On Your Mind | Bill Stierle | Emotional Sobriety


Communication is a key to helping your relationship with others. A better communicator requires empathy in communication to better understand others and foster better bonds. In this episode, Bill Stierle, the Author of The Emotional Sobriety Solution: Have More Joy In Your Life In Less Than 30 Days, discusses techniques to communicate with others in a non-violent way. He also suggests removing judgmental language from your narrative is important in making your observation. Bill touches on a valuable discussion rooted in biology and language to understand your emotions, be in control in stressful conversations, and navigate into social interaction. Tune in to this episode now.

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Bill Stierle – Author Of The Emotional Sobriety Solution

Bill Stierle has spent many years as a communication specialist, speaker, and mentor presenting on how a person or organizations’ thinking, behavior, and beliefs impact their relationships, performance, and outcomes. As an expert in human behavior, Bill provides life-changing tools and techniques to his clients that allow them to grow their businesses and transform their personal relationships.

Throughout his career, Bill has supported Fortune 500 companies, top business schools, A-list celebrities, governmental institutions, and individual business people to refine their effectiveness, streamline their systems, and energize sales teams to dramatically increase their bottomline profits. Bill provides his clients with simple and implementable takeaways that build natural rapport with the speaker and the listener. His wisdom and insights can also be found in his newly released book, The Emotional Sobriety Solution.

Bill, welcome. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining me.

It’s great to be here. I’m looking forward to our discussion. We’re going to have some fun.

To begin that fun, can you tell us a little bit about how you got into the work you do and what drives your passion for it?

The easiest way to describe how I got here is I followed three good questions. Once a person starts following a question that starts gnawing on your consciousness, different things start showing up in your world. You start seeing it. It’s that whole thing of once you buy a car, you don’t notice how many of them are on the road. It’s the same things with our intentions. My first question was, as an Anatomy and Physiology teacher in high school and as a football coach, I kept asking this question, “Why do people think the way they do? Why do my students think the way they do?”

I started following this thinking thread, which led me to a wonderful mentor who taught me a thing or two about, “Here’s how people think and the vocabulary that they use.” An engineer uses a different vocabulary than a social worker uses. An entrepreneur or even an artist uses a different vocabulary than an administrator, a police officer, or a drill sergeant. They’re reading different things. They’re using different vocabulary. They’re using different definitions for the same word, all those different groups.

I started teaching this model and using this when I work with teams and corporations or work with people in conflict to get them to understand, “Here’s the first cut on communication. Here’s where communication has its set of challenges.” Different people think differently and they have different points of view. That’s the first thread. The second thread, after using that tool for a number of years, I would say around seven or so, my brain started asking a new question. The question was, “Why do people behave the way they do?” That’s different than why they think the way they do because you have an engineer thinking a certain way and then put a second engineer next to them, and they might behave very differently.

That’s what led me to all the research that I’ve done on emotional intelligence and how to make emotional intelligence practical. How to make it easy? How to measure it? How do you know when somebody’s emotionally intelligent? That led me to another mentor. I became passionate about this stuff because as a person who grew up in a large family of 8 kids, and I was number 4, communication was filling the room all the time between this kid, this kid, mom, dad, what we’re doing, what the work site is, meals, holidays, and birthdays. We forget about birthdays because you have so many people. We had four birthdays in one month in February. That’s a lot of celebration in one month.

Communication started to become my centerpiece. Question 1) Why do people think the way they do and how does communication work? Question 2) Why do people behave the way they do and how does emotions work? Question 3) It’s the thing we could probably do a dissertation, you and I, on. How does a person’s beliefs, biases, and fallacies affect question 1 and question 2? When we start asking the deeper question, “My bias is in the way. I’ve made an entire story up about what that person said. It’s not true at all. They didn’t mean it that way at all. That text didn’t mean that. I put the entire interpretation on it.” Message sent is not message received.

Especially in this day and age, in communication, we need to choose to train our brain to take a breath and ask a curious question. “Did you mean it this way or is there another way you meant it? I felt curious about that.” Rather than having me make up a story, mind reading is overrated, “Why don’t I just ask and see if I got it wrong or not?” These three components of communication, the thinking component, the behavior component, and the belief component is the three-legged stool that people need to consider when they’re talking about communication and how to reduce conflict. Even high-conflict mediation is one of the things that I do.

