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“Why you should spend more time listening than talking.” With Beau Henderson & Dr. Michelle Bengtson

Part of the reason that COVID-19 escalated to a crisis state was largely because insufficient information was shared early on which would have allowed other countries to begin putting a plan in place. Once it became apparent that a crisis was coming, people jumped to make quick conclusions about what was best for the population […]

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Part of the reason that COVID-19 escalated to a crisis state was largely because insufficient information was shared early on which would have allowed other countries to begin putting a plan in place. Once it became apparent that a crisis was coming, people jumped to make quick conclusions about what was best for the population as a whole, instead of considering subgroups of the population and the potential long-term ramifications for rash decision making.


As part of our series about ‘5 Steps That Each of Us Can Take to Proactively Help Heal Our Country’, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Michelle Bengtson.

Dr. Michelle Bengtson is a neuropsychologist with more than 25 years of experience in the mental health field. In her private practice, she combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address her patients’ issues, both for those who suffer and the ones who care for them. She is an international speaker, cancer survivor, and author of two bestselling books, “Hope Prevails: Insights from A Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and “Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises”. She also hosts “Your Hope-filled Perspective”, a podcast to help listeners regain hope, renew their minds and transform their lives.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

Iwas a small town, Midwest girl from a small nuclear family but with a very large extended family. As a child, I always knew I wanted to both write and go into a helping profession. In my teen years, I served as a peer counselor which led me into the field of psychology.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

One of the books I’ll never forget is called “Foolproofing Your Life: How to Deal Effectively with the Impossible People in Your Life” by Jan Silvious. It was a great read for helping me to really learn that when people are obnoxious, cruel, or frustrating, it’s often more about them than about me, and I don’t have to stick around and accept the behavior.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

Over the course of my professional career as a neuropsychologist, I came to realize that “Our feelings are really the outward manifestation of the thoughts we believe.” Once I really understood that our thoughts have a direct impact on our emotional well-being (or lack thereof), I was able to better help patients by helping them to first assess the thoughts they believe, and then to see how it impacts their emotions. Once they understood this, they felt empowered to change.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership isn’t about having the most knowledge or wisdom, but about calling out the best in other people and encouraging them to contribute from their strengths. For example in a team project, there are always those who think they know the most, but for the team to function well as a cohesive group, it’s helpful to use those with organizational skills to help establish the timeline, while those with good investigative skills help determine what has already been tried and failed, while those who are creative help cast the vision in a unique way.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crises. So many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our county, in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today? Why does that resonate with you so much?

As a healthcare worker and cancer survivor in the at-risk category, the COVID-19 crisis has resonated most with me because we had little forewarning, and it really caused an escalation of worry, fear, and anxiety globally.

This is likely a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

Part of the reason that COVID-19 escalated to a crisis state was largely because insufficient information was shared early on which would have allowed other countries to begin putting a plan in place. Once it became apparent that a crisis was coming, people jumped to make quick conclusions about what was best for the population as a whole, instead of considering subgroups of the population and the potential long-term ramifications for rash decision making.

Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience either working on this cause or your experience being impacted by it? Can you share a story with us?

Before COVID-19 hit, anxiety was already considered the common cold of mental illness. My most recent book, “Breaking Anxiety’s Grip”, was released in Fall 2019 to put resources in the hands of those asking for my help, despite the miles that separated us. But since the start of this pandemic, I have seen normally calm, peaceful individuals panicking about everything from running out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer to panicking about a loved one potentially contracting the disease and dying. Since this began, I have focused my efforts on helping people manage their worry, fear, and anxiety in a healthy way.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

  1. Take time to do your research. All too often, people make quick judgments without all the facts, and that results in suboptimal consequences. If we would slow down, resist panicking, and take the time to get our questions answered, we would be in a better position to make decisions without regret.
  2. Determine what is in your control and what isn’t. So often worry, fear, and anxiety result from looking at a situation and fearing a loss of control. This pandemic has certainly stripped our sense of control out of our hands (whether it has been difficulty obtaining adequate supplies, or our inability to decide when and where we will go out to eat). When we assess what we can and cannot control, then we can begin to make steps to do what we can, and that alleviates our sense of anxiety.
  3. Realize we are all in this together, but that doesn’t mean our experiences have been identical. To some degree, if we will remember that EVERYONE has been impacted in some way or another by this pandemic, then it creates a sense of solidarity. But we also have to remember not everyone has experienced it from our same vantage point and many have suffered worse. That will help us to look at others with more grace and compassion.
  4. Spend more time listening than talking. If we want to help our country heal, we have to be willing to sit with others in their discomfort and be a safe place for them to share. In order for others to feel free to share, they have to sense a willingness on our part to suspend judgment and just learn from their experience.
  5. Think about others’ needs and offer to lend a helping hand. If we truly want to be proactive in helping heal our country, we have to put others’ needs before our own. We’ve seen a great deal of selfishness in recent months, but we can offer our compassion to their needs, and a willingness to help (whether it’s picking up groceries for a neighbor while we’re out or offering to mow their lawn when we mow our own).

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but what can we do to make these ideas a reality? What specific steps can you suggest to make these ideas actually happen? Are there things that the community can do to help you promote these ideas?

What we are seeing in the United States right now is that people are finding comfort in being part of a group. It’s easy to be part of a group that spreads hate, but now more than ever we need to be part of a group that spreads love, compassion, support, and encouragement. It starts small by being an individual agent of change, sharing how it made you feel, then recruiting others to join you. If you have a particular affection for the elderly, start there. Others may have compassion for the homeless or jobless; if so, start there. People will even donate money when they think the cause is worthy, and since everyone has in some way been impacted by this pandemic, we are more likely to be understanding of the needs others still have when we’re starting to regain momentum.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I am very optimistic that we will come out of this situation better than before. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and the world has gone through many different health crises in the past, and we’ve learned from them, eradicated many of them, and become stronger and more knowledgeable as a result.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Remember, as much as it might seem like it, it’s not all about you. You do not exist within a void. You are part of a community, and one day you are going to want someone else’s help. If you will do what you can to put aside your own desires, needs, and preconceived notions and help others, then when you need help, you will have others lining up to help you.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would be honored to spend any time in the company of Condoleezza Rice. She is a role model for women, overcoming humble circumstances to do great things, and is wise, practical, and witty all at the same time.

How can our readers follow you online?

I would love to connect with your readers wherever they may be hanging out online!

Website: https://www.DrMichelleBengtson.com

Podcast: Your Hope Filled Perspective with Dr. Michelle Bengtson

@drmichellebengtson on Instagram

@drmbengtson on Twitter

LinkedIn

Facebook

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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