I’m Diana Swillinger, and you’re listening to the Renew Your Mind podcast. Episode number 28, How to Relate Well with my friend, Dr. Rick Marks.
DIANA: Hey. Hey. How y’all doing? I am so excited for today’s episode. Sitting across from me on Zoom is a dear friend of mine, Dr. Rick Marks. And if you are a listener of this podcast, you’ve heard me mention him, I don’t know, probably two, three, four times already. So I thought I might as well bring him on, because he has influenced so much of what I do as a speaker and a life coach and how I help people improve their lives. What he teaches is foundational. You guys all need to hear it firsthand. In fact, this will probably just be one of a few times I have him on, because he is a fountain of knowledge. So a little background. He’s just smiling as I just dote all over him here. But Phd mam. F-T-I-A-M-M-F-C-A-A-C-N-A-R-M E. And a whole bunch of letters and associations and degrees. So if you want to know what they all really are, go to his website and check them out.
But what I’ll tell you is that Dr. Marks is a highly sought after conference speaker, not only for relationships like your individual relationships with the people you love in families and marriages, but also with businesses and organizations and anywhere he can. For me, he has really helped me and my husband in our marriage. He helps with marriage, substance abuse, sexual addictions, trauma victims, general mental health. And he has done some incredible work through what he is titled hope Weekend Marriage Intensives, which my husband and I went through an intensive. And I don’t think Rick will accept any credit for saving my marriage, but the fact that he invested in me and my husband and taught us all these incredible skills, it was a huge part when my husband and I did the work. You put that all together, we have restored our marriage. So I’m forever grateful. Thank you, Rick. Dr. Rick Marks. Coach. I call you all of them. Thank you so much for being here. I’m so grateful.
- MARKS: It’s my honor, and it’s so wonderful to see you, even if it’s through Zoom.
DIANA: I could have gone on with that intro forever and ever because I could just say so many good things, and you have so much experience, and you’ve had many high honors, and you’ve helped save not dozens of marriages maybe even more than hundreds of marriages. Uh, it’s likely you could be credited for saving thousands of marriages. So I could go on and on. But I’m so grateful that you’re here.
- MARKS: Done the work for about 30 years in different ways, but I will say I’ve never counted. Although, um, I will say this. I had a unique experience about two or three months ago. I had someone call me just out of the blue and thank me for saving their marriage. And I said, I don’t think we’ve ever met. They go, we haven’t. I said, how did I save your marriage? They go, you saved the marriage of Don and Angie. I went, yes, I know them. They were about in divorce court. Well, they saved our marriage. You are saving their marriage, and you, through them, have saved our marriage. And they kept talking about you. So this lady calls me and I went, that’s pretty cool. It’s kind of like a grandchild in a sense.
DIANA: That is very cool. And I just got chills because I’m imagining that somebody listening to this podcast is going to go to your website, which we will make sure everyone knows how to find you. And somebody’s marriage is probably going to get saved because I introduced them to you. So I’m very excited just being reminded of that possibility.
- MARKS: Yeah.
DIANA: All right, well, let’s dive into it so people can hear just less about all that stuff and more about what they can start implementing in their lives today, so they can start seeing some of this great effect that I’ve had and you’ve helped so many other people with. So you have a couple of core principles, but the one that I keep going back to and talk about with my husband and our family all the time is your core teaching about? Well, I call them the four Pillars for short, because I don’t always remember the fancy name, but I believe you call them the four protective walls of a relationship.
- MARKS: Yes.
DIANA: That has influenced how I coach people. And that was a huge part of what, um, my husband and I use to restore our marriage. So could you just share with my audience what those four protective walls are?
