, this is difficult to put into practice.  I found the science behind what happens when negativity and anger are expressed to be incredibly fascinating.

"A positive view of yourself will bias you toward seeing the good in others, whereas a negative self-image will incline you toward suspicion and doubt."
This is the most explicit section proving how words change your brain.  So if I'm more stubborn about not allowing the negative to creep in, it should get easier because my brain won't be used to it.  I have to say, after reading in this book about the impact negativity can have on a relationship, I made a concerted effort not to vent to my husband.  And I couldn't not vent!  Our nightly decompressing has become a part of our routine.  I can't just keep it in.  This book showed me I may want to consider finding a better outlet.  Something more personal, not bringing him into my emotions.

"By simply pondering and affirming your deepest values you'll improve the health of your brain, you'll protect yourself from burnout at work, you'll reduce your propensity to ruminate about failure, and you'll be less reactive and defensive when someone confronts you with uncomfortable information."
I felt this to be the most compelling section of the entire book - focusing on values, and I directed some colleagues to the section on values reflection.

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