The Number One Secret to the Most Intimate Relationships

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Dr. Ciaramicoli shares valuable tips on how to improve your empathy so you can create the most intimate relationships—in love, life, and work.

How do you build the most intimate relationships? The key ingredient is empathy. My radio guest, Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, EdD, PhD, is the author of The Stress Solution: Using Empathy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Reduce Anxiety and Develop Resilience. He is a licensed clinical psychologist and the chief medical officer of soundmindz.org, a popular mental health platform. He has been on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and chief psychologist of Metrowest Medical Center.

Dr. Ciaramicoli shared valuable tips on how to improve your empathy so you can create the most intimate relationships—in love, life, and work. Highlights from the show below.

The Number One Secret to the Most Intimate Relationships

 

What is Empathic CBT and how does it contribute to better mental and physical health?

CBT focuses on how we distort what we perceive. If we perceive in distorted ways, we drive our partners and ourselves crazy by generalizing, catastrophising, mind-reading, etc. Empathy is the one capacity that allows us to slow down and understand the truth in others. When you combine both empathy and CBT, it allows us to see the truth in ourselves and others and know who to become close to. 

When you’re longing for love or are recovering from rejection, you only see what you want to see. If you’re aware of these longings, you can slow down and get to know the other person.

How does prejudice contribute to stress, and what can we do about it?

Whenever we encounter someone we’re prejudiced against, we release cortisol. This causes weight gain, memory loss, anxiety. If [cortisol is] secreted consistently, you get tense and sick. Cortisol limits empathy. You start generalizing and assuming.

Rather than assuming, listen. Find out who this person is. [You’ll learn that] we have much more in common than differences. 

In dating, empathic listening slows us down so we can use our thinking brain. We can ask open-ended questions where we really try to get to know the other person.  

What is the definition of empathy?

Empathy is the capacity to respond to and understand another. It’s a capacity we develop if we’re exposed to people who help us do that [early in life]. As children grow up, you start to see differences in gender. Bias and prejudices are learned. This distorts how we relate. Empathy has us look beyond the surface into the heart of another. 

What’s the difference between empathy and sympathy, and why does it matter?

A client’s dad passed away a year ago, and she was devastated. She learned that a neighbor’s dad passed away, and went to visit with a basket of food. She said, “I’m so sorry about your dad. You must be devastated.” And the woman answered, “I haven’t seen my father since he left the family when I was a little girl. I didn’t know my father, and I don’t miss him at all.” [It’s important to get curious about someone’s experience, even it’s similar to ours.] Empathy is truth- and fact-oriented. 

The book is a workbook to expand your empathic range. Don’t read it quickly. Read a chapter every few days and do the journaling. 


I highly recommend the book, The Stress Solution: Using Empathy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Reduce Anxiety and Develop ResilienceI believe Dr. Ciaramicoli’s work on empathy and resilience is essential to becoming your best self and attracting your best partner.

Listen to the entire episode here.

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