About a month ago, Declan Procaccini’s 10-year-old son woke him early in the morning in a fright.
“He came into my bedroom and said, ‘Dad, I had a horrible, horrible dream!’ ” Procaccini says. “He was really shaken up. I said, ‘Tell me about it,’ and he told me he’d had a dream that a teenager came into his classroom at his school and shot all the kids in front of him.”
Procaccini’s son is a sensitive kid, frequently anxious, so Procaccini did what he often does when his son crawls into his bed with a fear or anxiety: He explained why the fear wasn’t rational by simply laying out the math.
“The chance of that happening here are 1 in a zillion,” Procaccini told his son, and then continued with a lesson about probabilities and possibilities. “You know, it’s possible that Godzilla could right now come through the trees? Yes. But is it probable? No. I think we both know that it’s not probable.”
This discussion seemed to calm his son down a bit. He shook off his dream and returned to life as usual.
“That worked out for a little while,” Procaccini says.
And then Procaccini’s community became the “1″ in “1 in a zillion.”
‘I’m Going To Need Help For A Long Time’
The day Adam Lanza shot his way through Sandy Hook Elementary School, Procaccini’s 8-year-old daughter was in a reading room just down the hall from the principal’s office.
She had walked herself to her class early and was sitting there with two teachers when the three of them heard the sound of gunfire coming from outside.
“They grabbed my daughter by the arm and threw her into the bathroom,” Procaccini says. “There’s a little bathroom off the reading room, I think it’s a single-person … and the three of them just sat in there, quiet, ’cause he came into the room.”
Apparently, Lanza didn’t hear them because he left, and everyone in the tiny bathroom survived.
In the days after the shootings, though, one of the teachers who had been at the school and knew Procaccini well reached out to him and his wife, Lisa. She wanted them to know just how terrifying their daughter’s experience had been.
You need to get your daughter help, she told the family. Procaccini recalls her saying, “I was literally in the same area as your daughter, and I know what she saw and I know what she heard, and I’m going to need help for a long time. You need to get her help.”
But since the shootings, Procaccini’s daughter has barely talked about what happened, barely registered any emotional distress at all.
“I don’t know if she’s just disassociated. I don’t know if it’s her defense mechanism. Or I don’t know if she just doesn’t get it. I truly don’t,” Procaccini says.
His 10-year-old son, however, has been struggling. Procaccini’s son graduated from Sandy Hook Elementary last year and now attends Reed Intermediate School, which went into lockdown during the shooting, so the boy had no idea what was happening until Procaccini picked him up and told him about it. Immediately, Procaccini says, his son started crying. “I mean, he was crying like a little baby. I haven’t seen him cry like that, you know? He was so scared.”
And as soon as they got home, Procaccini says, his son made a decision: no more school for him. “I’m not going!” he insisted over and over again.
But when Procaccini’s family went to see a therapist the next day, one of the things the therapist made clear was that staying away from school was a bad idea. The more school his son missed, she told Procaccini, the harder it would be to get him to go back.
And so on Tuesday of last week, when Reed went back into session, Procaccini tried to persuade his son to go.
“I said, ‘Come on, I’ll walk you in, I’ll show you!’ And he just snapped. And it was crying and screaming, ‘I’m not going! I’m not going! You’re not leaving me!’ “
For the rest of the week, Procaccini and his son simply drove to the school and walked together through the halls for hours, Procaccini’s car keys safely tucked into his son’s coat pocket so that Procaccini couldn’t drive away by himself.
This procedure was supposed to convince his son that school really was a safe place, but his son doesn’t seem to be buying it, and Procaccini is worried about what will happen after the holiday break.
“I don’t have a plan, really,” he says.
Since the shootings, Procaccini’s son hasn’t had another dream, but Procaccini is certain that if he does, there will be at least one difference in the way that Procaccini responds. Procaccini won’t talk about probabilities and possibilities again. That argument suddenly doesn’t make any sense.
‘Something Somewhere Will Happen’
Zhihong Yang, another parent of a Sandy Hook student, lives two miles away. Yang tells me to call her Jen, and when I walk in, there’s a small pile of papers spread over the table in her kitchen, handouts for Sandy Hook Elementary parents distributed at a conference the night before.
Yang’s son Jerry is in the third grade and was at Sandy Hook during the shooting. Unlike some of the other kids who were at the school, he genuinely seems to be doing OK. But for her part, Yang finds herself thinking about things she had never considered before.
“Yesterday I went to Costco and I can’t help but think: If there was a shooter here, what do you do? I went to the supermarket: If something happened there, what do you do?” she says.
This makes sense, since death is all around Yang. Take her drive to school. Her usual seven-minute route is now lined with families affected by the tragedy. “At least four families that had victims in that accident,” she says, “and when I drive by I feel the pain and I do cry.”
Yang is from China. She says that in college there, she studied math, and then suddenly — totally without prompting — I find myself in another conversation about possibilities and probabilities. Yang, it turns out, specialized in statistics, and since the shooting has been thinking a lot about possibilities and probabilities, reconsidering her original feelings about them.
Yang tells me that she had always assumed that she was safe because the chance of a shooting happening to her specifically was very small. But since the shooting she’s been focused on this one rule of statistics she learned in college, which she calls the “large number certainty theorem.”
“If the base is big enough,” she explains, “even though the probability is small, things will happen with certainty.”
By Yang’s reckoning, this is how the large number certainty theorem applies.
We know that many people have guns, and we know that a certain number of people have disordered minds or bad intentions, and we also know that this is a huge country. In other words, the base is big.
“So, you know, mathematically, something somewhere will happen with certainty,” she says.
And so though Yang previously depended on the idea that school shootings were so rare they would probably happen to someone else, the shooting has taught her that “we should not wait until it actually happens to us to take action.”
Yang has decided to get more involved with fighting for gun control. This, to her, seems like the logical thing to do.
Still, the logic of many parts of all this are not clear to her at all.
“You can safely predict that this will happen, but why it particularly happened to that class? To that teacher’s room? That particular family?” she says.
This obviously is not a question that math can answer. Math can tell us only that something will happen — not when, not to whom.
And so, Yang reasons, morally she should not distinguish between its happening to someone else and its happening to her. Probabilities just aren’t improbable enough for that.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Shortly after settling into his seat on a Manhattan commuter train one morning, Richard Laermer heard a familiar sound. A man across the aisle was tapping on his smartphone. Clickclickclick. Clickclickclickclick—for 45 minutes.
Fellow passengers rolled their eyes, sighed heavily and craned their necks to glare. Mr. Laermer, a 51-year-old Ridgefield, Conn., business-book writer, tried to bury his head in a book. But there was no escape from the annoying sound, and finally he decided to speak up. “Excuse me, would you please turn off the clicks?” he said.