Message sent is not always message received. We should train our brains, take a breath, and ask curious questions. Share on X

I walk into a room of 250 screaming people and I’ve got to know what the next best sentence is to say when somebody says something crappy because somebody’s going to say something crappy eventually. Somebody’s going to throw a verbal hand grenade in the middle of the room. Somebody’s going to step on a verbal landmine and shrapnel’s going to go everywhere. These tools that I teach help individuals and companies be able to communicate better, both internally and externally, improving leadership, management, and supervision, as well as just the general work efficiencies.

The little thing that I’m passionate about is trying to support people to create integration between those three threads of communication and then being ready to connect it to ourselves. It’s like, “I do feel frustrated and I do need support.” Getting some congruency is like, “Now I can ask for what support is. Whether the person says yes or not, I don’t know, but at least I’m clean on my side. I feel frustrated. I need some support and support would look like this. At least I’m clean in my request. They might give me a pushback, but at least I know what’s bugging me.” That’s a nice intro to get us started.

You’ve gotten some clarity about what’s going on in you when you have that. The book you wrote is The Emotional Sobriety Solution. Can you start us off by defining emotional sobriety as you understand it, as you’re writing about it?

I’m glad you asked that because the word sobriety, many times, is attached to a person’s ability to remain sober from an outside chemical substance. We don’t have to go very far to say, “What about gambling addiction?” There’s no chemical. All there is is straight stimulus. It’s not keeping a chemical out of your body, it’s keeping thoughts out of your head that are driving you to the casino to mortgage your house on the next bet. I escalated the conflict very quickly.

Could it be that it’s this combination between the chemical and the words or the words and the chemicals that we need to do a better job as practitioners and as leaders to slow down the reaction between those things? Sobriety, to me, is the ability to have some distance between the stimulus and the response so that the emotional reaction is not impulsive. That’s it. Just so that our next action doesn’t follow that action, plus that action, plus that action, equals drinking. That action plus act action equals gambling.

If we can slow down that thought chemical, it tends to go way better for us as human beings. Emotional sobriety is the ability to do a better job between the stimulus and the response, do a better job of languaging what’s going on inside us, or you don’t have to be right, guessing what might be going on inside another person. Let me take a guess. Tim, I’m guessing that you might be feeling delighted because your need for learning is being met by doing these shows, is that correct?

On Your Mind | Bill Stierle | Emotional Sobriety

Emotional Sobriety: Emotional sobriety is the ability to do a better job between the stimulus and the response to a better job of languaging.


That’s a good guess. I’m also glad that you’re not saying that emotional sobriety means abstaining from emotions.

You are making my day. That’s correct. It’s not about abstaining.

It’s about increasing the time between the recognition of the emotion and the response, so it’s not so impulsive and potentially disruptive.

That’s correct. The front part of our brain has about 400,000 neuro connections per micron. It’s the newer part of our brain, the front part. The back part of the brain has 4.3 million connections. 400,000, 4.3 million. The metaphor is it’s like an elephant at the back part of our brain. On the front part of the brain is like a little rider that sits on the elephant with a little stick trying to tap the elephant to go in the direction it would like.

This is why New Year’s resolutions don’t work because the writer says to the elephant, “For my New Year’s resolution, I’m going to lose 10 pounds in the month of January.” The elephant goes, “There’s a cookie right there in front of you. You’re at a holiday party.” The elephant reaches out, grabs the cookie, puts it in your mouth, and the writer then says, “I guess you’ll start tomorrow.” It’s a 1 to 10 ratio between the logical and the future part of the brain, and the emotional and the habit part of the brain.

I love this sentence. It’s my favorite sentence forever. Lower right part of the brain, emotion and habit, long-term memory and safekeeping habits, always wins over logic and future thinking unless there’s agreement between the front part of the brain and the back part of the brain. This is why change is very hard. This is why it’s hard to rewrite habit patterns because our brain goes like, “No, you have that one down. Keep doing that for a while.”

On Your Mind | Bill Stierle | Emotional Sobriety

Emotional Sobriety: Change is very hard. This is why it’s hard to rewrite habit patterns.


