Love After Loss

Love After Loss

Love After Loss

RebuilDing Your Life

Love After Loss: Whether through death, divorce or an unexpected relationship rupture, unexpectedly losing someone dear to you is painful. I know well, from many years of serving my clients as a therapist in Denver that circumstances like this bring immense amounts of grief — and rightfully so. However, it is not the endpoint. Instead, you must realize that grief and loss are small chapters in your journey. Remember that you are capable of overcoming your grief and rebuilding your life. 

In this interview, Eileen Robertson Hamra shares her journey of healing and finding love after a loss. She talks about making your way out of grief and rebuilding your life despite the many struggles and setbacks. 

Tune in to the episode to know how you can rebuild your life, overcome grief, and find love after loss!

In This Episode: Love After Loss, You Will . . .

  • Learn how to rebuild your life after a loss. 
  • Understand the importance of being gentle to yourself and allowing yourself to feel your emotions.
  • Learn why you need to lean into your grief and not avoid it altogether.
  • Realize why you should let yourself be open to new opportunities and people coming into your life.
  • Discover the ways on how to navigate through your children's grief.
  • Recognize the things that are hindering you from moving forward in your life.
  • Discover the things that will help you deal with grief and loss.

Episode Highlights

Seeking Refuge in Grief

We all have different ways of processing our emotions and working through stages of grief. In today's episode, Love After Loss, Eileen shares that what helped her the most to heal and move forward was to embrace grief completely

Some people manage to heal by pushing themselves to work and move, but Eileen walked a different path and took the time to be comfortable with her emotions. She sought refuge in grief. Refuge in grief refers to sitting with and allowing yourself to experience the different stages of grief. Through this time, Eileen was able to discover more about what she needed in those moments and to meet herself where she was at.

Having Your Grief Support

When Eileen lost her husband, everything suddenly stopped for her. The tremendous feeling of loss immobilized her. She shares that her experience through grief would not had been same had she not had her support system. 

Everyone's support system may look a little different, however, Eileen encourages listeners to take the time to reflect, breathe, move, seek help, and find a supportive community. 

  • Reflecting and giving yourself the time to breathe. By taking things slow, you allow yourself to assess everything that happened. You can reflect on and evaluate your situation fully.


  • Being physically active. By moving your body and being physically active you encourage your body to find calm both physically and mentally.


  • Seeing a therapist. The support of a therapist can help you navigate your way through grief and loss by allowing you the space to fully grieve, open up, or just have a supportive presence with you in those moments.


  • Having a supportive community. Allowing for your community to support and lift you up when you don't have the energy to do it for yourself, can greatly help and encourage your healing process.

Handling Grief in Children

Eileen's children helped her to get through it all. She says, “It's kind of ironic, but I would say they probably were the ones that saved me, in a way.” Because they were so young back then, Eileen had to show up for and support her children in every way. Her children pushed her to start building her life again. 

Dealing with your grief is one thing, but managing your children's grief is a whole different matter. It's okay to not have the answers in every moment – just as adults handle grief in different ways, so do children. The most important thing is to not have the “right” thing to do, but love them through their grief and give them the space to experience what they're experiencing. To love and to listen, that's your only job. 

Eileen suggests to support your children through grief you can try these things:

  • Find a supportive therapist who is experienced working with adolescents through grief and loss. 
  • Create a “feelings book” to help your child understand their feelings and work through those experiences as a family.
  • Practice patience and understanding with your children.
  • And, above all else, listen. Listen to what they feeling, sharing, experiencing in those moments so they know they aren't alone. 

Teaching your children that they are unconditionally loved and working through their emotions along side them is not easy, but grief isn't easy; it is what it is. 

Waves of Grief

Eileen's children were so young when they lost their father, and she realizes they have experience new layers of grief as they age

Eileen shares, that her children want to know more about their dad as an adult, and understandably so. Although they have support coming from their friends and family, it's still not their dad. So, as they age, they become more aware of not having their father beside them.

These waves of grief are expected and if you're feeling them years later, you're not alone. It's okay when new layers of grief unfold and you find yourself working through things that you thought you had healed from. It's important to remember that grief is not linear – it can show up in different ways at different times, and that's okay. 

Rebuilding Your Life 

Grief is not the endpoint of life. It's a part of a long journey of getting your life together again. 

Here are a few things we can get from Eileen's journey in Love After Loss:

You may feel afraid and might not trust yourself. When faced with unexpected events, like losing a loved one or going through a divorce, people tend to be afraid. These experiences terrorize them, and sometimes they don't want to try again. This notion grows on the fear of getting hurt or experiencing these negative feelings all over again.

However, to rebuild your life, you have to have trust in yourself. You have to allow yourself to be open to new opportunities. You have to open yourself to meeting new people.

You may be stuck in regrets and can't forgive yourself. Unexpectedly losing someone makes you feel regretful for not doing so much more. Having regrets is a part of grief, but allowing regrets to consume you will not help you in any way. 

It's also important to understand that you need to forgive yourself and ask for forgiveness along the way. You can only move forward when you begin forgiving yourself and asking others for forgiveness.

You may experience feeling guilty of being disloyal. People who experienced loss feel they cannot be happy and find someone else because they should be grieving. However, you have to realize that happiness and grief can exist at the same time. 

“Because being happy does not mean that you are not sad,” Eileen says.

Finding Love after Loss

Knowing that you're ready to love again is a process. Here is Eileen's advice for love after loss:

  • Accept that what your marriage once was – is no longer. You will continue to feel connected to your partner after loss, it's expected that you'll still feel a bond – especially if you have children together. But it's okay to accept that your earthly marriage has already ended – what once was, is no longer.
  • It's okay to not to want to be alone. Part of being human is the need to connect, to love and feel loved, and it's okay to continue wanting this after loss. It's okay to not want to be alone. You deserve to not be alone. 
  • It's okay to provide your children another supportive figure. It can be difficult for a parent to bring another partner into the picture after loss. There may be resistance and insecurities in the family dynamic, but it's okay to want to provide your children a loving and supportive mother or father figure. 

Now, Eileen is happily married and lives a beautiful life together with her husband and four children.

2 Pieces of Advice on How to Rebuild Your Life

Going through grief is a long journey but what helped Eileen go through it, and start her healing, was having a proper mentality. She shares with us two powerful mindsets you can adopt to overcome your grief.

  1. There is a gift somewhere in your grief. You have to believe that through your experiences, you can grow and develop.


  2. The answers you are looking for are right there. It takes time to find the answers to your questions. You can see them by seeking support from your friends, family, and therapists. 

In the end, what Eileen wants everyone to get is that we have the power to make a change in our lives. We can rebuild our lives and find love again

“Tragedy and forks in the road that you do not want or care to have, they're going to happen, but what we do with that is up to us,” she says. 


Eileen Robertson Hamra has shared her journey of rebuilding her life and finding love again after experiencing a significant loss in her life. What are the moments that you relate to the most? Don't hesitate to share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below.

Did you like this interview? Subscribe to us now to discover how to live a life full of love, success, and happiness! 

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Love After Loss

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast

Music Credits: Out of Flux by Haze

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Love After Loss Episode: Podcast Transcript

Access Episode Transcript

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.


Our musical intro is a band called Haze with a song Out of Flux, which I thought was the perfect mood setter for our topic today. As I'm sure you all know, we have all been through so much this past year, and are hopefully now on the cusp of rebuilding. But that's why I wanted to speak today to my guest, Eileen Robertson Hamra, who has a powerful message reminding us that within every loss are the seeds of renewal and rebirth and that it's a process sometimes to find them. So she's here today to share her story and also her wise advice for how to heal through grief, how to rebuild your life after setbacks, and most importantly, how to find love after a loss. Eileen, welcome.


Eileen Robertson Hamra: Thank you. Thank you for having me.


Dr. Lisa: Thank you. Well, I am familiar with your story. But of course my listeners aren't. We can't really understand you without understanding that story. So I know you've written about this extensively in your book A Time to Fly but I'm wondering if you would be willing to start by just sharing your story with my listeners.


Eileen: Yes. So the story I share about in the book and that we're here to talk about isunfortunately on December 22, 2011, my husband was flying to join myself, and we had three young kids at the time who were four, seven, and, eight. We had gone back eastwe’re living in California, we went back east to visit family for the holidays. Unfortunately, his plane engine failed and he crashed and he didn't survive. So that was nine years ago this past December. That's where the story begins of my transformation and finding love again. I go through my grief, what it was like for me to support my kids, and healing, and then opening up myself to loving again. A big part of that story is also opening up myself to expanding our family. I did not actually even think that was possible and was able to have another childactually at the age of 46, which is a straight up out of the miracle books. Miracle, but it really was about opening myself up to the possibility or it never would have happened. So that is the very long, nine year story right? [In] short. But yeah, Sure.


Dr. Lisa: Wow, well what a journey that must have been on so many levels. Maybe, I think something that's very much on many people's minds right now as we're talkinhopefully, I hate to jinx us here Eileen, but hopefully what will wind up being the waning days of the COVID pandemic. People have lost things large and small. I mean there have been weddings that were cancelled. You know, plans for life events, careers that were scuttled. You know, so many people may have had businesses like a restaurant, other businesses that they put their heart and soul into for years and years and had to shutter this past year. So many people like myself sadly, have lost loved ones due to this horrible situation. There are many different kinds of grief. I think the most agonizing kind can sometimes be losing a person. But I don't also want to diminish the other kinds of grief that have been sustained.


I'm wondering, just given the ubiquity of that experience lately. If we could start by your insight into the grieving process. Because I mean, I know it said that there's no one right way to grieve, right? We all have to figure out our own paths through it. People that have been through grief have figured some things out often, at least for themselves, and I'm wondering what the early grief days were like for you? Looking back, what were the things that you did or connected to, or thought about that helped you through it? Can you speak to that?


Eileen: Sure. Absolutely, yes. I completely agree this whole time, I think it's kind of ironic that my book was actually launched during this time. Because it is a story of grief, although it's one particular type of grief. But I talk about other types of grief that I've experienced in the book as well.


Dr Lisa: Just on the side when we were chatting really briefly before we started talking, you mentioned that the whole launch of your book had to be cancelled. You have this whole book tour planned and that must have been a loss as well.


Eileen: Yes, yeah. Even my daughter, my one daughter, was a big dancer. She's now a senior in high school. Her dance studio Hubbard Street, which is huge in Chicago—I’m in Chicago. Their youth program did not make it through the group. I mean it's huge for the city but also it was huge for her. It’s what she had dedicated and she was like, “Mom I’m a junior I don’t want to go join another dance studio,” which I get. But it was now this gaping hole of time, and relationships, and all of those things that the activity was providing her that was gone.


Grief Support


Absolutely a lot of people have experienced all kinds of losses, large and small. I think you need to ask about the early days. I think one of the most important things to do and grieve is to actually be with it, which maybe sounds weird, but I'm a go-go girl. You know, don’t stop long, let’s move, move, move.  That can work. I'm not saying it’s the right way. But you often have to slow way down. I think, you know, the grief I experienced with losing my husband I was like, “There was no way I could move anyway.” I mean, my body was reeling. Everything that I dreamed of, everything that I thought I could count on was, in a moment, no longer possible.


So I did absolutely slow down. I took time to heal. I think that means a lot of things to a lot of people. But for me, it meant reflecting. It meant assessing. It meant physically healing, giving myself time to rest and to breathe. I did a lot of yoga in those early months. A lot of yoga. I saw a therapist, and I reached out and received a lot of help. Thank God I had tons of community come in and buoy me with meals and with childcare help, you name it. So I think that, often when we're faced with pain, we’re like, “Well what's going to work? How can I get out of this? What's my plan now?” Giving yourself some time and grace to go ahead and heal is…. to begin.


Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Which means, and I think and what I'm hearing in your story, is sort of that paradoxical embracing it. I think you said something so insightful, which is, “You can't get out of this; you can't make it go away.” It really has to be being very gentle with yourself as you are allowing yourself to exist in this pain, and as you say, heal. That there’s no cure, sadly, it's an experience.


Eileen: I think also that grace and compassion also for others in the scenario. So like, I didn't know that I had all that foresight when I was going through it, or all that awareness. Because my life was turned upside down, but pretty much everybody else around me as well. In some regards it was easy to give grace to my kids or to close family. But you know, even in writing a book, I can look back and I have even more grace for myself. Did I handle it all? Well, no. Did I make mistakes along the way? Absolutely. But noticing thatyeah that was a really tough time of growth really. And I was growing and I had growing pains.


Dr. Lisa: Well on that note, you also described struggling with something that I think a lot of parents deal with and worry about in your circumstances. I mean, I can't imagine the agony that you are in, and also having to figure out how to hold the space and be responsive to your children's experience of loss, which must have been equally huge. I think we parents also deal with that in ways large and small. You know, smaller waysgoing through a divorce, or a job loss, or economic insecurity. It really takes a toll on adults. I'm curious if you can speak a little bit about how you were able to have your feelings, take care of yourself, but really be there for your kids in the way that they needed you to be at that time.


Eileen: Yeah, thank you for asking that question. It's kind of ironic, but I would say they probably were the ones that saved me in a way, because they did need me. They were very young. They were four, seven, and eight. And their worlds had been completely turned upside down. So the fact that I had to get out of bed to help them was very good for me. Although I did receive a ton of help, having them to be my kids was actually good.

Waves of Grief

But I think one of the things that's interesting around grieving with children is that they thinkthank God actually, I refer to this as “they fell like dominoes” in the book. But it seems like they keep falling like dominoes. Initially, the little one, Max, was the one who, the grief didn't look like grief. Because he was four, like, a traditional, like an adult perception of grief. He was really angry. I would tell him he couldn't have ice cream and he was like, “I'm going to go kill myself.” He couldn't make it at circle time. He was giggling and when he would get “Okay Max, you need to go find your calm,” that would make him flip chairs and throw tables. He was four. Although it wasn't like, “Oh, I lost my Dad, I'm so sad or angry,” he clearly had all these emotions. Right? Me learning thatI had no idea I was not a psychiatrist or psychologist. So I had to grow with him and learn ways to be with him and be able to provide space for him to grow.


Then Melanie was the next one to kind of grieve hard. She was hitting those middle school years. I had met Mike, which kind of threw grief in her face even more. Then Brooke was later. Then they've all flipped again. It's been nine years, and as they grow, as they mature, and as they have more capacity to understand, they actually have to re-grieve. Easiest example is you know, Brooke and Melanie are now looking at colleges, right? And they were seven and eight when he passed, they're now 16 and 17. They're now wanting to know their dad as an adult. They're like, “What would he like? What was it like when he chose college? What advice would he give me?” It's again like a hole. Although they're completely supported. They have family, they have friends, they have resources, but it's not their dad.


Dr. Lisa: It's like a sort of fresh round of grief at different developmental stages that they recognize the loss of not having the dad there to talk about college stuff and what that experience is like for him. It feels different. It's like they’ve become aware of this new sort of layer of dadless existence that they have to work through, and it must be a lot. But how wonderful for you though. I'm hearing in your story that you were able to have the insight to recognize, even when your little boy Max was flipping over tables, and to understand that for what it was. Because I think so much of the time, even a divorce is the catalyst for grief. Adults can be very quick to label that as bad behavior and issue punishment, as opposed to compassion. That can be really detrimental. How are you able to keep your eye on “This is what's actually happening” as opposed to, go to that punitive parent mindset.


Eileen: Yeah. A lot of coaching. I went into all therapists too. But there was actually one moment in time where I actually had to go and pick up Max from school. I was called—he was four. Literally the teachers were like “You need to come, you need to pick him up, because he flipped over tables, and he is so upset, and he said he was going to go home and get his dad's gun” which  the only gun Brian had one gun was a hunting rifle that he went elk hunting with one time, “We're going to go home and get that and I'm going to come back and shoot everybody.” And I was like, “Okay.”


Dr. Lisa: “I'll be right there.”


Eileen: Funny thing was, “I'll be right there. What do you want me to do with him? I don't know.” I had been working with therapists for him. One of the practices or exercises we had to work on was our ‘feelings book’. We would identify feelings. Then we would talk about—you know, “If you're feeling silly in line at school, what are some of the things you could do? Or if you're feeling angry during the time when you're playing with your friend, what are the things you could do?” We draw pictures.


So anyway I'm going on my way to school, I'm picking him up. I'm like, okay, we're going to work on this book, because I don't really know what else to do. Then, this sounds kind of silly, but it just dawned on me. I don't know what to do in this moment, but all I can do is love him. I am just going to love him, and listen to him. There were moments where I was like, “You will never have any more Wii.” Wii was popular at that time. “You’re never going to play Wii if you talk to me like that one more time!” It was just to watch him squirm. I realized in that moment where I literally sat with him for an hour and a half on the couch as we worked through our feelings book, and he was like, “I'm going to kill you!” He was just so angry. I saw, it finally dawned on me. I was like, “Oh my God, this is him pushing me.”  “How far do I have to push her? Will she leave me too?” I was crying, I was telling him I loved him. He's like, “I don't want you to love me.” But it was huge. It was huge for me to be able to have him teach me that unconditional love. That was not easy for him or for me. This is what grief looks like. I felt so much love. I don't want people to think our lives were miserable all of the time. Because they weren't, but there were some really, really rough times.


Dr. Lisa: Powerful stuff in those rough times. That's amazing. So another thing that may be helpful to talk about; I think that sometimes, particularly when faced with a loss like yours, I can only imagine that there must have been times when there is no concept of ‘next’. You know, it's like incomprehensible to think about a next chapter of your life. I know that you were able to rebuild and create a new life. But what would your advice or insight be to someone listening to this right now who is in this space where they have just had the wind knocked out of them, and there is no concept yet of a ‘next’? It's hard to maintain hope that there could be one. What would your advice to them be?


Eileen: So two things are coming to my mind. One, having the mindset, and it's not the truth but the mindset that this is not happening to you but for you. Like somewhere in here is a gift. Somewhere in here in this experience, is for your growth, or your development, and for what's next. Again that's just a mindset, but it's really powerful mindset, and it worked for me.


Dr. Lisa: It’s also one that suggests a spirituality. Was that a piece of that for you?


Eileen: Absolutely. I share about some of these synchronistic things that happened when he died, but it was very clear to me, and I think to a lot of people that do lose people, they feel them around. I mean, it's like it's not even like “I feel around.” I never heard voices or did I see images, but almost—it was really clear that there's more to this experience than meets the eye. So that mindset of this is happening for you and—also, this is a bit spiritual as well, but the answers are also right there. They really are—to me, I may not be able to see them yet. But what's next? Who's coming into my life? What I'm intended to do or what's getting created is right there for me. Sometimes it takes some time to get support, find coaches, meditate, take deep breaths, but also just open your eyes and look around.


Dr. Lisa: Yeah, like that. The faith that it will show up and then being able to observe it showing up. This is actually reminding me—okay I'm such a dork and I'm going to date myself terribly. But one of my favorite movies of all time is that Castaway movie by Tom Hanks. Did you ever see that one? The thing that just meant the most to me, and that I thought of so many times since, is just how—I think it was a porta potty door, just blew up on the beach. Do you know what I mean? Things just wash up on your shore and you don't know what it's going to be, you don't know when it's going to happen. But if you're sort of in that space of receptiveness, sooner or later things show up. What I'm hearing you say is that you cultivated a mindset to notice what those things were and feel. I don't know if “cared for them” is the right way of saying it. But almost like led by them a little bit. Whatever showed up is sort of what you would move towards. Is that…?


Eileen: Trusting yourself, and your—I mean, I think one of the things in grief and when you experience something that you didn't expect or you didn't want, you get afraid, right? You go into a fear of, “Oh my God what if that happens again? What if I fall in love and that happens again? What if I thought I could trust that and that didn't work out?” Like to be able to rebuild that trust for yourself, and your instinct, and your own intuition. I don't know. Actually, I really don't know how or why. But I did have a lot of trust, probably because I felt I did feel very taken care of spiritually, and there were signs all around me of how well I was being taken care of. But yeah, when opportunities or people came back into my life, I just knew. I wasn't worried or nervous. Not that it wasn't scary. But I did step forward because I did have a weird sense of knowing.


Dr. Lisa: Yeah, it sounds like you were really connected with your intuition and your inner wisdom. That created resilience in you and gave you confidence. That's wonderful. Well, I have another question for you. This may not have been true for you at all, so we can skip right over if not, but in my experience as a therapist and as a coach, I found that people can get stuck in grief and find it hard to continue healing and moving forward. If two things are present, and they're having trouble working through them, one of the big ones can be regret. So this is the sense that things were undone, or unset, or mistakes were made, or unfinished business sometimes can be accompanied by a lot of guilt. Well I'm curious, and I don't want to get too personal, but I'm curious to know if that was true at all in your process? If so, how you were able to release that regret experience, that “if only we'd done this then it would have a different outcome?” Was that true for you or did it just feel like fate?