The man’s response? “It was like I’d kicked him or scalded him with coffee,” Mr. Laermer recalls. He jumped up and shouted, “Is this what it’s now come to? People want you to type more gently?” He ranted for several minutes and ended with, “Who do you think you are? Do you really think you can tell me what to do?”
“Yes, that’s exactly right,” answered Mr. Laermer, who had remained quiet during the tirade. “Please turn the clicks off.” People nearby began clapping, and the angry man sat down, red faced and turned his phone off.
Why do adults throw tantrums over seemingly trivial provocations? Sure, the decline of common courtesy is appalling, and some people aren’t as nice as others. But times are stressful enough for us all. Shouldn’t we have learned by now that indulging in a fit of yelling, whether at a customer-service rep or a spouse, never helps?
Researchers at Duke University, in a yet-to-be-published study, looked for explanations of why people melt down over small things. Their findings suggest we are reacting to a perceived violation of an unwritten yet fundamental rule. It’s the old, childhood wail: “It’s not fair!”
Researchers call these unwritten laws of behavior “social exchange rules.” We’re not supposed to be rude or inconsiderate; we are supposed to be polite, fair, honest and caring. Don’t cut in line. Drive safely. Clean up after yourself.
“We can’t have successful interactions in relationships, mutually beneficial to both people involved, if one person violates these rules,” says Mark Leary, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke and lead author of the study. “And we can’t have a beneficial society if we can’t trust each other not to lie, not to be unethical, not to watch out for our general well-being.”
The feelings that linger after an angry outburst usually make the person who exploded feel worse. David Katz, 38, founder of a social-network start-up in Toronto, was walking a friend’s elderly Shih Tzu recently when a well-dressed man, typing on his BlackBerry, nearly stepped on the dog.
Mr. Katz knocked the phone out of the man’s hand and told him to watch where he was going. The two men swore at each other. The man with the BlackBerry said, “What’s your problem? It’s just a dog.” Mr. Katz threw the man against a parked van and said if he saw him again, they would “have issues.”
“I’m not proud of how I handled the situation,” Mr. Katz says. He does often see the man in his neighborhood, and they each look at the ground without acknowledging the other. “It’s really awkward,” he says.
I am ashamed to admit that I once became so worked up, after a long time on the phone with a help desk trying to get my laptop unlocked, that I began to bleat over and over, “This is unacceptable!” The kind and exceedingly patient woman on the phone with me said, “Madam, please, can you breathe? May you take a glass of water?”
Dr. Leary at Duke decided to study people’s overreactions to inconsequential events several years ago, after he witnessed the Pickle Incident. He was at a fast-food restaurant and saw a man in a business suit march up to the counter, throw his hamburger down and yell: “Why is there a pickle on my sandwich?” Loudly, he said he would have the counter clerk fired because she was “too stupid” to work there. The clerk looked as if she would cry. Another employee handed the customer a new hamburger, and he left.
The scene made Dr. Leary think there must be something critically important about unwritten social rules if we feel so deeply violated that we need to let the world know when someone breaks one. “It’s not the pickle,” says Dr. Leary. “It’s that you are doing something that makes me not trust you, that you may harm or disadvantage me because you are not playing by the rules.”
Often both parties perceive they have been wronged. Michelle Tennant, 43, chief creative officer for a Saluda, N.C., publicity firm, was waiting at a “Line Forms Here” sign at a Barnes & Noble when a clerk signaled for her to step forward. Right then, a woman who had been waiting four registers away snapped, “Hey! The line forms here!” Ms. Tennant pointed out the sign. The woman, with a young daughter in tow, bellowed, “That’s right. I was standing in the wrong place and so what? Now I’m checking out. Get over it!” Ms. Tennant moved to the next register, where she and the clerk rolled their eyes about the other woman’s behavior. Meanwhile, the woman kept yelling, “Get OVER it! I’m checking out before you!”
Experts advise people who are prone to outbursts to recognize the behavior, then learn to be “personal scientists,” identify “triggers” and work on changing their response. Hate slow drivers? Leave for work earlier, so you’ll be less rushed. Or practice anger management. Breathe and count to 10. Think of something pleasant. Remind yourself that tantrums aren’t worth it and if you have one you will probably feel worse. “You can’t avoid the noxious stimuli of life,” says Stephen C. Josephson, a clinical psychologist and faculty member at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York. “You need to not respond to every provocation.”
In the Duke study, Dr. Leary asked 200 people in romantic relationships to think of something their partner does that is annoying or upsetting but fairly inconsequential. Then he asked them to rate the degree to which the behavior affected their lives—involving money, job or overall happiness—and the degree to which it seemed unfair, rude, selfish, disrespectful or otherwise violated social-exchange rules.
He found that, regardless of gender or personality, everyone could name something that drove them over the edge, although people who were more “rule-bound” tended to be more upset. Social-exchange rule violations had a 30% greater effect on the magnitude of a person’s anger than the amount of tangible harm the person felt had been done, he concluded. In an earlier study, he found a third of the time, people who overreacted to a small annoyance said it was the last straw in a string of events.
Jonathan Yarmis was pulling into a shopping mall one afternoon, and he cut off a guy driving a dual-cab pickup truck. Mr. Yarmis pulled into his parking spot, and the truck came to a stop right behind his car. “Never a good sign,” says Mr. Yarmis, 57, a technology-industry analyst in Stamford, Conn.
The irate driver, a large man, yelled, “What do you think you are, a race car driver?” Mr. Yarmis, who has driven in several amateur auto races, replied: “Yes, as a matter of fact, I am.” The man seemed taken aback but replied, “Well, you’re still an a—,” to which Mr. Yarmis replied: “You’re right about that, too.”
“He laughed, I laughed—and we actually had lunch together,” says. Mr. Yarmis. “My treat.”
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No one likes doing chores. In happiness surveys, housework is ranked down there with commuting as activities that people enjoy the least. Maybe that’s why figuring out who does which chores usually prompts, at best, tense discussion in a household and, at worst, outright fighting.
If everyone is good at something different, assigning chores is easy. If your partner is great at grocery shopping and you are great at the laundry, you’re set. But this isn’t always—or even usually—the case. Often one person is better at everything. (And let’s be honest, often that person is the woman.) Better at the laundry, the grocery shopping, the cleaning, the cooking. But does that mean she should have to do everything?
If everyone is good at something different, assigning chores is easy. If your partner is great at grocery shopping and you are great at the laundry, you’re set. But this isn’t always—or even usually—the case. Often one person is better at everything. (And let’s be honest, often that person is the woman.) Better at the laundry, the grocery shopping, the cleaning, the cooking. But does that mean she should have to do everything?
Before my daughter was born, I both cooked and did the dishes. It wasn’t a big deal, it didn’t take too much time, and honestly I was a lot better at both than my husband. His cooking repertoire extended only to eggs and chili, and when I left him in charge of the dishwasher, I’d often find he had run it “full” with one pot and eight forks.
