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Maybe You Should Talk To Someone | SXSW 2021

Lori Gottlieb
Psychotherapist & New York Times Bestselling Author at TED Conferences
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SXSW 2021
March 19, 2021, Online, Austin, USA
SXSW 2021
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About speakers

Lori Gottlieb
Psychotherapist & New York Times Bestselling Author at TED Conferences
Kelly Corrigan
Host at PBS

Lori Gottlieb is a psychotherapist and author of the New York Times bestseller MAYBE YOU SHOULD TALK TO SOMEONE, which is being adapted as a television series. She writes The Atlantic’s weekly “Dear Therapist” advice column and is also the co-host of the popular podcast, “Dear Therapists,” produced by Katie Couric. Her recent TED Talk was one of the top 10 most watched of the year.

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O Magazine calls Kelly Corrigan “the voice of a generation” and HuffPo calls her “the poet laureate of the ordinary.” Her four bestselling memoirs on family life have asked questions about identity, loss and connection. Her work on television and radio brings positive, candid, worthwhile conversations to millions.

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About the talk

When Lori Gottlieb wrote what has been called “an addictive tour of the human condition,” she had no idea that a global pandemic was about to turn people’s lives upside down. But the themes in her New York Times bestselling book, which is also being adapted as a TV series, turned out to be particularly relevant to our lives right now. In this conversation with tk, she discusses connection, rewriting our stories when there’s a huge plot twist, using our feelings as a source of agency and productivity... and what it means to both listen and to “talk to someone.”

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SXSW dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals. Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. An essential destination for global professionals, this year’s online event features sessions, showcases, screenings, exhibitions, professional development and a variety of networking opportunities. For more information, please visit sxsw.com.

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I'm Kelly Corrigan. And I'm here today to talk to Lori Gottlieb, the Lori, and I have a few things in common, we both have a podcast. Mine is called kelly Corrigan wonders, and lorries is called therapist. We have books out. So, I am also a writer and we also the same agent. So I'm super happy to be with you. Hi, yes, so much in common and I'm so happy to have this conversation. So I thought you'd be such an interesting person to talk to you. So over the years of your work as a therapist and as a columnist and as a podcaster, you have been on the

receiving end of thousands of letters reaching out asking for advice and in particular around relationships. And so I wondered, if over all the incoming information, you are noticing some patterns. So can we start with like a sense of the kinds of things that many people are experiencing a relationship? That maybe we can all learn from Yeah, I think it's so interesting to be able to take the temperature of what's going on with people by looking in my inbox, of course, has a

therapist I get to see people one-on-one and I care a lot about you know, what might be going on. But I think that when you look at thousands of letters, you start to see Potter and send a lot of what I see is the central question and I think, which is, how can I love and be loved? And I say this, even for people who are happily married, people who have familial love to have platonic love. I think that we all can get in our own way in relationships in relationship to others and also in relationship to ourselves. And so, what I think people struggle with is getting out of

their own way. Do you think? I mean, I'm thinking about myself, but I'm also thinking about the few people in the world that, I know. Well, mainly my two kids, my husband's, my family of origin. For sure, there is a variety of ease with which people are able to love and be loved. And there are there so many people that can only do one side of the equation that are very loving, but for whatever reason aren't able to allow themselves to be known and I know that Renee Brown has introduced

to the common vernacular, the safety of vulnerability. But how do you see that playing out in terms of people's ability to actually be loved which involved the tremendously during Act of being known? It really is a daring act to be known. I think in our culture today we we see a lot of post on Instagram like you know why I am putting this out there for all of you and I've been very vulnerable and people say you were so brave. I'll tell you what, the real actor. That's the real Act of Bravery is to sit face-to-face in the same space. With someone with the

stakes are really high where you have an intimate relationship with this person into Again, doesn't have to be romantic, you reveal something about yourself. That is true, vulnerability. And I think that in our culture, we see vulnerability sometimes as a week and I think, especially from that, I will say men, especially, I think women too, but I see a difference. So, so in my therapy office, for example, men will come in and they'll say, I've never told anyone this before, and they literally have not told soul, and women will come in. And they'll say, you know, I never told anyone this

before, except for my mother my sister my best friend. Right? So so that person has has told a few people, but it feels like she has it. And I think that there's this idea that a lot of men hold, which is that they that to be strong, they have to take care of everything themselves. Have to be very self-sufficient that they can love others and they can be supportive to others. Like you were saying about one side of the equation but it's hard for them to take in the wall. And, and I think that they suffer as a result of it, and I think that women do too, I think we all suffer when we can't

show the truth of who we are, or reveal ourselves to other people because you're truly beloved. If you aren't revealing yourself, Yeah, I mean I think sometimes that we just had a funny thing happened in her house to someone. We adore my cousin who has lived with us off and on over the years hurt her neck. There's some kind of a pinched nerve or something. And she said, I have noticed this funny pattern, which is when I tell women my mom, you my sister. Oh my God, I'm in like level 10 pain. Like I'm weeping in pain to the tough, cookie dough for her to leave this big that the women say.