Eileen: In a way for me honestly, it did probably feel more of the latterlike fate. I talk about regret actually in the book. Like “if you’ve just been,” right? It's really kind of a stuck emotion.


Dr. Lisa: Exactly.


Eileen: It's not particularly useful for moving on.


Dr. Lisa: I know.


Eileen:  Not to say “okay, do I feel that way with…”  I think I learned my regret lessons younger. You know what I mean? Not to say there were not things that I could have said about my relationship with Brian. Or even in the circumstances that I could regret. But I literally chose not to regret, because it is what it is. Regretting it actually doesn't change it, if regretting it worked…


Dr. Lisa: Oh yeah.


Eileen: If I could regret not telling him to get on a commercial flight, and that would have changed it then great, regret it and make it different. But it doesn't work. It really is keeping you stuck. And I think the biggest thing in regret, for me, is forgiving myself. Again, have I done things that are regretful? Sure. Have I said, even since Brian's passing, really awful things? Like I've told my kids “What would your dad think about this?” “Oh my gosh, what? You do that to your children?” Yes, I've done that to my children. Is that regretful? Absolutely. Do I forgive myself? Yes. Because in the moment, when I'm not acting rationally, that's what came out. Can I apologize to my children and does it have an impact on them? Yes. So I would say, look for forgiveness, on both sides too. Because I think sometimes, it's the other person that if that person only did X, Y, or Z. But until we can forgive, it's going to be verybut wherever you need to forgive, it's going to be really hard to move forward.


Dr Lisa: You are so right. That's just that stuckness that goes along with that regret experience. But you said so many insightful things. You said, just this awareness that this is not a useful way of thinking or feeling. You said something that was so powerful. You said, “I made a choice to not regret,” and that you made, it sounds like a conscious choice, to forgive so that you could move on. I know that those strategies may sound difficult to do if you're in the thick of regret. But you also said that you know the benefit of a good therapist. But it sounds like you had a lot of strategies so that you didn't get stuck in that space. That that wasn’t a…


Eileen: Yeah. I don’t know who says it, but there’s like somebody famous that says it's when you're holding on to that anger, you're the one who's actually suffering. It's like you're holding on to this piece of coal. There's some cool metaphor, I don't remember. I just probably shouldn't have brought it up, anyway there's like some cool metaphor. We think that our anger and our whatever, either towards someone else or whatever, it's like it's only hurting you. When you really look, it's like you can't love anyone until you love yourself fully. So it's about letting go of that for you really, and for others because it then flows out. So yeah, highly recommend letting go.


Dr Lisa: That’s great advice. Then the other reason, in my experience, that people can get stuck in grief, and again I don't know if this was true for you, but I have talked to a number of people who feel guilty when they start to feel happier again. Or if they go for a period of time without thinking about their loved one or without crying. Or if they start to expand into other parts of their life or feel excited about a future that doesn't have the person in them. They can get this guilt feeling, that it's disloyal to their loved one somehow, or they're being not loving. Did that happen for you at all?


Eileen: Oh for sure. There's multiple layers to that as well. Even the kids have experienced that, especially if you're trying to welcome someone else into your life. What I would just say, and this was not a capacity that I had before, and I still work on this, but it really is allowing yourself to hold both, right? Because being happy does not mean that you are not sad. It's interesting. Creating a new life does not mean that you have to forego grieving that loss. 


I think that's one of the most special things I would say about my now-husband, Mike. It’s that—I knew he was the right one because he could hold this. I love him and I do love him very much. It doesn't mean that I don't love Brian and loved him. That takes a lot for Mike to handle. But it also takes something to be able to create that space, to be able to love two people, or love two things, or hold both emotions. It's tough. I absolutely—I think there's also, especially in loss, I do talk a little bit about this in my book, but there's—it's almost embarrassing to admit, but you're like, “I feel very taken care of. I was special. I was a young widow with three little kids. I had a lot of attention being given to me.” “Oh, poor Eileen” and “She's so strong” and a lot of like positive attention in the worst kind of way. Not that you ever want that. But I was very loved, and people cared about me. And then I'm like, “Oh well, what if I'm happy and independent and self-sustaining again? Is that all going to be taken away from me? Am I going to fall out of this special club?” It's kind of crazy to even talk about that, or maybe not crazy at all. But that's a reality to reconcile. Again, it's a choice, right? Just even acknowledging that those are some of the things that come up as you recreate your life is really freeing. You're like, “Yeah, wow. Well that's interesting that I have that thought.” Am I going to let that stop me from having a love again? No.


Dr Lisa. But it's almost like I'm almost doing stages of an identity that you were inhabiting for a while. Like for a while you were the grieving young widow and then had to almost rewrite that narrative. And now you have a new identity, as a second marriage and a new mom again, letting go, yeah.


Eileen: Old mom.

Rebuilding Your Life

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, I am in that same club Eileen, I had a baby at 43. I'm right there with you. So okay, so now going a little bit deeper into that. So let's talk a little bit about this love after loss idea. So certainly this can come about from death. There are people that go through divorces and have to rebuild or even like a traumatic breakup, and figuring out how to shift and really that “who am I” self-concept narrative, “Who am I attached to?” But my question for you, I mean there are a couple of schools of thought about this, and one of them, which makes a lot of sense, from my perspective as a shrink, is that you really need to say goodbye to the old stuff before you can say hello to the new stuff. I say this because oftentimes I work with people around break-up recovery, or rebuilding after a divorce. What I often see are people almost looking for love after loss too soon in some ways. They think they're more ready than they are. They're hoping that like to reconnect with the new relationship will help them feel better, and to kind of like jump over some of the grieving stuff, which is a strategy and it can work. But I'm wondering what you did with that. Did you begin to expand and rebuild and seek out love again while you were going through the grieving process? Or did you find yourself waiting until the “right time?” How did you know? So that's like seven questions all wrapped up into one. You’re welcome.


Eileen: Yeah so from what I remember, okay yeah. So definitely, I would say some people may think that 18 months is quick, but that's how long it took me to be open to meeting someone else. But okay, a couple things: one, in the very beginning after the loss, if you bet some money, I would have bet money I was never going to get married again. Yeah I was like, “No, I'm good this must have been my path.” I felt interestingly, like I was going to, and I do think I actually have a relationship with Brian, and so much for me was figuring out “What does that look like now?” It was really clear that the physical intimacy was obviously not possible. But I did feel like we still had a relationship, we still had three kids together. 


What was my relationship with Brian now going to look like? I think that's applicable, whether you're getting a divorce, especially in a divorce, you have to resolve that so that you're at peace with that and how that is and let go. For me it was, let go of the physical intimacy, the earthly marriage, like we were no longer—it was weird, and this is something true of widowhood. You really aren't married. I mean, you can keep your missus. But you no longer are married. You go to the checkboxes now, check widow. Because there's legal things about being married, it was really something I was thrown into. I had to figure out how am I going to accept that. 


For me also, you know I love Brian, and he was a great guy. I got lucky, I really feel like I was one of the lucky people who found like a really great guy, and we were really in love. I honestly did not think I could get lucky twice. I was like, “That's not fair.” I have amazing girlfriends who can't find one good guy right now. I don't know. “It's not fair, why should I find two?” Then I was like, “But that's not useful either.” Like, I'm not going to—it's like not having a baby because your girlfriend has trouble having a baby. Like, it doesn't make a lot of sense. The emotions are there. “But that's what I want. I don't want to be alone for the rest of my life.” I also did hear it from my kids. You know, they did also want me to be happy. But they also were young enough to really want a father figure. And so, opening myself up to “Okay, he's out there. It's possible.” Then I started wondering where he was.


Dr. Lisa: Yeah.


Eileen: It was definitely a journey.


Dr. Lisa: Yeah, I hear that. But boy, you're doing such a good job, to my ear anyway. Just a whole, along the way of being very aware of what you were thinking and what you were telling yourself what was okay and what was not okay, and really deliberately allowing a positive reality to take shape. That's a real strength.


Eileen: Yeah. Well, what's interesting, you know, I was like, we're only given one life. I actually read one of your blogs, you're like, we don't know how long we've got here, right? Which is indicative of the name of the book Time to Fly this is it. One of the things that was common about Brian and I, but just also common about Mike and I was like, we want a great life. Yes, tragedy, forks in the road you do not want or care to have, they're going to happen. What you do with that is up to us. I didn't know what it was going to look like, I didn't. I mean, if you had asked me 10 years ago, if I would be living in Chicago, remarried to a man I had never even heard of or dreamed of, and had a three-year-old at the age of 50, I would have been like, “You are on crack. No way.” That's my reality, you know. We're moving to Missouri too. So like, that's another whole chapter in our lives that, you know, TBD.


Dr. Lisa: I think I'm hearing a theme here that there was just a lot of openness to what was showing up and sort of an openness to what wanted to happen and being able to kind of go with it, as opposed to get all kind of hemmed in and rule-bound around what's okay and what's not okay. It's almost like you didn't have to know exactly what the future held in order to be able to move into it bit by bit. Does that…?


Eileen: Yes. Absolutely that it's- I love the way you just said that. I think part of that is I think sometimes when people have gone through really rough times and/or experienced tragedy and make it through. I did, just a little background my sister had passed when I was 23. It was sudden as well. 


So when Brian passed when I was 41, it wasn't my first sudden loss. I’m going to say not that it made it easy, but I did know that things would eventually get better. I think people who—like you said, build resilience, whatever that looks like—losing a job, losing a relationship, getting hurt, and you know all these things, dreams. If you figure out a way to get through that and know you have the ability to get through it. I guess it's that trust. I don't know what this is going to look like. 


Getting through it does not mean it's not painful. I think that's the thing. I think one of the things that often, including myself, we want to resist the pain. We want to be, like, “pain go.” Sometimes the only way out is through the pain. Actually, probably not always, the only way out is through the pain. But that is so counterintuitive, and not what we want and wish that was not…


Dr. Lisa: But it's good. I mean, like you, people need to hear this more, that this is actually what it feels like to be a human and nothing is wrong. You have to lean into it in order to get through it. I think that sometimes in our culture, we lose that idea. People feel like something is wrong, or they put a lot of energy into avoiding the feelings when in fact, that is the exit door.


Eileen: Yeah, I love, it's funny now that I've been through more of it lately. I actually sometimes just have that little mantra, like “lean in, just lean into it, lean into the discomfort.” You know, I've been whatever, you know, life is life. I have relationships that I might be struggling with. I'll be like exercising and I'll be ruminating, and I'll be trying to blah, blah. I'm just going to never talk to that person again or not. And I'm like, “No, lean in. Why am I so upset? Why am I so upset in this relationship? Why am I struggling? What do I need to bring to this scenario?” As always, more compassion for me or the other, more forgiveness for me or the other, more patience for me. It always comes back to that. But it doesn't feel like that in a moment. But just leaning in, holding on and waiting, you know, and I say waiting for the breakthrough. But searching, where is this breakthrough that will have me get through this? That is where all the joy is. It is and it's hard to know that, but those that have been through it do know it, you know?


Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Well what wonderful, just empowering and also just a hopeful perspective. Because I know there are a lot of people again, listening to this who really have just gotten like, you know, that feelinglike I fell out of the jungle gym when I was like eight years old, probably from like six feet high, flat on my back. Just just like that, when you get the breath knocked out of you when you're a kid, and just like that minute when you literally cannot breathe. I mean, I think that there are a lot of people that are in that emotional space right now. The doors are starting to reopen as people get vaccinated, and what do I want my life to be like? Well, how do I rebuild from a death, or a divorce, or a job loss, or career pivot, a failed business. There's so many things you offered, so much wonderful advice and takeaways for people that I think are really powerful: to be gentle with yourself during grieving and just understand that you need nurturing, and to allow that. Also, to be careful about the way you're thinking and to not really indulge in ways of thinking that are not good for you. But I also heard a lot about faith and hope and being open to what happens next, even if you don't know exactly what it is or when or why. Just to put one foot in front of the other. That gets better. Is that right?


Eileen: Yeah, that was a great summary. That’s wonderful. Yeah and I think it's the hardest to see when you're in the mud. So if you're in the mud and you're in it…


Dr. Lisa: That's okay.


Eileen: …that's okay, yeah. Yeah, you will get out. Have patience, and compassion, and I hope it goes faster for you. I don't want people to stay there but that is the place of growth and access. So anyway, thank you. But that was wonderful, the way you summarized.


Dr. Lisa: Well if people wanted to check out your book or learn more about you. Where would they get a copy of a Time to Fly?


Eileen: Yeah, so you can purchase Time to Fly anywhere books are sold. It was my publisher’s City Point Press distributed through Simon and Schuster. So it's everywhere. You can find it on my website, I am all over all the different social media, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Love to connect. Please, if this story inspired you or you just want to reach out, please feel free.


Dr. Lisa: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for your time today Eileen this was a great conversation.


Eileen: Yeah, thank you for having me.


Dr. Lisa: What a great conversation. I hope you do check out Eileen’s book if you feel that would be helpful to you. If you are dealing with grief right now, first of all, know I have so much empathy for you. I am a fellow traveler. 


I would encourage you to check out some of the other resources we have available for you at Namely, there's another podcast episode that was released a few months ago. Gosh, more than a few months ago now. I think it was May of 2020 honestly, but wonderful interview with my colleagues Anastacia Sams and Lisa Jordan, both of whom are highly experienced grief counselors. They both shared a lot of really great tips and kind of mental and emotional strategies to move through the grieving process and hopefully have a way as any of us can. So I hope you check those out as well. 


Thank you again for spending time with me today and I'll be back in touch next week with another episode.

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How to Relax (When You're a Type-A Stress-Case)

It's Hard to Relax When You're a Superstar


Here at Growing Self our therapy and life coaching clients are generally successful, high-achieving people on a path of personal growth. Because of this, I have a soft spot for the superstars, and I know that being a go-getting, productive, conscientious, high-achieving, intelligent, successful person has many, many benefits. You get things done, you're on top of it, and you are probably extremely successful in many areas of life.

And… it's probably hard for you to relax.

How to Relax When You're an Over-Achiever

Because you are so conscientious and successful you probably do everything you're supposed to. You take vacations, you exercise, you have a healthy diet, and you practice self-care. But it still might feel hard to let yourself truly relax. Even when you're having fun you are thinking about the next thing, and doing “nothing” (as in the Dutch practice of Niksen) feels like a waste of time compared to all the important or goal-directed things you could (probably feel like you should) be doing.

Believe it or not, learning how to relax is a very important life-skill. Just like learning how to manage your emotions, making it a priority to exercise and sleep, managing your finances, having satisfying relationships, practicing good self care, and eating healthy foods, learning how to relax — how to truly relax — is a skill set that is acquired through education and practice.

Real relaxation, the kind that restores you and allows you to be more productive, more creative, more resilient, and happier, is much more than about taking a bath once in a while. Real relaxation requires a high degree of self awareness and commitment, as well as the development of specific internal skills. (Ha! You can always recognize a fellow Type-A over-achiever when they describe relaxation skills as a project — hello my friend.)

Yes, I know from both professional experience in working with extremely successful, high-achieving people as well as from my own personal experience, that being a Type-A superstar has a very real dark side including exhaustion, agitation, anxiety and overwork. Burnout is an experience that many hard working and conscientious people can succumb to if not careful. Without vital relaxation skills, you can start to experience a lack of motivation, tiredness, emotional numbness, and loss of joy and creativity in your day to day life. FYI, “Burnout” is real: It's finally gotten recognized as an occupational phenomenon by the ICD!

The Keys to Authentic Relaxation

Today's episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast is just for you, my high-achieving compadre. We'll be discussing:

  • The mind-body connection that makes you feel stressed out even when you're relaxing
  • New ideas to help you prioritize your self-care and relaxation
  • The real source of stress (it's not what you think… except when it is)
  • Why “relaxing” behaviors (massages, hot baths, vacations) won't help you truly de-stress
  • How to combat the stressful thinking styles that will interfere with true relaxation
  • The skills and strategies that will actually help you reduce stress, relax, and restore your mind, body and soul.

I hope this discussion helps you achieve the rest and relaxation that you deserve, and that it helps you (paradoxically) become even more productive, creative, forward-thinking and successful as a result!

From me to you,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby


Listen to the Podcast

How to Relax (When You're a Type-A Stress-Case)

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Damian Jurado and Richard Swift, “Hello Sunshine”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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What to Do When You Are Married and Have a Crush on Someone Else

What to Do When You Are Married and Have a Crush on Someone Else

What to Do When You Are Married and Have a Crush on Someone Else

Married With a Crush?

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Married With a Crush? What To Do (and Not Do)

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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What To Do When You're Married With a Crush On Someone Else…

So, you are married but you have a crush on someone else. Hey, it happens. Married people, even happily married people, are also human and as such, are vulnerable to developing crushes on attractive others. A crush, aka, “Romantic Infatuation” can happen with anyone who you spend time with and who has attractive or, interestingly, anxiety-producing qualities. 

What does is mean if you are married and have a crush on someone else?

Having a crush on someone else when you're married doesn't mean that you're a bad person. It also is not a reflection of your marriage. Believe it or not, having a crush may not mean anything at all. In fact, people in happy, healthy, committed relationships can still develop fluttery feelings for attractive others. Crush-y feelings don't need to mean anything about your marriage or your spouse, or about the person you have a crush on.

Feelings just happen sometimes.

We have crushes because we're living, feeling human beings who are designed to fall in love. Particularly in long-term relationships where the zing of early-stage romantic love has faded into a steady, warm attachment, the part of us that longs for exciting, romantic love may be tickled awake by the presence of an interesting new other.

However, smart, self-aware people in good, committed relationships need to not follow those feelings but rather handle them maturely and with wisdom. 

The Smart Way to Handle Having a Crush When You're Married

While developing a crush is not unusual, it is extremely important to be very self-aware about what is happening and redirect your energy back into your primary relationship as quickly as possible. (If you want to stay married, anyway.)

Developing an infatuation can actually be a positive thing for a relationship, particularly if you are self-aware enough to realize that your feelings for someone else might be informing you about what you'd like to be different about your primary relationship. 

Then you can build on the existing strengths of your relationship to add “crush ingredients” back in, like spending time together, novelty, emotional intimacy, flirtation and fun. Your relationship will be the stronger for it.

When Crushes Cross the Line

Crushes, when not handled well, can also be an on-ramp to an affair. Consider that very few people intend to start an affair. Most affairs begin with people having fluttery, crush-y feelings for someone who is not their spouse… convincing themselves of all the reasons why it's okay… (We're just friends! But my husband never talks to me like this!) … and then leaning into the feelings of excitement and attraction rather than intentionally extinguishing them. Those feelings, those rationalizations, are the siren song that lures your marriage onto the rocks of ruin.

Developing a crush or romantic feelings for another can be extremely dangerous for the stability of your family and your relationship. While it's not unusual to develop a mild crush when you're married, if unchecked, your innocent-seeing crush could bloom into an emotional or even sexual affair. 

While everyone can have a crush bloom, it's very important to know how to handle yourself and your relationship when crushes happen in order to protect yourself, your relationship, and your integrity.

Protect Your Marriage From an Affair

Here at Growing Self, we are strong believers in the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That is never more so than with relationships. It's much easier to educate yourself and learn how to handle common situations successfully, and in such a way that they strengthen your relationship rather than harm it.

Knowing how to handle yourself if you start to develop a crush on someone when you're married to another is one of the most important ways of protecting your relationship from an affair. Even though couples can and do recover from infidelity, infidelity is terribly traumatic and difficult to repair. Affairs destroy marriages and destroy lives, and at the end of the day tend to result in disappointing relationships with the affair partner.

Take it from a marriage counselor (and, ahem, author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to an Ex Love”) who's seen the destruction that affairs create: Don't do it. The key? Catching those normal, crush-y feelings early and learning how to use them to re-energize your marriage, while simultaneously learning how to extinguish the crush.

Listen To This Episode to Learn What To Do (And Not Do) When You Are Married And Have a Crush

Today on the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I'm talking all about how to handle yourself and your relationship when you have a crush on someone else. We'll be discussing:

  • The mechanics of a crush; how and why crushes develop
  • The difference between a crush and a platonic friendship
  • Why happy, committed married people can have crushes on others
  • How crushes can turn into something more serious
  • How to use self-awareness, integrity, and honesty to protect your marriage
  • How to use your crush experience in order to add energy and intimacy into your relationship
  • Warning signs that your crush is developing into something else
  • Why extramarital affairs are always a bad idea, and rarely end well
  • How to stop having a crush on someone else
  • How to avoid embarrassment and professional ruin if you have a crush on a coworker
  • How to protect your relationship and stay true to your values even when you're having feelings for another.

