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Ep 276 - Spark Brilliance with Jackie Insinger

A hand holding a sparkler towards a sun-setting sky.

Brilliance is in all aspects of our experience: our relationships, our talent, our performance, our outlook. In this episode of The ABMP Podcast, Kristin and Darren speak with author Jackie Insinger about how the science of positive psychology ignites and engages our work, steps MTs can take to improve their communication with colleagues, family, and friends, and the difference between being great at what you do and loving what you do.



Author Images
Darren Buford, editor-in-chief of Massage & Bodywork magazine.
Kristin Coverly, director of professional education at ABMP.
Author Bio

Throughout her career, Jackie has brought her expertise in cognitive psychology and interpersonal dynamics to the business world as a sought-after executive and team dynamics coach. Using her research-based, action-oriented methodology, Jackie helps leaders and teams focus on unique strengths and authentic connection to increase performance, results, and fulfillment. Her positive psychology-led framework, platinum leadership, has been a game-changer for thousands of people and businesses throughout the world.

Jackie has a psychology degree from Duke University and a master’s in human development and psychology from Harvard. She is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council and the Harvard Business Review advisory council and lives in Denver, Colorado.


Darren Buford is senior director of communications and editor-in-chief for ABMP. He is editor of Massage & Bodywork magazine and has worked for ABMP for 22 years, and been involved in journalism at the association, trade, and consumer levels for 24 years. He has served as board member and president of the Western Publishing Association, as well as board member for Association Media & Publishing. Contact him at

Kristin Coverly, LMT is a massage therapist, educator, and the director of professional education at ABMP. She loves creating continuing education courses, events, and resources to support massage therapists and bodyworkers as they enhance their lives and practices. Contact her at





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Full Transcript

0:00:00.1 Speaker 1: Are you a massage therapist who loves to problem-solve, do you see clients with challenging musculoskeletal issues, if so, then studying precision neuromuscular therapy will help to sharpen your decision-making skills and achieve better client outcomes. Our emphasis is on the problem-solving process rather than the teaching of a singular technique or approach, led by founder Douglas Nelson. Each PNMT instructor is a busy clinician with decades of practical experience, visit to explore our offerings of live seminars, online courses, or the video resource library, the PNMT portal, that's P-N-M-T.O-R-G.


0:01:00.5 Darren Buford: I'm Darren Buford...

0:01:00.8 Kristin Coverly: And I'm Kristin Coverly.

0:01:02.5 DB: And welcome to The ABMP podcast, a podcast where we speak with the massage and bodywork profession. Our guest today is Jackie Insinger. Throughout her career, Jackie has brought her expertise in cognitive psychology and interpersonal dynamics to the business world as a sought after executive and team dynamics coach, using her research-based action-oriented methodology, Jackie helps leaders and teams focus on unique strengths and authentic connection in order to increase performance, results and fulfillment. Her positive psychology-led framework, Platinum Leadership has been a game changer for thousands of people and businesses throughout the world. Jackie has a psychology degree from Duke University and a Master in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard. She is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council and the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, and lives in Denver, Colorado. For more information, visit, hello, Jackie. And hello Kristin.

0:01:58.1 Jackie Insinger: Hi. Thanks for having me.

0:02:02.4 KC: Jackie, we are thrilled to have you here. I read the book, I love the book, and so I'm very excited to talk to you about it and share these bits of wisdom with our listeners. So let's jump right in. The subtitle of your book is how the science of positive psychology will ignite, engage and transform your team. So let's start with the basics. Please describe Positive Psychology.

0:02:24.1 JI: Okay, great question. A lot of people confuse Positive Psychology with positive thinking, and they're very different, positive psychology is actually a science, so the way that I describe Positive Psychology is a very visual representation. So if you picture a number line with negative numbers to the left, positive members to the right, and zero in the middle, right? Traditional psychology, which is critical, is the study of those dips into the negative numbers and how to get back to zero. How to fix what's broken, how to heal what's wrong, but positive psychology is that expansive positive side of the number line... Right, that continues on where I believe our potential lives and our brilliance lies, so that's where I see Positive Psychology as kind of blowing past zero and moving into that positive side of the number line, because when you think about the zero and us trying to get back to baseline, the absence of sickness is not health, the absence of sadness is not happiness, and the absence of burnout is not thriving. So you look at zero as kind of the starting point where we can move into our potential.