After we had a kid, we had more to do and less time to do it in. It seemed like it was time for some reassignments. But, of course, I was still better at doing both things. Did that mean I should do them both?
I could have appealed the principle of fairness: We should each do half. I could have appealed to feminism—surveys show that women more often than not get the short end of the chore stick. In time-use data, women do about 44 minutes more housework than men (2 hours and 11 minutes versus 1 hour and 27 minutes). Men outwork women only in the areas of “lawn” and “exterior maintenance.” I could have suggested he do more chores to rectify this imbalance, to show our daughter, in the Free To Be You and Me style, that Mom and Dad are equal and that housework is fun if we do it together! I could have simply smashed around the pans in the dishwasher while sighing loudly in the hopes he would notice and offer to do it himself.
But luckily for me and my husband, I’m an economist, so I have more effective tools than passive aggression. And some basic economic principles provided the answer. We needed to divide the chores because it is simply not efficient for the best cook and dishwasher to do all the cooking and dishwashing. The economic principle at play here is increasing marginal cost. Basically, people get worse when they are tired. When I teach my students at the University of Chicago this principle, I explain it in the context of managing their employees. Imagine you have a good employee and a not-so-good one. Should you make the good employee do literally everything?
Usually, the answer is no. Why not? It’s likely that the not-so-good employee is better at 9 a.m. after a full night of sleep than the good employee is at 2 a.m. after a 17-hour workday. So you want to give at least a few tasks to your worse guy. The same principle applies in your household. Yes, you (or your spouse) might be better at everything. But anyone doing the laundry at 4 a.m. is likely to put the red towels in with the white T-shirts. Some task splitting is a good idea. How much depends on how fast people’s skills decay.
To “optimize” your family efficiency (every economist’s ultimate goal—and yours, too), you want to equalize effectiveness on the final task each person is doing. Your partner does the dishes, mows the lawn, and makes the grocery list. You do the cooking, laundry, shopping, cleaning, and paying the bills. This may seem imbalanced, but when you look at it, you see that by the time your partner gets to the grocery-list task, he is wearing thin and starting to nod off. It’s all he can do to figure out how much milk you need. In fact, he is just about as good at that as you are when you get around to paying the bills, even though that’s your fifth task.
If you then made your partner also do the cleaning—so it was an even four and four—the house would be a disaster, since he is already exhausted by his third chore while you are still doing fine. This system may well end up meaning one person does more, but it is unlikely to result in one person doing everything.
Once you’ve decided you need to divide up the chores in this way, how should you decide who does what? One option would be randomly assigning tasks; another would be having each person do some of everything. One spousal-advice website I read suggested you should divide tasks based on which ones you like the best. None of these are quite right. (In the last case, how would anyone ever end up with the job of cleaning the bathroom?)
To decide who does what, we need more economics. Specifically, the principle of comparative advantage. Economists usually talk about this in the context of trade. Imagine Finland is better than Sweden at making both reindeer hats and snowshoes. But they are much, much better at the hats and only a little better at the snowshoes. The overall world production is maximized when Finland makes hats and Sweden makes snowshoes.
We say that Finland has an absolute advantage in both things but a comparative advantage only in hats. This principle is part of the reason economists value free trade, but that’s for another column (and probably another author). But it’s also a guideline for how to trade tasks in your house. You want to assign each person the tasks on which he or she has a comparative advantage. It doesn’t matter that you have an absolute advantage in everything. If you are much, much better at the laundry and only a little better at cleaning the toilet, you should do the laundry and have your spouse get out the scrub brush. Just explain that it’s efficient!
In our case, it was easy. Other than using the grill—which I freely admit is the husband domain—I’m much, much better at cooking. And I was only moderately better at the dishes. So he got the job of cleaning up after meals, even though his dishwasher loading habits had already come under scrutiny. The good news is another economic principle I hadn’t even counted on was soon in play: learning by doing. As people do a task, they improve at it. Eighteen months into this new arrangement the dishwasher is almost a work of art: neat rows of dishes and everything carefully screened for “top-rack only” status. I, meanwhile, am forbidden from getting near the dishwasher. Apparently, there is a risk that I’ll “ruin it.”
When we think about morality, many of us think about religion or what our parents taught us when we were young. Those influences are powerful, but many scientists now think of the brain as a more basic source for our moral instincts.
The tools scientists use to study how the brain makes moral decisions are often stories, said Joshua Greene, a Harvard psychologist,citing one well-known example: “A trolley is headed toward five people, and the only way you can save them is to hit a switch that will turn the trolley away from the five and onto a side track, but if you turn it onto the side track, it will run over one person.”
It’s a moral dilemma. Greene and other researchers have presented this dilemma to research volunteers.
Most people say they would flip the switch and divert the trolley. They say they don’t want to kill someone, but one innocent person dead is better than five innocent people dead.
What this shows is that people resolve the moral dilemma by doing a cost-benefit analysis. Greene says they look at the consequences of each choice, and pick the choice that does the least harm.
In other words, people are what philosophers would call utilitarians. Except, Greene tells me, sometimes they aren’t.
He asked me to visualize another well-known dilemma:
“This time, you’re on a footbridge, in between the oncoming trolley and the five people. And next to you is a big person wearing a big backpack. And the only way you can save those five people is to push this big guy off of the footbridge so that he lands on the tracks. And he’ll get squashed by the train; you sort of use him as a trolley stopper. But you can save the five people.”
Would you push the big guy to his death? More important, do you feel this moral dilemma is identical to the earlier one?
“In a certain sense, they’re identical,” Greene said. “Trade one life to save five. But psychologically, they’re very different.”
Pushing someone to their death feels very different from pushing a switch. When Greene gives people this dilemma, most people don’t choose to push the big guy to his death.
In other words, people use utilitarian, cost-benefit calculations — sometimes. But other times, they make an emotional decision.
“There are certain lines that are drawn in the moral sand,” Green said. “Some things are inherently wrong, or some things inherently must be done.”
There’s another dimension here that’s interesting: If you watched yourself during the first dilemma, you may have noticed you had to think about whether you’d push that switch. In the footbridge dilemma, you probably didn’t have to think — you just knew that pushing someone to his death is wrong.
Greene says we really have two completely different moral circuits in our brain.
When you listen to a dilemma, the two circuits literally have a fight inside your brain. Part of your brain says, slow down, think rationally — make a cost-benefit analysis. Another says, no, don’t think about it. This is just wrong!
“These responses compete in a part of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is a kind of place where different types of values can be weighed against each other to produce an all-things-considered decision,” Greene said.
So what makes the ventromedial prefrontal cortex go with the rational mode sometimes, and the emotional mode other times?
Greene and a colleague, Elinor Amit, thought closely about what was happening to people as they tipped from rational mode to an emotional mode. In new research they’ve just published in the journal Psychological Science, these psychologists say they have the answer.
