Category Archives: Communication

Out-of-the-Box Conflict Management – 61 Real Life Stories

Sweet Fruit From The Bitter Tree

Human beings are incredibly creative.

When I first heard about the idea of this book "Sweet Fruit From The Bitter Tree", it was from the author’s father, Steve Andreas. Steve was doing a training in Australia on “Self-Esteem”. On the first day, he also mentioned that he was collecting stories about people who had been in traumatic situations.

In particular, he was searching for real experiences from people who had “handled conflict” in a way that had turned the situation completely around and made it life-affirming and inspiring.

He knew that there are many, many different and often surprising ways to do what people call ‘conflict resolution’, and he was trying to find as many examples as he could.

Five years later, this book finally arrives, written by his son Mark Andreas. I am delighted to share one of these stories with you from Mark himself.

Have a listen to this ‘conflict management’ technique, as used in an experience of a mugging by six men in the back streets of Glasgow…

Sweet Fruit from the Bitter Tree: 61 Stories of Creative & Compassionate Ways out of Conflict

How to Reduce Surgical Deaths By 47%

When I left standard general practice back in 2000 I recognized that the family doctor was going to be making way for the Nurses.

The growing reality is that government can’t afford to pay for doctors – nurses are much cheaper.

BUT … I also recognized that nurses – as heretical as it sounds – are probably better for the patient’s health too.

Doctor’s, as well meaning as they generally are, can be dangerous cowboys.

Nurses don’t have the mindset of doctors. They have been trained much more in the way Dr Atul Gawande recommends in this video below.

Hopefully we are seeing the rise of a ‘new medicine’ in the seeds of this talk.

[Note: the surgical part starts at 13:00, but the whole video is well worth watching.]

Legal Self Help

I like my self help advice along the lines of the KISS principle – Keep It Short & Sweet.

Here is some legal self help advice that is about as KISS as it can get.

If you are ever questioned by police or authorized officials then this may save your bacon.

I know these videos are for US audiences who have the Fifth Amendment (the US Constitutional right to silence) and the Miranda Warning (letting you know that if you DO say something it can be used against you.)

But if you any in a country where someone reads you your rights, then I think that this is must-have legal self help  advice.

Here are two experts giving you the details behind this KISS approach to legal matters…


Don’t Talk to Cops, Part 1 – The Lawyer


Don’t Talk to Cops, Part 2 – The Policeman

Thanks to Gary North for identifying this for me.

-Dr Martin Russell

Serious Illness And Trauma – Support For The Carers

In my original 7 years of training to be a medical doctor there were gaps.

Some of those gaps I have filled. I spent time with Aboriginal people in rural Australia. I assessed elderly and frail people for admission to Aged Care facilities (aka Nursing Homes.) I also spent time working in a hospital Palliative Care unit caring mostly for people dying of cancer, but also Multiple Sclerosis and other illnesses. Then I took up as a family doctor which covers all areas of medicine, including visiting patients (aka people) in their own homes. Ooh wow.

In all this I still never got the sense of what it was actually like to be a relative, friend or carer of someone who is seriously ill or hospitalized.

Medicine never taught me this.

I still don’t have much experience in this area. (Un?)fortunately most of those around me have remained healthy and well.

This is a gap in the training of most doctors and nurses.

This is one area where the medical system isn’t going to help you very much.

It’s hard to help yourself when there are very few people to turn to for expertise.

However I saw a story on TV about a guy who does know a bit more about this, Dale Elliott (www.DaleElliott.com), who is now a sit-down/stand-up comedian, professional speaker, and the first paraplegic skydiver in Australasia.

Dale’s story is that at age 26 he broke his spine and lost the use of his legs coming off a motorbike. But it was only after his short 2-month stay in hospital that he discovered how many issues there had been for his colleagues, friends, and family while he was concentrating on getting well.

He took this experience and turned it into a self help tool for carers of people with serious illnesses and trauma.

It is called ‘I’m Thinking Of You’.

Since its launch in 2007 the site has attracted TV attention as well as private and corporate recognition. It has cost over $300,000 to setup, and over a thousand “Care Zones” have been created. Much more is to come.