0:03:28.8 DB: Jackie you write that Positive Psychology is all about perspective, what's the difference between the golden rule and the platinum rule?

0:03:35.8 JI: Great question. It's one of my favorite things to talk about. So the golden rule, treat others as we wish to be treated is kind of a foundational rule that most people know, and I think it's great for some basic guidelines of how we maybe shouldn't interact and treat people, but in real relationships... Anybody who's ever been in any relationship of any kind, which should be... Probably all of us in some way, realize that it doesn't really work that way in real dynamics, 'cause who's to say, Darren, that when you have a rough morning, the way that you want support is the same way I want support, or when Kristen makes a mistake and needs feedback, they know that we want feedback the same way. As humans, we're kind of wired to fill in the blanks, and when we assume that people want what we want, it can backfire in relationships, so kind of expanding our mindset to the Platinum Rule, which is treat others as they wish to be treated. And I believe that it's the first step, the most foundational step to create meaningful and effective relationships.

0:04:37.5 DB: A very important follow-up question there would be, How do you mine for platinum to discover how you know what people want? How they wanna be treated.

0:04:46.1 JI: The most basic way that we tend to overlook is simply be curious, ask questions, and you'll see in the book, there's a series of questions to start asking people, but I believe it starts with you, so starting to understand your own Platinum first, because to get that idea and the first line and the last line of the book is it begins with you, so I believe all of this starts with you, and you have to understand yourself at these levels in order to ignite your own spark and then you bring that to other people, but even starting with your own questions around, what does support look like to me when I feel stuck, how do I want help? What is the type of feedback that brings out the best in me and doesn't make me defensive? Right. How do I wanna hear it? What type of communication is the best for me, what can the team do to best support my work? What are the things that energize me and my day, what does joy look like? So starting to ask yourself all these questions, and then starting to ask other people, for instance, this is a relevant timing, my son, who's 12, he has just started eighth grade, and he's turning 13 in a couple of weeks, but he...

0:05:50.1 JI: Last night, he's been kind of not sharing as much personal stuff with me the past few days, which was unlike him, so when I was saying goodnight to him last night, I asked him... I'm like, Is anything going on? And he said to me, he said, "You know, any time I share something with you lately, I've noticed you try to solve it. And I don't want you to solve it, I want you to listen to me, and so I haven't been sharing because I don't want you to solve it." And it was one of those moments, this is what I do for a living. And yet, in those moments, my default is to solve... I don't like sitting in negative spaces, so I immediately come to solutions and how do I move through this of what action can I take, but that's not what he needs, and he was able to express that to me and it just hit me, I was like, "Wow, okay, thank you." Right, you don't want what I want. And so it was great that he could so clearly express it, but it's for all of us to be able to ask those questions, this is so important and be able to share with other people what we need.

0:06:47.0 KC: Absolutely, and like you said, it starts with understanding what we need, so we can express that to others, and also by the way, that story is amazing because he is so obviously your son at age 12, to have that awareness to...

0:07:00.6 DB: No, that's powerful.

0:07:00.7 KC: Number one, understand it, but to express it so eloquently... That's amazing, right?

0:07:03.9 DB: Yeah, that's super powerful. Jackie, I'm wondering, how do you know as a leader or as a co-worker or a friend or whatever, How do you communicate that to the people around you that you would like to be communicated to in a certain way? Does it come off off-putting or how do you bake that into a conversation, especially if somebody's made potentially like a misstep, something that you don't necessarily align with?

0:07:30.6 JI: I think having the intention clear, we have best intentions on a team, and that we're trying to establish this authentic connection, to create an environment where people are valued for who they are and what they bring as unique individuals. And I think setting that up first and then stating in the beginning, I want us to all understand each other on a more effective and meaningful level, so say I give you feedback, I can ask afterwards, how did that land? Is there a way that I could have done that that would have felt better for you? And just asking these questions that we don't... We just step in and do things and then we leave it like, Well, that didn't go well. What could have been better? Right, and we do that in our... Most of us in our marriage, with our kids, with our siblings, with our parents, with our friends, and we just assume and walk away with this feeling of like, "Well, I don't know what just happened there," and just following up with those questions that felt like it didn't go well. Was there something I could have done differently? And it just creates these bridges that people feel valued in those moments, like you care about my response, not just saying what you wanna say, it's how it's received, that ultimately matters, right. So kind of tuning into that curiosity is really powerful.