“Emotional responses don’t just pop out of nowhere,” Greene said. “They have to be triggered by something. And one possibility is that you hear the words describing some event, you picture that event in your mind, and then you respond emotionally to that picture.”
That’s the key: Some dilemmas produce vivid images in our heads. And we’re wired to respond emotionally to pictures. Take away the pictures — the brain goes into rational, calculation mode.
Here’s how they found that out: Greene and Amit set up an experiment. They presented people with moral dilemmas that evoked strong visual images. As expected, the volunteers made emotional moral judgments. Then the psychologists made it difficult for volunteers to visualize the dilemma. They distracted them by making them visualize something else instead.
When that happened, the volunteers stopped making emotional decisions. Not having pictures of the moral dilemma in their head prompted them into rational, cost-benefit mode.
In another experiment, Greene and Amit also found that people who think visually make more emotional moral judgments. Verbal people make more rational calculations.
Amit says people don’t realize how images tip the brain one way or another. And that can create biases we aren’t even aware of.
She laid out a scenario to think about: “Imagine a horrible scenario in which a terrorist takes an ax and starts slaughtering people in a bus,” she said. “I’m coming from Israel, so these are the examples that I have in my mind.”
The story produces a movie in our heads. We can see blood everywhere. We can hear people screaming. We don’t have to think at all. It feels terribly wrong.
Then Amit presented another kind of news event: A drone strike that sends a missile hurtling toward a target. At the center of the cross-hairs, an explosion. There’s dust billowing everywhere.
“So if you learn about these events from television or from pictures in a newspaper, which one [would you] judge as more horrible?” Amit asked. “The person with the ax that killed maybe two people but the scene looks horrible and extremely violent, or the picture of the drone that killed 100 people but looks relatively clean and nice?”
To be sure, the events Amit describes are completely different. One’s a terrorist attack, the other is a military action. But it’s true the ax murderer instantly sends the brain into emotional mode.
The drone strike has less vivid imagery. You can’t see, up close, what the missile does. So most people go into utilitarian mode — they start to think about the costs and benefits.
Amit’s point is not that one mode is better than the other. It’s something much more disturbing. As you listen to the news everyday, hidden circuits in your brain are literally changing the ground rules by which you judge events.
You think you’re making consistent moral choices when, really, the movies playing in your head might be making your choices for you.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I have some bad news for young people entering the workforce: You’re all a bunch of weenies, and we don’t like you.
LOL! JUST KIDDING!
No, seriously, millennials are great, but we do need to have a talk. So sit down with Old Man Huppke and let me address a generational problem that’s rearing its head — big time — in workplaces across the country.
First off, I’m talking about those of you born between 1982 and 1999. It’s the group that followed Generation X, which is the group that followed the baby boomers.
Every generation has its unique characteristics, of course. Gen Xers are largely the product of two-income households and tend to be independent and self-sufficient. Boomers prefer to work collaboratively and are known to enjoy dreadful folk music.
But the millennials, along with entering the workforce with unrealistic confidence and expectations, seem to have a problem with personal interaction and conflict resolution.
“One of the primary reasons in this past year or two that I’ve been called in to coach executives or companies around generational differences is to help them leverage the skills and talents of millennials,” said Linda Gravett, a psychologist and senior partner with the Cincinnati-based human resources consulting firm Gravett & Associates. “Many of them have trouble handling conflicts and don’t have confrontational skills or seem able to deal with conflicts in a straightforward way.”
Gravett said that in a recent focus group with 10 millennials, the subjects said they prefer to text someone they’re having a problem with rather than speak by phone or face to face.
“I asked them why they won’t just talk to someone over coffee or something,” she said. “And they said, ‘Oh, that’s too personal.’”
Another millennial told Gravett that the boss had yelled at him. She asked whether the boss raised his voice. The millennial said, “No.”
She asked whether the boss used profanity. The millennial said, “No.”
“So I said, ‘Explain to me what yelling at you means,’ and the young man said, ‘Well, he was really firm and he disagreed with me.’ He took that as being yelled at.”
Oh boy. If having someone disagree with you is akin to yelling, your work life is going to be deafening.
Cynthia Sims, associate professor of workforce education and development at Southern Illinois University, believes companies can best help millennials — and all staffers, for that matter — by treating generational issues as a matter of workplace diversity.
“What we’re describing are dimensions of diversity,” she said. “Folks don’t see generations as a diversity issue. They look at race and gender, but there’s more to it than that. There’s age, education, communication style. These are all dimensions of diversity, and we need to have training that talks about them that way.”
Companies often ignore generational differences, assuming people will just blend into a nice, smooth batter of productivity. But experts such as Sims and Gravett say it’s critical that companies acknowledge that every age group brings its own quirks and advantages to the table.
“I’m not sure the millennials are problematic; I just think there are communication and expectation differences that groups need to talk about,” Sims said. “We don’t have a forum in the workplace to talk about those differences. There may be some skills that millennials don’t have because they’re so used to technology; they may not have the social skills that some of us have. But that’s where boomers and Gen Xers can come in and help.”
Gravett said millennials tend to relate well to baby boomers because they view them more as grandparents, whereas Gen Xers could be seen as hovering, lecturing parents. Companies would be wise to pair millennials with older employees for symbiotic mentoring.
“Boomers can learn how to text, and the millennials can learn to walk down the hall and sit next to someone and look them in the face,” Gravett said. “If they start there, there doesn’t seem to be so much of a gap between them.”
So talk openly about the fact that your workforce is generationally diverse.
“The commonality would be, ‘What’s the mission of our company? What’s the mission of our department? What are our customer needs?’” Gravett said. “Let’s move toward that similar objective. But let’s acknowledge that maybe we have to communicate around those objectives in different ways.”
As with other workplace issues, we tend to clam up about generational issues. The key here is putting the fact that differences exist on the table and fostering some cross-generational understanding.
If millennials are struggling with overconfidence or an inability to handle confrontation, that’s not a sweeping indictment of any individual or the group. It’s just something that needs to be addressed.
And if we learn to address these things now, we’ll be better prepared for the next generation, whatever it may be called and whatever weird issues it has.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The following script is from “The Baby Lab” which aired on 60 minutes..Nov. 18, 2012.
It’s a question people have asked for as long as there have been people: are human beings inherently good? Are we born with a sense of morality or do we arrive blank slates, waiting for the world to teach us right from wrong? Or could it be worse: do we start out nasty, selfish devils, who need our parents, teachers, and religions to whip us into shape?
The only way to know for sure, of course, is to ask a baby. But until recently, it’s been hard to persuade them to open up and share their secrets. Enter the baby lab.