Oh, honey, I'm so sorry. And then when she and her boyfriend or my husband or her dad, they say, what did you do? Like, they write to explain why they want to come up with like a thesis about how and when it happened and that's some sort of comfort. Where's the women? Just want to skip the hypothesis. Nothing about the moment. The nerve got pinched and just hold. Right? And I wasn't mad at you. Yeah, yeah, I did I do and I was imagining to that maybe there was found to be and let me give you some suggestions on how you can do like go to the chiropractor or a fix

as opposed to just be present with anything that comes down to the way that we listen to because I think that you know sometimes I think we don't know how to listen to the people who matter most to us going back to that equation of Love or being loved. So it's very loving. So, very loving act to help someone to feel under still at, I remember once in couples therapy, this couple was in and she was saying like, you know what three words would make me feel so good and he said I love you and she said no the three words I understand you I think that's what we all want it.

So when somebody comes to you with something, it's at you know we never asked them, we really asked them. How can I be helpful to you in this conversation? Do you just want to vent right now cuz it's really Rod? It just happened. Do you want to hug? Do you want my thoughts about this? Do you want my honest feedback? Do you want me to help problem solve with you? What would be helpful in this moment and also, knowing that maybe that's not the only conversation about it, that in that moment, you might need one thing, but in another moment you could be asking for something completely

different. But as listeners, we assume that how we would want to be helped in. That moment is how the other person wants to be helped. And so often, we're not really helping them meaning, we're not really listening to that because we're giving them something that we want versus something that they want. You know, that's so funny because it goes to this little moment and my marriage. So I'm 20 years in now. And it only took about three years for us to sort of Want to dismantle the Golden Rule, which is to say treat others as you want to be treated. Because

frankly, it's Kenzie's deeply misleading because the way it, I mean, what Edward would want in a moment might be to like, skip all the feeling and get right to the problem-solving or just to validate the crap out of him and be like, you're right, that guy's crazy, you should have gotten that. But what? That doesn't mean that that's a good guide for what I want. That's right. And I think you don't, we do that to our kids to all the time as parrots, where, you know, we think, well, I'm wiser, I have a perspective on this or, or it's just so

uncomfortable for us to watch our kids struggle with something. And so it's really our discomfort that we're trying to get rid of, and we don't give them the space to kind of, you know, sit with and marinate in a little bit of discomfort that will help them to learn something or to grow as human. And so, when they come to us and they say, you know, I didn't get the part in the school play or sit with me at lunch or here's what happened. We, we kind of jump in to try to make them feel better or offer them advice or whatever it is. It would make us feel comfortable but it's not

necessarily what would be the right thing for them or what they really need in that moment. And again, we talked about loving, I'm talking about all kinds of love, loving your children, loving your family members, loving your romantic partner, loving and also, I think the most importantly, loving yourself Yeah, I mean it's funny at 8 right around the same time that your book came out, my book to tell me more came out and one of the ideas and that is that if you race into saw someone else's problems under the banner of like being a loving supportive

friend, mother spouse, whatever the fill in the blank is it's almost kind of greedy because one of life's great pleasures. And also incredibly soothing truth about us is that we do often figure out how to get ourselves out of the hole and if I figure it out for you, then I'm stealing the joy and the pride and the satisfaction and the comfort that comes from being able to solve problems as they emerge in our lives. Right. That's exactly what I see in the therapy room all the time. And that's why I is a therapist don't give advice even on my

podcast, dear therapist, right? So we give advice, but it's advice that's based on something that they have discovered on their own during the sessions. So we go through one therapy session with them on the podcast where you hear it and then we give them a week to go. Try out our suggestion but again something that comes directly from something they've discovered about themselves in that hour. And so I think it's really important to remember that when the people come for therapy or when your loved ones comes, it was something they have the answer. They might not think they have

the answer or they might not have arrived at the answer yet, but it's somewhere in there and if you don't, if you don't give that voice inside of them enough volume and you talk over it and they get lots of people in their ear. They're not going to hear their own voice and they're going to choose something or pick a direction and it doesn't feel true to them. Do you have like a magix question that you asked like a thing I've been trying to say is what do you think you're going to do about that? Like that's that's how I protect myself from saying we can't. You just call me back just call her