All this and more on today's episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.


Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. If it's not you you're worried about, but rather that your partner may have a crush on someone else, here are some other resources for you: Signs of an Emotional Affair, and How to Get Your Needs Met in a Relationship. Play them in the car and see what your partner thinks… LMB

P.P.S. Another very low-key way to begin a productive conversation about how you're both feeling in your relationship is to take our free online “How Healthy is Your Relationship Quiz” together and discuss the results. Having these types of emotionally intimate conversations with your partner can jump start the process of growing back together again, if you're open to it!


Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.


Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.


Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

Love After Loss

Love After Loss

We have all been through so much this past year, and are hopefully on the cusp of rebuilding. My guest today is author Eileen Hamra, who has a powerful message reminding us that within every loss are the seeds of renewal and rebirth.

She's here to share her story, and her wise advice for how to heal through grief, how to rebuild your life after setbacks, and most importantly, how to love after loss.

Join Us,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Boundaries in Relationships

Boundaries in Relationships

Happy, healthy relationships are built on healthy boundaries. If you struggle to establish boundaries, understand your boundaries, or even define your boundaries to others, this episode is for you!

I am talking with Denver Therapist, and Boundary Expert, Kathleen Stutts and we are going to cover the basics of boundaries and then dive into the nitty-gritty of establishing your boundaries in relationships so that you too can feel empowered in your most important relationships!

Build Confidence and Charisma

Build Confidence and Charisma

Build Confidence and Charisma

How to Be Interesting & Fun To Talk To


Build Confidence and Charisma

One of the most ubiquitous of our pandemic-life experiences has been the isolation of being at home all the time and having less opportunities to socialize with others. But… (knock on wood) the end may be in sight. If you're feeling a little rusty or nervous when it comes to talking to people and chatting up new friends and old, it's time for a refresher course on how to communicate with confidence and charisma. 

My guest on today's episode of the podcast knows all about how to be interesting and fun to talk to, especially under pressure. Kristen Carney is a stand-up comedian, comedy writer, online dating coach and “conversation coach” who's specialty is helping people be comfortable with others, be interesting and fun to talk to, develop an easy rapport with others, and be more confident about themselves — especially in conversation.

In this episode, you’ll learn how to carry more charismatic conversations with people to make not just great first impressions, but lay the foundation for an enduring positive new relationship. You’ll discover the power of self-confidence and self-awareness in your interactions with others, as well as some “pro tips” for easy things you can do to instantly set others at ease, be perceived as more likable and interesting.

Tune in to the full episode to learn how to build confidence and charisma!

In This Masterclass with Kristen, You Will . . .

  • Learn about how and why Kristen became a comedian.
  • Discover the power of becoming confident about yourself.
  • Find out how to embrace your shortcomings and make light of it.
  • Realize that judgment also comes from within yourself.
  • Understand how your mood affects others.
  • Learn how to get past the judgment of others and yourself.
  • Discover ways you can become a better conversationalist.

I hope that this conversation helps prepare you to get back into the ring with confidence and charisma, as you begin rebuilding your social life and network of friendships.

You can listen to this episode right here on (the player is at the bottom of the post), and you'll find a full transcript of these episode down there as well. You can also listen to “Build Confidence and Charisma” on Spotify, on Apple Podcasts, or wherever else you like to listen. Don't forget to subscribe!

Wishing you all the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Build Confidence and Charisma: Episode Highlights

#1: How to Talk to Random People

As a comedian, Kristen shares the anxiety that comes with standing up on stage and having the spotlight on you. Unlike other performances such as dancing, you’ll never know what kind of reaction you will get and how things will go along. In a sense, the feeling is almost like talking to a random person or being on a first date.

You only have the first few seconds to make a good impression. So if you’re dealing with social anxiety around dating or making new friends, how do you cope? Here are Kristen's tips:

  1. Remember, it’s natural for people to judge you. “You can’t control that, that’s going to happen regardless,” Kirsten says.
  2. Don’t put too much weight on whether a person likes you or not. When you focus less on being judged, people will be less likely to sense that negative energy.
  3. Enter situations smiling. Because people can sense the energy you are giving off, it’s always better to look genuinely warm and welcoming.

I didn’t want to fake-smile, of course. I just worked on the joy that is inside of me.” Kristen says that it took therapy for her to unlearn and let go of the discomfort she felt about herself, in order to build her confidence in these situations. (Listen to the full story of her personal growth therapy process in this episode).

#2: Develop Self-Awareness

How do you feel when you're around others? Kristen reminds us that even in situations where you don’t strike up a conversation, people will still sense the energy you are giving off. It doesn’t help if you physically look unwelcoming. People will naturally observe how you look and make assumptions from that as well.

Because of that it’s crucial to have self-awareness, and understand how your inner experience may be impacting others — wither you know it or not. Sometimes, although you may not be conscious of it, you become stuck in negative emotions. Kristen shares that when she’s annoyed or moody, for example, at a grocery store, it is very evident.

Kristen shares how it can affect others. “You know sometimes, I forget, this person is being a jerk, and then I realize well maybe, I’m putting out that energy of being a jerk.” 

After becoming aware of your energy in situations like that, you can still readjust. When you begin to unload all that negative energy, you also start to radiate welcoming energy towards others. Only becoming aware of this is doable for anyone and adds to your personal growth. 

#3. Embrace Your Shortcomings

Maybe your goal is to create chemistry on your first date, or perhaps to appear more attractive to an acquaintance, co-worker or new friend. However, we often overfocus too much on creating chemistry and getting people to like us that we bring ourselves down instead of becoming happier.

In these cases, we tend to have feelings of inferiority and insecurity, which is entirely understandable. However, to have more charismatic conversations, it’s crucial for you to embrace yourself.

I’ve realized that what I have to offer is unique and is great in and of itself without having to be like them,” Kristen comments about being surrounded by more educated, “decorated” colleagues. 

Here are some great tips that she’s learned from her personal experiences:

  • Stop trying to be anyone else. If a person doesn’t like you for who you are, then so be it. It’s easier said than done, but once you get to that level, the pressure of fitting in “instantly melts away.”
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. You may not like politics or literature, and that’s okay. It doesn’t make you any less of a person.
  • Remember what you have to offer is unique. You might have ways of doing or learning things that are different compared to others. Whatever you are interested in and however you do things is unique in itself.

In fact, as a comedian, Kristen usually makes jokes about her shortcomings. However, she has to catch herself when it comes from a place of insecurity. 

However, when you’re feeling good about yourself, you can use self-deprecating humor to call out your shortcomings. This doesn’t apply to just in-person conversations, as you can use this to be an exciting texter as well. In any case, it’s always better to keep it light and do this in small doses.

Ways to Be A Better Conversationalist

Other than being more comfortable in your skin, there is an art to having charismatic conversations. Kristen has a coaching program that helps people get past barriers like low self-esteem and teaches them great tips on what to do in social situations. Here are some of them:

  1. Become aware of your surroundings. Another way to start or continue a conversation is to pick up on things around you. For example, you can comment on a particular smell.
  2. Know your point of view and have a strong opinion. We are taught not to offend, but we can still hold our own opinion without being a jerk. Having an opinion allows for banter.
  3. Make connections between one thing or another. When you connect things, no matter how random it may be, you can create stories and witty conversations.

You don’t want to be shallow necessarily, but you want to be playful and short so that it doesn’t feel like work so that it feels fun,” Kristen says. You want to set the stage when you’re first drawing someone in and have fun doing so. The more in-depth conversations come later on once you’ve established a great connection.


  • Growing Self – our website has dozens of helpful articles written by several experts on communication, chemistry, and friendship.
  • Kristen and Chill – check out Kristen’s website, where you can find great resources on online-dating banter and having better conversations.
  • The Banter Coach – connect with Kristen on Instagram.

Kristen Carney has shared some practical and insightful tips on how to hold charismatic conversations. What did you connect and relate to the most? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment down below.

Did you like this interview? Subscribe to us now to discover how to live a life full of love, success, and happiness!


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Build Confidence and Charisma

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast

Music Credits: “Light Shines” by Atlantic Thrills

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Build Confidence and Charisma: Podcast Transcript

Access Episode Transcript

Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to the Love Happiness And Success podcast.


[Light Shines by Atlantic Thrills plays]


Lisa: That's Atlantic Thrills, this song is Light Shines. I thought it was a perfect song for us today. Because today we're talking about how to get your light to shine, particularly when you're out in the world talking to other people. Something that I think we've all maybe fallen out of practice with. I don't know what I'm going to do with myself, when we're back out meeting and greeting people in person. It's going to be like that, “Wait, what do I do with my hands again?” kind of moment. As I record this, we're still all sort of sitting in quarantine. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. 


I think that's something I've heard a lot about from clients, and people leaving comments on the blog and Instagram these days, is our relationships and our connections with other people are feeling more important than ever before. I think, we appreciate that much more than things that we feel we are losing or being threatened. I think that all of us have been feeling a little more isolated and compartmentalized than before. It is that much more important to figure out how to create really meaningful, valuable, good feeling connections with other people. And that's true for romantic relationships that are intimate partnerships, but also even friendships or connections with family—the people that are most important to us, and, and also figuring out ways to build those connections with others. 

How To Be Interesting

At the core of it, and I know we talk a lot about this on the podcast, is that the real fabric of our relationship is connection and attachment, emotional safety. I think being able to be truly authentic with others and have relationships that are characterized by caring, and a mutual appreciation, and all of these things. It is also true that especially when we are creating relationships—newer relationships, being they friendships, romantic relationships, how we show up in the very beginning can determine whether or not we have the opportunity to go deeper with people. First impressions do kind of matter. And not that it's you only get one chance, and then it's over, because that is way too much pressure for any of us to take on board. But it is worth considering. What is our leading edge when we first meet someone? If you are single and dating, how that first date goes is going to determine whether or not you have the opportunity for a second. 


I think that when we talk about romantic relationships or things related to couples, it is very easy to go into the deep stuff around communication and how we show love and respect. Those things are all incredibly important. It can be easy to get so into the weeds of that, that we lose sight of the fact that there also needs to be fun in a relationship, like to be a good friend to your partner, to be enjoyable to hang out with, to spend time together, doing light things that aren't the most serious things in the world. That’s really the bulk of how we spend our days with our spouse or partners, even our kids. 


And then also certainly with friendships. There is a time and a place to go into the deep stuff and to be vulnerable and to have those very authentic heart to hearts. Honestly, I think that it's true that if you can't do that at all with “friends”, it may not be the depth of the relationship that you want to have and. There's a lot of the rest of the time that we spend with friends that is devoted to just fun and companionship and being easy and light and just enjoyable. Again, it's like, the deep stuff is important. Chemistry does matter, that people feel a spark when they're with you, that people want to hang out with you. Like the song we were just listening to, there's a line in there that I love, “like a moth to the flame,” right. 

Confidence and Charisma

And so, I think that as we are discussing all different topics related to your love, happiness and success, it is worthwhile to be talking about how to build up your confidence in these interpersonal moments, and also your charisma, your chemistry, because you can be intentionally more charismatic, more fun to talk to, more fun to be with, make people feel chemistry when they're around you. This is not an impossible thing, even if you maybe are sort of—as I am, honestly, as many people—are kind of naturally inclined towards introversion. That is okay, that's good, that gives you depth and meaning. I think introverts are fascinating to talk to you personally. How do you put your best foot forward? Be your best self, particularly with people who don't yet know you? We have to do that to some degree to give ourselves the chance to get to know people more deeply. We don't do a cannonball into the deep end of the pool with intimacy, there's an on ramp. Being intentional about how you're coming across in the beginning is the on ramp. 


And so that is what we're talking about today on the show is how to increase your confidence, your charisma, your chemistry with others. And if this is your first time listening to the podcast, I'm so glad that you found this. I'm Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. I'm the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. I'm a psychologist, marriage, family therapist, life coach. And I spend a lot of time really, I would say the bulk of it, helping people with matters of the heart. And we talk about all kinds of things on this show, we talk about career and personal stuff, and growth and all good things. 


But really, I think, what I have clients talking to me about most of all, and what we do most of all, in our practice is it's really related to how do I feel more connected to other people? How do I have more genuinely satisfying relationships with others. Let's take a look at my patterns and relationships and kind of think about how those are going, so that I can make positive changes. 

That's again what we're doing today on the show. So I have lots planned for us around this topic of confidence and charisma. That is not all. 


If you're interested in learning more about this topic, I would invite you to go to the blog at growing If you go to the blog page, there's actually a search bar there and you can type in any topic that you're interested in. If this conversation we'll have today sparks more interest in learning about communication, chemistry, friendship, dating, go to the blog of Type any of those words into the search bar and you will see not only more podcast episodes from me, but loads of really helpful articles written, some by myself,but some by other people on our team at Growing Self. I get to work with all kinds of very smart, talented therapists and coaches who have a lot to offer you all for free on the blog at So don't let your journey of growth stop here in this moment with this podcast. We're going to keep going. 


But in service of our topic today, confidence charisma, I am actually enlisting the support of a true expert in this area. She's not a therapist, but she has some pretty unique life experiences that have really helped her understand the art and science of being engaging and being interesting and being not just fun, but funny to talk to. Kristen Carney is my guest today, and I'm so excited to introduce her to you. 


Kristen is an extremely interesting person. She is a stand-up comedian, who has another career really in helping people figure out how to communicate with confidence and clarity, be successful when it comes to things like bantering in the context of dating, and she has done so many interesting things. She is the co-host of the Ask Women podcast, and she has been on Loveline with Dr. Drew, the Adam Carolla Show, she's had her own podcast, and she is on Comedy Central. Are you still on Comedy Central? 


Kristen Carney: I wrote for them a long, long time ago. 


Lisa: That’s so cool! I think is kind of something.


Kristen: I'll take it, I'll take it.


Lisa: Yes. She's here today to speak with us and to share her insights on how you too, can be more interesting to talk to.


Kristen: Well, thank you so much for having me. The pressure to talk about being interesting when you're talking, for me to be interesting when I'm talking goes through the roof. It's like, be interesting, and then I'm on a podcast, maybe perhaps not sounding interesting when I talk about this stuff because it is really formulaic in a sense. So it turns out to be a conversation that sounds very self help-y, rather than super fun and entertaining, which is what I want people to be, right.


Lisa: Well, I apologize if my glowing introduction, but you're just about like, it's Kristen Carney, the most interesting and entertaining person in the world to talk to and you're like, “Ah, crap.”


Kristen: Yes, I'd like to set the bar low so that I can exceed it. I can blow people away because they had such little expectation. But I'll live up to your intro, I promise. 


Lisa: Well, actually, if we can even just start there. And I hope that this is okay to ask you about. So one of the things that I have been so interested to learn more about you and kind of your story and your background. So you had/have a career as a stand-up  comedian. Is that right?


Kristen: Yes, and no. Yes, I've done stand up for the better part of 10 to 12 years. It hasn't always been paying or on television. But it's been a consistent thing through my life, which has led me to different aspects of comedy and writing and performing and podcasting. And so it's really the common thread that's linked to all of the things that I do together. It all stems from stand-up comedy. Everything in my life stems from stand-up comedy. 


Ever since I was 12 years old and didn't do stand-up comedy, comedy was the through line through everything for me. I was class clown. I was bullied pretty badly. So it was a coping mechanism. My dad was really funny. And I didn't know how to pursue a career being funny, but I knew, “Ookay, I have a sense of humor. I'm very perceptive. I can see things. I'm observational, and I can make clever commentary. How do I make that a career?” 


And so I actually originally went into the creative side of advertising, to be a copywriter, because I thought, “Well, I can write a funny commercial,” or something. I never envisioned myself doing stand-up comedy. And it wasn't until I was in the advertising school that I was at in Chicago that I delved into stand up, because they actually made us take a stand-up class to see how we could write jokes, and then put that into commercials and advertising. And so that's how I ended up getting into stand up. 


So my whole life has just been influenced by comedy. But it hasn't always necessarily been directly me being on stage for 3000 people or something like that. I have done stand-up on TV, but I don't pursue it the way most people pursue stand-up. I almost put it in the background and let that lead me. 

Personal Growth

Lisa: Yes. Well, that's great. I wanted to ask about that because it seems relevant, but I mean, I can only imagine. To me, it feels like the third ring of hell to imagine like standing up in front of a room full of maybe slightly drunk people holding a microphone and they're all sort of looking at you expectantly, ready to be entertained. First of all, the amount of pressure and anxiety that you must feel in those moments, and yet I'm projecting here. Also the level of empathy that there are people among us who feel similarly in the context of a party or a first date, not just like, “What do I say?” What does that actually feel like? 


Kristen: For some people, it's a rush. It turns them into essentially like meth heads, like they need to get that next hit of being onstage. And then for some people like me, the rush is there, but the rush is weighed down by the anxiety that I do have before going on stage. I grew up dancing. And so I always loved being onstage. I was never nervous to dance on stage. It was a different experience. I always felt a rush 100% of the time. Whereas stand up, it's so dependent on you, and you never know the context or the scenario or what's going to happen. Whereas when you're going on stage to perform with a group dancing, it's all pretty planned out. You know exactly what you're doing and what's next, where stand-up is much more unpredictable. So the anxiety for me, could actually be crippling, and I had to find ways to cope with it. 


And really, part of the reason I don't do stand-up as much as I would really naturally desire is due to that anxiety. I never like to play the female card, like, “Oh, it's hard being a woman in comedy.” But it is kind of hard for—if you're not funny, especially like me, I mean, if you're funny, it's great. But when you're a woman, especially not funny, then trying to do stand up, it's even worse. 


You have a perception about you from the audience, that as a woman, you need to instantly break down. You need to win them over within 10 to 15 seconds. If you don't get them within those first 10 to 15, 30 seconds, even, it's pretty much over. That anticipation for me was always hard, because I don't look like I would do stand-up. I don't look very nice. I don't look like the typical prototype of what a comedian looks like. So I would always have to fight against that. I would overthink and over judge myself, “Does this shirt say the wrong thing about me? Is this going to make me unlikable? This side of my face is less likeable than the side of my face. What if this side of the crowd doesn’t like me? So yes, tons of anxiety for me. 


But once I'm actually on stage, and things are going well, it is that meth hit where you're like—not that I would know, not that I'm for meth, no judgement. But hey, this pandemic's getting long, you never know. But once that ship is sailing, and you're flowing, it's like, “Man, this is great. Nothing better in the world.” But to get to that point, sometimes it just doesn't feel like it's worth all the pre-pain that comes along with. Especially not just the pre pain of being on that moment of stepping on stage, but just functioning in an industry like that, it's very difficult. You have to be very social, and you have to really know how to work it and network and get chummy with people. I'm pretty introverted. I'm very extroverted, in certain senses, like to the extreme. But on a day-to-day basis, I'm very introverted. And so that always was very hard for me to upkeep these relationships and meeting people. 


So, yes, there's nothing I love more in this world besides comedy. Well, I love sleep. Sleep is probably number one. But number two, comedy and so, yes, that that has just been a consistent source of decision making, I guess in my life. But I've never been directly completely committed to just stand-up comedy. 


Lisa: Well I can understand why. I mean, because just the mental and emotional anguish and also like, even though there are moments when it feels good, and you're in the flow, and you're doing it like I'm also hearing that there's a lot of self-awareness that it's not totally in your nature to be the that that it requires. 


Kristen: Yes, yes, I'm very in my head and I'm very self-aware and over analytical and over judgmental of myself and hard on myself. So it is always been, I think, it's crippled me, definitely. But it's also shaped me in a sense that it's given me character, a sense of humor, because I don't go through everyday life feeling great and happy all the time because I'm so in my head. And I use that for my comedy, and I use that for my jokes, my point of view on the world and all that stuff. 


So I try to be grateful for it. But that's also me just trying to sound positive, because I'm on podcasts that's very positive. If I was on a podcast just for comedy, I'd be like, “I hate it, I want to, I want to never get out of bed and just pour alcohol into my mouth all day long every day.” But I can't right now, so. 


Lisa: Well, Kristen, this is the Love Happiness & Success podcast. So we keep it extremely real. And it is also 100% fun. 


Kristen: Good because all I want to do really is say, “Screw it. I'm staying in bed.” But then you just dig yourself a deeper hole. And so it's not worth it. It’s only going to be harder to get out of that hole. 


Lisa: So true. What I think is amazing, and what I was super excited to talk with you about is how it seems like you've really taken so much of what I'm imagining you've learned from these experiences as someone who like so many of us, tend to be self-critical to overthink things or judge yourself harshly? And then going into I think that the highest stress situation, and overthinking introvert could possibly be in which is in this, an entertainer kind of role. That what you've done is really kind of figure out how do I help people that are maybe kind of like me, figure out how to manage some of the anxiety. Not just feel maybe more confident or comfortable in these situations, but also have an idea of what to say, or what to be that will help them feel more confident about, like, making a first good impression, or like you were saying a couple minutes ago, like I have 10 to 15 seconds for these people to decide. 