This is the creature at the center of the greatest philosophical, moral, and religious debates about the nature of man: the human baby. They don’t do much, can’t talk, can’t write, can’t expound at length about their moral philosophies. But does that mean they don’t have one? The philosopher Rousseau considered babies “perfect idiots…Knowing nothing,” and Yale psychologist Karen Wynn, director of the Infant Cognition Center here, the baby lab, says for most of its history, her field agreed.
Lesley Stahl: Didn’t we just think that these creatures at three months and even six months were basically just little blobs?
Karen Wynn: Oh, sure. I mean, if you look at them, they–
Lesley Stahl: Yeah.
Karen Wynn: They kinda look like little, I mean, cute little blobs. But they can’t do all the things that an older child can. They can’t even do the things that a dog or a pigeon or a rat can.
No pulling levers for treats or running mazes for these study subjects. But they can watch puppet shows. And Wynn is part of a new wave of researchers who have discovered seemingly simple ways to probe what’s really going on in those adorable little heads. We watched as Wynn and her team asked a question that 20 years ago might have gotten her laughed out of her field. Does Wesley here, at the ripe old age of 5 months, know the difference between right and wrong?
Wesley watches as the puppet in the center struggles to open up a box with a toy inside. The puppy in the yellow shirt comes over and lends a hand. Then the scene repeats itself, but this time the puppy in the blue shirt comes and slams the box shut. Nice behavior…mean behavior…at least to our eyes. But is that how a 5-month-old sees it, and does he have a preference?
Annie: Wesley, do you remember these guys from the show?
To find out, a researcher who doesn’t know which puppet was nice and which was mean, offers Wesley a choice.
Annie: Who do you like?
He can’t answer, but he can reach… (reaches for nice puppet)
Annie: That one?
Wesley chose the good guy and he wasn’t alone.
More than three fourths of the babies tested reached for the nice puppet. Wynn tried it out on even younger babies, 3 month olds, who can’t control their arms enough to reach. But they can vote with their eyes, since research has shown that even very young babies look longer at things they like. Daisy here looked at the mean puppet for 5 seconds; then switched to the nice one for 33.
Karen Wynn: Babies, even at three months, looked towards the nice character and looked hardly at all, much, much, much shorter times, towards the unhelpful character.
Lesley Stahl: So basically as young as three months old, we human beings show a preference for nice people over mean people.
Karen Wynn: Study after study after study, the results are always consistently babies feeling positively towards helpful individuals in the world. And disapproving, disliking, maybe condemning individuals who are antisocial towards others.
Lesley Stahl: It’s astonishing.
Wynn and her team first published their findings about baby morality in the journal “Nature” in 2007, and they’ve continued to publish follow-up studies in other peer-reviewed journals ever since — for instance on this experiment.
They showed babies like James here a puppet behaving badly — instead of rolling the ball back to the puppet in the middle, this green-shirted bunny keeps the other puppet’s ball, and runs away.
Then James is shown a second show — this time the bunny who he just saw steal the ball, tries to open up the box to get the toy. Will James still prefer the puppet who helps out? Or will he now prefer the one who slams the box shut?
[Annie: Who do you like? That one.]
He chose the one who slammed it shut, as did 81 percent of babies tested. The study’s conclusion: babies seem to view the ball thief “as deserving punishment.”
Lesley Stahl: So do you think that babies, therefore, are born with an innate sense of justice?
Karen Wynn: At a very elemental level, I think so.
Paul Bloom: We think we see here the foundations for morality.
Paul Bloom is also a professor of psychology at Yale, with his own lab. He’s collaborated with Wynn on many of her baby studies, and he also happens to be her husband.
Paul Bloom: I feel we’re making discoveries. I feel like we’re– we’re discovering that what seems to be one way really isn’t. What seems to be an ignorant and unknowing baby is actually a creature with this alarming sophistication, this subtle knowledge.
And he says discovering this in babies who can’t walk, talk, or even crawl yet, suggests it has to come built in.
Lesley Stahl: So, remember B.F. Skinner, who said that we had to teach our children everything through conditioning. So, does this just wipe him off the map?
Paul Bloom: What we’re finding in the baby lab, is that there’s more to it than that — that there’s a universal moral core that all humans share. The seeds of our understanding of justice, our understanding of right and wrong, are part of our biological nature.
Wait a minute, if babies are born with a basic sense of right and wrong, a universal moral core, where does all the evil in the world come from? Is that all learned? Well maybe not. Take a look at this new series of discoveries in the Yale baby lab…
[Annie: Would you like a snack?]
In offering babies this seemingly small, innocuous choice — graham crackers or Cheerios — Wynn is probing something big: the origins of bias. The tendency to prefer others who are similar to ourselves.
Karen Wynn: Adults will like others who share even really absolutely trivial similarities with them.
So will Nate, who chose Cheerios over graham crackers, prefer this orange cat, who also likes Cheerios — over the grey cat who likes graham crackers instead?
Apparently so. But if babies have positive feelings for the similar puppet, do they actually have negative feelings for the one who’s different? To find out, Wynn showed babies the grey cat — the one who liked the opposite food, struggling to open up the box to get a toy. Will Gregory here want to see the graham cracker eater treated well? Or does he want him treated badly?
[Annie: Which one do you like? That one.]
Gregory seemed to want the different puppet treated badly.
Lesley Stahl: That is amazing. So he went with his bias in a way.
And so did Nate and 87 percent of the other babies tested. From this Wynn concludes that infants prefer those “who harm… others” who are unlike them.
Paul Bloom: What could be more arbitrary than whether you like graham crackers or Cheerios?
Lesley Stahl: Nothing.
Paul Bloom: Nothing. But it matters. It matters to the young baby. We are predisposed to break the world up into different human groups based on the most subtle and seemingly irrelevant cues, and that, to some extent, is the dark side of morality.
Lesley Stahl: We want the other to be punished?
Karen Wynn: In our studies, babies seem as if they do want the other to be punished.
Lesley Stahl: We used to think that we’re taught to hate. I think there was a song like that. This is suggesting that we’re not taught to hate, we’re born to hate.
Karen Wynn: I think, we are built to, you know, at the drop of a hat, create us and them.
Paul Bloom: And that’s why we’re not that moral. We have an initial moral sense that is in some ways very impressive, and in some ways, really depressing — that we see some of the worst biases in adults reflected in the minds and in the behaviors of young babies.
But Bloom says understanding our earliest instincts can help…
Paul Bloom: If you want to eradicate racism, for instance, you really are going to want to know to what extent are babies little bigots, to what extent is racism a natural part of humanity.
Lesley Stahl: Sounds to me like the experiment show they are little bigots.
Paul Bloom: I think to some extent, a bias to favor the self, where the self could be people who look like me, people who act like me, people who have the same taste as me, is a very strong human bias. It’s what one would expect from a creature like us who evolved from natural selection, but it has terrible consequences.
