Monday, October 22, 2007

Unhealthy Relationship Types


You can't be in a loving relationship if you don't love yourself. No one else can fill that void for you, so you must fill it before you're in a relationship. Partners should complement each other, not complete each other. It's fine to have different strengths, but we can't lean too much on our partners to handle situations for us because that's too much of a burden. One person can't solve all of their problems and all of your problems, so you need to do your part to carry your own weight.

To know if this is your type, ask yourself some questions:
-Do I look for others' input before making any decision - even small ones?
-Am I unable to make choices or decisions without reassurance from others?
-Do I trust the decisions I will make on my own?
-What am I afraid will happen if I make the wrong decision?
If you see a pattern of fear of making a decision without reassurance from others, you probably would benefit from doing some work to boost your confidence.

To help yourself heal from this pattern of thinking and behavior:
-Do a reality check: How many people think negatively of you? What evidence is there that you're incompetent or unintelligent?
-Do what makes you feel good about yourself. Where and when do you feel best? Spend more time with the people that make you feel good, do activities that make you feel good.
-Boost your self confidence. You can do this by increasing your fitness level (nothing lifts your mood like exercise), join a new group, sign up to try a new dance class, join a book club, volunteer to help at a shelter, or try an online support group.
-Go for it - make decisions, start small and then work up to big ones, without input from others and see how it goes? If it goes well, proceed; if it didn't work out, analyze what went wrong and why. You might discover that some of your beliefs are a bit unrealistic. If so, challenge yourself to try to accept that no one is perfect and you don't have to be perfect to be loved.
-Try some good self help books - one of my favorites is Embracing Your Inner Critic: Turning Self-Criticism into a Creative Asset by Hal Stone and Sidra Stone


When we project our beliefs onto other people, we do both them and us a disservice. No two people are carbon copies and if you try to make someone a carbon copy or try to fit someone into a mold, you might be missing out on the best parts. Not unlike the dough that gets tossed away after you've pressed in a cookie cutter; the things we toss aside have equal - and maybe more - value that what we're trying to force.

To know if this is your type, ask yourself:
-What do you expect of yourself?
-Do you have flexible or rigid beliefs?
-Do people often tell you that you don't give them enough credit?
-Do you make assumptions about someone early in a relationship?
-Are you quick to accept or dismiss people based on what you assume about them?
-Try any of the activities listed above to boost self confidence (see Type 1).
-Try a great self help book. I like: Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by Steven C. Hayes

If this is your type:
-Look for evidence to support your existing beliefs: is dad really perfect? Was Mark the ideal boyfriend than no one can compare to?
-Challenge yourself to find some flaws in the things/people you think are perfect.
-List your expectations and evaluate them for reasonableness: would most people want or expect what you do? If not, what's a more realistic expectation?
-What do you see as the pros and cons of being perfect? One pro could be that everywhere you go, people admire you; one con might be that you have to work so hard to maintain your image that you're constantly stressed, anxious, and nervous. High anxiety is not conducive to a well balanced relationship.


The shadow is our rejected self. Everyone has a shadow and the healthiest people are those who seek to understand their shadow and embrace it. To be in a loving relationship, you need to be okay with who you are and who you're not. No one expects you to be perfect; none of us are. We all have baggage that we carry with us and it's better to know where our weak spots are so we can attend to them and reign them in when need be. If we ignore parts of ourself, we aren't really being true to who we are.

To know if this is your type, ask yourself:
-Are there certain things you refuse to talk about?
-When you think about your personality or your behavior, are there parts you are so embarrassed about that you'd be horrified if anyone knew?
-Do you feel more flawed than most people?
-Do you worry that there's something really wrong with you?