I think that it's kind of a crappy reality. I would like to believe that we live in a world where humans can be more compassionate with each other and understand that it takes a long time to know somebody fully. While I think we all know that that's true, in practice, particularly when it's a new relationship, or when you're dating, when you're first out, like even making friends, like people do judge others pretty quickly. And it's also a reality.

How to Talk to Random People


Kristen: It is, it is. You can't control that, that's going to happen regardless. So you can put yourself in the best position possible. And then also not put too much stock into whether they like you or not. Having just this confidence, that's an unending confidence, it’s not affected. Of course, we're human beings. And if you want someone to really like you, and they don't really seem to like you, it's a bummer. But not putting much weight on it. Because when you do put weight on it, it shines through in your interaction. You can do everything right, but if you're in your head thinking these things, people are like dogs in a sense, well, in certain ways. I mean, not because they sniff their own poo, but because they can smell, they can sniff, they can sense. 


So people will pick that up. And so the less you are focused on that, the less people will feel that and you'll give yourself a better opportunity to be perceived the way that you want to be perceived, or in the correct way. So, with making a first impression, I actually went through this. And it was mind blowing to me because it was so simple. But when I was doing stand-up, I was trying to meet people, I was new to the scene, and I had a therapist and I just said, “I'm very upset because I'm a really good person and I'm very nice. But people react to me very—it seems very negative. It doesn't seem like they embrace me. I don't really feel welcome. And so I had to work on that for a while, but I realized I was carrying around a lot of negative energy and a lot of discomfort within myself. 


And so I did start working on entering situations, smiling. Just smiling. It's so simple and confident people smile. So you don't want to be arrogant. You don't want to be like, “I'm great. And I'm going to smile all the time because I'm perfect.” Just the way you've been looked at me when I said that, when I said, I smile, you smiled so genuinely. And there's such a warmth to that. And so I didn't want to fake smile, of course. I just worked on embracing the joy that actually is inside of me before going into these situations, and you have to be a little bit aware so that you actually do it. You don't want to be in your head, but you want to be aware enough where you are actively putting out a good energy. 


So I would smile, I would just smile naturally, if someone came up to my friend and I was standing there with a friend, I didn't stand there, like, looking off to the side or crossing my arms or like, when is someone going to introduce me. When the person would walk up, I'd smile too and I'd say hello. And it would instantly be a comfort level that didn't exist before. And so that was just mind boggling or mind blowing to me, because it felt like such an insurmountable mountain to climb to get people to like me from the get-go. 


And when I just started smiling, it made such a difference. My face specifically, it's very angular, it could be a little witchy at certain angles. I've got dark hair, right? So it's like you have to compensate for people because people innately want to judge that. We've been conditioned to maybe associate a long face with a witch or something. That's not their fault. And so, I've tried to accommodate them, in the sense, not tell them that, but do what I need to do to offset the programming that's already in their head about me, and someone who looks like me.


Lisa: That is so important. Let's just unpack this a little bit. There's this just awareness that people—we all do can just like, extrapolate meaning about who people are just from the basic way that their face looks. You're not saying this out loud because you're probably too polite, but that phrase like resting bitchface.


Kristen: Oh, I have a resting bitch face. I have resting C-U-N-T face, really. That’s how extreme mine is. I go past the… 


Lisa: Well. And now for my podcast listeners who don't have the benefit of seeing the video right now, you're also very, very pretty, too. 


Kristen: I'll take it, I'll take it. 


Lisa: No, really, you are.There can be this like that, perhaps we are all sort of projecting things that we're not completely conscious of that maybe people are sort of absorbing. They see a pretty girl who looks aloof. Just not because you intend to be aloof, but because of the way your face is literally constructed. And they sort of take that in as and start making assumptions. 


So you're saying that it was huge to just like, be aware of what people do, and then really intentionally, I think you use the phrase, counteract that programming. So that you go in with a smile, and you're being very aware of your body language, so that you have some—I mean, I hate to use the word control, because we can't control everything that's going on inside of other people. But you can like, tip the scales a little bit in your favor, is what I'm saying.


Kristen: Yes, absolutely.


Lisa: Yes.


Kristen: Yes. It was really helpful. I mean, it really changed a lot for me. It changed the relationships I was making. It changed the perceptions people had of me. I had stories that people told me when they first met me, they didn't know me, they didn't speak to me, they didn't think I was a B-I-T-C-H, or a bitch because of anything I did. They just saw me and thought, “Oh, that girl looks like a bitch.” And they wrote me off, and that was it. Come to find out once we actually strike up a relationship somehow, they're like, “You're nothing like I expected.” And so if I'd known that from the beginning, when I first met them, and was able to make conscious decisions of how I was holding myself or the energy I was putting out. 


I don't know if you get into this kind of stuff, but chakras and like the energy that is pouring out of your body that people sense, I noticed that if I just felt either annoyed or kind of moody, or if I pulled into a parking lot, at a grocery store to run into get groceries and the parking lot was full and then I'd walk in the grocery store with that energy of like, yeah, like “Get out of my way.” People would react to me, like that. They would feel that energy. 


Sometimes I forget, and I'm like, “This person is being a jerk.” And then I kind of realized, again, “Maybe I'm putting out that energy of being a jerk,” and then I readjust. But yes, it's life changing, it was life changing for me, really. 


Lisa: Thank you so much for sharing that. how much for sharing that. And I love it because it's so like, doable. I also hear exactly what you're saying, too. That it's very easy for all of us, and I certainly do this too, it's we're kind of unconsciously marinating in the broth of our own feelings, or being focused on something or annoyed with something and not fully aware of how we feel to be around. People can pick up our mood states through how we look and sort of how we're vibrating almost and that can really impact people too. 


So particularly if you're going into a high impact social situation, or a situation where you would like to meet new people or dating or make new relationships to be real conscious of that ongoing relationships, too, honestly. But like, especially in the beginning, before people have like compiled—I have had 150 set of experiences with Kristen and most of the time, she's lovely, and nice and pleasant and today, she's not really herself. But if somebody was just meeting you for the first time, and they didn't know that you were lovely and nice, they would take that sort of annoyed, irritated Kristen as being the truth about you, right?


Kristen: And that sticks. That's what sticks. So if you can alter that, then you're in a great position.

Social Anxiety

Lisa: Yes. Okay, can we pull back up just a little bit, because what you're talking about is so important in terms of that self-awareness. But what I often see happening like with clients, either therapy coaching clients, and I know that certainly I myself have been in this space, it's like, the way we are thinking about situations, even before we go into them are sort of like our inner dialogue around like, well, “They don't, they won't like me, because they'll think I'm weird. I'm different from that, or I'm not quite as good as XYZ for all these reasons.” 


People, I think, who struggle sometimes to feel confident in social situations, can really have a lot of that inner dialogue, that anticipatory like, that will prevent them from going into these situations in the first place. Or when they do, they already, like they're expecting something bad to happen. So they're not smiling, and they're not feeling great. I know that this is a very big complex topic. I mean, there are psychologists who specialize in social anxiety is like a thing. So there's a lot here, but I'm wondering, what you have found, from your experiences personally, in your coaching work over the years that has helped you offset some of that? I think it's such a common experience. 


Kristen: It is, and so what I can refer to is my own experience. The first thing that comes up in my head when you ask that is, I remember living in Chicago. I had just started doing stand-up  comedy. And all the kids or all the people who were doing comedy in the scene, were highly educated from Ivy League schools. They were high achievers in a way. They seem to—I don't know, I would kind of guessed that a lot of them came from money so that they were able to pursue something like comedy because they could. 


Whereas, I was not an Ivy League student, or in an Ivy League college. I was nowhere near even an A student. I was like a B- student. I didn't know anything about politics and big conversational things. I just knew who I was and what I like to talk about, and I felt so nervous and scared around them. And I couldn't be myself and I couldn't speak. I would just be completely quiet. It would almost feel like in my brain, a light switch would turn to the off position. I would have nothing to say, nothing to offer, no sense of humor. I knew it was in there, but it would just shrink, it would go away and I would clam up. 


I look back on that. I've come so far because I've realized that what I have to offer is unique and is great in and of itself without having to be like them. So the first thing that I recommend is becoming comfortable. And it's way easier said than done to just all of a sudden become comfortable with yourself, right? But when you stop trying to be anyone else, but yourself, instantly, a lot of pressure will melt away. When I was younger, I started to try to become them so that I could fit in. And the more I tried to become them, the less funny I would be, the more people wouldn't like me. It felt inauthentic. It felt fake. People could feel that. 


I would learn things just so that this person would maybe like me better, or that person would like me better. And I stopped doing that, I stopped comparing myself to anyone else. I started embracing who I am. And if I don't love to read about 18th century literature, I just don't. And that's okay. I never will. I'd make jokes about not reading essentially, like I read but I don't really read, And for so long, it was like, “What a loser, you don't read, you don't add up to everyone else.” But then I realized I get my knowledge in the way that I like to get my knowledge. I like to learn things the way I like to learn things. I love movies. 


I started to just embrace my shortcomings, and stop comparing myself to other people. And so when I would go into social situations, I started to feel great, not great, I'm not perfect by any means. But I started to feel just more at ease. “This is who I am. This is what I like, if you don't like it, if it's not good enough, I'm not interested in you either.” And it would hurt. It's not like I'm unendingly confident, I struggle a lot with confidence, always. But I just became more comfortable in my skin so when I would go into these situations, social situations, I knew what I had to say. what I had to offer was different than anyone else there. And that in itself was awesome, and was unique and cool. I would start feeling less anxiety. 


I've never necessarily had social anxiety. It's interesting because when I'm in a social setting, in a group way, with people that I'm relatively comfortable with, I turn it on. I don't know what happens. But I become like Robin Williams or something, like “I’m d, the d and funny and that.” And I really become myself. But there are certain people and certain circumstances, of course, that I would dim my light. And so that's happening way less. My light doesn't really dim anymore for the people that I'm around. And so that's kind of very long winded way to basically say, become comfortable with who you are. It's a lot easier said than done.


Lisa: Yes. Right? I mean, it's a process. I think that we can all totally relate to that to being around people that were worried about being judged by. I know, I've certainly been in that experience too. How hard it can be to kind of like, no, even though I'm not into these things, or they know something about music or bands or whatever that I don't know—it doesn't mean that I'm not a good and worthwhile person. I think that that's the theme for this year’s is that self-acceptance is really that core, so that you're sort of having that inner voice inside of yourself is like, “You are good. You are just as good as they are. It's all okay, you don't have to be anything else. You bring value.”


Also I love the other part of what you said, which is that if you do encounter someone who is judging you by their own weird yardstick that they're carrying around, it doesn't have anything to do with you. Good riddance, who would want to be friends with or in a relationship with somebody who's that judgy? That's not fun. Right?


Kristen: No. That’s the most empowering part of getting older is not caring. Cool, great. Awesome. You're cool. You have a million Instagram followers. I don't care. I don't care. And it's this book The Subtle Art Of Not an F. Okay, I didn't read the whole book. And speaking of not reading, I did listen to most of it on tape. If I ever go deaf, though, it's because I listened to so many books, that's going to be my thing. Like I do listen to books, I don't read them. But I do listen. And that was just reiterating the whole idea of just not caring that much, caring about the right things and forgetting about the wrong things. 


You said something that I wanted to respond to but it's, it's escaping me right now. Oh, I know what it was. You mentioned about maybe not knowing the certain music or all about music or something. What I recommend doing is embracing literally out loud your shortcomings. Calling them out. A confident person can self-deprecate because they’re secure enough that if they point out something that makes them vulnerable, they're cool. That's okay. 


So self-deprecation is a very good tool to use in small doses. Of course, you don't want to become Eeyore, just constantly, [mumbles]. But every so often, if you really don't know something, or you're really uncomfortable, calling out the elephant in the room, self-deprecating about it. I also recommend self-deprecating about the positive, so that you're able to call out that elephant in the room, but in a way that's not taking you down from you're starting at zero with someone and taking you down to negative 100. You're starting at zero with someone and you're actually going up to +25 by self-deprecating. And so, you self-deprecating about the good thing. 


I recommend making a list of things that are actually really great qualities about yourself that you could pick on in a way to humanize yourself.It's like the humblebrag kind of thing. But if you every single day have to make your bed or something that's a positive quality that you could totally pick on yourself. If you're—I use this example, once before that I liked, with men that I was working with. But this one guy, he's like 38, roughly. Kind of rediscovering himself. He said he was traveling all the time, he was taking singing lessons, he was learning to ski or just stuff that he's never done before. And he was doing tons of awesome stuff. So I said, “Self-deprecate about that and say, ‘I'm basically like a 50 year old divorced woman.’” So turn these things that are great about yourself as a way to self-deprecate you, you become very down to earth to someone. But meanwhile, also showing that you have confidence because it takes confidence to do that. But of course, the right situation has to arise to use these self-deprecation tools. But they're always there for you.


Lisa: What a wonderful, like, multipurpose little Swiss Army Knife of the communication technique. It accomplishes so many things at the same time. It's like showing confidence, it's showing wit, but it's also kind of like making yourself more relatable. I would imagine too, making other people who may be experiencing their own inner demons, “Oh, no, this person is so much more interesting than I am,” like that they feel more comfortable and safe with you, too. 


Kristen: Yes, I used to do that as a teenager who I—I hate to say the word bullied but I was pretty bullied. 


Lisa: Yes, I understand.


Kristen: I learned to self-deprecate to make people comfortable with me. To me, I felt like it made myself more likeable. It was also a defense mechanism because I thought if I point out my flaws first, I'll get to them before other people do, which is something I was so accustomed to people pointing out my flaws, telling me what was wrong with me. So it was a defense mechanism, but if used properly and in small doses, yes, it's a really good tool. So.

Charismatic Conversations

Lisa: I know that we don't have that much more time with you because it was a hard stop. I guess I'm also wondering that maybe in our last couple of minutes, if you wouldn't mind sharing, if there are any, and I know that you have like you have a coaching practice, you have a whole program based around this, I'm sure it's very involved. 


But like part of what I love about your work and what I was interested in speaking with you again, is that in addition to kind of helping people feel comfortable in themselves and kind of know how to handle themselves in certain social situations. I think that there is an art and a craft and things that you can learn for how to be perceived more positively around. Things to say, like there is such a thing as charismatic communication. Again, I know we don't have a ton of time, but I'm curious to know if there's like even one or two things that you can share about things that usually work if you would like to make a positive impression. We talked about smiling and sort of energy. But what else? 


Kristen: Absolutely, oh my gosh, there's so many places I could go with this. But to narrow it down, for time’s sake, one thing I always recommend is being very aware of your surroundings. When you're aware of your surroundings, what you're doing is, just becoming cognizant. Is it warm in here? Is the line very long? Is there a weird smell? The reason I recommend that is because that's a shared experience with someone else who is in the room with you. They're experiencing the same thing. They may not be aware that they're experiencing the same thing but if you pointed out, oh, my God, instant connection. “Yes, it is really smelly in here. Did you smell that?” “I smelled that.” “Oh, my God, are you wearing deodorant?” “No, it's not me.” All of a sudden, it can turn into a fun playful exchange, if you simply start out just aware of your surroundings. So that's one thing. 


The other thing that I recommend is knowing your point of view and having opinions and strong opinions. Not to be a jerk, but to give you a place to go from in conversation. Conversation will fall flat if you don't have a point of view on something, if you don't have an opinion on something. It's really the foundation of the banter work that I teach. We start out working on opinions and how to unearth the ones that are buried deep down, because we're taught to be polite, we're taught to not offend, we're taught to be amiable. And of course, I want people to be nice and lovely. 


But for men, specifically, when they're dating, if they don't have these strong opinions, they end up being thrown into the friendzone, or feeling a little bit like the beta male, like not the strong masculine type that women may be looking for. So knowing your opinions, and knowing how to deliver them properly, is something that we usually get into in the coursework that I do. 


Finally, the last thing that I would recommend, it takes a long time to explain, so I'm going to try to say it in about 20 seconds. When you want to be witty and you want to be clever, simply really all it comes down to is making a connection between one thing and another. And so yes, it's so hard to summarize. But basically, starting to draw lines, like little invisible lines between things is where you'll start to bring out humor. 


So for example, I'm just randomly pulling stuff out. If I'm in the airport, and there's a vending machine with the headphones, things like that. Usually people walk by, they don't make a judgement on that. So it's like, “Okay, a vending machine full of headphones, whatever, next.” Taking these little minute things and actually applying connections to them. So say I didn't have my headphones and I had a 14 hour flight coming up. I would say something about the vending machine being like my hero, that vending machine must be wearing a cape, it just saved me, just saved my life. That's not mind blowingly funny, but that's an example of making connections to bring out humor.


Those three things set you up to be pretty good verbally, but also physically in terms of the way you present yourself are important as well. I don't know if I just made sense with what I said there. 


Lisa: No, no, it's like the physical pieces and energetic pieces are like all the foundation. Then it's like the shared experience, what's going on, making connections between different things. Also you use the word playful, too. I would imagine that just having that kind of intention in the way you communicate and having strong opinions. 


Kristen: Yes, playful is key, especially in dating, the beginning of conversation of conversing or connecting. You don't want to be shallow necessarily, but you want to be playful and short, so that it doesn't feel like work, so that it feels fun, it feels like you're at an amusement park. And then eventually you can get to the heavier stuff. But when you're drawing someone in, short and sweet and fun and playful, is how you set the stage for  better things to come.


Lisa: That's an interesting conversation. I wish I had more time with you and I'm sure that my listeners are like “Wait. No, no. Don’t let Kristen go yet.” So where will they go if they wanted to learn more about you and your work these days?


Kristen: So my website is called It's a play on “Netflix and Chill”, which is about hooking up because I've really just helped mainly with the dating stuff and guys trying to get the chicks. But they can also find me @thebantercoach on Instagram. I just started that Instagram page. I’m starting to build it up and get content on there. So if they want to hit me up or ask me questions, The Banter Coach on Instagram.


Lisa: Thank you so much. We'll be sure to link to those in the post for this and thank you again for your time.


Kristen: Yes, thank you for having me. You’re so lovely. So sweet to talk to you. 


Lisa: Talk to you soon. Okay. Bye. 


Kristen: Bye.


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Anxiety vs. Intuition, and How to Tell the Difference

The phrase “trust yourself” is easy to toss around. It sounds inspirational, and certainly looks great on a coffee mug or instagram post. But learning how to trust yourself, like really and truly trust yourself, is actually a life-skill that requires practice and hard work to develop. I work with many of my private Denver therapy and online life coaching clients around how to trust themselves (or, more accurately, how to tell the difference between trustworthy and untrustworthy aspects of their experience). It's definitely in the realm of “advanced personal growth” but is truly life changing once you figure it out.

For example, before you can really trust yourself you need to know the difference between anxiety and intuition. When do you listen to that small voice in your head, because it's right? And when is that small (or loud) voice in your head just scared, jumping to conclusions, or trying to protect you from something that's not really a threat? Learning how to differentiate between the two will help you trust yourself.

This alone can take a lot of deliberate energy and effort, through therapy or life coaching, to figure out. It requires a lot of radical honesty and self-awareness. But true personal growth requires it.

For example, people working on themselves in therapy or coaching quickly learn that there are ALL KINDS of thoughts and feelings zooming around in their heads and hearts. Some of these thoughts are reality based and true, and some are helpful. Many of our automatic thoughts are neither objectively true, nor helpful. Figuring out how to tell the difference between the two is life-changing (as well as the heart and soul of evidence based cognitive-behavioral therapy or coaching).

Similarly, we can routinely feel all kinds of things. Some emotions, when listened to and explored, are veritable treasure troves of invaluable information about ourselves, our truth, our values. Stepping wholeheartedly into these healthy emotional currents are like being carried forward effortlessly towards growth and healing. But, like our thoughts, not all of our feelings are healthy or helpful. Some, like anxiety, shame, and depression, though they feel real, are the emotional equivalent of drinking poison. They are not to be indulged wholesale, but rather assisted in transforming themselves into something more helpful.

At the same time that we have unhelpful thoughts and feelings, we also receive messages from deep and knowing parts of ourselves that are worth listening to. We all carry intuition and wisdom inside of us. We can know things without knowing why we know them. Often those “gut feelings” or ideas that bubble up in your brain seemingly on their own can be powerful and accurate sources of self-guidance, and you can trust them. And sometimes our anxiety flares up around all kinds of things, and has little basis in reality.