He says it makes sense that evolution would predispose us to be wary of “the other” for survival, so we need society and parental nurturing to intervene. He showed us one last series of experiments being done in his lab — not with babies, but with older children of different ages. The kids get to decide how many tokens they’ll get, versus how many will go to another child they’re told will come in later. They’re told the tokens can be traded in for prizes.
[Mark: So you can say green, and if you say green, then you get this one and the other girl doesn't get any; or you can say blue, and if you say blue, then you get these two, and the other girl gets these two. So green or--
The youngest kids in the study will routinely choose to get fewer prizes for themselves just to get more than the other kid –
[Ainsley: I'll pick green.]
– in some cases, a lot more.
Paul Bloom: The youngest children in the studies are obsessed with social comparison.
[Mark: So you get these seven. She doesn't get any.
Paul Bloom: They don’t care about fairness. What they want is they want relatively more.
But a funny thing happens as kids get older. Around age 8, they start choosing the equal, fair option more and more. And by 9 or 10, we saw kids doing something really crazy –
– deliberately giving the other kid more.
Mark: Green or blue?
They become generous. Chalk one up to society.
Lesley Stahl: They’ve already been educated?
Paul Bloom: They’ve been educated, they’ve been inculturated, they have their heads stuffed full of the virtues that we might want to have their heads stuffed with.
So we can learn to temper some of those nasty tendencies we’re wired for — the selfishness, the bias — but he says the instinct is still there.
Paul Bloom: When we have these findings with the kids, the kids who choose this and not this, the kids in the baby studies who favor the one who is similar to them, the same taste and everything– none of this goes away. I think as adults we can always see these and kind of nod.
Lesley Stahl: Yeah. It’s still in us. We’re fighting it.
Paul Bloom: And the truth is, when we’re under pressure, when life is difficult, we regress to our younger selves and all of this elaborate stuff we have on top disappears.
But of course adversity can bring out the best in us too — heroism, selfless sacrifice for strangers — all of which may have its roots right here.
Paul Bloom: Great kindness, great altruism, a magnificent sense of impartial justice, have their seeds in the baby’s mind. Both aspects of us, the good and the bad are the product I think of biological evolution.
And so it seems we’re left where we all began: with a mix of altruism, selfishness, justice, bigotry, kindness. A lot more than any of us expected to discover in a blob.
Lesley Stahl: Well, I end my conversation with you with far more respect for babies. Who knew?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
icking up his socks, cooking his dinner and doing all the parenting on your own even though you both work? Are you simmering with so much resentment and anger that your sex life has gone? You’re not his wife anymore, you’ve turned into his mother. And you’re not alone — Mother (Lover) Syndrome is everywhere.
Mother (Lover) Syndrome is a widespread condition, which can affect anyone who is sharing a home together whether they are married or cohabiting, say relationship experts Sara Dimerman and JM Kearns, the authors of a new book published this month, How Can I Be Your Lover When I’m Too Busy Being Your Mother?
“Many women are overworked and overstressed because, in addition to having a money-earning job, they are doing most of the heavy lifting at home, including housework and child care. That isn’t fair, and it isn’t acceptable,” explain the authors.
The idea for the book came to Dimerman after hearing the same complaints from hundreds of couples in her work as a therapist. “I was listening to the wife tell me about how resentful, angry and frustrated she was feeling about being the primary person at home responsible for the chores, the organising, the social coordinating, the scheduling of appointments, the child rearing, even though she was working just as many hours outside of the house as her spouse. Then, after hearing how they hadn’t had sex for years, the epiphany swept over me and I turned to the wife and said: ‘How can you be his lover when you’re too busy being his mother?’”
“The feeling of being a mother instead of a lover to one’s husband is, I believe, at the crux of why so many women are angry and resentful and why so many couples are dissatisfied in their marriages,” she writes.
But it wasn’t always this way. In the early days when you were dating, he dressed nicely, organised weekends away, his apartment was clean and he could even cook, they write. But when you got married he seemed to do less and you do more. “After a while you find you’re picking up after him. Organising his life. Doing more than your share of housework. Way more. Worst of all, you have turned into a nag, something you said you’d never be! You even find yourself trying to stop him from doing jobs he might mess up. Where you used to want him to take care of the kids, now you hardly trust him to take them on an outing. Because he behaves too much like one of them.”
As a mother to your man you are likely to be exhausted wearing what the authors call five ‘hats’ — cleaning lady, cook, manager (and “responsible” one), appearance and etiquette coach and child rearer. There’s also another downside. When a woman finds herself being a mother to her husband or boyfriend, the tables are turned, and intimacy evaporates. “He feels like he’s been demoted to a child. This is in direct conflict with the relationship they probably started out with when they first fell in love, when they were dating,” says Kearns.
But it’s never too late to turn things around and start being lovers again. First of all you need to start by clearing the air emotionally and begin being friendly to each other. Then comes the tricky part, you need to stop being angry, give up trying to control everything and let him do things his way, stop nagging, appeal to the best in him by asking him to take over some important responsibilities, seeking his advice on some major things and by praising and complimenting him.
Once you are on better terms you can tackle the book’s Questionnaire That Will Set You Free, a handy checklist of all the household tasks, with columns for who should do what and how frequently. Child rearing is the task that requires the most work and usually requires more sharing, say the authors so they suggest dividing up the workload by detailing each task. Everything from waking the children up in the morning, making school lunches, doing homework with the children, getting the children to and from school, getting the children to and from extracurricular activities and, say the authors, even conversing with the children and listening to them, are parental responsibilities that need to be shared out.
You’ll end up with a lengthy list to work from, which may be a surprise in itself. “What has been the most shocking for people and men in particular has been how extensive that list is. They hadn’t realised all the details that are required to run a house; I think that is quite an epiphany for many people,” says Kearns. “It is a wake-up call and any fair-minded guy is going to look at this list and say: ‘OK, I need to do more, let’s figure this out.’”
Dimerman and Kearns give advice on how to negotiate a fairer deal with the goal that each person feels like the other is pulling their weight. It could even prove to be an aphrodisiac. “There is research that says when women find their husbands doing more of the work around the house it actually improves their sex life, they find their men sexier,” says Kearns.
When a couple acknowledges Mother (Lover) Syndrome they are likely to feel relieved, according to the authors. “You will be able to change the dynamic between you so that you can go back to living the life you had envisioned when you first fell in love.”
The authors believe How Can I Be Your Lover When I’m Too Busy Being Your Mother will help many couples in trouble and they would like to point out, is not an attack on men. “This is a book about hope. It is an optimistic book. Even though I know statistically that there are so many marriages that end in divorce today, I feel very strongly that if couples who are caught up in this mother syndrome are able to acknowledge and deal with it, then their marriages can be saved,” says Dimerman.