We’ve survived doing that, so that’s good. It’s safe. It’s known.

Our habit brain and our safety brain is great. It allows us to drive these vehicles at 60 miles an hour, 70 miles an hour, or 80 miles an hour and not run into each other on a freeway. That’s done by the elephant habit brain. It’s going like, “Yes, I got this.” The front part of their brain is going, “A little bit this way and a little bit this way.”

It’ll worry about what’s going to happen when you get to your destination and the last call you had. That’s going on up here.

That’s correct. That can go on, but the elephant part of the brain doesn’t care about that. It’s like, “No, I’ve done this driving enough.” It’s not until the front part of the brain gets overstressed or overwhelmed that it starts messing the elephant, and then you make a turn and you run into a light pole for God’s sake, or you pull up short or pull up long on a stop sign and run into something.

How do you entice people to even want to start reading a book or start a practice that would bring them to emotional sobriety if they’ve got this emotion and habit part of the brain that’s been functioning so long and so well for them? What’s your enticement?

Usually, it’s going to meet somewhere around 3 to 5 of their needs. For example, a couple has a need for a relationship and partnership. I saw this in my office. I had a couple in and they want to meet their need for connection and relationship better. That gets them in front of me and they’re going like, “I can do this.” At the same time, their limbic brain goes like, “Wait a minute, I have 30 years of history with you.” Literally, that was the sentence that was said. I go like, “I don’t know. Can you go back and fix any of those?” “Not really. How about this moment? What would you like at this moment? What would you like the person to say or do?” “I want this little thing to change this way.” “Why don’t you ask him now?” “That’s not going to work.”

That’s your elephant talking. That’s not the higher part of yourself saying, “I can ask again. I can ask brand new. I can find out how the person’s getting activated.” That’s step number one. Step number one is seeing that they can get, in this case, connection or if a company needs financial security, if a company needs better cooperation, or peace between their executive team, that would be a step that would move forward. That’s number one.

Number two is that the brain has got to anticipate getting it. They’ve got to actually feel that, “I’m actually getting some movement on this. I’m actually getting some ability to move forward.” They’ve got to anticipate that they’re going somewhere. That’s called the rider. The front part of the brain says, “I’m changing this elephant and I’m going in a different direction here. All I got to do is talk about it this way instead of talking about it that way. Let me practice this way.” They then create a new habit pattern.

It’s not all bells and whistles. There’s a little bit of uncertainty in it because the elephant brain says, “No, you can have the cookie. You can still have the cookie and lose weight. All you got to do is cut out this other thing.” It starts making deals. If we’re nurturing ourselves and go like, “Self-care looks like this group of food for the next 30 or 60 or 90 days. This is outside that range of this group of food. I feel sad and disheartened at this time. It’s not a fit for the new direction I’m going.”

That’s the hardest sentence for people to say. It’s not a fit at this time and at the direction. You got to put that little pesky at this time because otherwise, they’ll say, “No, do it now. Go back. That cookie’s going to be great. That ice cream’s going to be super.” One of the challenges that we get ourselves into is that our brain, many times, starts fighting with itself.

You talk in The Emotional Sobriety Solution about this is a book where you’ve got the colors coding different words. First time I’ve ever seen that in a book. I had it here, the color code page to keep going back to it. You talked about the importance of being able to pair up some of these things, a feeling with a request kind of thing. The way that takes us out of a combatant or competition mode and/or out of the demand or command mode, can you talk a little bit about how you found out the power of pairing the feeling with the request or the need with the request?

This is an interesting part of question 1 and question 2 that we started with. In the thinking model that I learned, it was logic here, feeling here. Logic upper left, feeling lower right as a metaphor. Upper right is the need or the vision or where I’m going and what need I am trying to get met. The request is lower left because I’m trying to create a habit of an action step. Logic, emotion, vision, future, safety, and planning. in the model that I used and that I’ve studied is here’s this thinking style model that allows me to integrate emotional intelligence and thinking style into a new way to approach language, the reduction of conflict, and the increasing of efficiency.

On Your Mind | Bill Stierle | Emotional Sobriety

Emotional Sobriety: The thinking style model helps integrate emotional intelligence and thinking style into a new way to approach language in reducing conflict and increasing efficiency.


