Coach Menachem featured Dr. David Lieberman, world famous author and speaker, on Sunday, August 8, for the Let’s Get Real With Coach Menachem program.

Dr. Lieberman began by speaking in general terms about how to handle difficult people, and then he answered live questions. He pointed out that “the quality of a person’s emotional health and the quality of his or her relationships go hand in hand. If we could optimize relationships in our lives, especially those with difficult people, we’d find our own emotional health vastly improved.”

Sometimes a very basic strategy can be very effective. Our relationships with people go to the core of our spiritual health. We have halachic obligations to parents, siblings, etc. It is important to own that everyone in our lives is custom-made by Hashem for our growth. “All who comes into our lives are there for us.” You are not there to change them. They are there for you. We need to always ask ourselves, “What am I supposed to learn from these relationships?”

He shared that because someone does something wrong, it doesn’t mean we have to get angry. We need to not personalize everything. If we are able to recognize that it is their stuff, not me, we won’t grow upset.

When you are in a conversation, and someone is rude or bombastic, you have a choice. You can focus on your pain or on theirs. When you focus on their pain, then you can validate and empathize. If you focus on your own pain, it is difficult to empathize. To see through someone else’s lens, you have to take your glasses off first. The degree to which we are able to not personalize or get upset by what someone else does, this frees us emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. There are studies that show there is a connection between physical symptoms and emotional health. People who have difficult relationships can have this manifest in disorders that lead to physical problems.

He emphasized again: “Because someone does something wrong, doesn’t mean you have to get angry.”

Chazal teach us that it takes 21-30 days to rewire our physiology to respond differently. We are responsible for our emotions. If someone is acting rudely, it is a consequence of their not being emotionally as well as they should be.

He taught how self-esteem diminishes and ego grows bigger. Someone who is egocentric can never be wrong. How people treat you reflects on their own emotional health. “You treat other people on the basis of your capacity to give.”

When a person isn’t acting nicely, you can assume he or she is suffering inside. He shared how, when we become angry, there is a physiological reaction in our brain. The cortisol interferes with our executive function. We literally become dumb.

He then shared how you have to tailor what you say to the capacity of the other person’s ability to hear it. A mistake we make is to criticize the person when he is doing something we don’t want him to do. The person is ashamed of himself and angry at himself. The criticism will spur him to rationalize that what he did was okay. We want to see ourselves as a good person. When someone is telling me I’m bad, then this leads to cognitive dissonance. It’s more productive to notice instead when a person does what you want him to do. He used this as an example for a child who is misbehaving. Catch her behaving properly: This is the time to say “Wow.” Now, she feels great, and she loves you. This is giving her a self-concept to live up to. In chinuch, it is so damaging when a parent negatively labels a child. This gives him a bad image to live up to.

A mother asked about a teenage boy who was constantly misbehaving in school and at home. Dr. Lieberman asked if there was a time that he could control himself, and she said yes. He then said that you need to see what payoffs he is getting for misbehaving, if he has the ability to control himself.

Next, someone asked about an unhealthy parent and how to deal with his reactions. Dr. Lieberman noted that the less healthy a person is, the more he or she will blame others. We need boundaries to define us and our responsibilities. Every relationship needs boundaries. You also need to enforce those boundaries in a sensitive way. Problems come when people try to break our boundaries. Once a line is drawn, then only consequences matter. When a person steps over the boundary, there have to be clear consequences. He shared that “we teach others how to behave towards us.” We need to reinforce consistently and compassionately. Our job is to hold the line so they will push less and less.

This informative talk can be viewed on the Coach Menachem website.

 By Susie Garber