1. Is what I’m thinking a fact (provable of course)
2. Does thinking this thought help me feel the way I want to feel?
3. Does thinking this thought help me achieve my goals? or better yet get where I want to go or be where I want to be.
4. Take responsibility for disturbing yourself and do not cop out by blaming others;
5. Face the fact that your early disturbances do not automatically make you disturbed today;
6. Understand that no magical forces will change you, but only your own strong and persistent work and practice – yes, work and practice.
Recognize that neither another person, nor an adverse circumstance, can ever disturb you–only you can. No one else can get into your gut and churn it up. Others can cause you physical pain–by hitting you over the head with a baseball bat, for example–or can block your goals. But you create your own emotional suffering, or self-defeating behavioral patterns, about what others do or say.Identify your “musts.” Once you admit that you distort your own emotions and actions, then determine precisely how. The culprit usually lies in one of the three core “musts:”
“Must” #1 (a demand on yourself): “I MUST do well and get approval, or else I’m worthless.” This demand causes anxiety, depression, and lack of assertiveness.
“Must” #2 (a demand on others): “You MUST treat me reasonably, considerately, and lovingly, or else you’re no good.” This “must” leads to resentment, hostility, and violence.
“Must” #3 (a demand on situations): “Life MUST be fair, easy, and hassle-free, or else it’s awful.” This thinking is associated with hopelessness, procrastination, and addictions.
Begin by asking yourself: “What’s the evidence for my `must?’ ” “How is it true?” “Where’s it etched in stone?” And then by seeing: “There’s no evidence.” “My `must’ is entirely false.” “It’s not carved indelibly anywhere.” Make your view “must”-free, and then your emotions will heal. Reinforce your preferences.
Preference #1: “I strongly PREFER to do well and get approval, but even if I fail, I will accept myself fully,”
Preference #2: “I strongly PREFER that you treat me reasonably, kindly, and lovingly, but since I don’t run the universe, and it’s a part of your human nature to err, I, then, cannot control you,”
Preference #3: “I strongly PREFER that life be fair, easy, and hassle-free, and it’s very frustrating that it isn’t, but I can bear frustration and still considerably enjoy life.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
The field of psychotherapy presents a bewildering spectacle. Millions of persons suffering from a vast array of symptoms and disabilities turn for relief to thousands of practitioners. These practitioners represent a wide variety of professional disciplines and healing techniques, each of which vigorously promotes its own particular brand of treatment. Yet, one part of psychotherapy has remained constant, healing. At different times psychotherapy has seemed to resemble a branch of medicine, a form of education, a type of scientific investigation and an expression of a philosophy of life, with the psychotherapist appearing as physician, educator, scientist and priest.
All psychotherapies are grounded in the fact that thinking, feeling and behavior are responses to the meanings of events as much as to the events themselves. We are guided largely by our assumptions about reality, and the distress and disability of our patients are determined by how they construe their experiences. The concepts and methods of all psychotherapeutic schools aim at enabling patients to transform the meanings of their experiences in such a way as to enable them to feel better and function more effectively.
The discipline that psychotherapy most resembles seems to be rhetoric. Although rhetoric is commonly associated with public discourse, and psychotherapy with efforts to influence individuals or small groups, both disciplines rely on ‘the use of words to form attitudes or induce actions. The means of persuasion that enable the psychotherapist to transform the meanings of the patient’s symptoms and experiences are remarkably similar to those of the rhetorician. Thus psychotherapists use many of the same devices, such as vivifying metaphors and sensory images, to focus the patient’s attention on ideas central to the therapeutic message and make them appear more believable.
Although psychotherapists and rhetoricians both seek to form attitudes or induce action by words, there are some important differences. Psychotherapists work with individuals and small groups, whereas orators are concerned only with classes of people. Furthermore, unlike orators, psychotherapists of most schools view the patient as an active collaborator rather than an object of manipulation. The psychotherapist, if he is to live up to the ethics of his profession, is truly dedicated to serving the interests of the patient. Rhetoricians, while pretending concern for the welfare of their followers, actually seek only to promote their own ends – that is, to increase their own wealth or power.
A common reason, underlying the diverse symptoms that bring persons to psychotherapy is that the symptoms are demoralizing. That is, patients seek psychotherapy, not for symptoms alone, but for symptoms coupled with demoralization. Demoralization is a sense of confusion resulting from the patient’s inability to make sense out of his experiences or to control them, leading to the commonly expressed as fear.
The answer is to use internal routes to happiness–to get mental control of the problem. The best way to get mental control is usually to look inside and find the deeper beliefs that are generating their worry. Then, they can find new perspectives that adequately address their deepest concerns–in ways they can honestly believe. The client who lost a loved one may have to deal with issues of rejection, anger, guilt, self-worth, or how she can be happy living alone. The unemployed client may have to deal with basic career goals, lifestyle expectations, or self-worth. The depressed client may have to deal with her basic world view and view of herself as well as dealing with issues in each important life area that seems out of control. Once these clients solve their underlying issues, then they will not only overcome the current problem, they will have a new inner strength that will help them overcome happiness-threatening problems their entire life.
The first step in the process that solves the underlying problems is almost always self-exploration. It is a process I use with almost every client I see. It is a process that I almost always use on myself when I am upset. It is the only good way I know to get to the real heart of the problem. I used to be afraid to look too far inside. I was afraid of what I now call the inner monster. I didn’t know what this inner monster was, but I was afraid that it was something dark and terrible–something I would be very ashamed of. But when I looked inside, I didn’t find a monster at all. I just found many interesting parts–a little boy, a baseball player, a scholar, a brother, a psychologist, a lover, a philosopher, and much more. Many clients have the same sort of fears about looking inside. They are afraid of finding their own personal monster. They may fear that their basic nature is “selfish,” “evil,” “dirty,” “weak,” “stupid,” “crazy,” or “sick.” However, after intensively exploring the inner cores of hundreds of clients, I have not found one monster! Not one rotten person!
When we find the causes of our problems, we don’t find “sick” inner parts; we find old assumptions, old beliefs, old expectations, old commitments, or old goals that we now see as limited. We feel excited about finally finding the inner causes of our problems, and we want to change these old parts of ourselves. The result of self-exploration is not horror at what we find, but relief that it is not nearly as bad as we feared–and peace at discovering the truth. That relief gives way to enthusiasm as we open new life paths to explore. If you fear finding inner monsters, you will feel anxiety whenever you look inside yourself or question some established belief. You can replace that outdated belief in inner monsters with a better metaphor.
I love to watch good mysteries. Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot is one of my favorite detectives. Sometimes, I think of psychotherapy as Poirot finding clues to discover “who dunnit.” Instead of thinking of self-exploration as a search for inner monsters, think of it in terms of your favorite discovery metaphor. Think of self-exploration as being the detective in an exciting mystery movie. Or, think of self-exploration as your being a scientist trying to discover a major new insight into human nature. Learn to replace those old fears of looking inward with a sense of adventure, curiosity, and excitement. The process of self-exploration is not like looking for an inner monster, it’s like looking for buried treasure. You may find inner roadblocks you didn’t know about; but you will find at your core that you care about yourself and others. You will find you care about many higher values such as truth and beauty. You will find new sources of interest, competence, inner strength, and motivation. You will find that you have more potential for success and happiness than you ever realized.
