CNLP 286: John Townsend on How to Rewire Your Brain to Stop the Negative Voices and the Relationships You Really Need as a Leader, and Probably Don’t Have

Share This Post

John Townsend is one of today’s top business consultants, leadership coaches, psychologists and best selling author of 35 books. John talks why high performing leaders experience more negative self-talk than others, why it eventually becomes counter-productive, and how to rewire your brain to silence your inner critic.

Plus, John shares why most leaders have the wrong kind of relationships in their lives, and how to find the best ones. And as a bonus, John explains how to clearly say no and establish boundaries in a way that doesn’t hurt people.

Welcome to Episode 286 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Dr. John Townsend | FacebookInstagram | Twitter | People Fuel

Townsend Leadership Program | Townsend Institute

There’s a big giveaway coming soon for our podcast listeners! Follow Carey on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for your chance to get in on the fun!

Find training for every ministry area and every leadership level at Ministry Grid. Take advantage of their August special to lock in your annual rate with unlimited training, plus receive my book Didn’t See It Coming as a bonus gift at ministry

Pro Media Fire has the media solution that’s right for your church at Podcast listeners receive 10% off for life.

CNLP 160: Dr. Henry Cloud On What All High Performing Leaders Have In Common, Investing In Yourself And Overcoming Dysfunction In Your Church

Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud

Didn’t See It Coming by Carey Nieuwhof 

3 Insights from Dr. Townsend

1. As a leader, saying “no” is one of the hardest but best things you can do for yourself

If you lead anything with even a small amount of success, you probably have things that you should be saying no to on a regular basis. Whether it’s other entrepreneurs, people in your church, or salesmen with pyramid schemes, there are people you shouldn’t make time for. So how do you say no without being too mean? Dr. Townsend recommends using the encouragement sandwich method. With this method, you lead with a nice statement or compliment, give them the no, and finish with a compliment or nice statement.

Remember, you don’t have to justify your no to whoever you are saying no to. Five words that changed Dr. Townsend’s life are: “That doesn’t work for me.” When you say this, 99% of the people will go, “Okay, it doesn’t work for you, when can we do it?” This is when you tell them that you don’t see a window “for the foreseeable future.” This goes over much much better than just telling them “never.”

2. Relational nutrients

Much like how our bodies need bio-nutrients to survive, we need relational nutrients to survive the mental game of life. There are four quadrants of relational nutrients that we’re supposed to give to and receive from others. If we don’t get these relational nutrients we end up relationally “starved” where we begin to make poor decisions and lose our effectiveness as a leader.

The 4 quadrants of relational nutrients are:

  • Be present – This means shut up and listen.
  • Convey the good – Oftentimes, all we need is someone to encourage us when we are down.
  • Provide reality – Sometimes we need a wise person that will give us the facts.
  • Call to action – We need people that will make us follow through and actually do the things that are good for us to do.

3. How do you find people you can open up to?

So many times, we don’t need advice, we just need to know somebody gets it, and they understand our struggle. Usually, if we get this, we can solve our own problems. We can only get this if we have people around us that we regularly open up to. Here are 4 steps to finding those people:

Step 1: Look through all your contacts and pick out all of the individuals that you would consider opening up to. (There should be about 20-30 of them.)

Step 2: Schedule meetings with them.

Step 3: On meeting one, get a bit vulnerable and watch their reaction. If they lean in and listen, they will make a great person to regularly open up to.

Step 4: Explain why you want to meet with them regularly and set up a recurring meeting.

Quotes from Episode 286

We can actually change the neuronic structure of our brains by having healthy, relational conversations. @drjohntownsend Click To Tweet You can change your brain by having the right conversations with the right people. @drjohntownsend Click To Tweet There are bad people out there. As leaders, we have to do our best to avoid them. @drjohntownsend Click To Tweet You need a life-team of 3 to 10 people that know everything about you and are on your team no matter what. @drjohntownsend Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 286

Looking for a key quote? More of a reader?

Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode here.

Watch Back Episodes of The Podcast on YouTube

Select episodes of this podcast are now on YouTube. Our new YouTube Channel gives you a chance to watch some episodes, not just listen. We’ll add select episodes to YouTube as time goes on.

Subscribed Yet? 

Subscribe for free and never miss out on wisdom from world-class leaders like Brian Houston, Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, Nancy Duarte, Henry Cloud, Patrick Lencioni, Francis Chan, Ann Voskamp, Erwin McManus and many others.

Subscribe using your favorite podcast app via

Apple Podcasts


Google Play



Spread the Word. Leave a Rating and Review

Hopefully, this episode has helped you lead like never before. That’s my goal. If you appreciated it, could you share the love?

The best way to do that is to rate the podcast on Apple Podcasts and leave us a brief review! You can do the same on Stitcher and on TuneIn as well.

Your ratings and reviews help us place the podcast in front of new leaders and listeners. Your feedback also lets me know how I can better serve you.

Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: JD Grear

For the first time ever, Outreach Magazine has produced a list of the Top 100 Reproducing Churches. Why? The future isn’t just in growth, it’s in multiplication if the church is going to thrive. J.D. Grear, Lead Pastor of the Summit—a multiplying church— and President of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Todd Wilson, President and CEO of Exponential, talk about the five levels of churches, and why reproducing churches are the future. Fortunately, they also explain how even a plateaued or declining church can think about reproducing in a healthy way.

Subscribe for free now and you won’t miss Episode 287.

Lead With Confidence and Clarity. Grow Your Church.

As leaders, we tend to see the challenges and roadblocks before other people do.

We've all been there before...

  • You need to refresh your vision for the future but know that change will be an issue for that person.
  • You're overstaffed (or missing a key role) and can't find the right person to fill the role.
  • You aren't reaching enough new people even though you've tried everything that's working for other churches.
  • You can see the issue but aren't confident in what to do about it.

And with another Sunday morning coming up, it'll just have to wait until next week when you have a few minutes to figure it out.

Now ask yourself this:

What would it feel like to have those answers at your fingertips 24/7?

Whether it's reaching new people, improving your preaching, increasing volunteers, refreshing your vision, engaging your staff, or any of the countless challenges we face as church leaders, The Art of Leadership Academy will equip you to lead your church with confidence and clarity.

Between comprehensive church leadership courses, live coaching calls, staff and volunteer training resources, and direct access to an online community of senior-level church leaders, you'll get the exact insights and answers that fuel your church for growth.

Share This Post
Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is a best-selling leadership author, speaker, podcaster, former attorney, and church planter. He hosts one of today’s most influential leadership podcasts, and his online content is accessed by leaders over 1.5 million times a month. He speaks to leaders around the world about leadership, change, and personal growth.