0:08:42.2 KC: Let's talk a little bit more about communication. In the Understand chapter, you include ground rules for great communication and write that communication leads to connection, which we're all looking for. What steps can our listeners take to improve their communication with colleagues, friends and family?

0:09:00.2 JI: I love having ground rules on a team because every team's a little bit different, right, and what people want for communication, and even just... I work with teams sometimes on their conflict profile as a team, and some people feel like, you know what, it's okay to have these hearty, healthy debates where we get passionate and it's not personal, like let's go for beer all is well, and some people like the word healthy and debate. They don't co-exist. Right? To some people like, No, I don't want that. So for some people and teams, always approach a conversation with respect and kindness, to some people, they're like, Well, that's inherent, we can get passionate, and it's not... That's not disrespectful. So oftentimes with particular teams, it's sitting down and saying like, Let's figure this out, what works for us in our communication, but some ground rules are always... To me, number one ground rule on a team is assume best intentions, and when you assume best intentions, you can remove so much color that we bring, so much of that personalization and emotional charge that we bring to relationships when we assume best of intentions, 'cause then you can think about what could their perspective have been on this, why might they have said it this way, and so you can think outside of your own lens in those situations. Another thing is speaking from the I is...

0:10:14.3 JI: So what I hear is Instead of assuming somebody else's intent or assuming what their message is repeating back and having that clarity. Listening to understand not to react or respond is a big one. Most of us listen and build our stories, do we agree or disagree, how do we want... Do we have something that builds on this and instead taking a step back and really listening to understand where that person's coming from is another big one.

0:10:40.4 KC: Let's take a short break to hear a word from our sponsors.

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0:11:21.8 S1: Hey life-long learners. Did you know that elements massage studios are hiring and at the top of their list is curious massage therapists like you. Elements massage studios are all about improving the lives of everyone they touch for them, that includes giving you training in new skills, a supportive team, and chances to grow a client list. If this sounds like it could be your new home, let them know we sent you by going to, that's

0:11:57.4 KC: Let's get back to our conversation.

0:12:00.0 DB: Several of us here in the office have gone to the Brene Brown School of learning, so we use the phrase rumble, we're gonna rumble, but then once we're done rumbling and rumbling is a positive situation, we're going to talk enthusiastically and passionately about the things that we believe and then afterward, we're gonna eat the cheeseburger, that's what we call it, so the cheeseburger is where we bond together.

0:12:23.9 JI: That's awesome.

0:12:24.0 KC: We actually had, we've had a new employee in the past month and a half who was in a meeting where we did kind of rumble over a few things, and he was like, That's really intense, and then he saw us all just literally walk away and "Eat the cheeseburger" And he's like, That's the craziest thing I've ever seen. I've never seen everybody have a really meaningful debate and then they moved on, made a decision and moved on, and everybody was like, okay again as the team, so I think it's just creating that healthy space internally.

0:12:52.1 JI: And I think that's amazing. I love that you guys model that. There's a study that showed really people just want their voices to be heard. And when you create an environment where you can have that passionate rumble, that they say 19.5 out of 20 times, people will commit even if they disagree to a decision, if they feel their voice was heard, when you get that lack of commitment to a decision, it's because you don't feel like you have a safe space to share your opinions and to contribute that way, but you know what, even if you don't choose my idea 19.5 out of 20 times, if I feel you heard me, I will disagree and commit...

0:13:30.0 DB: Jackie, let's talk about the importance of authentic connection. Why is it so important?