back and say that you would like to babysit after on, you got a negative covid, test me the money and what, you know, just say, what it, what are you thinking about doing? And I feel like I say it so much that now, I have to kind of Disguise it, in my interactions with my family, lest, they feel like I'm therapy getting them, you know, I like, so, that's weird, huh? Have you thought of anything? When you going to do? Yeah, exactly. Well, yeah, I do and I think you know what, I remember when I was training to be a therapist, one

of my clinical supervisor said, you have two ears and one mouth, there's a reason for that ratio. So I think that the the fewer words that we use the better so I will literally say something as short as say more. Tell me more like your book same or really something like that. And I am very present in the conversation. It's not just a word that I'm throwing out there. I'm responding to them, but I'm in their space with them and in the trench with them and I think that that is much more effective because then they do have more to

say they weren't. Sometimes I think someone is done talking or even if they think that they're done talkin, they're not, they need someone to say to them. So interesting. Say more or what do you mean or tell me more about that. Yeah, and there's in some ways, there's nothing more loving than the follow-up question. Yes. Yes. The following equation. Talk about a lot is perspective-taking. Who can you spell that out a little bit in, like, how would that work? Between two people. So much of what I see happened is somebody comes in

with something happened between them and someone else, and they have what they think, is the accurate version of the story. And yet, we're all unreliable narrators. We all tell stories through particular Lance. And so, you know what, we believe in what we leave out, the parts of the story that we maximize the parts of the story that we minimize the things we emphasize and an hour, rolling it and how we describe what actually happened or very unreliable ever leaving out an entire perspective that the other person would bring if they were in the room. So it's interesting, is that

when I see couples, I get to hear both perspectives and it's sometimes very surprising to the other person that oh, wow, I can't believe you saw it that way. I had no idea. You saw it that way, and all of these motives are reasons that you did, what you did that, I attributed to you. We're completely wrong, but we don't ask we don't, we don't really consider the other perspective because we feel hurt or we feel wrong. Are we just make assumptions about the other person so I think perspective-taking is so important in my podcast. That's an exercise that we could people all the time

and see how quickly, that one intervention can really shift. A dynamic between people that has been a dynamic where people have been stuck for a very long time. And then they come on, dear therapist. And all of a sudden they do this perspective-taking and they see the world and the other person completely differently. It's such an easy thing to do but we don't think to do it. So it's kind of like why do you think you know, why do you think your mom did that? Why do you think your daughter isn't talking to you? You think that your partner said that?

Why do you think this person is acting that way? I'm going to what would have to it? Would have to be happening for them that they would react in that way. And those the questions you can ask yourself and if you can write the same story that you just told But completely from what you imagined their perspective is without all of the stuff you just told me but write it completely from their perspective, only agree with their perspective, but imagine what their perspective might be a whole different world opens up. Well, that goes to this idea that I remember

someone telling me 20 years ago, which is at the number one thing that people want one of the same where the money more than sex, more than a great figure is to feel they've been Stouts and that isn't our job to make sure not only that we are feeling them but that they can feel us feeling that the only convincing way to do that is to say, listen, I'm sure that when I showed up 25 minutes late, you were sitting there thinking I can't fucking believe this. I ran out of the place. I took a shower so I could hang up a call earlier. I didn't talk to my

mom, just so I could be ready to leave and now you're here, 20 minutes late. And as soon as I say that then, you know, you whoever this imaginary person is he's mad at me for being late. You know that? I know what it feels like. What what's going on for you? But that requires this amazing. Like top of the mountain, kind of characteristic which is intellectual disability. I do have to believe, there are things you don't know and don't understand such that you can underwrite curiosity. Yes, curiosity is such a key word

here and I think it would happen to. The reason people aren't curious is because of Shame is that when you show up late like that, the first thing that happens. If you want to defend yourself because you're ashamed, of the fact that yeah you should have left earlier right. You know you you had control over this maybe maybe you didn't but you don't often what happens as we want to defend ourselves because we, we can't distinguish between. I did something, and I'm sorry for it versus I'm bad. And some people feel like they don't know how to apologize or say that they're sorry for something

because I feel like, if they acknowledged that they did something that hurt someone else, but it doesn't mean that they did something that maybe they wish they hadn't done. It means that they are something that they wish they weren't. And that's where she comes in. So I think that it's really important. What you said is to be able to to connect with somebody and your shame will dissipate and they will appreciate it. They will appreciate that. You see that, you understand their perspective as well. And it diffuses the whole situation that like that showing up late example is is, you

know, those, those are the kinds of very small things that become very overtime in relationships. You know, it's funny. I'm thinking about I was 17 year on a 19 year old and so I've been lied to a few times. And when it has happened, I have this ridiculous reaction which is, I can't believe you look me in the eye and told a bold-faced lie. Like I am appalled and that's really kind of say, me and it's not very humble or honest because I lied my face off to my mother when I was 17 and 19 years old. Right. So then I always feel like I have to go back to them and say, can I tell you? I hit a