If you want a better life and to get what you deserve, you have to want it, and badly. The desire to change lies below your fears, deep down in your soul. It’s that part of you that longs to say, “I’m tired of this and I’m not going to take it anymore.” When you feel this strongly, all you need is a bit of guidance and encouragement. Wanting to change doesn’t mean that you must do it right away. It’s your choice to move slowly, moderately, or quickly, based on circumstances and personal preference. And it’s best to tackle one problem area at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed. This is your first official act of rebellion against the voices that dictate your most private choices. Put yourself in control. Here are your options:
Small steps. This involves a commitment to change by staying focused on your needs. These are actions you take every day, choices that may seem insignificant individually. For example, reading this article is an action of intent that shows you want a more productive life. Small steps can also make your life and relationships more rewarding while reducing the resistance you might encounter. Let’s say you’re constantly chauffeuring your teen daughter around; maybe you’re not ready to refuse her request, but you can simply not offer to drive.
Longer strides. This requires a commitment to taking action by finding a middle road of compromise. Longer strides lead to intentional actions, setting boundaries, and holding your bottom line. For instance, you might tell your daughter that you intend to limit the number of times you’ll act as her driver and ask her to come up with a new arrangement that would fulfill both your needs. At times, longer strides may lead to a rocky path of confrontation and opposition. This is the choice of the truly frustrated, sometimes brave and often desperate.
Life-changing leaps. This involves making unilateral decisions and acting on your own behalf without the input of others. Life-changing leaps are reserved for people who feel they have no other choice. Although quick, profound change can be exhilarating, it can be followed by self-doubt and fear of repercussions. For example, you might place strict limits on the number of times you’ll act as driver for your daughter, along with requirements regarding how much advance notice you’ll need. Then, if you weren’t given enough notice, you’d refuse the request even if your daughter responds with threats or temper tantrums.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
This seems to be Self-Righteous Indignation Month. Apparently I did not receive the memo. I’m seeing so many clients this month who are filled with self-righteous indignation about the behavior of other people. They really get themselves worked up over it and come in totally frustrated and angry. What is this all about?
The term “self-righteous” is defined by yourdictionary.com as “filled with or showing a conviction of being morally superior, or more righteous than others; smugly virtuous”
Beautiful. That’s exactly it. Not virtuous, but smugly virtuous. It is about feeling superior to someone else. Most of us are most easily tempted into self-righteous indignation when driving. The driver ahead of us is driving too slow, too fast, cuts us off or makes some other terribly heinous error. And we are filled with outrage. We lay on the horn and yell and make sure everyone around knows that driver is not driving “correctly” (or at least how we define correct driving). The nerve of that guy! What a loser.
When listening to someone smoldering with self-righteous indignation I often hear the words, “right”, “fair” or “should”. “They should do it this way.” “They are not doing it the right way.” “It’s not fair.” Why shouldn’t we distinguish when people aren’t doing things “correctly”, or the way they “should” be done, or the “fair” way? For two reasons:
1. Because it’s not real. They aren’t doing it that way. They are doing it “wrong” or in a way they “shouldn’t” or “unfairly”. That is the reality. That is what’s happening. Expecting them to do something else just sets you up to be frustrated and angry.
2. Because it makes us unhappy. I always ask people, “how much time and energy have you invested in being upset about this? What could you have done with that time and energy instead? Most have invested a lot of both. And for what? Is this issue really that important?
If self-righteous indignation isn’t real and it makes us frustrated and angry, why do so many of us do it? Because it feels good. It feels “right”. We feel superior to that idiot over there doing things “wrong”. We feel better than that loser over there being “unfair”.
“Criticism is another form of self-boasting.” Emmet Fox
By pointing out the errors of someone else we are attempting to position ourselves as better than them. People with low self esteem, people who are unhappy in their lives, people who are frustrated with where they are in life are most susceptible to self-righteous indignation. By finding someone we believe to be less than or worse than ourselves and condemning them, we manage to feel some sort of superiority.
We can also use this to sabotage ourselves or make ourselves a target. Being intolerant of the mistakes of other people, and pointing them out loudly, will not make you popular. And it can totally destroy a career. I frequently see people living out the Scapegoat role utilizing this technique to alienate themselves.
A client came into my office fuming about her boss at work and how he was mishandling an account by giving a client preferential treatment. The client made a point of telling him that he was mishandling the account and did not except his explanation as being valid. She then went over his head and complained to his boss. When I asked how the mishandling of this account affected her she could not readily answer. She had no interactions with the client, it didn’t affect her clients, and she would not be held responsible for the account. She then continued to rail against the unfairness of the preferential treatment and her need to expose it. She denied ulterior motives or her long and conflictual relationship with the boss. She denied her wish to see him punished and stated she was unaware of any possible fallout from this action. She reported telling the boss’ superior that she did not mean to be a “tattletale”, but that she needed to know if this was “right” or not. When I asked her what her gut told her about whether it was right or not, she admitted that she already knew it was wrong and her boss’ explanation flimsy. But she continued to insist that she had to go over his head to find out “for sure” whether she was right or not. She was completed surprised when, a few weeks later, the boss attempted to have her transferred to another office. She had completed sabotaged herself with her boss in her need to be self-righteous. This is a pattern she has replicated in many offices prior to this. Her self-righteous intolerance of the foibles of other people and her need to confront superiors about them makes her a target, or a scapegoat. She eventually is let go or fired. Yet she continues to maintain this behavior. She had rather be “right” than employed.
If you are guilty of this pattern, how do you stop it?
1. Instead of deciding what people should be doing, look at what they are doing and then decide how to react to it.
2. If you find yourself condemning people, examine your motives. Is the issue itself really that important? Is it really worth your time and energy? Is this really a battle you want to take on? Or are you doing it for some other reason?
3. Feel your feelings. How do you feel when you are complaining about or reporting this behavior? Superior? Powerful? Is that the true motivation for it, rather than righting a wrong?
4. Examine the effects. What effects is this behavior having on your life? Has it damaged your career? Cost you friends? Caused conflict within your family?
5. Repeat after me: “I cannot change other people’s behavior, only my own.” You have no power over other people. Whatever they are doing is what they are going to do. The only person you can change is yourself. And most of us have more than enough work to do developing ourselves without taking on other people’s issues.
Self-righteous indignation is a heady, powerful emotion that can be quite exhilarating. But it comes at a high cost. If you can only bring yourself up by putting other people down perhaps you need to look at that. Perhaps your time and energy would be better spent developing your own character rather than shooting down other people’s.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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