- MARKS: Yeah. A little background, um, how I came up with those. Actually, I came up with those through my own brokenness so I grew up in a broken home, and you know the story. Um, divorced, so I didn’t grow up in a healthy home. I wasn’t raised a Christian or anything. And I went into my adult life emotionally immature, emotionally a child, even though I served twelve years in the Navy. Met my wife when I was in the Navy. But I was not a really healthy person. And it was in the early 90s in graduate school, I got in touch with the fact that I had a lot of, um, unresolved anger that was unconscious to me. And so I realized that if I don’t change me, then I won’t pass on a generational curse of dysfunction and brokenness down to my kids. And so I started pouring myself into personal development. I started going to classes, I started reading. I would go to attend seminars on healthy relationships and being a better you. And as I began to change myself, it’s like four words kept emerging to me over and over of how I wanted to be to everybody that I met. And those became what I call the four protectors. And so the four words by which I kind of regulated myself with how I treated my wife and my kids and then others. So the first of those was goodwill. I always ask myself, is what I’m doing with you right now goodwill?
Goodwill is benevolence towards another. It’s, um, always being kind. It’s making sure that what I’m doing doesn’t seek to hurt you, harm you, tear you down, and negate you and validate you. Whenever you do something that’s ill will towards another person, you’re actually sowing discord. And I always tell people, if you want to sow discord, don’t complain when you get it back, because you will reap what you sold. Huh? Is called the law of attraction. Angry people attract anger to them. And so I began to ask myself, is the way I’m treating you right now goodwill? And if it wasn’t goodwill, then, uh, I would say, you know, I think I’m not being respectful right now. Would you forgive me? Which is the second word, which was respect. Respect is honoring and valuing another person whenever you insult another person’s dignity or tear down their dignity, or if you cut someone off when they’re talking. All of those are forms of disrespecting another person. And so I began to ask myself, is what I’m doing with you right here, right now, is it goodwill and is it respectful? And I knew for a fact if I was treating you with goodwill and respect, then I knew for a fact that I was being loving, because love never treat people with ill will or disrespect, right? And so in the research field, I got a PhD in counseling psychology, but in the research field, there’s this term we call operationalized, right?
If, uh, you’re going to use a word, you need to operationalize that word so we know exactly what it is you’re talking about. And love is we use the word a lot. But I needed to operationalize the word love for me. And the way I operationalized that word was goodwill and respect. I knew if I was treating you with goodwill, respect, then I knew I was being loving, because love never treats people with ill will and disrespect. Now, the third word is humility. I always ask myself, is what I’m doing? Am I living in Humility? Now, we think humility is weakness. And actually humility is powerful, healthy, mature adults are people who can live a life as a way of being, as my phrase as a way of being. And humility research, uh, shows that mature adults in conflict mood to humility. And because they move to humility, they operate out of compassion and cooperation and conflict. Immature adults operate from the lower order animal brain, thus they’re prideful and defensive.
All right, so I began to ask myself, am I treating as humility? Humility is a, um, modest assessment of oneself. Uh, humble people know they have strengths and they’re okay with those strengths, but they also know they have weaknesses and challenges. And guess what? They’re actually okay with those too. They don’t expect themselves to be something that they’re not. Humble people admit they’re limited, their knowledge is limited. Uh, humble people admit I don’t really know that, but I can find out. Well, that’s something I didn’t know, I didn’t know. And they’ll go learn it. Immature people aren’t willing to admit they don’t know something because pride does. So I began to ask myself, am I treating you in living in humility? And the fourth word is empathy.
Empathy is we always think of empathy as basically stepping into somebody else’s thoughts and feelings and being able to identify. Right. It’s a vicarious identification. In other words, uh, we use a lot of active listening skills. So what I hear you saying is such and such. Right. And that shows empathy. I like to define empathy this way in a little more simpler term. I always ask myself, am I coming across as caring? Because when you send the message, I don’t care about how you think, I don’t care about how you feel, I don’t care about how you perceive, there’s no empathy in that because empathy always sends a message, I care. Now don’t ask me if I agree. Right. Caring about how someone thinks and feels does not mean I necessarily agree with you. It just means I have empathy and I care. And so the four words are goodwill, respect, humility, and empathy. And I began to ask myself, in all that I’m doing, am I treating you as a way of being with those four things? And then years later, the Lord showed me something that if I treat people with goodwill, respect, humility and empathy, then I was always, as far as it concerned me, I was always protecting my relationships. There was an interesting passage in Romans twelve where, uh, the apostle Paul says, if at all possible means something may not be possible, but if at all possible, as far as it concerns you, be at peace with all men.