If you know a carer who supporting someone ill in hospital or rehabilitation then have them check out this site to support them and take a big hassle off their already full plate…

www.ImThinkingOfYou.com.au (don’t worry about the .au – this site is used worldwide – 30% from the US alone.)

-Dr Martin Russell

Working Through A Problem

What the **** does that mean really?

What does it mean to “get over” something?

What about “sort it out”?

And as for “deal with it”, are our lives some variation on Blackjack that we just need the right hand to show up?

It’s one of the questions I pondered when I made the “Self Help Me Over” online video product. People had come to me over the years in my counselling practice requesting exactly these things, and so I decided to record the consultation I would give people to help fulfill this request.

But I didn’t cover how to “work through” something.

Well I’ve just been sent some information that appeals to my sense of absurdity about the English Language.

If you have an emotion you need to “work through” then this is from NLPCo.com and it is for you…

The Tunnel Technique

1. Notice where in your body you feel the emotion. With your hands, remove it from yourself and put it front of you. Expand the image until it’s the size and shape of a doorway.

2. On the other side of the doorway is a tunnel of the emotion. In a moment, you will enter the tunnel and walk through it to find out what is on the other side. But there is a rule: once entering the tunnel you must keep walking.

3. Having agreed to keep moving your feet, step into the tunnel, close the door behind you, and feel the emotion surrounding you as you keep moving until you discover the exit on the other side. (This has never taken more than 30 seconds.)

4. Going through the emotion and out the other side typically moves a person into a very different place emotionally. Going through guilt can lead to freedom, going through rage can lead to compassion, but … sometimes it goes to other strong emotions which have been suppressed or masked. When that happens, go through that emotion as well until you’ve reached a place which feels healthy and whole.

You may consider doing this with someone around, even a counsellor, but for the 60-120 seconds the whole thing takes it’s worth giving this a go.

The morning after I read about this I was thinking about an emotion of disgust from my medical school days. I could handle dead bodies, but mucus and phlegm and spit was always a choking and gagging revulsion for me. I used The Tunnel Technique on it and now it’s unpleasant still (I do NOT want to drink a spittoon) but without the gagging or turning away.

One method of self-help is to be aware of your language, and do what it suggests literally.

With the appropriate techniques you can even turn “working through”, into “playing through”.

Golf anyone?

-Dr Martin Russell

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Doctors And Empathy

Have you heard the joke?

When is the time to get empathy from a doctor?

Before they’ve gone to medical school.

Boom. Boom.

Well actually it’s not a joke at all. It’s a researched fact, and not a very funny fact either.

Evidence has been building that shows a steady decline in empathy in doctors as they go through their medical training. The latest one came out just last month…

http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2008/03/24/prsb0324.htm

It is quite staggering.

Empathy is the ability to feel and respond to what someone else is experiencing.

Doctors are most empathic when they have first been chosen for medical school.

From this point on their ability to be empathic declines. Even once they become registrars it continues to fall away.

I’m not yet aware of research that shows when this trend stops, or begins to reverse. Perhaps at some point it does.

Not surprisingly females on average have more empathy than males, but it makes little difference in medical school.

The proportional drop during training is the same.

Except for alcoholism, some prescription drug addictions, and completed suicide (presumably they have better knowledge about how to succeed if they attempt it) doctors are generally healthier than the average population.

So for self help, empathy may not be very necessary.

But if you want empathy from a doctor you might have to hunt a bit more than you would expect. No joke.

-Dr Martin Russell

Life Is A…

Medicine can be so arrogant sometimes.

How can doctors “save people’s lives” when people just die later of something else.

The latest cancer treatment announces it has reduced the mortality by half. Really. Please put the time-frame back in and say something like, “within the first 5 years after treatment.”

Human life is after all, as the saying goes, a sexually-transmitted terminal disease.

Would we be better off removing the idea of “saving” people, or of “curing” disease?

“Cure” is often a bad description. Perhaps “life-long remission” is more accurate.

And in fact “getting ill” is not correct either. In this era of genetic fatalism how about “initial spontaneous relapse” for any new illness.

The bugs and nasties are all around us just waiting for us to succumb. Modern medical theory says that cancers are already in us being cleaned up by our immune system until the day that they escape and take their opportunity to wreak havoc.

Accepting the end will come brings importance to the fact that we are here now.