It sounds like this. It’s like I want to use observation, the blue words that is noted in the book, my observation mind. I want to find out how I feel about what I said, heard, or saw. I got to get a feeling on that. Nervous, anxious, worried, scared, delighted, inspired, or energized. Yellow, what need of mine is being met. Is it my need for choice? Is it my need for freedom? Is it my need for consideration or respect? What am I requesting? What is an action step I would like somebody to say or do? That’s the green or the lower left part of the brain.

Like I said a little bit before, emotion and habit always wins over logic and future thinking. In the book as a person’s reading, like you said, you had the doggy ear the color page because, “Why these colors are coming up to remind me about this is because when I get an observation, a feeling, a need, and a request, I get a result that I and everybody else can do. I can pursue something in harmony and collaboration with another person. I can calm my own brain down.”

I can calm down the brain of a tantruming three-year-old at a restaurant, which I’ve done about a dozen times. I get up from my chair, I walk over to the table, and the parents are going like, “I’m sorry about my kid.” I go, “No, there’s no need to apologize.” I look right at the kid and say, “Could you be feeling frustrated because you don’t have enough words to talk to your parents?” The little kid looks at me and goes, “Yes.” Frustrated is the feeling. Need for being heard or understood is the need. All I did was connect him to his part of the brain.

“You’d like some choice and you want to choose to eat the food in a certain order.” “Yes.” “You want to choose to go play outside.” “Yes.” “You want to choose to play outside, would you be willing to finish this little part in your plate? Maybe then one of your parents will walk outside with you or maybe you would like to stay and finish your food first and eat together and meet the need for connection between your family?” The whole table’s calming down for God’s sake.

All I’m doing is using language to reduce the conflict. They didn’t ask me to do that, but I know one thing, I got my need for peace met in the restaurant because I had a screaming kid, let alone airplanes. Airplanes are my favorite. I got so many airplane stories of kids flaming out and the parents don’t know what to do. They’re waiting for the kid to get tired. Use the right language. Just 3 sentences to 5 sentences, it’s over.

The right language, as you’re presenting it, is connecting these four parts of my brain helping my own brain communicate better with itself.

That’s correct. The vibration of the word changes with the various different sentences that I’m speaking or using because it’s strange that every word has a vibration to it. If you use words that have a very fast frequency, they cause conflict. Let me do a good example. The word abandon is used so many times in the wrong way. Let me give an example. Here’s a contextual sentence. “I felt abandoned by my father when I was growing up.” That sentence is not a true sentence because the word abandoned is not a feeling. It’s a mental construction of what you think someone did to you. The sentence literally gives power to the person who left. Now, that child or that adult that’s saying that sentence is handcuffed to when the dad left or when they formulated that sentence.

If you use words that have a very fast frequency, they cause conflict. Share on X

It also confuses them because they think they’re talking about a feeling, but they’re not.

They are not. Their brain is immediately locked down in safety and judgment and criticism of the father because the father did something wrong. “I’m trapped with the wrong thing the father did,” instead of the following three sentences that could replace that sentence, “I felt lonely because my need for connection was not met with my dad.” “When my dad left,” that’s the observation, “I felt lonely,” lonely is the feeling word. Need, “Connection with my father when he left,” because that’s the action that took place and I was just sitting there.

The power is now back on me. I can heal connection by re-establishing more male mentors, by re-establishing people who want to contribute to me, and having better relationships with men in my men’s group, or in my male community, or my church group. I can reconstruct meaningful connections, but not if I keep saying the word abandoned because, literally, I’ll draw in more men or more examples of how people leave. I can find those every day if I want to.

One of the biggest things that I find is that there’s this important shift we can make if we help people clear up the difference between their thoughts and their emotions. How do you feel about that? “I feel that she should have.” That’s a thought. It’s not a feeling. You’re not talking about feelings. The brain starts to get all muddled chasing after constructs when there’s this emotional state that’s not getting addressed inside the person.

