Byron Katie and The Four Questions That Dispel Negative Emotions

If you’ve read my tips for any length of time, you must wonder where all these ideas come from.

So, just in case you’re wondering if I might be a plagiarist, let me remove all doubt!  I get most of my great ideas from clients or books or podcasts or other information sources.  Then I think about them, often apply them somewhere, discard what I think is wrong/irrelevant/uninteresting and filter it through my own lens.  For you!

I’m like a guy getting out of the shower and dripping all over the bathmat.  And you’re the bathmat.  And books are the shower.  If that picture is too graphic for you, don’t worry – I heard that in a talk during my college days (35 years ago) and it stuck with me, so that’s stolen too.

But today’s tip I can give attribution for.  It comes from Byron Katie, and it’s a simple 4 question model to change how you think about bad things that happen in your life.

In her words:

“I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being.”

So next time you have a destructive thought, write the thought down and try her 4 questions:

Byron Katie’s Four Questions

Is it true?

Be still and ask yourself if the thought you wrote down is true.

Can you absolutely know that it is true?

Do you know that for sure?

How do you react when you believe that thought?

Does believing this unexamined thought make the situation better or worse?  Does it help or hurt?

Who would you be without the thought?

Imagine now that you didn’t believe the thought.  How would your life be different?  How would you feel about the situation (or the person)?  Which do you prefer?  Life with or without that thought?

Let’s make it practical

Now let’s take the Byron Katie questions and apply them to a real situation:

Negative thought:  My jerk of a boss needs to appreciate me.

Is it true?

No, it’s not true.  You could work elsewhere.  You’re not a slave to that job.  No one has a gun to your head forcing you to stay.  Also, does your boss really need to appreciate you?  Maybe they don’t want to.  Perhaps they don’t have the capacity to.  Possibly they don’t know how.  You can only control yourself, not any other person.  Your boss really doesn’t need to appreciate you.

How do you react when you believe that your boss needs to appreciate you?

Are you resentful, bitter, caustic, or closed off?

Do these behaviours make your boss appreciate you more or less?  Do your behaviours help you get the appreciation you want?

Who would you be without the thought?

Would you be happier, more content, more at peace?  Would you feel free of the resentment of your unfulfilled expectations?

The Turnaround

Once you’ve gone through the questions, turn the situation around.  In this case the turnaround looks like this:

It’s not that my boss should appreciate me more, it’s that I should appreciate my boss more.

Which point of view will make you a happier person?

Give Byron Katie and her four questions a try,

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Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at

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