07/07/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Just Listen: Why Unplug and Recharge When You Can Exhale?

Few things help you recharge more than being grateful and getting something off your chest.

When your modem is overloaded and cannot transmit any more data between the Internet and your computer, you are instructed to: a) disconnect it; b) power it down; c) let it rest; d) power it up; e) reconnect it; f) re-launch your browser.

I think many people on a daily basis feel like overloaded modems and don't feel they can take in any more information. That is why unplugging and doing something to recharge is so critical to getting ahead in this world, much less getting through your day.

My view is that if it is "listening" to so much from so many directions that overloads us, the best way to really recharge is to be listened to in a way in which we not only vent our frustrations, but emotionally exhale.

The best way to achieve that is to prime the pump by listening to others in such a way that you enable them to exhale which often causes them to do the same for you.

Two of the best ways to help others exhale, make their day and then make yours are to offer a Power Thank You and a Power Apology*.

A Power Thank You has three parts:

  1. Thank the other for something specific that they did.
  2. Acknowledge the effort it took for them to do it.
  3. Tell them what it personally meant to you.

For example, here is a Power Thank You from me to my mom for Mother's Day, which is special this year.

Hello Mom,

I'm calling you today to wish you a Happy Mother's Day and something else.

I don't know if I've ever thanked you for being there for me, reassuring me during the darker times of my life especially when I had some major ups and downs during medical school, loving me unconditionally and doing everything you could to make up for the side of dad that could be stern. I know it wasn't easy for you to do that since you had my other brothers and worries about your family, dad's worries about a variety of subjects and your own challenges with him. What it meant to me is that whenever I feel dejected and worried, I can still see you as the mom you have always been and who greeted me when I ran to you from the bus crying after my first day of kindergarten. You've been a terrific mom and from the warmest part of me -- that I inherited from you -- I just wanted to let you know how much I love you.

I hope some of what I have to say gets through, because although I know and will continue to know my mom, she's become confused at 92 and this is the last Mother's Day that she'll know me.

Even more powerful than a Power Thank You is a Power Apology.

A Power Apology also has three parts:
  1. Say what it is that you did wrong.
  2. Acknowledge the injury, disappointment and hurt you caused.
  3. Sincerely say you were sorry, were wrong (without excuses) and say what you are going to do to correct it.

Recently I delivered a Power Apology to fifty veterans at the end of my presentation during the COMPASS program put on by Vet Foundation** in St. Louis from March 22-26. I was one of only two people who hadn't served in the armed forces and I was the only psychiatrist in attendance. As the event proceeded, several veterans opened up to me about how psychiatrists are among their least favorite people based on how dismissively and disrespectfully they are treated by Psychiatry Residents at veterans hospitals who are mainly fulfilling an obligation in their training and not going on to treat veterans in their careers. They talked about psychiatric residents answering their cell phones and even chewing gum during their sessions. Some shared stories of not being able to contain their hostility in the face of such treatment and when they verbally expressed their displeasure were summarily diagnosed as having anger issues. I listened and listened, but felt that was not enough.

My second and final presentation was about how they could improve their relationships with their spouses and families back home by using a Power Thank You for all the support they had received from them. I concluded my presentation by also telling them how powerful a Power Apology could be and to demonstrate, I offered the entire group one.

I want to apologize to you for my profession and the way it has dismissively and disrespectfully treated you. Furthermore, I know that you have the right to be as angry as you are at such treatment and more than a few of you have been punitively diagnosed when you expressed it. In my humble...and very humbled...opinion, each and every one of you have done more for this country and fought for the freedom of every doctor who has treated you than any one of them has done and you deserve better. Much better. I am sorry for how my profession has acted with you and we have been wrong. For my part, I am a writer and I am going to bring this to the attention of the American Psychiatric Association and in my blogging elsewhere that you have earned the right to our thanks, appreciation and respect and we need to begin treating you that way.

Thankfully, my apology enabled the entire group to not only feel validated, but to exhale. And to all of you, who like me, didn't serve, that is only the beginning of what we all owe these people.

* the Power Thank You and Power Apology - source: "Just Listen" Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone (AMACOM, $24.95). catch some Power Thank You's about "Just Listen."
** VetFoundation was created by Huffington Post blogger Chris Hadsall