Anxiety will conjure up perceived threats in many situations, irregardless of their basis in reality. Being led (or more often, blocked) by anxiety is exhausting and self-limiting. In contrast, intuition is the product of real information that's simply being processed on a non-conscious level. Even though flashes of intuition may seem, in some ways, just as baseless as anxiety, it's not. It's helpful, useful, and true. When you learn how to tap into your intuition, (and differentiate intuition vs. anxiety) you can trust yourself.

As is so often true in the realm of personal growth therapy, learning how to tell the diffference between anxiety and intuition and trust yourself is easier said than done. That is why we're devoting an entire episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to exploring this topic. Listen, so that you can understand how to recognize the different signs and manifestations of intuition, and learn how anxiety is different.

In This “Trust Yourself” Podcast Episode, You Will…

  • Understand the difference between anxiety and intuition.
  • Discover the importance of feeling fear (and how it's different from anxiety).
  • Learn what to do with your gut feelings.
  • Understand the importance of clarity, and how to get it through your intuition.
  • Find out the best way to combat anxiety.
  • Identify the reasons why intuitions happen, and how to increase your intuition.
  • Learn how to tell the difference between anxiety and intuition in relationships.

I often discuss the subject of how to trust yourself with my therapy and coaching clients. I have so much to share on this important topic of learning how to trust yourself, and I'm so excited to share it with you too. You can listen to “Trust Yourself” on Spotify, the Apple Podcast app, on the player at the bottom of this post, or wherever else you like to listen to podcasts. Show-notes and the transcript are below, if you're more of a reader.

I hope this discussion helps YOU learn how to tell the difference between anxiety vs intuition, so that you can trust yourself with confidence.


Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Trust Yourself: Podcast Episode Highlights

Gut Feeling About Relationship?

“We all have ideas, interpretations, perceptions about what's happening, that are only our conscious thoughts after they have been filtered through our set of life experiences, our core beliefs.”

We take in a lot of information without realizing it, but our brain can only consciously process so much. Most of this information is insignificant, but some is extremely important even if we don't recognize it as vital data. When that happens, we can have thoughts or feelings without knowing why. Then we have to consciously decide whether to act on the feeling or not. When you're having a feeling about a person… what do you do? Trust yourself? Minimize and explain away your feelings? Act on your feelings, realize belatedly they were anxiety, and then live to regret it? Agh!

When It's Anxiety: Our feelings can be in direct contrast to reality. We should test feelings of discomfort, especially if they don't coincide with what is happening. These feelings could manifest as fear or dislike of someone, but sometimes without a rational, apparent cause. It's essential to remember that these feelings do stem from something — past experiences, for example. The other person might remind you of a painful part of your history. Anxiety often doesn't hold up to scrutiny. 

When It's Intuition: “Even if you have trust issues, it doesn't mean that you might not have a spidey sense feeling about someone that you should listen to.” Intuition, even though it's processing information on a subconscious level, is still processing reality-based information. Often, when you talk through thoughts and feelings that are worth listening to, they make sense and are based on facts. 

Recognizing Anxiety

Your past experiences will determine how you act in a relationship. Different people with different issues will react differently. If you tend to have anxiety in certain types of relationships, or know that your anxiety is triggered by certain types of things, your self-awareness will help you identify anxiety. Anxiety is familiar.

“Somebody else standing right next to you looking at the same situation would perceive a fairly neutral thing — they would not have the same kind of emotional reaction, or sort of instinctive reaction that will feel very much like intuition.”

For example, if you have trust issues, it's critical to be aware of your patterns. Should you feel uncomfortable about someone, you must recognize why. The feeling may not be related to the person at all! If you dismiss them without analyzing why you feel the way you do, you might miss the opportunity to meet a wonderful person.

  1. Pay close attention to your internal dialogues, especially in neutral situations, like a lunch with a friend. Ask yourself whether you attribute meaning to actions that have none. Are you mind reading, jumping to conclusions, or beating yourself up? Knowing your tendencies is 80% of the game.
  2. Ask if what you’re feeling is unusual for you. If you're having funny feelings outside of your usual pattern about someone, it could be a sign of intuition — your mind could be giving you information that you should pay attention to.
  3. If the thought and feeling are familiar, and ones that you commonly have in similar situations, it's probably anxiety.

Listen To Your Intuition

“We all know things that are true without knowing why we know that they are true.”

Your brain receives factual information from many different sources, but some sources don't get the benefit of conscious awareness. Just because data doesn't immediately connect with your conscious awareness doesn't mean it's not valuable. These feelings are still valid and real — and sometimes, they may be an actual, intuitive warning about someone. These messages from a different, though very real and trustworthy part of your show up as intuition.

When To Go With Your Gut

Our brains process truth by absorbing the tiny details of our surroundings, especially regarding people. We are highly evolved social animals, and our minds are wired to spot danger instinctively. However, our conscious minds do not always recognize these details.

“And so, because this is happening, we can be gathering a ton of valuable information about people, about situations, about relational dynamics, about whether or not somebody is telling the truth or is trustworthy, or, you know, all of these things that are never consciously noticed.”

You get this information through feelings. To illustrate, we may feel that a person is wrong for us without consciously knowing why, or you feel good about someone for no reason.

“What many others want to dismiss as a coincidence or a gut feeling is, in fact, a cognitive process. It is faster than we recognize and far different from the familiar step by step thinking that we rely on so willingly. We think conscious thought is somehow better, when in fact, intuition is a soaring flight compared to the plodding of logic.”

Your intuition is the rapid analysis of all those small details. It bypasses conscious thought: suddenly, you know something, but you don't know why you know it. The speed of intuition is useful for protection; when you are afraid, it may be best not to ask questions. Trust the fear, and figure out the fear when you're safe.

The Gift of Fear

If you feel afraid of someone, nothing else matters. Always listen to fear, whether around your personal relationships or personal safety. Fear is not the same thing as anxiety. 

But even fear can be confusing. For example If you have a history of toxic relationships or come from a dysfunctional family where emotional safety was not something you could count on, you might be used to ignoring fear. Not listening to or respecting healthy fear is one of the reasons why people can fall into toxic relationship patterns.

Even worse, if you have a history of toxic, unhealthy relationships you might feel apprehensive in safe, stable, healthy relationships. If you have this type of history, you may develop “trust issues” or unrealistic concerns about your partner in a healthy relationship. 

But the path to trusting yourself is to understand your patterns and what feels “normal” to you. Do you have a pattern of minimizing fear? Do you have a pattern of trust issues even in relationships with good, safe people? (Or do you tend to reject good, safe people?) Knowing yourself will give you the answers, and will help you trust yourself going forward. (And here's the link to our How Healthy is Your Relationship Quiz, if you want to do some reality testing.)

To Know Yourself: Learn and Grow

Some of us may have struggled for a long time in damaging, toxic relationships. Those relationships can sometimes damage our ability to trust, to feel good about ourselves, and to have healthy self esteem. To overcome this, we should face the past, remember it, and accept it for what it is. It is not impossible to move on — often, with the help of evidence-based therapy, it’s easier to grow beyond your past. Your history isn’t the end.

“If you’ve been in a relationship that wound up being hurtful to you. . . there’s gonna be stuff, and that’s not that there’s anything horribly wrong with you. It’s part of the human experience.”

But it’s part of our responsibility to be aware of what issues we have. We have to work through it. While we can't get rid of our experiences, we can become familiar with them, so they don't destroy us.

You might feel apprehensive in relationships regardless. A therapist can help you learn to recognize your patterns and internal dialogues. Even if you feel anxiety, you can still be the way you want to be in a relationship.

Listening to Our Feelings

Once you recognize your patterns, you might think you can talk yourself out of your fear and anxiety. However, the critical thing to do is to analyze your emotions.

“With judgment comes the ability to disregard your intuition, unless you can explain it logically. The eagerness to judge and convict your feelings rather than honor them. And that is the other side of this coin that we all have access to this sort of subterranean part of our brain that is providing us with highly reliable intuitive intuition and information, and the work isn't.”

In my experience as a Denver marriage counselor, I encountered three clients having problems with their relationships. They had a sense that their partners weren't faithful, and were trying to figure out how to rebuild trust after infidelity. As hard as they tried, they could not feel safe with their partners despite working hard at it. As it turns out, all three of them were indeed not with trustworthy partners. Their intuition was trustworthy. Your feelings of fear and mistrust might be anxiety — or they might be an accurate, intuitive analysis.

In another instance, I've worked with people were cheating on their partner. Despite leaving no trace of infidelity, their partner still felt anxious, emotionally clingy, and suspicious. “Your partner doesn't have all of the factual information, but they can feel the truth of the situation. They know what is happening even though they don't know, they still feel the truth. You can't hide that.” 

Patterns in Relationships

It might feel discomfiting to think that all your feelings have a basis in truth. But again, you must analyze them  —knowing the patterns in your relationships is a big part of the battle. For instance, your attachment styles can also play a part in how you form your relationship patterns.

However, it could be intuition if you've already done the work on yourself by asking questions like:

  • Why did I choose a partner I was suspicious of?
  • Is there something in my pattern around the partners I choose?
  • Am I seeking a specific personality type?

Understand why a particular person attracts you. Knowing this can help lessen your anxiety and help you understand your patterns in relationships.

“It requires a lot of self-awareness to know that so that you can make informed choices based on what you know about yourself as opposed to what someone else is telling you.”

Therapy is a great way to help guide you on your personal growth work. With self-awareness and therapy, you can gain more clarity about yourself. Is something bad happening to you, or is it all your old stuff?

Trusting Yourself and Gaining Clarity

Another way of attaining clarity is by talking your problems out with a neutral third party, someone with no stake in what's happening. Not someone close to you, like your mom or your best friend — someone genuinely neutral. They might have a completely different perspective.

The point of asking a third party is to borrow someone else's brain to get a better read on a person or situation. For example, at Growing Self, we interview new therapists, counselors, or coaches as a team — multiple people compare notes and see if anyone has a gut feeling about the interviewee.

Building self-awareness involves work. Two exercises you can try in addition to talking to a third party are as follows:

  • When you have an intuitive feeling about someone, flesh it out. If you listen to the emotion and examine it, you might find that it has a basis in factual information! 
  • Look back to moments when you knew something wasn't right, didn't listen to it, and the feeling turned out to be correct. What did it feel like at the time? Reexamining your history goes back to understanding your patterns and seeing what fits.

These feelings might not be conscious thoughts. They can manifest as dread or even physical, visceral sensations. Intuition can take many forms, so it’s vital to know what language your intuition speaks.

Signs of Intuition

Anxiety usually feels familiar, but intuition often seems to come from nowhere, unattached to anything. It typically means that there is a fully formed thought in your mind. Even dreams can be part of your intuition. While most dreams have no basis in reality, some might feel different and worth investigating.

“If it is an intuition and something trustworthy, when you do give it a voice, your intuition will make perfect sense.”

As always, analyze the feeling. See what feels different — intuition feels different from your usual anxiety. Have tools in place to help you sort out what you’re feeling: the strategies here can help you, but it would be best to find professional assistance. If you'd like to get involved in evidence based therapy or life coaching with one of the therapists at Growing Self Counseling and Coaching, get started by requesting a first, free consultation session.

I hope that this discussion around understanding the difference between anxiety and intuition helps you trust yourself. What part of this podcast did you connect and relate to the most? Or do you have any follow up questions for me? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment down below.

Lastly: If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to the podcast and pay it forward by sharing this with some you love who could benefit from hearing it!

All the best, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Trust Yourself

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast

Music Credits: Rodello's Machine, “The Beauty of Your Life”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Trust Yourself: Podcast Transcript

Access Episode Transcript

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast. 


[I Know I Know I Know by James Parm plays]


That’s James Parm, and the song is called I know, I know, I know. That's what we're talking about today, you guys, is how you can know and trust your intuition. Or here's the hard part—know when to not trust your feelings because they are, in fact, anxiety, and not intuition. This is a very, very difficult thing to tease apart. But this is something I think we all struggle with. And we have had a number of people—thank you so much if this was you—get in touch through Instagram @drlisamariebobby or @growing_self on Instagram, and through our website to ask exactly this question: how do I tell the difference between anxiety and intuition? 


We've actually had this question come up in different variants. People asking, “How do I tell if I'm having a healthy thought that's based on something that I should listen to, and trust, and take guidance from? versus Is this my own kind of tendency to worry about these situations? Am I overthinking unnecessarily? Or is there actually something for me to be worried about?” These are really tough things to wrestle through. But I am going to attempt to help you with this on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast. 


So if you are one of the people who has gotten in touch recently, with this question or another, thank you so much. I try to really make these podcasts in alignment with what would be most helpful to you. If you are listening to this for the first time, or are a new listener, and would ever like to get in touch, you're welcome to do this. You can track us down at, send an old-fashioned email, Instagram, Facebook, all of the usual outlets. We're all ears. 

Anxiety or Intuition

All right, so let's just dive into this topic. Okay, this is a tough one. Have you ever been in a situation where you are getting vibed by someone, or like it's a new person? Maybe you're dating a new person, or getting to know a new person, and you're sort of having a weird reaction to them but you don't quite know why. When you look at what is actually happening on the surface, it sort of doesn't add up. They're not doing anything wrong. They're not saying anything wrong. Nothing has happened that you're aware of. But nonetheless, you are having this kind of gut feeling about someone, and you're not sure if you should pay attention to this. Or if it's just you thinking weird thoughts, and having anxiety that you shouldn't listen to. 


I have to tell you, I think that when I talk to clients in—I mean—individual therapy, life coaching clients, but even like couples counseling, and relationship coaching clients, this question comes up more more often than you would think. And because I think that many people really struggle with this. And the difference between intuition and anxiety can be quite tricky to sort through. Let's just kind of look at this from two different angles here. 


First of all, what is true? Undeniably true is that we all have ideas, interpretations, perceptions, about what's happening that are only our conscious thoughts after they have been filtered through our set of life experiences, our core beliefs. This is true for everything. I mean, things that make us feel upset or apprehensive, but even totally random stuff too. I mean, you know what I'm going to have for lunch today? My opinion about some of the color shirt that someone is wearing.  I mean extremely benign things that are of absolutely no consequence at all. 


There's a lot that we sort of take in without even realizing that we're taking things in, and that we do have opinions or life experiences or judgments on some level. But that we're not even consciously aware of because that's something interesting to know about the way our brain works. We have discussed this on other topics, but that there's so much information around us every day, all the time, constantly. From physical sensations, to noises in our background, to things that we see, things that we hear, things that we could be doing. It is literally impossible for the human brain to consciously hold all of the information we're receiving all of the time. We sort of have to be selective about what we choose to pay attention to and what we don't. Otherwise it would just be overwhelming. We're constantly getting barraged with information. Most of the time, again, we don't have any reaction to any of this information at all because it's just not important. 


But there are times when things trigger us. We are in situations where all of a sudden, we start to feel threatened, or uncomfortable, or worried, or suspicious. At that time, we then have to make a conscious decision about what do I want to do with this feeling. Is this something I should take action on? Is this something that I should do, like a manual override and keep going? I talk to people a lot about this especially in the context of dating or other relationships. But even like in career coaching situations, and I'll tell you why in a second, but that's really what we're what we're talking about today. 


When it comes to relationships, there is information that's coming at us on all these different levels. There's oftentimes a difference between what our emotional minds are sensing or noticing, what we term intuition versus, like, our conscious thoughts about “this is why I'm doing that,” “this is why I have decided,” “this is a person that I'd like to get to know better or not.” Our conscious mind is seeking factual information. But there are other parts of our brain that do not operate on factual information the same way, but are still quite reliable sources of information. It can be really challenging, I think, to figure out when do you trust that? When do you not? 


I am just a full transparency. I mean, I'm like everybody else. I have had this situation happen to me these days, when I am confronted with that. I have a nagging feeling or thought about a person, but it doesn't quite add up. I have to figure out, “Okay, what do we want to do with this?”  


Recently…Well, I should say over the last couple of years, in my role here at Growing Self—so you know, I'm the founder and clinical director. But I also participate in decisions about who we want to add to our team, like as a new therapist, or coach, or couples counselor because we're super, super selective about who we work with. When we're interviewing people, they have to have like criteria in terms of their education, and the schools that they come from, the types of therapy that they practice, or their coaching education.So to kind of get in the door, they have to have all the stuff, the pedigree. 


But when—even that, our bar is pretty high for that, and most people honestly don't make it further. But then there's this other thing where we're talking to prospective therapists or coaches, and they seem nice, they seem personable, they seem competent, they seem like they probably do a good job. But then, there's just this weird feeling. Sometimes not even a feeling when I'm with them in the meeting. Although I've had that too in the first meeting. We had numerous interviews with people. But the first or second time that I'm getting to know them. Even after that first meeting, it's like, there's this weird aftertaste like I'm sort of left with this feeling. It's almost like an energetic feeling, although I hesitate to use that word because what I'm talking about here is not like some woowoo, Hocus Pocus, psychic thing. This is just different sources of information that all of our brains have access to. But it's like not intellectual conscious information doesn't mean that it isn't valid. 


The way I often experienced this, it's like, there's this weird, just sort of troubled—like, “I don’t know” feeling. And that feeling is often in direct contrast, because when I kind of scroll back through the situation and the things they said, and their answers to questions like it was absolutely appropriate, from an intellectual rational point of view. It all added up. They had great qualities, objective, they lead, they would be a nice addition to the team. And it's like, “I can't figure out why I have this feeling,” and it drives me crazy. Because then I'm sure you can relate to this—you're put in a situation where you're like, “Okay, do I give this person a chance? Do I kind of go into this more deeply with them? Do I try this and see how it goes?” 


I'm also sort of wrestling with myself around the troubling feeling that I have, like an artifact of my own life experience? Do they remind me of someone that I had a bad experience with? Am I sort of projecting some of my weird anxieties onto them? it isn't true that I am thinking or feeling things that are not actually in alignment with reality. So what do I do if I listen to this feeling that I feel troubled and then it isn't linked to any sort of reality? Then, I have missed an opportunity to potentially work with a very cool new person who would do a great job and be fabulous. Or do I trust this feeling and listen to myself and say, “Thanks, but no thanks. I'm sure you'd be a valued member of some other team, but this isn't going to be the right place for you.” you'd be surprised at how often this happens. And I know that as you're listening to me share this, you can relate. I know you can because it happens to all of us. 


If you are in a relationship with a significant other, particularly if you are dating and out there, like meeting new people and trying to get a sense of who people are. Or even with friends, family members—we're all sort of like what is happening here. Again, trying to sort through: what's me? What's my stuff? What are my trust issues? We talked a couple weeks ago about trust issues, and relationships, and that is such a real thing. 


If you have trust issues in relationships, you will frequently routinely feel kind of doubting, and mistrustful of people who are not doing anything wrong because it's what you're sort of carrying around with you from one relationship to another. But then there's also the converse is that—this is what makes it so confusing. Even if you have trust issues, it doesn't mean that you might not have a spidey sense feeling about someone that you shouldn't listen to. I think it was Kurt Cobain, the late great, “Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're aren’t after you.” That's where it gets so confusing, I think for everyone, is like to figure out, what do I listen to and what do I can't? 


Again, like just going a little bit deeper into this idea because this is actually one of the things that can help you, slash, all of us sort through whether or not we're having feelings that we should trust, or override. Whether it's anxiety, whether it's intuition, is that if you have an anxious attachment style, or an avoidant attachment style, for that matter, you will, just by virtue of the way you typically feel around people, be kind of vigilant for signs that other people might be up for something. You might have worries about people's commitment to you. Whether or not you can trust them, whether or not they are going to be reliable, worthy partners for you.


It will be sort of your tendency in relationships to get activated over things that too—Like somebody else standing right next to you looking at the same situation would be perceived as being a fairly neutral thing. They would not have the same kind of emotional reaction, or sort of instinctive reaction that will feel very much like intuition. They won't have that same thing that you would because you tend to not trust people as easily. You tend to feel a little anxious in relationships, or have trust issues. It's very, very important if you want to have a better sense, I guess, because it's never possible at the end of the day to know for sure what's anxiety, and what's intuition. But to become very aware of your own patterns. 


That kind of self-awareness knowing “I routinely feel this way in my interactions with many different people. I've felt this way before and it's turned out to be nothing,” is really important information for you to have so that you can be thinking about that, “I'm having this feeling about this person, is this part of my usual MO?” Is this what I do? Because if the answer to that is yes, there's a good chance that this is related more to your anxiety than it is an actual specific thing related to this person, that you should do something about. Again, there is no way of knowing. You can frequently feel anxious about other people, and feel that way with a new person, and they are actually untrustworthy. So again, I'm going to give you more like tips and strategies to help kind of parse through this. But like, there's that. 