It is that important to have the correct assignment of a word to one of these four categories. Getting an observation to be clean and clear, what did the person say? What did the person do? If it’s internal, what is my thought? What is the other person’s thought? That’s the observation part of it. That is observation with that judgment. “The highest form of intelligence is the ability to observe without judgment,” that’s a Krishnamurti quote. That’s one of those spiritual guru guys that said, “You want to nail this one? Remove judgmental language from your narrative.” Now you’re an observational narrative.

Remove judgmental language from your narrative. Now, you have an observational narrative. Share on X

I was practicing this tool and working with this. I’m sitting at my home. At that time, my daughter was 9 and my son was about 3. My son was walking at that time and walked by. My daughter and I were sitting and watching TV. Aiden walked by and my daughter went like this to the back of his head. I look at her, I go, “Malia, don’t hit your brother.” She looked at me and says, “I didn’t hit him.” I had to take a breath. “Malia, when I see your hand make connection with the back of his head, I’m feeling a little worried about how your brother might take that. He doesn’t have an understanding about what you’re doing over there.”

“We were just playing tag” was her next sentence. Now, I got another piece of information. “Malia, I now hear you have the thought you were playing tag and you were excited because you were still playing the game.” That’s the need. “Yes.” I said to her, “When did you start playing the game? I’m watching it.” “We were playing in the other room twenty minutes ago.” I have to breathe through this because you see my judgmental mind is ready to go off at any time, but I’m trying to keep it to my observational mind. “I now hear that you were playing in the room twenty minutes ago.” “Yes.”

You and I, as adults, know that 20 minutes to a 3-year-old is a light year. They have no perspective of time between something that happened twenty minutes ago and him gently walking through the living room and getting popped in the back of his head by his sister. I go, “The need for play is what you were going for?” She goes, “Yes.” I go, “Is it okay if I check in with Aiden?” She goes, “Sure.” “Aiden, do you still want to meet the need for play with Malia by playing tag?” He looks at her and looks at me, “No.” It doesn’t look like he wants to meet the need for play through tag.

The way you and I were brought up, that would be a 20-minute to 45-minute kerfuffle of punishment, reward, problem-solving, or explanation. That’s nuts. By using the things in the way I wrote it in the book, here’s the feeling, here’s the need, and here’s the request. Here’s what I’m observing, blue. Here’s what I’m feeling, red. Here’s what I am needing, yellow. Here’s what I’m requesting, green. As by writing it in the book was to get the reader to see that the problem is language, not us.

It’s a language problem. It’s not personal. Our language is rushed towards efficiency, it’s rushed towards explanation, and it’s rushed towards problem-solving. We’ve lost the heart along the way. I need is at my heart. I feel is at my gut. We’re ignoring our body. Welcome to our society. Welcome to our world. We’re ignoring the body. We’re using language to try to create good behavior by punishments, rewards, incentives, and bribes. It’s unsettling to have it come out of my mouth because you can’t bribe somebody if you’re not treating them as a human being. You’ve got to treat them with a human being to get them to work with you. That’s the thing that’s so valuable in our discussion at this moment that I have a lot of joy in even talking to you about. It’s like a lot of fun to do that.

On Your Mind | Bill Stierle | Emotional Sobriety

Emotional Sobriety: You can’t bribe somebody if you’re not treating him as a human being. You have to treat him as a human being to get them to work with you.


It’s wonderful to hear you say that the book helps the individual who chooses to get into this pattern of observation and statement of need and connecting with the emotion helps that person reconnect with their heart and their gut. You gave the Krishnamurti quote, “The highest form of wisdom is observation without judgment.” Guy Finley, one of my favorite teacher, says, “There’s nothing more practical than true spirituality.” When you say a spiritual teacher in a spiritual quote, a lot of people shut that off. “I got stuff I have to get done, I don’t want to talk about spirituality.” Yet, when it’s this direct observation of how things are working, there’s nothing more practical.

Nothing more practical.

There’s nothing more practical dealing with human beings than to be able to help them connect not the four parts of the brain, but with the heart, with the gut, with the brain, and with the interaction with others. As you’re talking about teaching emotional intelligence or measuring it, that’s so productive.