little hard there on the line thing. Like I lied to my parents all the time from like age 15 to 22, so I'm sorry. I wish I was asking like, you were the only person ever to lie and of course that's not true. Right? And the clinic is actually make them Sheen. Yeah, right. Exactly. And I think the question they're in that moment is to send it's really hard as a parent. So, of course, I'm I'm saying this from from the comfort of not being faced with that in this moment, but it's really important to just take a breath and imagine what it's like to be your child or teenager at that moment and

to say to them, what made it so hard for you to tell me the truth, what what, what was it that what did you think would happen if you had told me the truth? And that's what a really good conversation is going to happen and sometimes parents think. Well if I don't make it really clear from the very first thing out of my mouth that lying is wrong and don't you dare lie to me and how can I ever trust you again that they're not going to get the lesson? They're going to get the lesson a lot better if you start with. I'm trying to understand. I know you're a really honest person. I'm trying to

understand what made you afraid to tell me the truth here. That's brilliant. I mean, that, that alone that's like my take away for the day. And also, specifically what you said is, I know that you're an honest person, so there must be but you know that. You're like, I feel like the theater plays a big role in in these human interactions because what I'm afraid of is either, I'm going to do the moment wrong, it's a pain. So I'm going to make for more lying or I'm afraid that if I given in they're going to take a mile

Right, right? Is this chance for an actual conversation where it's like, well, I'll tell you why I didn't tell you cuz the last time I told you something in that category you went and it was like a whole three day thing. And he's so I don't want to go through that. Right? And that's really good to know. I think what happened is we create entire stories around, you know, my kid lied. Oh my God, my kids going to go to jail. This is a gateway. This is a gateway into a life without failure or whatever it is. And and

so we get know these little moments become very fake to us. Like I can't believe my child is like, what is this mean? It happened very quickly in our hats. We don't even know what's happening. Like, oh my gosh, who is this person? Who did this person become, who did I raise? And what's going to happen to this child? Where is really like you said, it's probably mom doesn't react well to. She doesn't, she can't handle the truth. I can't trust her to handle my truth, and if I could trust her to handle my trip, I would be a lot, more honest, the park, right. I mean, I do feel like parenting

in general, is either. I've never know if I'm overreacting or under reacting. and I like this here is that if I don't come down with a hammer on this thing that they're going to go to jail, If I attended there is also the very real possibility that if you hit it too hard, you're going to create this shame sites on shame. It's really big, right. Isn't shame like that the most problematic. Nnn kids internalized it. So think of all of us as adults and the voice in our own heads, where did that voice come from? For a lot of us we are so hard

on ourselves. I had, I had a patient who did not believe me when I was noticing House of critical. She was and I said, I want you to go home and write down everything that that voice in your head says to you over the course of a few days and come back. And then tell me what what happened? And she came back and she said, I can't even read this. I have such a bully to myself and we talked about staying. There were things like she made a typo on email, and she had said to myself, you're such an idiot right for that. She cut her reflection reflection in a mirror and said, oh, you look terrible

today, we talk to myself. We are not kind and so I always say is it kind? Is it true? Is it useful? And if it's not, where is that voice coming from? You were born with that voice. Where is that voice coming from at 4? Really listen to that voice and adjust it not only when were talking to our kids or a partners are friends or siblings or parents but it's okay. So I want to I want to get to some take away. So the first is what you're saying right now which is that self-compassion like being decent to yourself

talking to yourself in a way that wouldn't make another person cry. That's right, that's right. Yes, and knowing to that, we talked to ourselves more than we talked to anybody else in the course of our lives. So whenever I ask people who's the person you talk to mos in the course of your life, most people think it's their partner, their parents or siblings or best friend. It's yourself. So that voice is going all the time. Make sure that it, whatever that boy said is kind and true and useful. Time Tru useful at the very top, which is that there's

kind of a taboo around vulnerability and it's deeply misunderstood as weakness. And there's a lot of people trying to get us to understand that, but persist, it does. It does persist and I will say that when I see couples and women will stay to their husbands, if there it's a heterosexual couple, you know, I really wanted to know more about your inner life. I really want to understand you and opens up to her and he starts crying. She often is stuck in this place of I don't feel safe when you don't open up to me but I don't feel safe. When you are this vulnerable with me until that is a

cultural message that we as women we have to watch out for as much as men two and then perspective-taking like that's a real unlocking. Absolutely, I think that once you start to imagine that there's more than one version of a story, you know, the story can go and all kinds of different directions. It frees you up and it and it helps you to navigate your relationship so much more smoothly and so don't be alarmed. If it feels terrifying, I love talking to you. Thank you so much for doing this with me. Thank you so much.

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