Intuition vs Anxiety 

But step one, if you want to tell the difference between anxiety and intuition, notice your own internal dialogue, particularly in situations that are fairly neutral. You are out to lunch with someone—again this is like in a hypothetical world when any of us are able to go out to lunch with friends. Your person goes and goes to refill their soda out of the machine, and doesn't ask you if you want to refill. Does that trigger you? Do you attribute a lot of meaning to that? Do you label this person as being selfish or not caring about you? Or do you feel anxious, and get activated, and want to talk about that? Is that part of what you do? Not that there's anything wrong with that. But it's like, knowing, “Oh, yes, this is a thing for me.” 


If you tend to have an avoidant attachment style, you will tend to kind of pick other people apart. You know whether or not you do it out loud, but you'll sort of have this running commentary in your mind that kind of criticizes other people. And notice if, slash, when that shows up—if it sort of shows up a lot of the time, and makes you feel certain ways about people, just your knowing that that's a tendency, is 80% of the game. When you can be able to…if you're having funny feelings about people that you will know, “Is this unusual for me?” Because that can be one indication, this is actually an intuition thing, or your mind is giving you information that you should pay attention to. What we're talking about here is…let me let me just back up for a second, because in case I didn't really talk about this clearly. 

Feeling or Thinking 

We all know things that are true without knowing why we know that they are true, which sounds very confusing. But again, going back to this idea that there are different sources of factual information that are received by your brain without the benefit of conscious awareness or thought. But just because we're not thinking about them, or they're not—we're not perceiving them as intellectually accurate data points, doesn't mean that they're not true, and reliable, and valid and that they need to be paid attention to. 


Because, again your brain is doing all kinds of processing that is outside of your conscious awareness. If we were consciously aware of everything that our brain was doing, your head would drop off, it's just too much. So, even when you're not having conscious thoughts about, “Hmmm. That looks like a nice person because she just sort of nodded her head, and tilted it a little bit, and smiled at me. She's making sort of affirming noises, that means that she's like, connected with me. She's interested in what I'm saying.” That is not actually an internal dialogue that you're having most of the time. What is happening is that your brain is absorbing all of these tiny, tiny little details, particularly when it comes to people because we are highly evolved social animals.


Your brain has so many hardwired systems baked into it that are there for the purpose of assessing social connection. Are other people dangerous or not? How do I stand with this person? And there's all this sort of neurological machinery that is only there to read faces, notice gestures, I mean, the tone of somebody's voice. These are all things that get absorbed, and sort of computed without being a conscious thought in your head. Your brain is just doing this all the time. So because this is happening, we can be gathering a ton of valuable information about people, about situations, about relational dynamics, about whether or not somebody is telling the truth, or is trustworthy, all of these things that are never consciously noticed and registered by that conscious part of your mind. 


How they do come into informing you is through a feeling. You feel good about someone without consciously knowing why. Or you feel badly about someone without consciously knowing why, because it has not been a conscious part of your brain that has been gathering this information. Now, there are people who have written extensively on this topic, about different layers of your brain, and how to take influence, and guidance from all of them. 


One of my very, very favorites on the subject, and I would encourage you to read it if you're interested to learn more about all of this, and it's an amazing book. Anyway, the book is called The Gift of Fear. The author is Gavin de Becker. He talks about using this kind of subconscious, highly-aware part of our brain to protect ourselves from dangerous situations. The Gift of Fear is like a scary book, in some ways. I mean, he's talking about how to understand if you're in the presence of a predator, or somebody who wants to hurt you, so that you can stay safe by trusting your intuition, which is this primal part of your brain that understands things that your conscious brain doesn't. 


He also talks a lot about how we have a tendency to take messages from our intuition, aka more primal evolved parts of our brain and that our conscious brain can discount them, discredit them. I think that's something that we all need to be aware of. 


What we're talking about in this podcast today is certainly not at the level that Gavin de Becker is talking about, like basic safety issues. We're really talking about how to trust your intuition and sort of a garden variety relational situations. But here's one quote from the book that I think would be really helpful to our discussion today. The quote is, “What many others want to dismiss as a coincidence or a gut feeling is, in fact, a cognitive process. It is faster than we recognize and far different from the familiar step-by-step thinking that we rely on so willingly. We think conscious thought is somehow better. When in fact, intuition is a soaring flight compared to the plodding of logic.” 


What he's referring here to is this more elemental part of your brain that is so highly-attuned particularly to other people, knows things in what feels like a flash. It bypasses conscious thought it's like you don't even know why you know something, but all of a sudden, you know something and it is just the truth. When it comes to things like fear,if you feel afraid, you do not have to ask anybody questions. You do not have to figure out why you feel afraid. I would implore you and if you read this Gift of Fear book, you'll arrive at the same conclusion: to act on that feeling every time if you feel afraid. Trust it, and figure out the rest later. Don't don't wait. Don't linger. Don't try to justify your feelings of fear if you feel afraid, it's okay. 


That is actually—when we're assessing couples, and it is not a specialty here at Growing Self—but domestic violence is a thing in relationships. Again, we don't provide that kind of counseling. If you're in a relationship where you are being hurt, or your kids are being hurt, you need very specific kinds of help. We don't do that here. I would encourage you to get into the It’s a website with more resources that can help you. 


One of our screening questions when we suspect that there might be something like that is going on, is that we try to get two people apart and simply ask, “Do you feel afraid of your partner?” And when people say yes, nothing else matters. We don't need to parse apart. Okay? Well, exactly what happened and what was said? And it doesn’t meet the level of criteria to be considered that we're done. If you feel afraid of another person, you act on that. Irregardless of your history, irregardless of your reason why, your feelings of fear should always be trusted, until proven otherwise. Right? 


Now, again, the thing that makes this really confusing is that while you should always trust—it is also true. That if you have been in relationships in the past where you weren't safe with other people, particularly if you grew up in a volatile family where safety was not something that you could count on. You are going to be highly attuned to whether or not you're safe with other people. Small signal, you're going to be incredibly perceptive. You may have a tendency to override what you know, and form attachments to people who are unwell because it feels familiar and because it feels like, what you know. So expect that you will have a highly attuned spidey sense, and you will have a tendency to override that. 

Self Development

When you are in relationships with healthy people who are there to have a secure, safe, trustworthy attachment with you, it will feel uncomfortable.You may feel not, like, afraid for your life. But you will probably feel triggered by things that healthy people with healthy boundaries are doing in relationships because you're not used to it. Again, this goes back into what I was saying previously, that part of being able to parse apart, what is my intuition versus what is anxiety is having done a lot of work on yourself. So that you know, “These are my patterns. I have had bad experiences with people in the past, and so because of that, this is how I habitually feel.” 


It takes, I think, a long time in therapy to understand that and kind of make peace with that past because when you feel uneasy with people, or worried if you can trust them, it doesn't always mean that something bad is happening. Particularly if you'd have a difficult history because of that filter. If you generally struggle to feel okay in relationships, and trust people, and often find yourself needing to work on managing anxiety. When you recognize that for what it is, you become much better able to regulate those thoughts and feelings so that you can stay connected to people in a healthy way. That will be the work, is getting to know what you usually do and figuring out how to manage that so that it's not disruptive to your relationships. So there's that. 

Individual Therapy

There may be some of you resonating to this right now. If you want to do more work in this area, honestly, like therapy, or sometimes coaching. But honestly more often therapy is a good way of kind of getting into, “Have there been experiences in relationships that made me feel a little afraid of other people, or made me not trust people that maybe are trustworthy? What is my history?” 


So it's really like, “Is my history consistent with me having stuff to work on in that area?” My goodness, who isn't? If you've been in a relationship that wound up being hurtful to you, if you were bullied as a kid if your parents were not ideal, there's gonna be stuff, and that's not that there's anything horribly wrong with you. It's part of the human experience, and it's part of our responsibility to be aware of what our crap is so that we can take responsibility for it, manage it, work through it, or… 


When I say work through it, what I mean is, you know that it's not always possible to make those old artifacts go away. We cannot banish them from our experience, but what we can do is become extremely familiar with them. So that way they don't get to break crap in our lives as adults. Right? So it isn't that you're never going to feel apprehensive in relationships, it's that you're going to be able to say, “I know that I often feel apprehensive in relationships, and here's what I know.” And that you have strategies for being able to manage that so that even if you have anxious feelings, you can still be the person that you want to be in your relationships, and have healthy relationships. You don't wind up pushing away, or hurting other people because of your own anxiety because that's a risk, as we've talked about on past podcasts. 


Trust Yourself

But here's the other thing that may may make you feel better, or may make you feel worse, is that while we can carry habitual anxiety or mistrust into different situations with us, there is also a thing that is true, which is that it's very, very easy to discount feelings of apprehension, or misgiving, or “No. I don’t know about that person. Kind of a bad feeling, or a hunch,” very easy to talk yourself out of those feelings when you should, in fact, be listening to them. 


Going back to the Gift of Fear book, just another quick quote here, “With judgment comes the ability to disregard your own intuition, unless you can explain it logically. The eagerness to judge and convict your own feelings, rather than honor them.”. That is the other side of this coin is that we all have access to this sort of subterranean part of our brain that is providing us with highly reliable intuition and information and the work isn't, “Okay, this is just me in my anxiety.” The work is figuring out, “How do I give myself permission to listen to this without brushing it off, without doubting myself, or talking myself out of it?” This is really important because it happens. It's happened to me personally. 


Going back to my story about when we're hiring people, or seeking to connect with new counselors on the team here at Growing Self. There have been a number of times over the years, I'm less likely to do it now because of the work that I've done. But a number of times over the years where I have had a not good feeling about someone, and the only way to describe it is like—the sort of dread, or apprehension, or not wanting to schedule another meeting with them. Not wanting to interact with them is the only way that I can describe it. But intellectually, I had that same experience of like, “No, she has amazing training. I mean, I don't think we've had a candidate who's had this kind of training, and all the experience that she's had. We've been looking to connect with somebody good, who's licensed in this state for a long time. Her references had good things to say about her. So I'm just, This is just my crap. And I'm going to override it.” Not always has it come to fruition. 


There are a couple of times when I had a not so great feeling about someone it turned out to be fine. But I tell you what, nine times out of 10 when I have overwritten that feeling, I have come to regret it. It wasn't immediately the other shoe didn't drop until sometimes a year or two out. But when it did, I was like, “Oh, I knew it. I knew it.” If you think back to situations in your own life, where you wound up getting hurt, or disappointed, or trusted somebody that maybe you shouldn't have from that—the place of hindsight. If you're really honest with yourself, I would bet you a cookie that you would have that same conversation that you would be like, “I knew it. When I first met her, I knew something was off. I had that little sense, talked myself out of it, and then X,Y, Z happened.” We've all been there. How do you get familiar with that experience, and pay attention to it, and learn how to trust it? This is true in little ways, and in big ways. 


As a marriage counselor, I have been in on three occasions, there have been three because they were so distinctive. But on three occasions, I have worked with couples where one person has been persistently anxious, fearful, that their partner is doing something that they shouldn't be doing. In all three of these situations, it was people in the either in the aftermath of an affair, it was two of them. In one of them, it was in the aftermath of a partner who previously had a substance use disorder that they've since gone into treatment for. So in all three of these situations, I had one person who was like, “This doesn't feel right. I'm not safe. I don't trust them.” In the context of their partner, saying the right things, doing the right things that we had talked about, and objectively not giving any evidence that they were continuing with an affair, or using substances, or anything like that. To the point where the people who were so worried about their partners, or was actually like, “I need you to take a polygraph test because I feel like I'm losing my mind. I need to take a lie detector test because I am having these thoughts and feelings but you're telling me that this isn't true, and I don't know what to believe.” 


I will tell you that on every single one of those occasions—all three—if somebody was like, “No.” And you say a lie detector test because this is how crazy I feel. Every single one of those times, it emerged that the people were actually doing exactly what their partners were afraid that they were doing. I will tell you that two of the people refused to take a polygraph test, they never did. The one who did take the polygraph test passed it. Sociopaths are people who have convinced themselves that they're not doing anything wrong, or don't really feel remorse, or guilt in the way the rest of us do. They will pass a polygraph test. So that's that's only one of the reasons why white polygraph tests are not admissible in court; it's because they are not always accurate barometers of the truth. But nonetheless, the true story did emerge over time. Every single one of those people who was like, “I do not trust you. I don't know why I don't trust you but I don't”, were right. 


I have also been in situations where I'm working with an individual client, either in therapy or coaching, and part of what they're trying to work out with me is the fact that they're in a relationship, and they are having an affair. They are cheating on their partner and I—no judgment right there. They're here with me in therapy or coaching because they're trying to get clarity around what they want to do, and that is valid. This is a safe, non-judgmental space, no matter what is going on. Right? 


But irregardless, working with individual clients who are cheating on their partners, or doing other kinds of things that their partners would be very unhappy with if they knew about. They're telling me that they're working very hard to conceal this from their partner. They're being absolutely aboveboard. They're covering their tracks. Their partner has no information. But their partners are still having these weird emotional reactions. They're getting upset. They're accusing them of things. They're being suspicious. They're being emotionally, kind of clingy with them. My clients are like, “What's wrong with them?”  What I tell them is what I will tell you, which is that, “Yes, your partner doesn't have all of the factual information but they can feel the truth of the situation. They know what is happening even though they don't know. They still feel the truth and you can't hide that,” which is disturbing for my clients. So we’re trying very hard to conceal things sometimes to know is that they can't actually hide. 


That their partners are having anxiety, and apprehension, and suspicions about the relationship based on other sources of information besides what they rationally, factually, know. Yes, you will be pleased to know that one of my goals is always to help my clients achieve congruence, to bring it out in the open, and allow their partners to make fully informed decisions about whether or not they would like to continue that relationship under these circumstances,that does have to be a goal. But that's not where we start. But I think it's important to have these in mind. 


Again, this is so hard because if you tend to have trust issues in relationships anyway, what I just shared with you probably scared the heck out of you. That there are situations where people in relationships feel very suspicious, they are actually being lied. There is gaslighting happening, and they have to figure out do I trust my partner? Or do I trust the way that I feel? 


So how to tease this apart? Again, if you are very, very, very well aware of your own patterns in relationships, that's a big part of the battle. If, in every single relationship you have ever had since the time that your partner had an affair, and you didn't know, and it was totally traumatic. If ever since then you worry a lot, that is a good indicator that it could be anxiety. Unless you haven't done the personal growth work around, “What led me to choose a person that I had that kind of suspicion about to begin with?” Or “Is there something in my pattern around the kind of partners I choose that I'm habitually, either not noticing warning signs in relationships, or if I'm making choices, sort of seeking a personality type?” We're going to be talking about narcissists. Soon, my friends. But like, “Am I attracted to narcissists, who would be more likely to do these things to me? I mean, it requires a lot of self-awareness to know that so that you can make informed choices based on what you know about yourself as opposed to what someone else is telling you.

Anxiety Support 

The way that we figure this out, is often through a lot of personal growth work. Again, therapy is a great vehicle to come in, and say, “I'm feeling anxious in my relationship, and I can't figure out if it's because there's something bad actually happening to me, or if this is my old stuff.” Even coaching I think can be helpful around getting clarity around what you know about yourself and whether or not this situation is in alignment with what you usually do and what you usually think and how you usually feel, or whether or not this is an aberration. 


Also, another strategy to kind of get that clarity is not just through like, rationally, “Okay, is something bad happening? Did something bad happen?” Because that is not always in alignment with the truth. What you know is not always the same thing as what that intuitive part, that automatic part of your brain knows. But to be able to kind of talk through it with a neutral third party who does not have any skin in the game. So it’s not your mom, it’s not your best friend who kind of hates your boyfriend a little bit anyway. But somebody else. You could say, “Okay, this is what's happening. This is my history. What do you think?” Have somebody look at that and be like, “No, that doesn't actually sound weird to me.” Or, I can't tell you how many situations I've been in where I have had an individual client come to me with exactly that question. “I think I need to work on my trust issues. Let me tell you what's happening in my relationship”. And I'm like, “Oh, my God.” I will—I'm annoyingly honest. So I will say “Based on what you're telling me, It sounds like you maybe do have some things to be worried about. How could you find out for sure, whether or not those things are happening, and the relationship that isn't just asking your partner about it.” 


If you're worried that they're not being honest with you because to my ear, this sounds consistent with somebody who's up to something. So it's like, looking at it with somebody else who is neutral. That is actually another one of the strategies that can be really helpful if you're trying to figure out, “Okay. Is this my intuition talking to me?” Is like, I don't know, there was a movie that came out years ago. I think it was called A Brilliant Mind. It had Russell Crowe, and he was a math professor who struggled with schizophrenia. Part of the way his illness presented itself was that he would see things that weren't there. There was this cute little moment at the end of the movie after he had done a lot of work, where he saw one of the characters that he often saw when he was in the grips of his illness, and she sort of pulled aside a student in one of his classes and he's like, “Do you see somebody standing there?” The student was like, “Nope.” He was like, “Okay, just checking.” But it's sort of like that. It's like, can you borrow somebody else's brain to say, “What do you think about this? Am I making something out of nothing here?” 


I have to tell you, what I have learned to do for myself, at Growing Self, when it comes to how we find really high-quality therapists, or marriage counselors, or coaches to work with is that we do interviews as a team now. So it's not just one person having to make sense of all of this. Before anybody starts with us, we have a series of interviews, but also at least one where there are multiple people on the team with that person. Then after that, we can compare notes like, “Did you have a little bit of a weird feeling about that person?” Or even prior to that have made it okay, for anybody who interviews somebody to begin with to say, “I have a weird feeling about this person.” And the response is, “Tell me more.” 


It's very interesting because what I have often found—and I found this with dating coaching clients—I found those with therapy clients. Somebody has a weird little gut feeling that I learned they aren't sure if they should listen to or not. It doesn't make sense. But then like, when we sit down, I'm like, “Okay, tell me why. If you had to give that little feeling in the pit of your stomach, a voice, what would it say?” And we just let it talk without any judgment. We're not criticizing it. We're not trying to evaluate, whether or not it is true. It's just like, free associate for the next five minutes. 


What I hear people say, is really like factual information that this deeper part of their brain had been picking up, making associations, lining up all these little dots. And when they verbalize it, it's like, “Oh, yes. Then you know what, she was a little bit late to that first meeting. Then she had this weird pause when I asked her about the case that she found hardest,” or whatever it was. “But as we talked through it, it's like, oh, no, there was actually stuff there. But I didn't really know at the time, what I was picking up on until I'm telling you about it right now.” 


That is very often the case with counseling and coaching clients too. It's that they have a feeling they're like, “Yes. I've been kind of texting with this guy. But I don't think I want to go out with him. But I don't really know why because he checks all the boxes. He seems really nice, but I just have this feeling.” And I'm like, “Okay. Well, let's just—how does that feeling make sense for a minute?” And when people give it a voice, it's like, “Oh, yes. Let's actually not pursue this.” 


That's the other side of this coin that I think, the same sort of process of self awareness can offer, is that when you have had intuitive feelings about people—first of all, flush it all the way out. Why does it make sense to kind of get in the habit of learning how to not talk yourself out of it, or criticize yourself for it? Or if you have—I have a tendency for the intellectual part of my brain to—if I have a gut feeling because I'm a thinker. I'm an idea person. So I'm like, “Okay. Well, let me tell you 57 reasons why that's not true, why I shouldn't listen to it.” I've done a lot of work on myself, just knowing that I have that tendency that I try really hard now to not do that and sort of elevate my intuitive ideas that don't really make sense. Like, how do I practice trusting those more? 


Also, another great exercise that can help you with this is to scroll back in your life and be like, “Okay, what were the times that I knew on some level something wasn't quite right, and I didn't listen to that?” Or maybe you did listen to it but that it wasn’t justified. Like in time, all the information came out, and that you're apprehensive, or uneasy feelings about someone were spot on. Asking yourself questions like, “How did that feeling show up for me when I know I should have trusted it, but I overrode it?” Because it's not a conscious thought. It's for many people, like almost a physical feeling. 


What I have learned for me, again, that it's like a feeling of dread, or like kind of wanting to avoid someone. The sort of like, if somebody starts to make you eat something that's like, a little bit gross. You're like, “No.” It's this visceral sort of feeling. But I had to get acquainted with what that feels like for me. Iit may feel very, very different for you.  I've had clients where it feels just sort of like this cold feeling, or they're around somebody, and they sort of feel like crying and they don't know why. I mean it can show up in many different forms. But it's figuring out what the language of your intuition is. 