- MARKS: I knew this. If I was treating you, Diana, with goodwill, respect, humility and empathy, then as far as it concerns me, I am relating to you in a way that brings peace to the relationship.
DIANA: Yeah, it sounds like it brings peace to each as the person practicing it.
- MARKS: Yes. Because it’s a powerful way to live life. Yes, it’s a powerful because you can’t treat goodwill, respect and empathy if you’re not humble, pride will undo those things. Right? So humility of the four is the key piece because once you surprise, you won’t feel goodwill, you won’t be respectful and you’ll send a message. I don’t care.
DIANA: One of the things you said that I loved is how to operationalize your love. Especially when you were talking about goodwill and respect. You’re putting your love into operation. I talk to my people all the time about there’s got to be practical ways because my whole mission is to help Christian women who are trying to experience God’s joy. They want to experience the peace, they want to feel content, but they’re stuck, they’re not feeling it. And I think it’s because we need to find these ways to operationalize what’s already available to us and tap into some practical ways to do it.
- MARKS: Yes, very much so. And sometimes I think what keeps us from connecting a father in a deep way is our pride. Mhm, I think our pride is god gives grace to the humble, but he resists the proud. And in our humility we can say, you know what I don’t have together, you know what? I think I’m thinking wrong. You know what? I think maybe there is a perspective here that I don’t have and I might need to consider your perspective as well.
DIANA: So good. That leads into this next question. So well, it’s almost as if you wanted to bridge it for me, but I think a lot of us, when we are having struggles in a relationship or there’s challenges or uh, difficulty navigating, it it’s so easy for us to focus on what the other person needs to do to change. We think if they would just change, if they could just behave in a different way or talk to me a different way or do something different, then, uh, everything will be okay and I’ll be fine. But uh, the problem is we have no control over what the other person does. So knowing that and a lot of my listeners, they’re not listening. I know you help in a lot of marriages and that’s where I’ve really tapped into what you offer. But you help individuals too. So if it’s just one person who wants to improve their part in a relationship, where can they start? What’s the best place to start?
- MARKS: Well, that’s interesting. Are you asking if somebody who’s listening right now is saying, hey, you know, I really want to start transforming my life? Where do I begin?
DIANA: Basically, I have some difficult relationships in my life. Or let’s just say I have let’s just pretend it’s a marriage and we’ll say it’s me. Because I actually did start fixing myself, which influenced my relationship with my husband.
- MARKS: I was working on me for eight years before my wife ever decided to look in the mirror.
DIANA: Yes. So I know you put all these pillars together or, um, I’m sorry, protectors together. People listening might have a hard time trying to start doing all four all at once.
- MARKS: What I would say first thing I would tell someone if they were in my counseling office, I would say, you know what, don’t make life difficult. In other words, you’re going, well, this is going to be taxing. All change is a journey. You’re not going to change overnight. Maturity, uh, is a lifelong process. And so I would just say, just start. Which one of those four do you need to work on? I think I treat people more disrespectfully. I think I’m okay with humility, but I think I have a problem with being respectful. Okay, but they don’t realize if you’re being disrespectful, you’re prideful anyways. Right?
- MARKS: I don’t shame people, but I go, well then why don’t you begin to focus on when you’re disrespectful? Now, key to all of this, I mean, the fundamental key to what we’re really talking about is emotional wellness or emotional, uh, health, right? Or you want to use the term emotional intelligence. But the fundamental for emotionally healthy, mature people is this one piece self awareness. Mhm there uh, is some research that was released, I think in fall of last year. And, uh, if I’m quoting it right, 78% of Americans believe they are self aware. In reality, though, only 28% are.