0:13:34.8 JI: Right now, more than ever, it's really risen to the surface, study showing that we've been fortunate to be on the receiving end of so much data the past few years about why people are leaving their jobs, why they're staying and what they're seeking, and far and away people wanna feel valued, they wanna be seen, they wanna be heard, they wanna belong. They want that true connection, in fact, referring back to one of your other podcasts with the different generational breakdowns, 76% of millennials say that they would look for another job if they didn't feel valued in their work, and they personally didn't feel valued, that's a huge percentage of people in the workforce, they want to feel that connection, and so that's where the Platinum rule comes in, is in order to establish feeling valued and that authentic connection, it's... I wanna understand your understanding, I wanna treat you the way you wanna be treated. What does valued look like to you? To some people, it might be having a career path established that's very clear in professional development, to some people it might be showing appreciation, to some people it might be taking on greater challenges.

0:14:35.7 JI: It really depends on who you are, what feeling valued looks like, and I believe that that number might change if people started asking that question 'cause maybe people would feel valued if it was their version of feeling valued. So establishing that authentic connection is key, especially in a hybrid or a remote workforce, it's harder. And it needs to be intentional. I fully believe magic happens in the moments, not in the meetings, so it's creating those moments in a virtual world where we can create that authentic connection in a way that doesn't feel like we're gonna have an ice breaker right now. It's that bum-bray that we want to establish.

0:15:22.2 KC: Authentic versus scheduled connection.

0:15:25.7 JI: Yes it's hard. It's hard.

0:15:26.6 KC: Jackie, you write about the difference between being great at what you do and loving what you do, and the importance of finding or uncovering your spark, and this chapter was really exciting to me... So talk to us more about that. How do we uncover our spark?

0:15:45.1 JI: I love this part too, and what's interesting, the reason why I focused so much on this is I have the opportunity to work with so many high level leaders, and as highly ambitious over-achievers like many of us are, we climb and climb and climb this ladder. And we just go, and when we check off and the goalposts keeps moving. And what's interesting is, I find so many people that get to the top of the ladder and they look around for the first time, they're like, "Oh shoot, I don't like this view."

0:16:11.7 JI: And what do you do. And so there's this moment of realizing we need to start reflecting along the way, and we need to start noticing what brings us joy, what energizes us, and the way that I look at your spark is that intersection where your talent meets your passion, so something you're talented in, but not passionate about might be something like, doing the dishes... Really good at doing the dishes, but am I passionate about it? No. Right, and then something maybe you're passionate about, but not talented in... And it could be something like karaoke, right? Maybe I love it. But should I do it in public? Probably not. So it's finding that sweet spot where you have both, and that's the place where kind of time flies by, and there are different activities that I'm sure you saw in the book of ways to figure out what are those common threads where you have that spark where your talent meets your passion, and how do we move those things off our plate that doesn't fit that bill, that aren't part of our core job responsibilities.

0:17:11.4 JI: And really identifying that. So how do you have more of that? And studies show that leaders that cultivate an environment where people are doing what they enjoy, see a 72% lower turnover rate, and that's huge, that should be a priority for every leader right now in every organization.

0:17:27.6 KC: I'm curious, Jackie, a lot of our listeners are massage therapists and body work practitioners who, some of them work on teams as employees or independent contractors, but often they are sole proprietors. They have their own businesses. How do you advise them to do that soul searching, looking for the spark when they don't have a team to work with, but they're really doing that on their own.

0:17:52.0 JI: I think everybody can do this. Wether, whoever you are, even if you're not working, if you're a stay at home mom or what... My mom did it. And she hasn't worked in 40 years. It's just finding those things in your life, so I have this XO activity that I love, it's super simple, and what you do is on a piece of paper, you have an O at the top, a line in the middle and an X at the bottom, and as you're going through a couple of weeks, start noticing what are you doing that has to be done by you, right? Even as a sole proprietor, what are the things that absolutely need to be you and put them inside the O. Anything that you're doing that you're like, I really enjoy this.

0:18:34.8 JI: It doesn't necessarily have to be me, but I really enjoy what I'm doing, write it outside the O above the line. When you're doing something that you're like, I don't like this, this feels like I get that pit in my stomach or dread or you know get twitchy, put it below the line around the X, or if it's something that somebody else could do or be trained to do, write it below that line, and the goal is to spend as much of your time above the line as possible... And as a sole proprietor, this is something that I've done in the past too, is everything below the line, Can I outsource it? Is there a freelancer that can do some of this? Is there someone that can step in and help so I can spend more time on the things that not only I enjoy, but help the business thrive.