If this is your type:
-Think about the parts of yourself that you push away or reject. What thoughts and feelings do you have about these parts?
-In thinking about others, do they have shadow elements like yours? For those that do, how are they doing? How do they manage their shadows?
-Usually we reject something to protect ourselves. So if you allowed yourself to embrace your shadow, what would it say about you? How would you feel? What would you think?
-Try any of the activities listed above to boost self confidence (see Type 1).
-Try a great self help book. I like: The Worry Trap: How to Free Yourself from Worry & Anxiety using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by Chad LeJune


I believe that the most influential psychologist was Bowlby and his work on attachment theory. Being connected to another human being is perhaps the strongest human desire, something Bowlby believed and touted as he described attachment. We all need to be connected to someone else in a loving and meaningful way. In a healthy relationship, you should feel free to pursue your own life and your interests, while knowing that your partner will always be there for you, will rush to your side if you're hurt, and that you can always count on them. If you are not sure about these things, or if you doubt your partner is really committed to you, you're likely to be pretty anxious and overly clingy in a relationship.

To know if this is you, ask yourself:
-Do I feel free to go and do my own thing? Does my partner feel the same?
-Do I get really nervous when I am not with my partner?
-Do I worry when I am alone?
-Do I feel the need to be with my partner 24/7
-Would I give up things that are important to me to be with me partner?
If you are seeing a pattern of choosing your partner over yourself, then you may need to spend some time trying to differentiate yourself and to reduce your anxiety.

If this is your type, try the following:
-Identify when and where you get clingy. What's going on when you're most clingy? What are you thinking? What are you afraid of?
-When your partner goes out, what do you assume? What are you telling yourself?
-List all of the answers to the above and analyze your answers, what patterns do you see? For each pattern you identify, challenge yourself to find an alternative way of acting or some alternative thoughts that you could hold on to instead. If you're having trouble with this, do this activity with a trusted friend, they can help you see yourself and your answers more honestly and give you some helpful suggestions.
-Try any of the activities listed above to boost self confidence (see Type 1).
-Try a great self help book. I like: Anxious to Please (Paperback)
James Rapson (Author), Craig English (Author)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Three Rules to Follow When Telling Children About Divorce

Have you just decided to get a divorce? Divorce expert M. Gary Neuman outlines the three rules parents should follow when telling their children about divorce.

1. Tell them together as a family. It's crucial that you send a message of unity at this moment when the family dynamic is about to change.

2. You have 45 seconds to keep their attention before their minds begin to race because Mom and Dad aren't going to be living together anymore.

There are three messages you want to get across in that short amount of time:

"Mom and Dad have made each other sad and feel that in the long run it's best for the family to live apart."

"You will still spend lots of time with each of us in our homes."

"This divorce is not your fault."

3. Practice, practice, practice what you will say together with your spouse. In the initial meeting, don't use the word divorce yet. Just discuss living apart, and you can discuss divorce at a later time. After the initial short talk, stay in the room. Sit and listen to what your children have to say and use feeling statements to help them open up ("I imagine you might be feeling _________ about what's going on with Mom and Dad.")


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Email - so easy to use, but so hard to "read"

Hi all. I read this great article in the NY Times this morning and wanted to share it with you. It really makes it clear why face-to-face communication is so much better than email and why we often misread tone when we read emails. Hope you enjoy!


E-Mail Is Easy to Write (and to Misread)
Published: October 7, 2007

AS I was in the final throes of getting my most recent book into print, an employee at the publishing company sent me an e-mail message that stopped me in my tracks.

I had met her just once, at a meeting. We were having an e-mail exchange about some crucial detail involving publishing rights, which I thought was being worked out well. Then she wrote: “It’s difficult to have this conversation by e-mail. I sound strident and you sound exasperated.”
At first I was surprised to hear I had sounded exasperated. But once she identified this snag in our communications, I realized that something had really been off. So we had a phone call that cleared everything up in a few minutes, ending on a friendly note.

The advantage of a phone call or a drop-by over e-mail is clearly greatest when there is trouble at hand. But there are ways in which e-mail may subtly encourage such trouble in the first place.

This is becoming more apparent with the emergence of social neuroscience, the study of what happens in the brains of people as they interact. New findings have uncovered a design flaw at the interface where the brain encounters a computer screen: there are no online channels for the multiple signals the brain uses to calibrate emotions.

Face-to-face interaction, by contrast, is information-rich. We interpret what people say to us not only from their tone and facial expressions, but also from their body language and pacing, as well as their synchronization with what we do and say.