DIANA: That’s remarkable.
- MARKS: So there is a huge gap between people believing they’re self aware, and the reality is most people aren’t. So the key is you have to become very self aware of what you’re doing, what you’re feeling, and how you’re coming across. And I always tell people, uh, a phrase that I like from my own I came up with a lot of phrases, my own journey of growing and healing. And one of these was, uh, the way that I think I come across is not the way I do come across. The way that I think I’m being experienced is not the way that I am being experienced. What matters more is not how I think I am or believe I am. It’s how I am. And the disconnect between how I think I am and how I am. If there’s a disconnect between those two, that’s on me, because people don’t know how I think I am, believe I am, but they do know how I am. Mature people make sure how I believe I’m coming across is how they come across. They’re congruent.
DIANA: How do you start with that? If you’re one of those people that it’s like 50% of those people then think they’re aware and they’re not.
- MARKS: How do you lack self awareness? Right.
- MARKS: Yeah. How do you get self awareness?
- MARKS: I, uh, would answer it this way. If I ask somebody and I’ll ask you, how do people know what they look like? And most people answer, well, it’s simple, it’s a mirror. I go, no, it isn’t. You don’t know what you look like by a mirror. They go, yes, it is. I said, no, it isn’t. You can look in a blacked out iPad. Uh, you can look in a glass, you can look in water. All of those will show you what you look like. They go, oh, mhm. Those are just tools. Exactly. So how do you know what you look like? The answer is you know what you look like by a reflection. Those are tools that reflect. Now think of it this way. How do I know how I’m coming across in a moment? It’s also by reflection. In other words, I would watch my wife’s eyes, I’d watch her body language, and I would watch it. In other words, who I am in a moment is being reflected by other people.
DIANA: Yeah, right.
- MARKS: And so I began to watch how she was. And then I noticed she might be shutting down or whatever. And I’d stop and I go, all right, hang on a minute. I go, how am I coming across right now? And she might say, you really want to know? I really want to know. She goes manipulative. Uh, I don’t want to hear that. Right. The way I think I am may not be the way I am. Mature people know that. And then I would become a student. I would become a student and go, what am I doing that sends you the mess? I’m being manipulative. And she would say, well, you’re doing this, this and this. And I would say, So you’re saying that when I do this, that sends you m I’m being manipulative? She goes, yes. You know what I would do in that moment? I would say, well, then forgive me. Uh, forgive me. I don’t want you to believe I’m being manipulative. Now ask me, do I think I am? No. But what matters is not how I think I am. If I am coming across that way to her, I don’t want her to think that way of me. And empathy would care.
DIANA: Yes, right.
- MARKS: Empathy one of the four protectors. It would care. And I would say, well, forgive me because I don’t want to send you that message. What I’m apologizing for is how I’m coming across and the message that it sends. She feels valued and then I change it. I go, Let me try and say it this way then. But I use other people to reflect who I’m being in the moment.
DIANA: Well, that takes humility. And you said, being a student, my husband always remembers how you remind people you can make these changes if you’re willing to be teachable, which I think is synonymous in many ways to humility. But you wouldn’t be able to receive what your wife is saying about how you were coming across if you weren’t humble.
- MARKS: Yes. Matter of fact, humility creates a teachable spirit. Perfect pride creates an unteachable spirit. So people who are teachable in that moment are humble.
DIANA: That’s a good indicator, I guess. If you’re not feeling like listening, you might just be being prideful.
- MARKS: I’m sending a message. I don’t care. I’m right, you’re wrong. I’m like, well, how do you know I’m wrong? Because I know you are. All right, then I’m not going to argue with you. But what you don’t know you don’t know is you don’t know everything. Unteachable people, you don’t argue with them. Why? Because they’re not teachable. In the personal development field, there’s a phrase that goes like this. When a student is ready, a teacher appears. No teacher will invest in a student who’s not willing to value the investment of the teaching. Because you don’t teach people who aren’t teachable. It’s just a waste of time. Everybody gets frustrated.