I will also tell you that one of the differences between intuition and anxiety, where anxiety is often very familiar, it's your MO. It's like all and it feels like worry. Right? When you know things about people or situations that are coming from that intuitive part of your mind, it often feels like, or is experienced, like a fully formed thought out of nowhere that is not attached to anything else. You're just sitting at the breakfast table, eating your cereal, not thinking about anything staring at a wall, and all of a sudden, it's like, “Oh, my God. This is happening.” There's that you're getting a transmission sort of quality to it. That's a sign of intuition. 


Similarly, dreams—I have dreams about all kinds of things. Most of them have absolutely no basis in reality, thank God. I've never been actually chased around by a giant rabbit yet. But you know, we'll see. But I have had dreams and I've noticed that there's like a special quality to these dreams, though. I have—over the years—learned how to recognize message dreams from other just random brain processing kinds of dreams. In my world, they are often related to business. 


I actually have had the experience on multiple occasions of having had issues happening in my business, Growing Self Counseling and Coaching, that were operational or related to people that I was working with. It were never a conscious thought in my head until I had a dream about it. Then I went and investigated it. It was like, “Oh, this thing is happening.” I had no idea. It was like—and I do not believe that I am psychic. I believe that that deeper part of my brain was just sort of like paying attention to little random things that I consciously was not, and it added them all up, and it offered. “Here's the sum total of all the things that I've added up for you, Lisa, in the form of a dream.” Or is this, sometimes just sort of these thoughts out of nowhere. 


So feelings that are different from anxiety, feelings out of nowhere, thoughts, dreams. Then also, when you do have the opportunity to talk through why it does make sense. What comes out, if you don't judge yourself? Because, again, if it is an intuition and something trustworthy, when you do give it a voice, your intuition will make perfect sense. As you lay it all out, it'll be like, “Oh, yes. I do actually need to listen to this.” 


So I hope that these ideas have helped you just kind of get a sense of what’s anxiety, what's intuition. If we were to recap, self-awareness with anxiety—when you are feeling anxious, what tends to trigger you? Why does that make sense? How does it show up? Is this a pattern for you? Also intuition,when you happen right in the past, how did you know? What do you do when you try to talk yourself out of stuff that maybe you should stop? Also what feels different? The intuition is going to be different from usual anxiety most of the time. Having tools in place that will help you sort it through, does this make sense for me to listen to? Is this anxiety that I should probably override? Giving yourself ways to open the door for intuition. 


I have shared with you some of the strategies that I used to tell the difference between anxiety and intuition and some of the things that I do with my clients. But you know what? I also think that we should crowdsource this one. If you have things that you have learned over the years have helped really, you tell the difference between anxiety and intuition, like what those ringers are? I would love it if you would share because I don't want this to be just about me and my ideas, because this is so unique. I think that particularly with this question of how to trust yourself, I think that we develop more confidence and ability to trust ourselves when it's actually confirmed, when we can kind of compare it to what other people do. 


So be part of this conversation, come over to and trust yourself with a hyphen there, and share your story, times that you have trusted your intuition, and it worked out. Maybe times that it was actually anxiety and how you were able to figure out the difference. I think that being able to compare and contrast our different experiences will be a lot of fun.


So join me, I will be eager to see what you share, and I'll be back in touch with you next time for another episode of the podcast.


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How to Improve Emotional Intelligence

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence

Personal Growth:

Why You Are The Greatest Gift

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is often the most important (and most often overlooked) “x-factor” when it comes to creating the life you want in many different domains. If you've been feeling stuck lately, though it may not seem directly related, focusing on improving emotional intelligence can lead to dramatic changes.

As an online marriage counselor, I know that the success of a relationship or marriage, for example, often depends on the emotional intelligence of both partners more than just about anything else. Any of the online career counselors on our team would tell you that how easy or difficult you find it to get ahead in your career often has roots in emotional intelligence.

Similarly, any of our life coaches or therapists highlight the fact that your sense of happiness and satisfaction with your life typically has much more to do with your emotional intelligence than it does your specific circumstances.

Similarly, we know that your emotional resilience, ability to solve problems, or persevere in the face of obstacles is directly related to your emotional intelligence skills. If you can understand yourself, manage your feelings, and be sensitive to those of others, all things are possible.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

Since emotional intelligence is such a crucially important factor in, basically, everything related to creating love, happiness and success, it's something we often talk about in our therapy and coaching sessions here at Growing Self. We often find that, by focusing on emotional intelligence training, the things our clients hope to achieve begin to happen.

Good, evidence-based marriage counseling or relationship coaching nearly always includes an emotional intelligence training component. When couples learn how to manage their feelings and be sensitive to those of their partners, their relationships feel less fraught. Focusing on emotional intelligence skills training in therapy or life coaching helps our clients feel better able to stay even-keeled, no matter what life throws at them.

Our career counselors nearly always incorporate at lease some emotional intelligence training in order to help their clients navigate challenging professional situations confidently. And, most importantly, no matter what situation you're in, when you work on increasing your emotional intelligence skills you will  feel better able to make progress towards your most precious personal goals — in literally any life domain.

This is powerful, important stuff! So, today, on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I'm going to be teaching you some simple strategies to increase your emotional intelligence too.

Strategies to Improve Emotional Intelligence

In this episode, I talk about the foundations of emotional intelligence and offer some simple (not easy, but simple) ideas for how to increase it ASAP.  Tune in to the full episode to learn actionable strategies in building your emotional intelligence, including:

  • Find out why fostering emotional intelligence starts with you.
  • Discover how you can fit the four components of emotional intelligence together.
  • Learn how you can figure out your feelings.
  • Understand the importance of gaining outside feedback in identifying emotional blindspots.
  • Learn different forms of emotional intelligence assessments.
  • Recognize the importance of insights of other people in your emotions, such as an online emotional intelligence coach.
  • Become aware of the importance of self-regulation in different aspects of life.

By the end of this episode I hope you have some clear takeaways to help you grow in this all-important area. You can listen to “How to Increase Emotional Intelligence” on Spotify, or on Apple Podcasts. (Don't forget to subscribe the the show while you're there!)

If you're more of a reader you can scroll down to find some of the key takeaways, and access the full transcript of this emotional intelligence podcast. There's a player at the bottom too.

Thank you for exploring the all important topic of how to improve emotional intelligence with me today!

With gratitude,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence: Episode Highlights

The Role of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence. You can't improve emotional intelligence without having a good relationship with yourself first. It all starts with you.

What are the characteristics of a person with high emotional intelligence?

  • They feel happier and more optimistic.
  • They can effectively navigate moments when they don't feel okay.
  • They take guidance from their emotions and use their experiences to foster a deeper connection with their values and needs.

Moreover, organizational psychology research shows that it plays a massive role in creating leadership characteristics and positive organizational environments.

“Your success in your career, as well as your satisfaction in your career, is much more highly dependent on your level of emotional intelligence than it is your skill set or what you know, with very few exceptions.”

As a result, people with the highest emotional intelligence reap more successful outcomes by working effectively. This characteristic also makes them feel more satisfied with their jobs.

Four Components of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is not one of these things that you either have or you don't. While it is more innate with some people, you can develop and figure it out.

Before knowing how to develop your emotional intelligence, it's first essential to understand its components.

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management and regulation
  3. Social awareness
  4. Effective and healthy management of relationships

First Component: Developing Self-Awareness

Remember: “The heart of emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand your own emotions.” It is the foundation of how you can respond effectively to various situations and stay in a good place.

People with high emotional intelligence have the basic understanding that all life events are neutral. Without this level of awareness, you may tend to believe your feelings are linked to a particular situation.

So when trying to identify and figure out how your feel, ask yourself the following:

  • Why am I having this feeling?
  • How does it make sense?
  • What is it attached to?

How Lack of Self-Awareness Manifests in Low Emotional Intelligence

The second foundation of emotional intelligence is figuring out how you work.

  1. For instance, some people don’t have the language for emotions. They are often unaware of their emotions. But upon seeking therapy and coaching on emotional intelligence, they show up as highly anxious. Hence, they either make very emotional decisions or respond to situations without the emotional components. 
  2. On the other side of the coin, some people are highly emotional and tend to be reactive. They tend to lash out or make emotional decisions without fully understanding the whole picture. Because of these emotionally charged reactions, they may be unable to identify how they really think and feel.

It’s important to know and acknowledge that not all feelings are helpful, healthy, productive, or even worth listening to.

It's essential to get outside feedback. Only then can you reach the point of being able to name these emotional experiences, and this is where emotional intelligence coaching comes in.

Emotional Intelligence Assessment

There are many ways to increase your emotional intelligence, such as taking online EI training in quiz form. But this is dependent on self-reporting, so there’s no way to know how valid and reliable it is.

A more robust way of emotional intelligence assessment is the 360 assessment called the Emotional and Social Competence Inventory (ESCI). It is often used in workplaces and organizations. Here, both you and your peers will rate yourself on emotional intelligence competencies.

Having your peers also assess your emotional intelligence is important. According to research, there is a huge discrepancy between your perception of your own levels of emotional intelligence and how they perceive your EI. Many people have the tendency to perceive themselves as being more emotionally intelligent than they actually are.

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence through CBT

In addition to outside feedback and partnership, you can also improve your emotional intelligence through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) exercises. Here are some helpful strategies to do this:

  1. Mindfulness skills: This is the ability to be in the present moment. It is how you can notice what is happening in your inner experience without getting lost in the thoughts.
  2. Feelings wheel: This is something you can print out and use as a reference when you feel a particular emotion. It will help you parse out more granular nuances of feelings toward developing a vocabulary for your internal experience.
  3. Having a vocabulary for your feelings: Our experience is defined by language. Hence, you cannot identify a feeling within yourself if you don’t have a name for it.

You can learn cognitive strategies to increase emotional intelligence through evidence-based life coaching, through cognitive behavioral therapy, and through online cognitive behavioral classes like our Happiness Class.

Second Component: Self-Management and Regulation

Self-management and regulation are not just about knowing how to feel that but also about changing how you feel to a large degree. However, note that this does NOT mean that you are obliterating or pushing away your emotions — this is not about feeling happy all the time.

Here is the difference between emotionally intelligent people and people with low emotional intelligence skills:

  • High emotional intelligence: They are comfortable with feeling unhappy, and they're able to embrace dark emotions without needing to feel differently.
  • Low emotional intelligence: They will frantically scramble away from any negative emotions.

These dark emotions are something you can take wisdom and guidance from. However, this is all an experiential growth process that has many different layers. It will involve developing cognition behaviors and applying specific practices that will help make you feel better. Read, “It's okay to cry” for more on this topic.

The mind-emotion connection and body-mind connection are intrinsic in this process. Hence, regulating yourself links back to everything that is a part of you; it all goes back to having a mastery of your emotions.

Third Component: Social Awareness

“You cannot have empathy for another human unless you yourself understand what emotions feel like.”

As humans, we’re created from the time we’re born through mirroring. It means you have to reflect on what's happening with others to fully understand them. It's about noticing people's energetic changes, understanding what makes them tick, and respecting boundaries.

In essence, social awareness is setting yourself aside to understand what other people need. It means recognizing that there’s much more going on under the surface of everyone with whom we interact.

Fourth Component: Relationship Management

Finally, the cherry on top of emotional intelligence is relationship management. It refers to communicating with other people in a meaningful, safe, effective, and respectful way. It’s about being collaborative in solving problems and being responsive.

The issue is many people feel worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. Nonetheless, know that people will feel your good intentions regardless of what you say. Most importantly, being able to regulate yourself is the critical component to being able to communicate well. Knowing how to create a positive interaction with your relationships is the core of relationship management.


If you feel like you could benefit from private emotional intelligence training to support your success in your relationships, career, or overall wellness — we're here for you. Schedule your first, free consultation with an emotional intelligence coach on our team to get started.

Emotional intelligence is a foundational skill that will help you navigate life wiser and better. What were your favorite insights? Feel free to share your thoughts (or a follow up question for Dr. Lisa) by leaving a comment down below.

Did you like this episode? Subscribe to the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to get more actionable advice in your feed every Monday!


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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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How to Improve Emotional Intelligence: Podcast Transcript

Access Episode Transcript


Dr Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. And you're listening to the Love, Happiness & Success podcast.


That's the band Poly Action with a song Ten Hundred Years, which is really a deceptively kind-of-like bouncy and light sounding song, but is actually about something quite dark. If you listen to the lyrics, they're really singing about someone, talking about someone who does not have strong emotional intelligence skills and who has alienated a lot of people throughout their lives and is now feeling kinda not-so-great about that. 


And I thought, dark as it may be, that was really kind of a nice intro to what we're going to be talking about today. We are going to be talking about emotional intelligence—not just what it is. But I'm going to be giving you some actionable ideas and strategies so that you can begin building your emotional intelligence. Because it is such a foundational skill that impacts so many different areas of your life. It's really important for you to increase your emotional intelligence—if you need to. And that's what we're doing today on the show. So thank you so much for being here with me and joining me today for another hopefully interesting episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast. 


So I have lots planned for us today. But before we jump in, I just wanted to say thank you! I have not looked on our iTunes page for the podcast in a while and I just did this morning and saw that there are so many nice reviews of the show. If you have left a comment or review of the show, I just wanted to personally reach out and say thank you not just because it's made me feel really good. But also because every time you rate or review the show, wherever you listen, it increases the chances that somebody else just like you is gonna tumble on this. 


As you know, the show is not being made with mercenary intentions. We're not doing advertising, we're not promoting it, really other than what we're doing. Just kind of putting it in the air throwing little bottles in the ocean. And so your support of the show, your reviewing it, rating it or sharing this episode or others with your friends or family that you think could benefit from listening or even on social media is the only way this gets around. So, thank you so much. I do these because I want them to be genuinely meaningful and helpful to people and you're dispersing the little seeds is really how that happens. So, we are a team. And I just wanted to thank you for that. So anyway, enough of that. 

Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

Let's jump into our topic today and talk about how you can increase your emotional intelligence. Because as I mentioned previously, this is incredibly important. I talk about so many different things on the show. And we talk about relationships, we talk about career, we talk about self esteem and being happy. In some form or fashion, all of these things really link back to fundamental emotional intelligence skills. Emotional intelligence can touch every single part of your life, for better or for worse. People who are strong in emotional intelligence tend to have satisfying relationships and good friendships. But this isn't just about relationships with others.


We think about emotional intelligence as being able to kind of understand other people, and that's certainly a piece of it. But, it's really about having a good relationship with yourself. And that first foundational piece of emotional intelligence is understanding yourself. If you don't understand yourself and have insight into how you feel and what makes you tick, it is virtually impossible to have—awareness of other people and how they feel and what makes them tick. And it all starts with you. 


So, while emotional intelligence can certainly benefit your relationships, it also benefits a lot of other things about your life personally, including your mood. People who are high in emotional intelligence tend to feel happier and more optimistic than people who don't. And when they do have moments when they don't feel okay, they're able to manage them more effectively, they're able to take guidance from their emotions and kind of use these experiences to get more deeply connected to their needs or values. As we've discussed on past podcasts—if you've listened to the one that I did, not too long ago, about doing shadow work or kind of cracking in under the hood to understand things that may be happening more in your subconscious mind, those are actually all emotional intelligence skills, believe it or not. Knowing yourself on deeper levels is that first foundational piece. 


And the other thing—you may have heard this before, but in case this is new, I want to say it here is that emotional intelligence is not just related to aspects of your personal life. Well, it certainly does have a positive impact on your relationships, and also the way you feel on the inside. It helps you handle stress better, it helps you communicate better with others. But when we look at research related to organizational psychology, and aspects of career development, even like leadership characteristics, and what makes organizations positive environments or as opposed to negative or toxic work situations—there is a huge role that emotional intelligence plays. 

Emotional Intelligence Coaching

Believe it or not, most coaches who really specialize in emotional intelligence, often apply this to sort of more career development or career coaching pursuits. Because what we know from research is that your success in your career as well as your satisfaction in your career, is much more highly dependent on your level of emotional intelligence, than it is your skill set, or what you know, with very few exceptions. We spend so much time particularly in professional roles, going to school and earning degrees and going to graduate school and going to professional school. We acquire all of this knowledge about these topics or industries, like we know how to do things. 


And when you really, look at outcomes of you know, who is successful and who wasn't, it is actually not the person who knows the most. It is the people who are highest in emotional intelligence, who are able to work effectively with a team, be able to handle stress without freaking out or screaming at people or throwing a chair out the window, or having some crazy outburst. People who are able to communicate respectfully and solve problems collaboratively and contribute to kind of a nice organizational culture and environment. Those are the people who not just get ahead and get promoted or sort of advanced in their jobs are able to grow businesses and build teams. They're also the ones who feel more pleasure and satisfaction with their jobs because of their emotional intelligence skills. 


So it's kind of weird, isn't it? I think our culture encourages us to spend so much time and energy going to school and acquiring knowledge. And almost nothing in terms of developing the emotional intelligence skills that are actually the most salient to our career success. It's kind of weird—but anyway. But that's why we're here right talking about it. And just kudos to you for listening to this podcast and demonstrating an interest in learning about this. And clearly, you already know how important it is. 

What is Emotional Intelligence

So emotional intelligence impacts all areas of life. The good thing here is that emotional intelligence is not one of these things that you either have or you don't. Certainly some people are more innately kind-of smooshy empathetic, psychologically-minded people, right? Just because maybe you didn't get that personality when the personality cards were dealt when you were born. Or if you weren't raised in a family of origin that really taught you what to do with emotions and prioritized emotions, talked about feelings. It's very easy to arrive into adulthood without having a strong skill set in that area, because, again, it isn't taught in school typically. Unless now I think MBA programs at Harvard and Yale are actually making a point of teaching emotional intelligence because it's so strong. But for the rest of us, we have to figure it out on our own. If we didn't get that through our family of origin experiences. Very few people do, and it can be developed, it can be.


I am going to tell you the process of how to develop emotional intelligence skills, as well as some concrete things that you can begin doing and practicing in order to develop these skills inside of yourself.  In order to understand these different things to do, let me give you an overview of how this all works together. 

Four Components of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is actually not one thing, it is divided into four different kinds of domains of emotional intelligence, that all work together. The four parts of emotional intelligence are: first of all, self-awareness, meaning that you understand yourself. Then, the next part is being able to manage and regulate yourself. 


Once you have that in place, then you can build on that and create the two other pieces of emotional intelligence, which are social awareness. Being aware of what's going on inside of other people and how they're feeling. Then being able to manage those relationships in such a way to be effective, and healthy, and emotionally intelligent. So with that in mind, let's take a closer look at these one at a time. 


First of all, the very first foundational piece of developing emotional intelligence is first of all, developing self awareness. How to increase your emotional intelligence really starts with you. Because the heart of emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand your own emotions. When you're able to do this, it gives you so much information about yourself, but also about the world. It is the foundation of being able to respond effectively to different situations, whether it is with other people, or whether it's just inside of yourself so that you can stay in a good place. Ideally, people who are strong in emotional intelligence, are able to, first of all, understand how they feel, “This is the emotion that I have. This is the name of this emotion. This is what it feels like in my body. This is why I feel the way I do. This is the story that I'm telling myself right now that is creating the feelings that I'm having.”


Good awareness of not just feelings, but like “What just triggered that? What is the inner narrative that I'm indulging about this? What is that little voice in my head telling me about the situation that's making me feel one way or the other? What is the core belief that I am viewing whatever life experience I'm having through?” Or “What is the value or the judgment that I'm making about this situation?” Without this level of awareness, it is very easy to go through life, believing that you feel a certain way because of something that is happening. 


People who are high in emotional intelligence understand that in very basic ways, all life events are neutral. A tree falls in the woods. It doesn't matter to anybody. Until and unless someone has decided what that life event means and sort of run it through the machine of “This is what I think about that. This is a good thing. This is a bad thing.” They evaluate it. They create some kind of judgment around it. It is linked to a core belief about what should be happening and did the tree falling in the woods did that? Was that a good thing? Or was that a bad thing? There's a lot of internal processing that happens automatically and below the level of our conscious mind, that creates feelings in the first place. 


That key piece of emotional intelligence is figuring out, “I am having a feeling right now. Why? Why am I having this feeling? How does it make sense?” And again, we're not looking at why you are having the feeling, in a judgmental way, but just in a very open, honest, compassionate “Yes. Why are you having that feeling? What is it attached to? What does this mean to you?” Because with that information, you can take this to the next level and do something different with it, if you would like to. 


The other piece of emotional intelligence on the self awareness level, is gaining that insight into how you work. Also for some people, they have to pull it back even further. There are some people—I have met them personally—who operate in the world without being aware of the fact that they are having emotions at all. They do not have language for emotions. They might feel very basic. Happy, sad, angry, and that's it. As such, they often will tell you that they're feeling nothing. They're feeling kind of blank, they're feeling sort of numb, that may be their subjective experience. But when you sit with them—as a therapist, or a coach who's working around emotional intelligence—they're showing up as being highly anxious. They're making oftentimes, either very emotional decisions and not knowing that or they're responding to situations without the emotional component, that would lead them to be able to handle these situations really well.