Are you waiting, or are you making the most of how your life is today?

-Dr Martin Russell

The Other Forgiveness

In my therapy work I have pretty much given up using the word forgiveness.

Not because it is a bad idea – heck no. Forgiveness is a key self help skill for being an effective human being.

It’s just that the people who most need to use forgiveness in their lives, have also been the ones who have the most terrible and dangerously twisted misconceptions about what the term means.

It does NOT mean to continue to accept harm or damage to yourself.

It does NOT have anything to do with losing face, “weakening”, or giving in to someone.

I don’t suggest you have anything to do with that sort of corruption of “forgiveness”.

I am speaking to you direct.

If your first reaction to the idea of forgiveness is that is unsuitable or dangerous in your particular situation, then let me give you my firm opinion based on all my years of counseling…

  • You are EXACTLY the person who needs to understand what real forgiveness is, and you are wasting your life and knee-capping your chances of helping yourself, if you don’t get started on doing it correctly ASAP.

Here’s all the instruction manual you need to get started and done…

http://www.jamesbrausch.org/forgiveness/

-Dr Martin Russell

Following Instructions

Have you ever thought you were following instructions exactly as described, and then found out that you weren’t.

I just discovered that I’ve been incorrectly mixing the milk powder formula for my 1 year old daughter.

I’ve been putting in 3 scoops, when it was meant to be 33% stronger at 4 scoops. I had been adamant I had read the instructions and was doing it correctly. I wasn’t.

Incredibly this is now my third child. Even though all three children were breastfed, I have still gone through probably more than a hundred of these milk formula cans, which means I’ve prepared many times that number of bottles over the years.

I even know I have revisited that particular set of instructions many times.

I still had it wrong.

And it’s not a one off experience for me.

As an example, about 5 years ago I was recommended to try a new shampoo.

It had instructions on it amounting to 2 sentences of a total of about 20 words.

In the first week of use I re-read those 20 words every day. I changed what I was doing on at least 4 occasions before I was happy I had it right. It was a very humbling experience.

However I suspect I’m not alone.

In my counseling work I get to give other people instructions too, and I’ve noticed what they do with them.

However by setting up this blog I found an even more obvious area for me to observe people’s ability to follow instructions.

With this blog I have an Intern Program where I teach people hands-on how to run an internet business.

Would you believe that the commonest problem people have had in following the Intern Program is not following instructions?

Even when I have let people know that they did not follow the instructions, they still repeated the same errors.

Then they got frustrated, and all but one stopped.

Really, really interesting.

Others have performed the procedures successfully. I re-read the instructions myself, and on only one occasion was the instruction itself unclear.

On all the other occasions the issue was that the instructions had not been precisely followed. In fact part of the Intern Program’s design is to test how well people can follow instructions because it is a crucial skill for success in business and in life.

How often have you tried something and then given up when it didn’t work?

On a rough survey of myself, my interns, and my patients over many years, I would suspect that one of the commonest problems will have been that you did not precisely follow the instructions.

“Oh, no, not me”, you say. “The problems I run into are one due to inadequate instructions in the first place, not because I don’t follow them.”

Well, gently I ask you to consider this…

IF, in the bizarrely unlikely event that you didn’t follow an instruction precisely as described, how would you discover your error?

Without feedback from someone who knows what it should be instead, you wouldn’t ever know!

This is the whole problem.

You may NEVER know of this error when it happens, and you can spend all your time identifying a thousand other reasons which have nothing to do with the crucial issue.

So there are only two possible solutions.

1. Self Help: Repeatedly start over, as if for the first time, and recheck whether you are following the instructions.

2. Other Help: Find someone who has already done what you want to do and who is willing to give you honest feedback on your efforts as you go. You can call them a counselor, adviser, friend, or even enemy, because sometimes that might be what it feels like, but in the end they are an extremely valuable mentor.

Even professional sports people are continually getting instruction on how to refine what they do to be closer and closer to what is ideal.

Of course you may get to the level where you decide to do things your own way. But first it’s a good idea to have done things the standard way, so you have a basis for comparing your personalized version.

So go ahead.

Pick something you have tried in your life that didn’t work out.

Consider if it might be at all possible that you didn’t follow the instructions 100% as described.

-Dr Martin Russell