It has turned companies around. The CEO of Microsoft, when he took over Microsoft, he was asked in several articles, “What are you going to do differently in leadership? You’re coming into an organization.” He goes, “We’re going to be moving from a competitive and even a cutthroat business to more of a collaborative or cooperative business. The way we’re going to do that is we’re going to use this book called Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. We’re going to use that as a part of our leadership so that we stop competing with ourselves and stop competing with our customers. Not doing that anymore.”

The executive team thought he was nuts. There’s no way he’s going to turn it around with that. As soon as you start meeting each other’s needs, the environment completely becomes collaborative because mutual respect moves to the top of the list, making sure people are being heard fully, and making sure there’s honesty when mistakes are made because I don’t know about you, but human beings make mistakes all the time. We got to be able to step through mistakes. We got to step through growth or learning or efficiencies in a way that is more collaborative or cooperative.

That is one of the biggest and most important quotes. I have the quote here. His quote is all about, “How do I transform the company culture from cutthroat to creative, collaborative, and cooperative?” Everybody was amazed about how ChatGPT get to the front of the list in AI. It’s because of that. As soon as you become more creative, you go like, “Where’s the industry going?” We’re going to be in front of this. Guess who’s sucking air? Google and Facebook are sucking air because they were still trying to fight it out inside the business model, trying to optimize ads and revenue. You’re going to start sucking air there and you’re not going to be an innovator then, you’re going to be a person that is in this one very tiny niche for as long as you want to be there. If you want to be an innovator, you’ve got to engage safe creativity, and being compassionate does that.

If you want to be an innovator, you've got to engage in safe creativity. Share on X

Are you familiar with the fifteen commitments of conscious leadership?

I am not.

There’s another piece in there that this openness, this honesty, and this willingness to feel my feelings all the way through to completion. It’s another model about conscious leadership that says you can’t lead with the intellect. You can’t have the smartest people in the room without regard for the emotional state and this emotional intelligence that we’re talking about the book from the Google engineer, Search Inside Yourself.

He heard somewhere out there that there was a thing called emotional intelligence and he said, “What the hell is that?” He’s a very bright guy. He’s an engineer. He might even have been one of those extroverted engineers, the kind that stares at your shoes when they talk to you. He said, “If I can learn about this, I want to learn how to do that better because I didn’t even know there was such a thing.” He created that program and then they made it a part of the Google culture and it caught wildfire because people want to learn how to connect better and how to understand themselves better.

They do if somebody cuts us off in a car. The good news is that there is a way to map and measure this. I love this as one of my favorite charts to put up. This is my little guy. Clearly, I’m not the graphic artist that you’d like to see but still, it’s a good illustration. If somebody cuts us off in the car, that’s the observation or the blue stimulus. As the arrow comes in, there is a button that is at our heart that say, “Wait a minute, that person cut me off, I feel irritated.” We’ve been taught to observe, judge, and then think that that person caused me to feel irritated. That’s not what happened. What happened is the way I took it was consideration was activated and irritation resulted in that is the emotion that came after the need was not being met.

The problem then is us and the way our language as human beings has evolved is it’s gotten worse because we’ll have the stimulus come in, the button of consideration will get pushed, but instead of getting in touch with our gut, we start thinking in our head. Meanwhile, what’s happening is this irritation is starting to build. We go back to our heads and say, “That person could have hit me.” Who said that sentence? I said it. I did. Which then caused me to feel a moment of scared. Why? I tapped my foot on the brake, so the guy didn’t hit me.

If I let my judgmental language go, then I say another sentence, “They should have put a blinker on. They saw it was my lane.” Now I’m aggravated, plus scared, plus irritated. I haven’t expressed any of those emotions by the way. They’re all in my body. They’re boiling around. I would go like, “These people, they meant to do it.” Now I push my button for respect. Now I’m sitting with angry. The guy’s riding away.

There was only one stimulus. He just moved his car in front of mine. That’s the only stimulus that took place. I am doing the escalation. You know people driving in Los Angeles, you know people driving in New York, they’re terrible. I can’t believe it. You then start yelling at people or you get overwhelmed. By the time you get to work, you’re telling the same story 45 minutes later as if it happened right then or even at the end of the day. You’re carrying all this emotion.