DIANA:Yes. Right. If somebody, um, that’s listening has a relationship in their life where they believe it’s worth investing in, they believe there’s hope. They’re ready to be teachable and start working on themselves. But maybe the other person isn’t. Is it possible if just one person decides to practice more humility, more empathy and goodwill and respect, can they just start doing that and then keep at it? Will that affect a relationship?
- MARKS: The answer is yes, it can. Yes, it can. If you have a pattern of relating that says, uh, I don’t care, you’re not important, and then you change who you are as a way of being, and then you come across as caring, you’re inviting that person back to you. I mean, you see, we always say that you can’t change another person. That actually isn’t true. You can. I can mention two subjects right away. And Llewella will change. I was doing a conference on healthy lakes in the workplace. In the middle of that conference, I actually answered my phone, and I was very disrespectful to my wife. And then someone challenged me on it, and I was disrespectful to him in the room. Everybody in that room changed in that moment. The room went from warmth to ice cold tension. Of course, I was doing it all intentionally, but they didn’t know that I changed the whole room just by one action on my part. I affected everybody. So to say that you can’t change another person, sure you can. You act a certain way, you’ll change people in a moment. Now, they can get control of that, but in the end, you can change people.
DIANA: Yes. I would like to say that I understand what you’re talking about, because my husband has transformed very much, and he used to be a very angry person. Or he would express himself with anger, and occasionally it happens now, but it’s far in between. And he is remorseful, and, uh, that’s great. He’s working on it. Then I can just understand. He’s just a person figuring out life, and he’s working on it. So my husband would respond to me in some situation with anger, and it may or may not have been appropriate, it doesn’t even matter. And I used to just immediately get frustrated and angry back. But as I started so you could say he would change what was happening for me. But I think he only did it when I was a willing participant because as I wanted to respond differently, as I didn’t want to come back at him with anger, I would regulate myself, I would manage what I was thinking, I would manage what I was feeling and he could be angry and it wouldn’t change me. I could stay in peace.
- MARKS: And that’s a choice that you got to make in the moment, right?
- MARKS: But, uh, people who don’t know how to self regulate emotionally, you can change them just like that. Say something, do something. It’s just real simple.
DIANA: So I would recommend for everyone listening to use that knowledge in the most positive, amazing ways they can. Because I have seen I’ll just use my husband as an example. Again, I keep using him, um, as examples. And he’s going to get upset. No, he won’t. But when he was angry, I could just come up to him and say, sweetheart, I just love you, and give him a kiss on the cheek and he would stop being angry.
- MARKS: A gentle answer turns away wrath. Proverbs. Yes, but that requires maturity, doesn’t it? That requires a mature person to not personalize somebody else’s emotional state and to respond to it with goodwill and respect. Because, ah, when you respond back to anger with love, goodwill and respect, that’s a gentle answer. And you can have goodwill and respect and still be strong. I respect how you feel, I just disagree. But you can say that in a loving way. And we always say in our world, how do you know if someone’s saying it in a loving way? And it’s actually simple tone. Love has a tone to it and your tone is what matters.
DIANA: It does. And love is such if you can pick like I was picking with my husband how I wanted to feel when he was angry, if I don’t know how I actually want to feel in a difficult situation, I just start to wonder, what would it be like if I could feel love right now? What would I be thinking if I was feeling loving and how would I act if I was feeling loving? And I can start to generate it for myself.
- MARKS: Yeah. My great teacher and mentor, and she’s like a grandmother to me, Dr. Lori Gordon. And, um, I worked for her and wrote a faith based curriculum to her work many years ago. But she’s very influential in my life and Lori, um, teaches and I actually believe she’s right. A lot of times, particularly in the church, we say that love is not a feeling, love is not an emotion, it’s a choice. That’s actually not true. Love is an emotion. And you cannot legislate an emotion. If you go, well, uh, love is an action. Nobody said I can commit to acting to you in a loving way, but that does not mean I have feelings of love for you. And even if I commit to act in loving ways for you, to you, does not mean I feel love for you.