For example, someone who's really cut off from the way they feel will oftentimes have limited empathy for other people and how they're feeling. They may make a rational decision about how to handle X, Y, Z. But because it involves other people, while that decision was highly rational, and made perfect sense, when you look at it from a hard black-and-white-numbers kind of intellectual view, it was the absolutely wrong decision, because it did not take into consideration relationships or the impact on other people. There are negative consequences for their doing this. 


You see this happening a lot in families, honestly, like a parent who is really cut off from their own emotions may be interacting with a child in a way that feels very rational and factual, but is, in fact, extremely destructive to their relationship with a child and is creating really adverse consequences for the kid’s emotional well being. It's damaging the fabric of their relationship. That kind of thing can also happen within couples a lot. So that's something to be aware of. 


Then on the other side of this—this is interesting, this surprised me when I began really digging into emotional intelligence and how it showed up and what it means. You will also see the opposite. There are people who are highly emotional, they feel big things. If you ask them, they will tell you all about how they're feeling right now. But because these feelings are so big, and they are not questioned or sort of mindfully handled, these people tend to be quite reactive, and will sometimes even lash out or make emotional decisions without fully understanding the whole picture of “Why am I feeling this way? What is triggering me right now? What do I need to do in order to sort of slow down? Who do I want to be right now?” 


Interestingly, because these emotional reactions can be so big and so fast, they actually have the effect of obscuring the actual authentic truth of what this person thinks and what they really feel. It's very interesting—and I say this as a therapist—when you can kind of sit down with somebody, and who's feeling something really big and unpack it. Like it’ll really be like, “Okay, what's going on here? What is that related to? What's it for?” Kind of dig in, oftentimes, the feeling contains either important information, or the feeling is not useful sometimes.


I think we live in a culture that has told us that everything you think and feel is fantastic, that we really need to be prioritizing feelings all the time. I'm here to tell you, not all feelings are helpful, or healthy or productive or even worth listening to. It takes a ton of personal growth work and self awareness and emotional intelligence work to be able to differentiate, what is a feeling that I should take guidance from, that I can trust that is actually telling me something important that I should listen to? Versus what is a feeling that is linked towards something old, something unhealthy, a match-to-flame kind of reaction that is actually not in my best interest, to indulge and being able to have that level of self awareness.


I could go on and on and on. But the first phase of emotional intelligence work is figuring all that out inside of yourself. I just would like to share that in my experience, is very difficult to do and here's why. We all have blind spots. We don't know what we don't know. We have habitual reactions. We have automatic ways of thinking and feeling and behaving and the stories we tell ourselves. It just feels true. It just feels like “This is what it feels like to be me.” It's not until you get some kind of outside feedback around and “Wait a minute, is that true? Is that the only way to think about this situation? Did that just happen? Or is that what you're telling yourself just happened?” I feel like it's very difficult to challenge these things that feel so automatic without another person sometimes or without some kind of growth experience giving you feedback that “Here's how you're showing up. And you actually do have options.” I think sometimes it can even be helpful for people to be challenged to even just define the emotion or the feeling. 


Just a little personal disclosure here. When I was in my—this was so embarrassing—when I was in my early 20s I, having grown up in southwestern Virginia, which is the tobacco belt, I was a smoker. I hate to say that out loud, it feels so in congruent with who I am now but it's true. I was addicted to cigarettes. It was terrible. I will never forget this one—I finally got into therapy for it because I just could not figure out how to quit smoking. I just tried everything I knew how to do, it didn't work and was like “I need to do something else.” So anyway. 

I went and I saw a therapist who was a very nice lady, we talked about all kinds of things. But there was one moment where we were sitting with my inner experience of wanting a cigarette. That is the narrative that I told myself, when I have this feeling, “This is what it is. This is me wanting/believing that I need a cigarette right now.” To my great surprise, through experientially unpacking this moment, very mindfully with my therapist, I realized that I felt this feeling sort of like in the pit of my stomach, like my solar plexus and this is what my shoulders were doing when I had this experience. It felt like this sort of cold, gnawing feeling. Through this process that she led me to, I had this revelation, that what I was actually feeling in those moments, the name for that feeling is anxiety. I had no idea. 


It sounds so amazing to think about right now. But I think that that's really true for a lot of people and certainly people that I work with. They're having these internal experiences that they do not have names for, they don't know what it is, and their emotional experiences. That when they're able to identify them and be like, “Oh, I am feeling anxious right now. This is how I feel when I feel anxious.” It sounds so simple, but it opens up all of these different doors because you have many more options when you are aware that you are having an emotion and why you are having an emotion and all the different things contributing to it. 

Emotional Intelligence Assessment

Because of how hard it is to do this on your own, this is why emotional intelligence coaching can be incredibly helpful. It’s to get that like real time feedback. But there are other ways to do it. Interviewing friends and family sometimes about what they see in you that you might not see in yourself. Doing some assessing around the kinds of results you're getting, particularly in relationships, can be another way of gaining insight into this. 


There are a number of emotional intelligence assessments that you can take that are like in quiz form. However, I don't know how reliable and valid they really are, because they're dependent on your self reports that you are entering information into the assessment, based on how you perceive yourself. 


The other thing that we know from research into emotional intelligence is that when people have the opportunity to do what is a much more robust way of assessing emotional intelligence, which is 360 assessments like the ESCI is often an emotional intelligence assessment that's often used in workplaces or organizations. There's a component where you would take an assessment and rate yourself on these emotional intelligence competencies. But then your peers, the people you work with the people who supervise you will also be rating you on how they perceive your skill set in these areas. And so that long, long story short, what research has found is that there is really a big discrepancy in the way that people perceive their own levels of emotional intelligence, and the way that they're actually perceived by others. This is true for all of us, I'm sure it's true for me, too, is that the tendency is to perceive oneself as being much more emotionally intelligent than we actually are, which is kind of crappy to think about, but it's not me, it's the research. 


Anyway, just with that in mind, it can be very important to have a partner in this process. So that it's easy to think “Oh, I know, everything there is to know about how I feel, and how I think, and I handle my emotions beautifully,” when there may be more there. Just saying.


Again, in addition to having that kind of partnership, other strategies that can help you crack into it, are any exercises that you can do related to cognitive or cognitive-behavioral therapy, or cognitive-behavioral coaching. This is also the sort of next level of not just “How do I feel?” But “What is my internal narrative? What are the beliefs? What are the thoughts? What are the judgments that are subconsciously creating these feelings?” Because when you get clarity about that, you have so many more opportunities. 


Another important strategy that can be quite useful when you're in this first stage of development around emotional intelligence, can be mindfulness skills. The ability to just be in the present moment, and notice what is happening in your body in terms of your inner experience, or having that kind of mindfulness meta-mind— “What am I thinking about right now?” without getting lost in the thoughts, being able to observe what is happening inside of yourself. So, a mindfulness practice can be incredibly helpful. 


Other things that we use around here at Growing Self with our emotional intelligence coaching clients—and you can find these on your own, but— things like a feeling wheel. You can just Google “feeling wheel”, and download a feeling wheel, print it out, tape it to your refrigerator. Every once in a while, if you're feeling mad, or you're aware of that, take a look at your feeling wheel and be like, “No. What is this really?” A feeling wheel will sort of help you parse out more granular, different nuances of feelings so that you develop a vocabulary for your internal experience. 


On this last point, and then we'll move on—having a vocabulary for how you are feeling is actually a critically important component of emotional intelligence because our experience is defined by language. If you don't know the name of a feeling, you cannot identify it within yourself. One of the things that you see with highly emotionally intelligent people is that they are able to say, “I'm feeling a little bit discouraged today. It's like mostly discouragement with sort of, like a smidge of frustration. But there's also this tension that I think is coming from my ambivalence about whatever.” They're able to have that kind of reflective psychologically minded experience about their own internal experience. 


Anyway, there's a lot of value in doing that and developing really strong emotional intelligence skills is going to require a component of that. Until you are able to do these things within yourself, and understand how you feel, there is no moving on. You have to be able to do this first, in order to be able to take this to the next level of emotional intelligence, which is step two: being able to manage yourself.


Once you have figured out how you feel and why that is, and what's going on inside of you, the next piece of emotional intelligence skills is knowing what to do with that in order to be able to stay in an okay place, most of the time. This aspect of self-management means that—you not just know how you feel—that you are able to change how you feel to a large degree. Not that we want to obliterate or push away our emotions, and certainly this is not about feeling happy all the time. 

Emotional Self Awareness 

One of the things we know about emotionally intelligent people is that they are very comfortable with feeling unhappy, sometimes. When they do have dark emotions, anger, pain, hurt, distress, they're able to actually embrace them very fully, and not criticize themselves for having those feelings or need themselves to feel differently. There's a lot of tolerance and being able to just sit with a feeling of being like “I am really bad right now,” without any kind of judgment or without. I think this is especially important, without the need to get away from that feeling.


People with low emotional intelligence skills will frantically scramble away from any kind of bad feeling, sadness, anger, anxiety. They're like, “Nope, can't feel that. What do I need to do to not feel that?” It sort of paradoxical is the strong emotional intelligence skills is “It is absolutely okay for me to feel anxious sometimes. What's going on here? What is making me feel anxious? Is it a way that I'm thinking about the situation that is not helpful? Or is there actually something here that I need to pay attention to? Is there a threat? Do I need to do something differently in order to keep myself safe here?” It's like having a relationship with darker emotions in order to be able to take wisdom and guidance from them. 


There is a lot happening when it comes to learning how to regulate your feelings, once you have that self-awareness. This is a process that takes usually months of emotional intelligence coaching in order to be able to acquire all the skills because it's not just like, “Tell me what to do.” It's an experiential growth process that builds on itself and little layers. It's not like five tips to become perfectly emotionally intelligent. You have to do things. You have to grow. It is a process. The entirety of the process is well beyond the scope of a podcast. 


But I will tell you that it could include things like anger management skills, figuring out what makes me feel mad, and “What do I need to do when I start to feel these feelings so that I can either bring myself back down to the point where I'm able to handle the situation competently and in alignment with my values and in alignment with my desire to have positive relationships with other people?” Or “What is my action plan for when I'm actually too elevated to be able to be effective in communicating right now? What do I need to do so that I can not make the situation worse with this person that I would like to have a good relationship with? Maybe I need to take some time. Calm myself down. What are the specific things that work for me to calm myself down?” 


For most people, it's some blend of cognitions behaviors. For many people who do emotional intelligence work, there can be a lot of acquisition of anxiety management skills. People can get very activated. Again, having the self awareness that it's happening is one thing, but when you have these skills in place, you have this comprehensive toolbox of, “Okay, I know I get anxious in these situations, here's what I need to do to prevent myself from getting as anxious. But also when I start to get anxious, here's how I handle that in a way that feels good for me. I need to do these things. I need to come back into the present moment. I need to remind myself of these things. These are my specific practices that I know if I do things, they will automatically make me feel better.” Nobody can tell you specifically what those things are. You have to create them through trial and error. 


Certainly there can be a menu of “Here are 100 things that often help people in managing their anxiety.” But it's not like, “Okay, let's try these three. See how they work, see what works for you.” Through that experiential process, being able to say, “Okay, these are my things.” 


Components of Emotional Intelligence

Also believe it or not, for many people, there is a component of emotional intelligence that goes into physical health and self care. There is no getting away from it. Our bodies and our minds and our emotions are intertwined. They are intrinsically connected. The way you think, changes the way that you feel. When you feel a certain way, it makes you think a certain way. When we are anxious, we scan our horizons looking for threats, and we tend to perceive things as threats. Our emotions are changing our cognitions and vice versa. 


But there's also a huge role for the whole body-mind connection. It is very well established that when you aren't getting enough sleep, you will feel anxious and irritable. When you drink too much alcohol, you will feel depressed. When you don't drink enough water, believe it or not, you will feel like things are more difficult than they actually are. Isn't that crazy? But it's true. And even things like exercise can—I mean just a little bit of exercise most days—can enormously change not just your energy levels, but your mood. And your mood changes your cognitions, also your triggers. 


Personally, when I am very sensitive to caffeine, if I have too much coffee in the morning, I am like “agh” and I feel that it's more difficult for me to stay in a good place emotionally if I am doing lifestyle things that are not conducive to my wellness. That taking care of your emotional health and your emotional intelligence is a piece of “What do I need to do day to day in terms of the way that I'm living, in order to be as emotionally healthy as I would like to be?” It's very difficult to manage your emotions in a healthy way, when you are doing things that are creating negative emotional states or mood states inside of you. When you drink nine cups of coffee, you will feel anxious, and then your mind will begin presenting you with anxious threatening thoughts that will then make you feel more anxious. 


This level of emotional intelligence is not just based on that self-awareness, but it starts to condense into very concrete things around. “This is what I need to do to regulate myself to stay okay most of the time. And when I start to not feel okay, either tolerate that and know what to do with my feelings or bring myself back into a different place.” But it's like this mastery of your emotions is basically how I would conceptualize it. This place where you know how you feel and you know what to do with yourself when you feel this way, is stages one and two of emotional intelligence creation. You cannot really move on to the higher levels of emotional intelligence until you have mastery over yourself. Because if you recall, the next layers of emotional intelligence are the social awareness piece and the relationship management piece. 

Emotional Awareness

Social awareness, I think, is really what immediately comes to mind when we think about emotional intelligence. We think about, “Oh, being able to understand how other people feel, and be able to notice feelings of other people and be able to communicate effectively with others.” I think that's what we think about with emotional intelligence. Certainly, when it comes to applied emotional intelligence, a lot of times that's where the action is. But you cannot have empathy for another human unless you yourself understand what emotions feel like. You can't recognize when someone else is starting to feel sad or frustrated, if you are not aware of what sadness or frustration feels like. 


Humans are created from the time we're first born through something called mirroring. We have mirror neurons. And in order to understand others, you have to be able to mirror in some ways what's happening with that. That is a neurological thing.That social awareness is being able to say, or notice “Okay, here’s what I think is going on with this person right now,” and to notice very small kinds of behaviors or changes or even energetic changes, not in the woowoo new age sense. But you know, what I'm talking about. I'm sure you've had a conversation with someone and something changed. Like they went cold, they withdrew a little bit. They had a reaction to something. That's the kind of energetic change I mean. That something's amiss in the force. So being able to notice when something's going on with other people. 


But I think also being able to understand what makes people tick. So the work that you did in the first phases of emotional intelligence is not just “How do I feel?” but “Why do I feel that way? What are my core beliefs? What are my values? What are the things that are important to me? What do I need, maybe that I'm not getting in this situation, and that's making me feel bad?” When you have all that you're able to apply that to others and to be able to see somebody else and think, “Okay, based on what I know about them, their personality, their life, their values, their core beliefs, what they tell themselves about what's important. This is how I imagined they might be feeling in this situation.” Not in a judgmental way. But in a compassionate, empathetic way around, “Yes, this makes sense that this person is feeling this way.” Not to be arguing with it or trying to change it necessarily, but to be understanding it for the purpose of being able to be responsive to it. This can look like a lot of different things, but emotionally intelligent people, in relationships, or even on the job, will take the time to get to know people a little bit. 


You need to have boundaries and that can be part of emotional intelligence, too. It’s not putting people on the spot. Also, being aware of power dynamics is huge. So, we need to be respectful of boundaries. But also asking enough questions or observing people to the degree where you're able to get a sense of “What's important to you? What is meaningful to you? What is scary to you? What is angering to you? What makes you feel good? What makes you feel bad? What is important for you, in this relationship with me, in order for you to feel good? How would you like to be treated?” Notice, as we're talking about this aspect of emotional intelligence, I'm using the word “you” a lot. That's intentional, because this part of emotional intelligence is very much setting yourself aside, and being able to experience empathetically the truth of another person, for the purpose of being able to understand them, and what they need. 


I think even in a more macro sense, a component of emotional intelligence is recognizing that there's much more going on under the surface of everyone that we interact with. They are feeling people, that unless and until we take into consideration how they're feeling about things, we will not be able to understand them deeply or have effective or meaningful relationships with them. So, it's not just figuring out what they're feeling—but that's important. Because it’s critical. It's very easy to make factually accurate decisions, or to do things in a way that make intellectual sense, that are absolutely the worst thing you could possibly have done in the context of a relationship or relationship that you'd like to keep.


Understanding others is huge. It takes time and thoughtfulness and attention in order to be able to do that. But again, it begins with you and your knowledge of yourself because at the end of the day, other people are not really that different than we are. They may have different beliefs and life experiences or a core narrative but at the end of the day, everyone wants to be loved, respected. They need to feel emotionally safe with you. They need to be able to trust you. Respectful communication. Feeling that their preferences or values matter to other people, and that we're intentionally making space for those. That's what everybody needs. That's what everybody needs, and you need it too. I think understanding the humanity of others and acting accordingly is a big part of emotional intelligence. 

Importance of Emotional Intelligence

Okay, and then once you have your self figured out, and you know how to manage yourself, and you have other people figured out, and you have a sense of who they are, and how they feel and what they need, then comes kind of the cherry on top of emotional intelligence, which is relationship management. And this is where emotional intelligence with others springs into action. Because what relationship management refers to is being able to communicate with other people in a way that is meaningful and safe and effective and respectful for them, being able to collaboratively solve problems, being able to be responsive to other people. 


If for example, in the last step, you know that your partner has a strong value around spending time together doing certain things. Managing that relationship will be your taking action to be able to show them that you understand—that's important—their feelings matter to you, because you change your behavior accordingly, in a way that feels good for them. That relationship management is all about how other people feel with you, and what you are doing to create those experiences of emotional safety, and trust. What are you doing to make people feel good about being with you—and not like in a fluffy, superficial sense, but an authentic sense. 


I also just want to tell you that many people get very hung up on communication techniques. I agree, there are ways of phrasing things that can sometimes go over better than others. There's a time and place for learning those. But what is also really true—and I say this, because I hope that it releases some of the anxiety. Many people feel worried about saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing. If you are empathetically connected to someone that you care about. So you understand that someone is feeling frustrated. You understand why they're feeling frustrated, and you have a commitment to helping them with that, so that they feel good with you and feel like you're connected, and that you’re going to work on it together. If you come in to any interaction with this intention, and you're able to say that out loud or show people that that is true, it doesn't matter nearly as much what you say, because people will feel your intentions. They will feel your good intentions, “This person is trying to help me right now.”


So being able, again, to regulate yourself, is the key component to being able to communicate well. Because you can't do this when you're feeling really triggered and when you're feeling really angry or hostile or resentful or stressed. You can't be that emotionally safe person who's able to kind of connect with someone else in a respectful way at that moment. So that piece of emotional intelligence is that “Okay, what do I need to do so that I can connect with this person right now and show up the way that I want to, so that this can be a positive interaction for both of us?” That's the core of relationship management. That is true, whether you're a parent trying to strengthen your relationship with your child, with your partner, with your boss, with the people that work for you, or with you. All of our relationships are based on understanding other people and being able to manage ourselves in such a way that we can appropriately recognize and meet the needs of others in our interactions with them.


This is a big topic and I know we kind of cruised through a lot of different parts of this quickly in today's podcast  but I hope that this gives you an overview of all the different components of emotional intelligence and provides you with at least some direction of what to do if you'd like to increase your emotional intelligence and I hope you do. 


Again, not only does it strengthen your relationships, it confers so many benefits to you too. You will feel happier. You will feel better able to manage the ups and downs of life. You will feel better able to cope with stress. You'll feel more optimistic. You'll even have more tenacity and grit. Emotionally intelligent people, because they're able to manage the feelings that come up when they're trying to achieve long term goals that are related to difficult things. Your capacity to manage your emotions directly related to your ability to get through medical school, or start a business, or do any of the difficult things that are so important to you. 


Again, I hope this helps. If you would like more information on the topic of emotional intelligence, or emotional intelligence coaching, there's so much for you on our website Thankfully, I am not nearly the only person on our team here, who has an emotional intelligence coach, and there are people on our team—honestly that are much more experienced, and really specialize in this type of work, than even I do. I do it more relationally. But we have more career-development people on our team who do a lot of emotional intelligence coaching. 


So if you go to you could go to the blog page, or really any page on our website and do a general search for emotional intelligence. You will find so many articles, probably even some other podcasts that I've done with other people on our team or articles that other emotional intelligence coaches on our team have written that will provide you with even more skills and strategies and ideas to support you on this important journey. 


All right, my friends, good talking with you and I will be in touch with you again next week for another episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast. And as we close, cautionary tales from Poly Action. Thank you.


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