The emotion is activated because you’re telling yourself you’ve got a need for consideration, a need for safety, a need for fairness, and a need for respect. They’re all being violated at this moment. You’re telling yourself that story, which is generating all of these emotional reactions within you. Rather than understanding that you are thinking, “This guy outside of me did it when he cut in front of me.”

No. There was an initial stimulus, but on a scale of 1 to 10, did he hit you? No. Could he have? Yes. That needs to be treated at the right level. I was aware. I met my own need for safety, I’m good.

What we talk about so often in the work I do with people is take a breath, get centered, and ask yourself, what are you making this mean?

What are you making it mean? What need are you activating inside your thought structure? What need are you activating? I decided to have people change their perceptions of feelings. That’s what I’ve been having people do. The simple way to do that is to ask people to request for them to treat feelings as indicators. Only that there’s no such thing as a positive feeling. There’s no such thing as a negative feeling. There’s no such thing as a good or a bad feeling. Feelings are only indicators. I came up with this nifty little chart to say, if there are only indicators, they’re like the oil light on a car, talking to an oil light work. No, not really. That’s like eight years of bad therapy. I do not want to talk to the feeling. I do want to name the feeling though. I’ll name it.

There's no such thing as a good or a bad feeling. Feelings are the only indicators. Share on X

If I feel frustration, irritation, or disappointment, I might name the need that wasn’t met. I needed support, I needed consideration. I needed fairness. Feeling disappointment, I didn’t get that. Start using feelings as indicators only. It’s an oil light on a car. That’s what it is. When I see somebody not doing so well, I name it. Could you be feeling torn? Part of you wants to connect with me. Another part of you wants to go out with your friends.

Notice I said two needs and opposition. I have so much stuff to do. Could you be feeling confused? Do you need some clarity about what’s most important to you? Yes. They gave me one. Yes, I got three more needs. You got to go. I guess clarity. I got a need. Hit the button. Mental health would change dramatically. We would not start medicating at this point because that’s what we do, is we start medicating after this point. We start chemically medicating panic and anxiousness. We start medicating that. We therapize curiousness.

Torn is two needs not being met. Confused is four or more needs not being met. Panic is five needs not being met. Furious is seven needs not being met. Overwhelmed is ten or more needs not being met. What you’re talking about is so important because when people rush into medicating so early on, it’s dulling the system. It’s preventing people from identifying what their needs are, how to discuss them, how to work towards getting them met, how to validate or identify the emotions and use them as a proper warning signal of where there’s a problem in the system.

When we get down to depression and we start using depression as more the indicator, then things start going better because if it’s only an indicator and it’s telling us that the fifteen needs are not being met for depression, then I might use an SSRI, a chemical to help with depression until I start accumulating or restoring the needs that weren’t being met. It could be a trauma pattern from the past. It could be a tragic moment that’s happening in the current field of time. It could be an accumulation of all these different feelings that are stuck inside the body with no awareness, knowledge, or understanding of the needs that are causing it, and no ability to start restoring those needs.

This little nifty chart allows us to say to ourselves, “Let’s do a good job of naming what the feeling is.” As I wrote in the book, “With lightning speed as possible, trying to find out what that need is that’s activating the feeling.” It’s a different way or a different angle to go about therapy. Yes, we want people to tell their stories, but we want to tell their stories so that they might be telling this story this way for the last time. They don’t tell about the word abandoned. They tell how lonely and sad they were about not connecting with their father.

You then have to meet the need for connection and act proactively to help meet those needs.

That’s right.

It puts me to mind of the book, You Are Not Depressed. You Are Un-Finished.

There are so many needs that aren’t being met. That’s a good title for that because unfinished means that there are these unfinished edges of needs that haven’t been met or aren’t being met in the moment that you need to take a moment and go like, “Depression is the right feeling for me at this moment. It’s the correct feeling. My body’s working perfectly. The oil lights are coming on. They’re all flashing at me called overwhelmed, depressed. The body’s working perfectly.”

I can’t tell you how many times a day I have to remind my clients the following sentences, “Your body’s working perfectly. You’re feeling frustrated because you’re not getting your need for connection met with your spouse. You’re feeling lonely because you would like connection, right?” “Yes.” “Your body’s working perfectly. What would connection look like?” “I don’t know. I’ll never get it.” “Could you be feeling helpless and lonely?” If she has the thought, “I’ll never get it,” that’s going to mean she activated any need for progress.

Now, she’s not getting connection but she’s also not getting progress. Instead of saying, “Honey, connection would look like this. Let’s do one moment of connection. Slow down. Figure out how connection might work in this moment. Can you hold my hand to get started? Let’s do that and see if that works.” That works. “From time to time, at any time, feel free to come over and ask for connection and grab my hand because that would make a difference for me.” He looks at her and goes, “I can do that.” She’s like, “That didn’t seem like it took eight years of therapy or 30 years of complaining.” That’s why this emotional intelligence makes it more efficient and more effective because it’s simplified and it’s practical.

On Your Mind | Bill Stierle | Emotional Sobriety

The Emotional Sobriety Solution: Have More Joy In Your Life In Less Than 30 Days

As we’ve talked about, if I can understand how I can put a space between the heart-centered feeling or the gut feeling of an emotion or the tension that gets generated when I think a need isn’t being met. If I can put some distance between that and my automatic response, now I’ve got a chance to have a better outcome. When it’s an impulsive response and it’s from the back of the brain, that habit stuff, the stuff I’ve done for so many years and I might as well keep doing it because at least I’ve survived.

It’s good to give ourselves a pass or free permission to go like, “That was the best I had in the past.” Just a little bit of permission to go like, “I would’ve loved to have learned this earlier, but that wasn’t what was meant for me.”

I did the best I could until I learned better. When I learned better, I did better.

That moves us a little further down the line for sure.

As I mentioned when we began this, I have a hard stop coming up, so I will ask you to tell people how and where they can get the book or connect with you if they want before we wrap up.

The easiest way is through my name Bill@BillStierle.com. My book is posted on Amazon, The Emotional Sobriety Solution. My phone number is all over the place if you want to call me for any questions. It’s (310) 433-8380. Send me a text and say, “I got a problem.” That’s easy enough. It’s the easiest way to do it. I enjoy supporting people for them getting an instant change to show up or if you got something that your company’s struggling with or you’re struggling with as an individual or with parenting or any type of communication that has to do with having some rough edges or conflicts. This book and my coaching sessions will work wonders to get some progress on those things.

I’m delighted that you are willing to take the time to share with us. I’m using the book and I’ll continue.

Wonderful. I’m interested in hearing your feedback and I’ll circle around. Have a lot of fun with some of the chapters you’re coming up on. The Nice Dead Person, Monster Person chapter is good. The Four Horsemen chapter is good about these different words that activate the conflict. You’re on a wonderful adventure. I’m delighted that you and I are on that journey together.

Thank you so much for taking the time. It’s been a pleasure.

Thanks a million.

Bill Stierle has spent over 33 years as a communication specialist, speaker, and mentor presenting on how a person or organizations’ thinking, behavior, and beliefs impact their relationships, performance, and outcomes. As an expert in human behavior, Bill provides life-changing tools and techniques to his clients that allow them to grow their businesses and transform their personal relationships.

Throughout his career, Bill has supported Fortune 500 companies, top business schools, A-list celebrities, governmental institutions, and individual business people to refine their effectiveness, streamline their systems, and energize sales teams to dramatically increase their bottomline profits. Bill provides his clients with simple and implementable takeaways that build natural rapport with the speaker and the listener. His wisdom and insights can also be found in his newly released book, The Emotional Sobriety Solution.


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About Bill Stierle

On Your Mind | Bill Stierle | Emotional SobrietyBill Stierle has spent over 33 years as a Communication Specialist, Speaker, and Mentor presenting on how a person’s or organization’s thinking, behavior or beliefs impact their relationships, performance and outcomes. As an expert in human behavior, Bill provides life-changing tools and techniques to his clients that allow them to grow their businesses and transform their personal relationships.

Throughout his career, Bill has supported Fortune 500 companies, top business schools, A-list celebrities, governmental institutions, and individual business people to refine their effectiveness, streamlined systems, and energized sales teams to dramatically increase their bottom-line profits. Bill provides his clients with simple and implementable takeaways that build natural rapport between the speaker and the listener. His wisdom and insights can also be found in his newly released book, The Emotional Sobriety Solution.


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