Those are not the same things. So if you want to understand love, you have to understand the logic of emotion. And the logic of motion is simple pain pursues pleasure. And if I treat you, Diana, on a regular basis in a way that creates pain for you, then eventually your brain is going to see me as a threat. You’re going to have a sense of danger around me, mhm? You are not going to feel love for me, you’re going to feel insecure around me. And the longer that you are a sense of danger, a threat to me, I’m in pain with you, I don’t feel valued, I don’t feel loved, I don’t feel supported. All these different core relational needs, then if you treat them on a regular basis that creates pain, you become a source of danger to them. Then the way they deal with you is fight, flight, or freeze. They’ll run from you out of fear, they’ll fight you well, they go numb with you, freeze. But if I treat you on a regular basis in a way that I’m a source of pleasure, then I have feelings of desire for you. And the feeling of desire create feelings of love, mhm? Love is an emotion. But the thing is those needs that create love, which are really needs for bonding and attachment, those are the only needs humans cannot meet on their own. They must be given to you, mhm? They must be given to you. They’re the only human needs that we cannot meet on my own. I can go down the store and get something to eat right now. I can meet my physical needs. Those are things. But I cannot meet my bonding attachment needs. That is done in relationship.
DIANA: Yes. And God made us all relational and all in need of that.
- MARKS: Yes.
DIANA: So is there anything else we didn’t cover in this short interview here that you would like to make sure my listeners know or tell us how to connect with you?
- MARKS: Well, they can find me at one of two ways. Probably the best way is relatewell us. Relatewell us. And there’s a link, uh, there’s five options. There part of us to the curriculum that we teach on our healthy relationship skill for individuals, couples, even therapists. We have a link for training therapists there, but there’s one that says Dr. Rick. If you click on Dr. Rick, it’ll take you to the about me. All right, so I would say go to Relatewell us. And I would say this the most important part of any relationship is not the individual, it’s the. Relationship itself. I call it us mhm. And I was to live for us takes two to make enough, one to kill it. And so if I treat you on a regular basis, as you will know, Diana, if I treat someone a regular basis that harms them, there’s not going to be enough.
- MARKS: There’s you and there’s me, but there is no us. And everything I do is really about what needs to happen. So we have a strong sense of usness.
DIANA: Uh, well and I’m going to have you back sometime in the future, and we’re going to talk about the power of us. So this is a long teaser because it might be next year or something, but I’m going to have you back. We are going to talk about that. And I just want to thank you so much for coming on.
- MARKS: Pleasure and honor, and thank you for having me.
DIANA: You’re welcome. And by the way, I recommend, um, rick didn’t totally sell it, but he has a very inexpensive, comprehensive course that goes over the, uh, four protectors of a Relationship. My husband and I have done the course. We are going to a wedding in two weeks, and we are giving the bride and groom the course for their wedding so they can start their marriage off with amazing relationship skills.
- MARKS: Wonderful.
DIANA: Yeah. All right. Well, thank you so much for being here, Rick.
- MARKS: Well, thank you, ma’am.
DIANA: Thanks, everybody, for listening. Until next time, take care. As an advanced, certified life coach, I help Christian women trying to live their best lives, but they still feel unsatisfied and stuck. I teach thought management skills that work so you can enjoy life again and step into who God has created you to be. Don’t forget to head on over to Rympodcast.com to get my free resources or a free coaching call. I only talked over you once, and you said that if you cut someone off while talking, that’s a sign of disrespect.
- MARKS: No, we’re in an interview, so that worked out well. You do really well, by the way. DIANA: Oh, thank you.
- MARKS: Well, I’m going to return a couple phone call before my Ways group. I love you. DIANA: I love you. I’ll talk to you later. Thanks so much.
- MARKS: All right, my friend. All right. Bye bye.