0:19:14.6 DB: Jackie, when you write about growth, you used the term getting stretchy, what do you mean by that, and how can our listeners put this concept into action?

0:19:22.5 JI: Yes, so getting stretchy is the way that I talk about taking smart risks and growing, and I don't believe in drawing yourself out of your comfort zone from a neuroscience perspective, you move into fight or flight and the part of your brain, your cortisol goes up and the part of your brain where learning happens is shut down. So when you're thrown outside your comfort zone, you might get to the other side, but it's generally because you're like doggy paddling and swimming across to get through the deep end of the water. What we really wanna do is learn to swim there, so it becomes our new normal, so what I think of it is like stretching the boundaries of your comfort zone, so you're kind of bumping your head on it without breaking through it, 'cause once you break through it, you're in a fear state. So we wanna learn from it, so how I look at it, is you look at kind of like if you're in a mall and you're looking at the map, the first thing we do, if we're like, Okay, we walked in the mall, I'm not sure what entrance I took...

0:20:14.0 JI: So where's the Nordstrom, right? So you find that "you are here dot," so it's the first thing we do is look for that red dot, So that's what we look for, is that red dot there then we are like, where am I going? Like, Okay, there's Nordstrom, and then you find the path, Okay, so I need to walk down here, go up the escalator by the food court, turn around here, and then you get to the Nordstrom, so you plan these steps along the way to get where you wanna go, you don't just try to find the Nordstrom, right? So the idea is, this is where I am, this is where I wanna be, what are some bite-sized steps that I could take along the way so that each new place becomes my new normal, so say you're gonna do a big speaking engagement and you're like, I would rather escape to a foreign country for the rest of my life than get on the stage, which more people have a fear of public speaking than death, which is fascinating. So the first thing might be, I'm gonna get on a podcast and get used to talking when I am in the comfort of my home, it could be edited, that kind of thing, the next thing I am gonna do is sit on a panel...

0:21:13.8 JI: Right, and be in front of people, but I'll have other people, it's not focused on me, and it's a topic I'm really comfortable with, then maybe I'm gonna give a talk to a team, then maybe I'm gonna do a workshop, then I'm gonna know... And so you say you have a four-month timeline, you can take these steps, so you're like, Okay, now I am person who speaks on a podcast, now I'm a person who's on a panel, I'm okay with it, I am comfortable. Now I'm doing this. And so before long, you're like, I'm okay here, this is my new normal now, and you build it up until these steps become a way of getting stretchy instead of being from someone who's never spoken to being on a stage right in front of all these people under the spotlight. So any areas of your life, you can get stretchy.

0:21:53.2 KC: Jackie, we have talked about so many great concepts and strategies in this short podcast, and I'm sure listeners are getting excited by all of them. What are next steps though, how can listeners start putting all of these concepts and strategies into practice?

0:22:09.7 JI: I wrote the book to be a play book, so I'm very... I default to action. I always think with my clients, if you're not making progress, I'm not doing my job, so I'm very action-focused. So if you get the book, every chapter is a picture, like a module of a course of a leadership development course, and at the end there's a self-assessment and next steps to do with your team. So it tells you exactly what to do. So my suggestion would be, do the self-assessment, read the chapter, do your next steps with your team, take a couple of weeks to try it, then read the next chapter and implement it, so it's a build... If you have a particular need, we need to focus on trust or we need to focus on momentum or communication, it is to choose your own adventures as well, you don't need to do them in that order. It's recommended, but you can pick up that chapter and implement and know exactly what to do and the conversations to have and the activities to do with your team for that particular topic if you need, but it's all done for you in terms of telling you the action to take.

0:23:11.0 DB: Excellent, I wanna thank our guest today, Jackie Insinger. For more information, visit Thanks, Jackie and thanks Kristen.

0:23:21.2 JI: Thank you.

0:23:21.7 KC: Jackie, thank you so much for sharing all of these great tips and ideas that we can use to spark brilliance in our lives and practices.

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