Most crucially, the brain’s social circuitry mimics in our neurons what’s happening in the other person’s brain, keeping us on the same wavelength emotionally. This neural dance creates an instant rapport that arises from an enormous number of parallel information processors, all working instantaneously and out of our awareness.

In contrast to a phone call or talking in person, e-mail can be emotionally impoverished when it comes to nonverbal messages that add nuance and valence to our words. The typed words are denuded of the rich emotional context we convey in person or over the phone.

E-mail, of course, has a multitude of virtues: it’s quick and convenient, democratizes access and lets us stay in touch with loads of people we could never see or call. It enables us to accomplish huge amounts of work together.

Still, if we rely solely on e-mail at work, the absence of a channel for the brain’s emotional circuitry carries risks. In an article to be published next year in the Academy of Management Review, Kristin Byron, an assistant professor of management at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, finds that e-mail generally increases the likelihood of conflict and miscommunication.

One reason for this is that we tend to misinterpret positive e-mail messages as more neutral, and neutral ones as more negative, than the sender intended. Even jokes are rated as less funny by recipients than by senders.

We fail to realize this largely because of egocentricity, according to a 2005 article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Sitting alone in a cubicle or basement writing e-mail, the sender internally “hears” emotional overtones, though none of these cues will be sensed by the recipient.

When we talk, my brain’s social radar picks up that hint of stridency in your voice and automatically lowers my own tone of exasperation, all in the service of working things out. But when we send e-mail, there’s little to nothing by way of emotional valence to pick up. E-mail lacks those channels for the implicit meta-messages that, in a conversation, provide its positive or negative spin.

On the upside, the familiarity that develops between sender and receiver can help to reduce these problems, according to findings by Joseph Walther, a professor of communication and telecommunication at Michigan State University. People who know each other well, it turns out, are less likely to have these misunderstandings online.

These quirks of cyberpsychology are familiar to Clay Shirky, an adjunct professor in New York University’s interactive telecommunications program. His expertise is social computing — software programs through which multiple users interact, ranging from Facebook to Listservs and chat rooms to e-mail. I asked Professor Shirky what all of this might imply for the multitudes of people who work with others by e-mail.

“When you communicate with a group you only know through electronic channels, it’s like having functional Asperger’s Syndrome — you are very logical and rational, but emotionally brittle,” Professor Shirky said.

“I’m part of a far-flung distributed network that at one point was designing a piece of software for sharing medical data; we worked mostly by conference calls and e-mail, and it was going nowhere. So we finally said we’d all fly to Boston and get together for two days, just sit in a room and hash it out.”

During that meeting, the team got an enormous amount of work done. And, Professor Shirky recalls, “because the synchronization by e-mail was so much better after the face-to-face piece, we actually hit the launch date.”

He proposes that work groups whose members are widely dispersed but need to have high levels of coordination — say, a computer security team protecting a global bank — do not have to assemble everyone in one room to reap the same benefit. Instead, he suggests a “banyan model,” after the Asian tree that puts down roots from its branches.

In this approach, he said, “you put down little roots of face-to-face contact everywhere, to strategically augment electronic communications.”

Professor Shirky advised the I.T. head of a global bank to gather together one representative from disparate cities for a day or two and complete tasks. That way, when the security group in Singapore gets e-mail from the security people in London, someone will be more likely to know the sender, and sense how to read the information with less risk of misconstruing or discounting it.

CONSIDER, too, the “e-mail the guy down the hall” effect: as the use of e-mail increases in an organization, the overall volume of other kinds of communication drops — particularly routine friendly greetings. But lacking these seemingly innocuous interactions, people feel more disconnected from co-workers. This was noted in an article in Organizational Science almost a decade ago, just as e-mail was starting to surge. Saying “Hi,” it turns out, really does matter; it’s social glue.

As Professor Shirky puts it, “social software” like e-mail “is not better than face-to-face contact; it’s only better than nothing.”

Daniel Goleman is the author of “Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships” (Bantam). E-mail: