Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Technique of the Week, Step 2

Technique of the Week follows up on the Dec. 15th post. Now that you've carefully noticed your self-talk for a week and jotted it down, look over the whole week's notes and see if you can find a pattern.

• Maybe you discover that you're a realistic thinker. Your self-talk shows a pattern of, "I solved that problem reasonably well," "I'm not looking so great this morning, but the new shoes are a kick." "I let that grumpy feeling go pretty fast today. Good for me."

Perhaps you find a negative self-talk pattern. "I always overreact. What's wrong with me?" "I look ridiculously bad this morning." "I'm such a loser. I'm always so stressed out. I'm a mess."

• You could be a very positive thinker. "My problems will be gone because the Universe will send me what I want." "I love my new haircut, my beautiful, clear skin, my great look this morning." "I look good. I feel good. I am good."

Or you could have found that your pattern is negative thinking about OTHER people, not yourself. "She's so emotional. What's wrong with her?" "She looks so stupid today. What an awful looking outfit." "He's always so grumpy. What a jerk."

Of course you could also have a mix of all. If you're a true negative self-talker, an overthinker, then you will easily find that you fit the pattern in bold italics above, even if there are other kinds of self-talk going on. If this fits for you, instead of dumping on yourself some more try out this next move.

Acknowledge without judgment,  “Yes, I have acquired the negative self-talk habit, like many other women.”  The key is without judgment; just as you might acknowledge that you have brown hair like many other women, you acknowledge NST without criticism, recognizing that you have control of your thinking if you choose to take it.

Let me know your experience with this realistic bit of self-talk.
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Friday, December 17, 2010

Strategic Allocation of Attention, Marshmallows and Walter Mischell

This is an NPR segment from RadioLab — about strategic allocation of attention — a concept that is useful in eliminating negative self-talk. I've blogged about this before, but just found and heard this interview on the radio.  Walter Mischel talks about the original research with kids and marshmallows. Kids who can delay gratification by allocating attention AWAY from what they want end up as more successful adults. H--m-m-m-m? This particular audio doesn't focus on eliminating negative self-talk, but you can probably see why distraction and detachment are considered good techniques to eliminate NST. More later.

I think you can open this and hear it if you have i tunes software on your computer. If you can't, if may be my lack of technical skill (realistic self-talk) rather than your computer or your skills!

Yup. I was realistic. It didn't work so I've erased it. I'll try again later today when my patience returns.
OK. Patience has returned and this does work!
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Saturday, December 11, 2010

As promised: My comments on Women, Scrutiny, and Criticism if No One Else Commented

Yes, it's only Sunday but still, the post that I asked for comments about ( "Women in Male-Dominated Fields Get More Scrutiny — And Harsher Judgments:12/8) didn't get a response. I'm disappointed that no readers had a great story to tell and/or time to do so. Maybe it will still happen. In the meantime I will pass on some thoughts.

Interesting old research on group dynamics, reported decades ago by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research supports the current finding about women in male-dominated fields — in different terms. In any group, formal or informal, when a new and/or different person joins, ongoing or long-term members of the group expect the newcomer to conform to the spoken/written and unspoken/unwritten group rules or norms. e.g. if a new person joins a board of directors, a work team, a civic club, and starts asking questions, making suggestions, wondering aloud about ongoing actions or practices, the group will quickly close ranks against the newcomer. The oldies will then press (subtly or aggressively) him or her to back off until he or she gets it — understand the process, the group norms, and the procedures. They will watch carefully and critically as the newcomer attempts to fit in.

Similarity and commonality bond people. We like people who we see as similar to ourselves and feel less comfortable with people we see as different. It's social psychology. It's  human nature. When someone different enters our sphere of influence, and we are already bonded with a bunch of other people in that group, the "outsider" will receive a lot of pressure to conform. It's true often with schoolkids and bullying, adults and reactions to diversity, politics and everyday life. Whoever "deviates" from group norms will be pushed to conform to the majority — or be pushed out of the group. Most people have had this experience during their lifetime and sometimes more than once or twice; with a formal work group or an informal book discussion group, with a church or family group, a team or at school.

Often women in male-dominated fields understand and choose not to conform for a variety of reasons. So they are subject to ongoing microscopic examination and criticism. The resilient women keep on trucking even though these situations are very stressful. These women can't afford the added stress of their own negative self-talk on top of the negativity of others toward them.

Sometimes in a paradoxical way, women, alone at the top in work situations, stop beating themselves up when others are super critical of them. Being bullied is a rough and tough catalyst, but it can push women to break the negative self-talk habit. "Wait a minute," you say to yourself. "I'm doing OK in this situation. I'm here because I have the credentials and experience to do this job. I don't do things just like the men do and they don't do things like I do. We can benefit from the strengths of each other. I'll remember that. I'll stay cool, not defensive. I'll use my good communication and leadership skills and keep moving forward."

I'm probably sounding over-idealistic about handling this kind of pressure. I've done it myself, well and poorly, including crying in front of, but with my back to the "opposition" once or twice. Not pretty, but I survived.

Still interested in your thoughts about this new and old research and your experience.
As promised: My comments on Women, Scrutiny, and Criticism if No One Else CommentedSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Women in Male-Dominated Fields Get More Scrutiny — And Harsher Judgments

 This article caught my attention. I like the title even though not the implied reality. I'm wondering what some of intelligentwomenonly.com readers think about the findings of the study Linn describes. I'd like to hear about experiences, validation, disbelief, whatever you think. I have some strong opinions but I'll keep them to myself until I hear from some of you — or until I don't hear from any of you! Just check the comment button or e-mail intelligentwomenonly@gmail.com

 Break the glass ceiling, fall off the glass cliff

So you’ve made it to the top in a field normally associated with the other gender. The hard work doesn’t stop there.
A new study finds that once a woman succeeds in a male-dominated field -  or vice versa - they are judged more harshly for any missteps.

The researchers say this may help explain why some women experience a “glass cliff,” where they make it to the top job in a normally male-dominated field but then fall from that position. Researcher Victoria Brescoll, a psychological scientist at Yale University, and several colleagues asked about 200 people to judge various scenarios involving a male and female police chief and a male and female head of a women’s college.

The researchers found that when the scenario involved the female police chief or the male head of a women’s college making a mistake, the respondents judged them more harshly than when the scenario involved a male police chief or a female head of a women’s college making the same mistake. They got the same results in a similar test when they asked similar questions about a female head of an aerospace engineering firm and a female chief judge.

The researchers suspect that’s because women in traditionally male-dominated fields such as engineering, or men in traditionally female-dominated fields like nursing and teaching, are under closer scrutiny." Any mistakes that they make, even very minor ones, could be magnified and seen as even greater mistakes," Brescoll said in a statement announcing the findings.
The study was published in Psychological Science (registration/payment required).
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Monday, December 6, 2010

The Writer as Speaker — Get Prepared

 Today's post is an article that I wrote for the ASJA (American Society for Journalists and Authors) monthly magazine for writers, November 2010. It demonstrates the applicability of routinely eliminating negative self-talk — this time in a very specific situation.

The Writer as Speaker

Oxygen, Carol Cassella’s debut novel, was published by Simon and Schuster six months before our third interview. Although the book had been received well, Carol seemed tense when we met for coffee. She explained that the sudden shift from private writer to public speaker was stressful. “This is not me,” she said. “I’m shy. I’m private. I can’t sell myself.”

A July 11, 2010 NY Times article, “The Author Takes a Star Turn”, confirms what Cassella and many authors have recognized over the last few years. The publishing industry has dramatically escalated expectations of writers as public performers. Even as they recognize the benefit of speaking at signings and book discussion groups, many authors find themselves anxious in the limelight.
Jane Bowman meets a spectrum of speaker/authors in her job as event planner at Eagle Harbor bookstore on Bainbridge Island, WA.  Not surprisingly, she finds that authors who are comfortable rather than anxious generally create a successful speaking/signing event.

According to Bowman, over preparation is key to the author’s ability to relax in the presenter role.
• Visit the event site or arrive 45 minutes early. Meet the person who will be introducing you. See the physical set up for the event. Will you have a table, a lectern, or be up on a podium? Where can you plant some index cards with notes? What space is available to interact with the audience, to breathe and recharge, to pace a bit?
• Plan to use a microphone. Practice how to use and move with it.
• Bring a short, written introduction for the event planner to use. Include current insider information about you to raise interest and increase connections. E.g. You’re a zero waste zealot and you write limericks. Audience members’ attraction to you and your work increases as they find commonalities.
• Converse with bookstore staff. You’ll feel part of a team rather than a solo act when you step up to speak.

You can also over prepare your mind, style, and the content of your presentation. The goal of mind preparation is increasing comfort by eliminating negative self-talk, that nasty inner voice that can generate stress.
• Block out negative thoughts with a repetitive mantra,  “One step at a time. I can do this.” Or to borrow from Anne Lamott, “Bird by bird, I’ll do OK.”
• Substitute a different perspective for an old, negative frame; from, “This is not me. I can’t do this,” to “This is me. I write and tell stories.”
• Breathe deeply and slowly, saying “re” on inhale and “lax” on exhale with your inner voice.
Your style as a speaker will develop uniquely over time. For starters, keep it simple, informal, conversational. You can even mention up front that you’re nervous. Audience members will empathize.
• Greet people individually as they arrive. Then, when you speak and read, audience members will not be strangers.
• Make eye contact with individuals as you speak, signaling sincerity and confidence.
• Decide whether you want audience members to ask questions during your presentation or to wait until the end. Taking questions as you go increases everyone’s energy and gives you a break from the spotlight. A potential disadvantage is losing track of topic and time — not a catastrophe.
•  Hand out press releases, reviews, and information about your web site or blog. It’s easy, informal selling.

The content of your talk will also vary as your experience produces knowledge about audience interests and your strengths as a presenter.
• Think of yourself as a storyteller rather than a speaker. You’re telling very short stories, with a beginning, middle, and a close. “How I started writing.” “What was the catalyst for this particular book?” “Who was the inspiration for the main character?” “How I manage the writing life.”
•  Use your writing skills to describe your book in one sentence, one paragraph, one page. Write out questions that people might ask and your answers. Bowman commented that most authors stumbled with the question, “What are you working on now?” Be prepared. If you don’t have any idea, you can say, “I’m not ready to talk about that yet.”
• Practice in front of a mirror, in front of friends, in front of your writers’ group. Martin and Flacco, authors of Publishing Your Nonfiction Book emphasize that training yourself to speak is of top importance in building a platform.
•  Read parts of the book that arouse emotion or elicit curiosity.  Charles Harmon suggests in The Toastmaster article, “The Glory of the Story” asking yourself, “What will best help participants become completely invested in the book?”
• Join a local Toastmasters Club before you need the speaking skills. You’ll gain confidence and have fun.
Following some of these tips for over preparation can help you arrive at a relaxed and confident destination as a storyteller, whether you’re new to or experienced in the public persona role.

 Eighteen up and down months after her high stress introduction to public speaking, and before the publication of her second book, Healer, Carol Cassella’s previous angst has turned to gratification. Her comfort with the public eye has increased. She now views speaking as an enjoyable part of the writer’s life. Maybe you can make the transition even faster!
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"What Should I Do?" from an Everyday Normal, Stressed Negative Self-Talker

 Here's a recent e-mail from a reader.  She had previously e-mailed to ask for help with her communication and I had answered her and asked for more specific information.

"I feel stressed and becomes anxious while speaking to anyone specially people whom I don't know. Even while talking to friends and family I feel stressed. If something is bothering me I cannot speak out. If I have some feelings in mind if possible I can write it but if I need to speak it becomes very difficult.There is a constant fight within me whether I should speak or not. In  my school days when teachers used to ask question I used to get nervous and can not say the answer properly. I' m quiet and afraid to speak in public. I get tensed. Even my thoughts and feelings get confused. I need to change internally.
What should I do?"

Although I don't know the young woman's age, I would guess she is in her twenties. Women Who Think Too Much by Susan Nolen-Hoeksema tells us that 76% of women in the decade between 25 and 35 are negative self-talkers. This intelligentwomenonly.com reader  seems to fit the description of the everyday normal overthinking, smart person who has learned from a young age, to put herself down. The result? High stress and low confidence.

Here was my initial response to her.
* Make a decision to change now; to be a better, more confident, comfortable, communicator. Keep your goal private for now.
* Read my book, Say What You Mean Get What You Want, A Businessperson's Guide to Direct Communication. It combines overcoming the negative self-talk obstacle with  acquiring good assertive communication techniques.
You can  buy it inexpensively at amazon.com

If you have any other suggestions for this reader from your experience, please send a comment in response to this post that she could read. Thanks.
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Sunday, November 28, 2010

How do you change from negative self-talk to positive self-talk?

"How do you change from negative self talk to positive self talk? I try but its like im kidding myself and just saying it in my mind consciously without believing it!? (Its like I dont mean it when I say it!)"

This question appeared on a yahoo answer site — without an answer. As regular readers of intelligentwomenonly.com know, the question is  up my alley and fits right in with the current Technique of the Week plan.  No one, except perhaps very experienced and confident monitors of their own self-talk, can change from negative self talk to positive self-talk in one step;  just like you can't change from a flat tire to a functioning tire in one step. There's no on-off switch. 

First, you have to get rid of the immediate negative self-talk. 

 For example: Inner voice: "I should have just kept my mouth shut. I talked way too much. They must think I'm an idiot."

                        Action:        Change the inner voice to coincide with slow, deep breathing, saying, "Breathe in.                                                     Breathe out." 

                       Action:         Hear the calm, quiet of your inner voice. Then change to, "I can let go. I can let go of the critic."

                       Action:         Then change to realistic thinking. "Next time I can count on myself to listen more, talk less."  

As the person who asked the question above commented, "It's like I'm kidding myself." She's right. We are often kidding ourselves by substituting a fake positive inner comment for our negative self-talk. For example: " I'm sure they loved listening to me. It was fine. I communicated well." If you have a brain in your head of course you're going to say to yourself, "Hey, who am I trying to kid? I was a jerk," just escalating the inner negative monologue.

Research by JoAnne Wood, a Psychology Today blogger,  determined that attempts at using positive thinking to overcome negative thinking makes things worse, particularly if you are not a self-confident person. You feel bad about who you are, and then the positve thinking, from yourself, seems so far removed from what you truly believe that you feel even worse than before. e.g. trying to use affirmations such as "I am a happy, successful person," or "I am a lovable person."

The Technique of the Week reminds us that it takes 3 or more steps to move from negative to realistic self-talk. Many more to move from negative to positive self-talk because first the volume on the negative self-talk needs to be turned down! 





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Friday, November 26, 2010

UPDATE-post-power outage.

Just in case you were looking for a Wedneday post and didn't find it I have a good excuse! We (and our neighbors and our town) were powerless from Monday through Thursday sometime. Yes, even on Thanksgiving we had no oven. So we had to drive 4 hours round trip to join family and a working stove!

No land line, no lights, no heat, and no charging of electronic stuff and of course no internet.
Lots of reading — by flashlight. Lots of conversation, by firelight. Life suddenly became very simple; few decisions to be made, nowhere to go, lots of sleep. I realize again how often less is more.

In the same theme, this post is less than usual and there'll be more, but not more than usual, on Monday.
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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Anxiety vs. Intelligence

OK. The day that I wrote about the warring opponents, anxiety and intelligence was the day before my birthday which accounts for the possible slight increase in my anxiety and decrease in intelligence. Plus I had attended a Field's End (Writing Community) Roundtable the night before; Anthony Flacco told us that all writing takes the form of a screen play. I was trying out his model.

Now a few days later, my anxiety is gone, my intelligence seems to have survived, and I have a new Macbook Pro, which increases my general sense of well-being but hasn't helped my screenwriting techniques. But, I'm ready to take on the aforementioned drama, with a stressed woman as the protagonist, fighting the spoiler, anxiety, who is assaulting her own intelligence and the perception of her intelligence.

Act I. Introduction of the Protagonist; Stressed woman (See Nov. 17th  post for further description of protagonist)

She's pacing, talking out loud to herself, berating herself, sounding stressed out, uptight, and negative. She's alone on the stage, in a grey suit, looking grey, feeling grey, sounding grey. She stops at a desk, looks down at her computer and reads out loud:

" JCT at intelligentwomenonly.com
Stress most frequently is caused by anxiety and creates anxiety. Anxiety is fear of the unknown. Anxiety is often caused by negative self-talk, an internal stressor.
E.g. If you are presenting a report to the Board of Directors, you are anxious. You fear the unknown.
How will your report be received? Will you forget an important part? Will the equipment for your Power Point presentation work? Will people respond positively or think you don't know what you're talking about?
Neither the flight nor fight response will help you reduce stress in this situation.

Stress can also be caused by fear. Fear generally is elicited by a known external stressor. 
E.g. if a bear attacks you, you are afraid and stressed. You fear the bear, a known potential aggressor who can hurt you. Is he going to kill you? Can you get away? Should you fight back? Should I "play dead?"
Either the fight or flight response will help you reduce stress in this situation."

"Oh my gosh," she says. "This blogger is reading my mind. But she doesn't tell me what to do and I have to go to this meeting in 10 minutes. I don't have time to go back and find out how to fix my problem. I'm stressed to the max already. Now I feel even worse."

Act II. The climax.

The same intelligent women, making a presentation to the Board, recognizes that her internal monologue (loud and intrusive) is raising her anxiety and lowering her confidence. It's decreasing her focus on what she is saying and how the audience is responding. Although her IQ hasn't actually dropped of course, she's not thinking clearly and quickly. She's coming across as preoccupied, a bit slowed; she sounds uncertain. She realizes with sudden awareness she has to make a change — or lose the battle between anxiety and intelligence. Fight or flight won't work. The enemy is internal anxiety, not an external force. She summons all the power of her intelligence, remembering a few lines from the blog she had just read.. "I won't be my own worst enemy. I will be my own supporter," she says. "I can stop the descent into charcoal grey because I'm smart even though I'm stressed.  I can do this. I can do this. I can do this, " she says inside her head
Act III. Dénouement or the resolution
With a flash of lightinng, the grey suit turns to red, the protagonists color pinks up, her body language becomes expressive, energy flows outward from her brain, her voice lifts with confidence. Clearly, she has vanquished the enemy, anxiety, and his weapon, negative self talk. Her intelligence has snapped to attention. Her internal monologue, displayed on a screen above the stage, is now saying, "I am doing this well," while she is presenting her report with polish and pizazz. The Board rewards her slick turnaround, her snappy style, her solid content with a standing ovation. She controls her tears of joy and relief as she takes a modest bow.

I think I'll have to practice a lot more before I try another screenplay on my blog!

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Men, Negative Self-talk, and Technique of the Week

Men are users too — of negative self-talk. I've heard them say neg stuff out loud about themselves, although not as often as I hear it from women. Attribution theory again. when good stuff happens, women attribute it to luck, random happenings. Men take credit. When bad stuff happens, women take blame and med attribute it to bad luck, random happenings. OOPS!  Not a gainful stance for women.

If you've been reading this blog regularly you already know about attribution theory. You also know that the research findings show that women are the biggest, best ( or worst?)  gender group of NSTers, according to Women Who Think Too Much by Susan Nolen-Hoeksema Ph.D.

Out of curiosity I've searched online occasionally for stuff about men and negative self talk. Not much out there, but the information that I have found (written by men for men) is focused on eliminating negative self-talk as it applies to picking up (now more generally called hooking up with) women. Not surprisingly, if a guy is thinking, "She'll never give me a second glance. She's so hot and I'm such a geek," he won't come across as the cool, confident, successful guy many women are looking for. On the other hand, the guy who is thinking, "I'm looking so cool, feeling so confident, and in fact am so successful, this babe is gonna feel really lucky that I'm showing some interest," doesn't quite make the grade either.

I have two entirely different reactions to this piece of NST trivia.

•  I feel empathy for men. I remember reading something from Warren Farrell years ago that men have to face potential rejection at least 172 (not an exact number from me) times from meeting a desired women and sleeping with her. That's exhausting to even think about. If they only knew that half the women they were hitting on were thinking to themselves, "He's cute, but he wouldn't look twice at me," they'd feel much better. But of course they can't go around saying, "Are you a negative self-talker?" as a way of finding commonality. It would be unusual and could work to increase bonding, but certainly would be a counter-gender culture move.
• I feel some annoyance that the only finding about men and NST online is related to picking up women. What about a little more NST about being a boss, or a father, or a spouse? When you're only an occasional NSTer, not an addicted overthinker, a little negative self talk can motivate useful change.

A piece of advice given to men online isn't bad, but it won't help." It’s going to take some dedication on your part to get this part of your life sorted out. It’s not going to happen overnight. You need to get that negative self talk rewired and then go out and start talking to people." Getting the negative self-talk rewired? What does that mean? How does one do it?

So all of this provides grist for the new technique of the week tip:
When you as a woman find yourself negative self-talking in a dating, bar, pick-up situation, focus on the man or men and figure out if he's an overly negative or overly positive self-talker. This is a  form of the distraction, detachment set of skills. This specific form of detachment hasn't been researched, although the general category of detachment is certifiably effective.  Let me know what happens. You'll learn something. Anything is better than same old habit.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nature, Nurture and Gender Differences

This article is borrowed from Suite101.com 

Same question: culture or biology? Same answer: it's complicated. This is the end, for now, of this issue for me. But if readers have other sources of interesting research, supported beliefs and concepts, pass them along. We probably can't come to a definitive conclusion but seeing the bell-shaped curve of the discussion could be fun.

Gender and the Brain: Hormonal and Cultural Influence

Nov 7, 2010 Gina Barrett
The Human Brain - aigarius
The Human Brain - aigarius
We've all heard that men and women are so different; they might as well hail from different planets. Men and women are said to use their brains in different ways, and it can be proven with MRIs and PET scans. But does this mean that biology is trumping culture? Recent evidence exists for both sides of the nature verses nurture argument.

 Research on Gender, Hormones, and the Brain

The National Association for Single Sex Public Education's website details many recent findings on the structural differences in male and female brains, maintaining that hormonal influences in utero have irrevocably marked brains as male or female. The differences found in male and female brains lead the association to call for single sex education.
Women are said to use both left and right sides of the brain when processing language, men only the left side. Parts of the brain used to navigate have been found to be different in men and women as well. Men are said to be unable to clearly process their own emotions, as they do not activate the cerebral cortex in the same way as women. The male and female brains are said to mature at very different rates as well, with boys brains in some respects resembling a girl's brain that is six years older.

Hormones prime male brains to pay attention to sexual cues, threats to territory and status, while women's are pre-wired to be more empathetic, responding to facial cues. In men, the left inferior parietal lobe is larger, in women, the right. The left side is associated with preception of speed [sic?](I know that the left side is associated with speech, but I don't know what "preception of speed" means. Do you? JCT)  among other things, the right with feelings.  But are hormones our destiny?

Criticism of the Interpretation of Current Gender-based Brain Research

Yet even these hormonal arguments are fuzzy when examined more closely. One intriguing finding is that while testosterone affects the brain, both men and women with high testosterone levels ("high T") react similarly to challenges, cranking up brain activity. Other research notes that our hormone levels themselves fluctuate with environmental influences. Men produce more oxytocin, the "female" hormone, after orgasm. Brizendine chronicles the influence of hormones on men's brains, particularly in relationships, but also notes what cultural factors interact with and modify those hormonal influences. Brizendine notes, for example, that a male's brain circuitry will change as it learns the male cultural norm of not expressing emotion.

Social research has demonstrated the strong influence of cultural expectations about gender. In fact, research on assumptions about gender and behavior demonstrates that being even subtly reminded of a cultural stereotype affects behavior. When students must check off gender before performing mathematical tests, for example, research shows that females tend to do worse. This "priming" has been demonstrated to affect tests of spatial abilities as well. If behavior and brain activity were primarily mediated by patterns set before birth, such differences would not be expected to occur.

In sum, our brains respond to our hormones, which vary between and within members of both sexes. In fact, in large population studies, only slight trends emerge. While we maybe predisposed to one type of response or another, culture has a profound affect on the end result of the response. In short, it's complicated.
Related article
Are there Differences between the Brains of Males and Females? accessed November 7, 2010.
Brain Differences accessed November 6, 2010.
Brizendine, L. The Male Brain: A Breakthrough Understanding of How Men and Boys Think. Broadway Books, New York. 2010.
Fine, C. Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference. W.W. Norton and Company, New York. 2010
Oxytocin accessed November 7, 2010
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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Did you Choose (or Were you Socialized) to NOT go into a Math Related Career?

I found the following article about women, math, and choice (from the Association for Psychological Science)very interesting.  I hope you will too. The most thought-provoking part for me is the factor of "choice." My husband's philosophy is that most adults have choices about all matters in life. Homeless people can choose to work or to sleep on the street. Alcoholics can choose to drink, or not to drink. Men and women can choose to be good or bad parents.

I don't agree. I think that many factors such as culture, genes and the socialization process can easily and often bias our "free will."There are times when we really can't make a choice. The choice is made by pre-ordained circumstances; being born into a family that was homeless, or alcoholic, or provided bad parenting biases you to be similar.  However, my view about choice doesn't sit down companionably with my other strong view that we need to be responsible and accountable for our choices, decisions, and behavior. How can one be responsible for a choice that isn't really a choice? Enough said. Even if you don't read the article, I'd like to hear what your thoughts are about choice and/or you and/or accountability in the general sense. And even specifically:

Do you choose to be a negative self-talker or did you learn to be?

Did you choose to be smart or was it in the genes?

Are you choosing to be emotionally expressive or does it just happen?

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Where am I? Am I lost? Gender Differences in Spatial Relationship Skills

Men are better at spatial relationships than women. Not all and always but in general. I believe it. A decade ago when I was visiting my friend Janet, I went for a run on my own while she was gone. We had a plan. When she came home from work, I'd be ready to leave, she would take me to the airport. Unfortunately, I became lost on the run, arrived back at her house too late, sweaty and frustrated — to find Janet already home, worried, and labeling me "directionally challenged." She was right.

I am still no star. But I realized then I needed to get a grip on this problem! It wasn't a memory problem. It was an attention problem.  Strategic allocation of attention to the rescue.  I started to make choices about focusing in different ways when I walked, when I drove, or when I ran — particularly when I was alone. Did I go L,R, L, R? Was I moving in a square, or a  circle? What was a milestone marker at every turn? In unfamiliar territory, I didn't listen to the radio, think about solving relationship problems, plan dinner, consider a trip to Ireland. I spent my attention on the moment — the immediate past, and the immediate future.

It only works when I make a conscious choice. When I'm with someone who knows where they're going, I make a choice to focus my attention instead on our conversation. You'll see why I found the following article about training for spatial relationship skill improvement interesting. I also like the article because it's solidly researched. Here's the link.

Where am I? Am I lost? Gender Differences in Spatial Relationship SkillsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Accountability and Responsibility

Are we a "culture of non-accountability", a term I heard on NPR today? It seems that way: someone else is often to blame, we "can't help it" because of addiction or abuse or hard times. This concept of "Not me" is evident so strongly in the political realm of the forthcoming election. "Nobody" takes  even a slight share of responsibility for the mess the US is in. It's always someone else's fault.

In microcosm, the same thing is true in much smaller organizations than a nation, I've found. e.g. Boards of Directors of big companies (HP), Boards of Directors of small not for profit organizations, groups of neighbors, some families. We can't be responsible for others because we don't have control, but we can be responsible toward them; e.g. treat them with respect, ask if they'd like help, be supportive when possible. But we can take responsibility for ourselves and our actions, whether they're wrong or right. "I made a mistake. I'm sorry."

My thinking on this was catalyzed by David Brooks article, Sept. 24th. "The heart of any moral system is the connection between action and consequences." And later, "What the country is really looking for is a restoration of responsibility." I'm not against any party, any group, or any individual. I'm for all getting more accountable for our actions and their consequences.

What do you think, intelligent women?
Accountability and ResponsibilitySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Other People's Interesting Stuff: Gender differences,The Rubber-Band Technique, Weight Loss, and Narcissism, Self-Esteem and Social Media. WOW!

Here are a bunch of interesting articles that I've recently run across.

• The consequences of having daughters in the family — good and bad. Some provocative research — e.g. most divorces are initiated by women; women with daughters more likely to divorce because they are more confident of companionship with/from their daughters than from their sons.

•  The rubber band technique to stop self-critical thinking. I didn't find this a particularly useful technique with my therapy clients, but someone reading my blog or the psychology today blog might. It takes a village of techniques to break the NST habit.

 • Facebook, narcissism and self-esteem. Perhaps not a surprise that there's an inverse correlation between low self-esteem and narcissism. It does make sense that people who don't feel good about themselves are constantly thinking about themselves — and what other people think about them. People who are confident have more energy and brain space to be other-directed.
Other People's Interesting Stuff: Gender differences,The Rubber-Band Technique, Weight Loss, and Narcissism, Self-Esteem and Social Media. WOW!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

NST and PST. Satan and God in Battle — Power Thoughts by Joyce Meyer.

I never would have guessed that good information about eliminating negative self-talk appears in best-selling Christian self-help books written by women; Power Thoughts by Joyce Meyer, Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth. Right now, I have only read Power Thoughts but have seen both on the NYTimes bestseller list.  I'm impressed with the Meyer's approach to the topic of thinking.

• Meyer quotes sound psychological, academic research.
• She  states, "Discouraging words from others and thoughts such as, 'I’m not smart enough, attractive enough, talented enough or diligent enough' often become self-fulfilling prophesies.”
• And says,  “Let me be clear that I am not saying that we can think into existence anything that we want."Whew! She's not part of the Law of Attraction crowd. (Rhonda Byrne, The Secret, The Power — and lots of other wishful thinkers.)
• Meyer is all for positive attitude accompanied by realistic inner thinking and outward talking. e.g. "If I want a raise, I'll have to work harder." She would suggest, "How can I start doing that?", rather than, "I'll pray for a raise".
• She views self-talk as a choice and responsibility. If we want to change our self-talk habit, time, effort, determination and discipline are needed.
I have a similar message in (not yet published) Handbook #1 for Intelligent Women: Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit.

Meyer and I differ in a few ways.
• Meyer thinks of Satan as the author of self-critical thinking, self-doubt, and anxiety. I think NST is a learned behavior. (See post, First Step in Dumping NST — Recognize that You Do It, July 25, 2010)
• She uses Biblical quotes to support her approach to altering thinking habits. I have nothing against her approach, but I use psychologically researched techniques as my approach.

Have some of my blog readers read any of the books targeted to Christian women? I'd  be interested in hearing, seeing, reading your impressions and perceptions.
NST and PST. Satan and God in Battle — Power Thoughts by Joyce Meyer.SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fear of Public Speaking? Dump NST, Detach, Get Rid of the Fear!

Marshmallows, Zen, and Glossophobia: What?
Don’t be alarmed. Glossophobia is just anxiety about public speaking — the cause of plain old speaker’s block. It occasionally shows up as a blank out: we can’t think and we certainly can’t talk. It’s not a fun experience. Solutions abound: take three deep breaths, then do it again; challenge the inner voice that says, “You can’t do it” and say, “Yes I can”; imagine the audience — naked! I’ve tried them all, and more, although I never successfully imagined eight or eighty naked people sitting right out there in front of me. True, the attempt at visualization diverted attention from my anxiety, but also distracted me completely from my speech.

I’ve used a different solution, based on new research in psychology and old practices of Zen Buddhism. Unlikely as it seems, a 1969 study of marshmallows, four year-olds, and the ability to delay gratification generated follow-up findings that apply to speaker’s block. The young research subjects were told they could have two marshmallows if they waited to eat them until after the researcher left and later returned to the room. If they didn’t or couldn’t wait, they could have only one. The successful delayers  (two-marshmallow kids) used distraction to help them postpone the gratification of the sweet, puffy, white, mouthfuls. They sang a song, looked away from the marshmallows on the table, closed their eyes, or climbed under the table so they couldn’t see the sweets. Inattentiveness to the marshmallows allowed them to temporarily forget their desire. Their “strategic allocation of attention,” paying attention to something other than the marshmallows, was the key to success, according to Walter Mischel, the coordinator of the original and recent follow-up research.

The process works whether you’re trying to distract yourself from something you do want (marshmallows) or something you don’t want, such as anxiety. Dara Torres, co-captain of the US Women’s swim team notes, “ . . . the key to managing prerace anxiety is being able to redirect one’s mind if it starts down a dark path.”  Torres recommended that her uptight swimmer pay attention to TV and polish her toe nails before a race as a way to distract herself from the dark path of anxiety; another example of strategic allocation of attention with a different situation and wording.

The steps in trying out the attention/distraction approach seem more passive than many of us are accustomed to, but give it a try. It may work for you.  Read more for steps 1 -5.
Fear of Public Speaking? Dump NST, Detach, Get Rid of the Fear!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Where are You, Realistic Thinking Women?

I know you must be out there, somewhere. There's nothing to be ashamed of just because you are NOT a negative self-talker — although sometimes it may seem that way. The strong bond of similarity that connects internally and externally self-critical people can feel exclusive. In group dynamics language, the realistic thinker becomes a deviant from the group norms of negative self-talkers.

The latter group has developed a somewhat pre-planned pattern of communication. For example, this is what often happens; trite and true. A and B are negative self-talkers.

A- "This sweater makes me look fat I know. I shouldn't wear it."
B - "I don't agree at all. The color looks great on you."
A-  "You really think so?"
B - "Of course. You look a lot better in that sweater than I do in these pants."
A - "I love those pants on you. They're great looking."
B - "Really?"

It's a dance — with both partners counting on the other to keep the music playing, complete the steps in sync, and follow the beat.

What happens when C, a realistic thinking woman, doesn't play by the unstated rules of the NSTer game?
A - "I'm such an idiot. I totally forgot to bring the book I borrowed from you last week. I know I promised I'd get it back to you right away. My mind is a seive."
C - "I do need it. Would you drop it by my house tonight or tomorrow morning? Just put it in the mailbox at the end of the driveway."
A - "Uh, OK."

What B might have said if she were responding to the book borrower would perhaps be something like this:
B - "No problem. I probably have something of yours that I've forgotten to return too. Could I possibly stop by tomorrow morning and pick it up?"

Are you a realistic thinker — a C responder? Do you feel discriminated against occasionally by the A, B sisters? I'd like to know your experience. Send me a story, when you have time — short or long. I'll post it if you want, won't if you don't want.
Where are You, Realistic Thinking Women?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, October 11, 2010

Another NSTer — Another Influence Attempt

"I know I shouldn't say this stuff to myself, or even worse, to other people, but I've been doing it all my life. It just comes rolling off my tongue, and before I know it, I've said it out loud." A friend said this to me following a sequence of self put downs, and an annoying reminder to her, from me, that even mild negative self-talk produces bad feelings.

She had said "This outfit doesn't look very good, I know," "You're all so much better at organizing than I am," "I never remember how things should be done." I had said, "You know that my mission is Handbook #1 for Intelligent Women: Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit. I wish you could stop doing that to yourself." She said, tiredly, "I know. I know." She does know, but isn't willing or able to make the effort, doesn't want to, or doesn't know how to stop the NST.  She's also probably sick of my reminders to give it up; as perhaps are my blog readers, other friends, family members, and writing group buddies.

I know that my persistence can generate resistance, which is definitely an undesirable outcome. The phrase, "like a dog with a bone" has been used about my occasional, overzealous pushiness about this topic — and others as well. I'm giving some thought to how I might better deliver (or not deliver) my message, in person, one to one, in a way that increases the likelihood that it will be received rather than resisted.  Maybe I need to reread The Power of Indirect Influence (my 2000 book) or refer back again to the master of influence, ASU professor, Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D.

The goal requires more study.  I'm reminded of an article in the NY Times several Sundays ago advocating new studying practices. They are supported by new research and counter to the "tried and true"; useful for all kinds of study, for all ages and genders. Yes, it's a leap, a change of topic, but still relevant — I think.

•  Instead of sticking to one study location, alternating the room/space/setting where a person studies improves retention
• Studying distinct but related skills or concepts in one sitting, rather than focusing intensely on a single topic or focus also improves memory
• Spacing study sessions over time and length of time, quizzing yourself now and then, helps in retaining information. "When the neural suitcase is packed carefully and gradually, it holds its contents for far, far longer."

I'll try these out myself as I study anew communication, resistance, influence and breaking habits. I'd also like to hear your opinions about communicating in a way that doesn't generate resistance. I just started reading Being Wrong, Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz. H-m-m-m.
Another NSTer — Another Influence AttemptSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Some Women Don't, Won't and Hardly Ever Did Negative Self-talk — And Mark Zuckerberg Does

A Sunday NY Times Business Section article discusses the relationship between Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, both of Facebook fame. "She (Ms. Sandberg) can be just as protective of Mr. Zuckerberger in private. At a technology conference this summer, for instance, Mr. Zuckerberg flopped during an onstage interview. He gave rambling answer to questions about Facebook's privacy policies, became visibley nervous and statrted sweating profusely. After the interview, Ms. Sandberg encouraged him not to beat himself up over it, but to focus on parts of the interview that went well so he could do better next time, . . . " A great example of substituting instructional, realistic thinking for negative self-talk to a 26 year old man from a 41 year old women.

I was reminded that although women are the majority of NSTers, men do it too. Mr. Zuckerberg is in the decade (25-35) where the highest percentage (men and women) of adult NSTers reside.  Men have an additional dilemma. Generally they don't ask for directions, and also don't ask for help in dealing with their inner lives, thoughts or feelings. In this situation Ms. Sandberg offered terrific, although unsolicited advice, which I sure hope he took.

Another reminder from the article was that there are plenty of women in the world who don't, won't, and rarely did engage in negative self-talk. After reading Ms. Sandberg's impressive history she clearly hasn't let any grass grow under her feet or any negative self-talk block her talents or forward movement.

 I also started thinking about intelligentwomenonly.com readers. There must be women who are like Sheryl Sandberg —smart and not blocked or bothered by the gray ghoul, the inner critic, the put down voice.  I'd love to hear your story about how, why or when you started to NOT be a negative self-talker.
• Maybe you never were one because you had no NST models to influence you.
• Perhaps you saw it, heard it in others and made an early choice to NOT imitate the self-put down talk.
• Possibly at a young age you found the repetitive self-critical conversations with friends or family boring and a waste of time and made a decision to avoid participation.

100 words or less — your name or anonymous. We'll vote for the best and feature your comment as part of a new blog post if you'd like — or not if you wouldn't.
Some Women Don't, Won't and Hardly Ever Did Negative Self-talk — And Mark Zuckerberg DoesSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, October 4, 2010

"Frenemies", Ambivalence, and Self-talk

"Frenemies" is a coined word that was lolling around in the back of my mind until I heard it today on NPR's program, "This American Life". Here's the intro from NPR web-site:

"Host Ira Glass plays tape of two women who ended up as frenemies.They kept trying to be friends, but couldn't help themselves from fighting. Ira then speaks with psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad who has run scientific studies to answer the question: Why don't we simply end these troubling kinds of friendships? Holt-Lunstad's research also shows that these relationships are much more common than you might think." As a matter of fact, Holt-Lunstad reports that women say that 50% of their relationships are troubled and cause ambivalance, an emotional state that apparently is more stressful than an "enemy" relationship.

Why do women stay in troubling friendships with women? I've always wondered why women stay in troubled relationships with men and I bet the same answers fit both situations. The obvious one — the women stuck in the relationships are getting something they want out of it, even if it's not so healthy. e.g. a sense of being loyal, self-righteousness, frequent reignited indignation, guilt, hope, self-congratulatory feelings.

The research found that women stayed because of the limitations, rules, principles that they placed on themselves through their own self-talk. e.g.
• "I'm not the kind of person to dump a friend just because they are flaky."
• "I'm not going to sink to the low level that she has adopted. I'm going to be civil even though she isn't."
• "How dare she do it again after I forgave her the first ten times?"
• "She doesn't have many other friends. Supposing she really is devastated if I dump her."
• "Maybe she'll have a sudden realization that I'm an important part of her life and apologize."
• "I've behaved admirabley through all this. She's been a jerk."
Just notice, that all of the outcomes are based on self-talk, meaning we have control over the outcome.

Apparently most of us don't have the courage to end friendships that don't mean anything anymore. And perhaps it's because we're reluctant to say that any of our relationships, short or long, with men or women, are meaningless. People, feelings and relationships are our favorite topics for conversation and self-talk. What would we think, feel and talk about without them? Nonetheless, we all could probably do a better job of some light weeding of our friendship garden.
"Frenemies", Ambivalence, and Self-talkSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Emotional Balance — Make it More Realistic

In the intelligentwomenonly 9/22/2010 blog about science support for gender stereotypes, women's greater (than men's) emotional expressiveness was mentioned as a research supported fact. In and of itself, emotional expressiveness isn't good or bad, productive or useless, it just is. It can increase our own self-awareness as we speak our inner thoughts out loud — or reduce our sense of emotional balance as we hear ouselves express "all over the place" emotion. Men can flee to safety from our emotional intensity (verbally or physically) or see it as a different and interesting take on us or the situation under discussion.

If you're happy with how you vent, state, express your feelings outwardly to women, men, and children, read this new blog no more. If you're not, start to think about realistic thinking/talking, pulling away from the negative or positive evaluative approach.

 For example, you give an informative speech to a small group. When it is over you realize that it wasn’t as good as usual because you were not well prepared and felt rushed. If you want to maintain or attain emotional balance, you reduce the overly negative and positive self-talk and increase realistic self-talk.

• Realistic — “That speech wasn’t my best, but it was fine.”
• Negative — “I blew it again. I should give up speaking.”
• Positive — “I’ve got a talent for speaking! They loved it.”

Negative self-talk, translated often into external talk,  keeps us down. Positive self-talk can put us in a dicey stance. I'm suggesting women alter the ratio of their thinking styles: more of the realistic, less of the negative or positive. The following poem says it best.

“Success is as dangerous as failure.
 Hope is as hollow as fear.
What does it mean that success is as dangerous as failure?
Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
your position is shaky.
When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
you will always keep your balance.”
(From Poem 13 of The Tao Te Ching)
Emotional Balance — Make it More RealisticSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, September 27, 2010

Intelligent Women — Why Are You Reading The Secret and The Power?

I might be strenuously dinged for criticizing The Power since I haven't read it. But I was (and am) so disgusted with the major BS (which doesn't stand for Brainy Science) of The Secret that I can't stand to immerse myself deeply in the "power of love" as it relates to the law of attraction. Consequently I will quote from an article in the NY Times Book Review, Sept 27th. The authors, both men, are psychology professors. According to both books,  ". . . your thoughts and feelings have magnetic properties and 'frequencies'. They 'vibrate' and resonate with the 'universe', somehow attracting events that share those frequencies back to their thinker." What?

The professors comment on a few mind tricks involved in getting both books to the top of the bestseller list.

• social proof — if other people are "buying" the concept, or have stated a similar concept in the past, (celebrities (Oprah), theologians, historical sages) then an idea or action gains credibility by association with admired others. By joining, individuals feel similar to and therefore enhanced as they become part of a "movement" populated by intelligent, respected others.

• the illusion of potential — "A readiness to believe that we have a vast reservoir of untapped abilities just waiting to be released." We may all have untapped abilities, but in general we have to do a lot more than sending our wishes out to the universe in order to produce results.

The article authors note, "The powerful psychology behind these rhetorical tricks can distract readers from the larger illogic of Byrne's book. What if a thousand people started sincerely visualizing winning the entire $200 million prize in this week's Lotto? How would the universe sort out that mess?"

I ask, "Why are thousands of women reading these nonsensical books?" Both books can be labeled as self-help books. Women purchased 74% of books sold in the relationship and family category (of self-help books) according to book consumer trends tracker R.R. Bowker. Therefore, it's not a huge leap to think that women are buying most of the far-out, unscientific, untrue, illogical books that I'm talking about.

I would really like to understand some good, solid, logical reasons for buying a book that is based on fantasy, while pretending to be based on science and reality. To me there are sad reasons —

• women are hopeless about getting what they want through their own abilities
• hype and dreams are easier to live with in the short term than despair
• a low self-esteem epidemic
• waiting takes less effort than working toward a goal
• inability to accept that you may not be able to have everything you want, even if you're smart and capable

I'd love some answers. I look forward to push back. I'd be happy for someone to tell me I'm all wrong.
Intelligent Women — Why Are You Reading The Secret and The Power?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Women ARE More Emotionally Expressive and Cleaner Too. So Says Science.

10 Gender Stereotypes That Science Supports

by admin on September 7, 2010
  1. Men are better than women at driving. While female drivers might not be the dangerous, fender bending, crazies they are depicted in movies as being, there is some scientific evidence to support that men are better when it comes to driving than women. Why is this? Studies have shown that men are better at navigation and at orienting themselves in three-dimensional space. Some researchers think this is due to early man having to go out to hunt and return home again with dinner and is related to testosterone levels in the body. And it isn’t just women, the study also found that homosexual men were less likely to excel at driving as well. Despite the stereotype, and the science that supports it, that same testosterone can lead to men taking more risks and driving more aggressively, the reason insurance premiums are so much higher for males than females.
  2. Women are cleaner than men. This holds true for personal as well as household cleanliness but it might not just be due to laziness or housekeeping ineptness in men. In fact, researchers think that it has to do with women simply having a better sense of smell than men. While structurally male and female olfactory senses are the same, the way that smells are processed in the brain differs. Women actually use a larger part of their brain to process smells, making them better able to pick up on things like stinky socks, body odor and rotting take out containers that might fly under the radar of men. It is this ability to pick up on body odor in particular that researchers think is the reason for the difference, allowing cro-magon women to better tell when males were ready to mate. Think that sounds silly? A woman’s sense of smell peaks in sensitivity when she’s ovulating.
  3. Men feel less pain than women. This isn’t to suggest that it’s impossible to cripple a man with pain (try aiming for the family jewels and you’ll see just how much pain a man really can feel) or that women are huge wimps when it comes to pain. It’s just that men and women’s bodies are set up differently when it comes to sensing and processing pain information. Women actually have more pain receptors in their skin, making even small bumps and bruises more painful for them than their male counterparts. And when men do get hurt? They just don’t feel it as much due in part to a small protein that men have in greater supply than women. This protein affects both the pain threshold and the ability of painkillers to work on the body, causing women to sometimes need double the amount of painkiller to get the same amount of relief. Of course, there is one instance where the situation is reversed: childbirth. During childbirth, a woman’s body is hopped up on enough endorphins and natural painkillers to dull (at least a little bit, as any woman will tell you it still hurts like the dickens) the intense pain of the process.
  4. Women are more intuitive. Ever felt like your mom, girlfriend or best friend could read your mind? While women might not be mind readers studies have shown that they are better at picking up on subtle cues that are often nonverbal and unconscious. Research has documented that women consistently score better than men at both remembering the physical characteristics of others and correctly identifying the information being transmitted through facial expressions, tones of voices and body posture. Scientists think it is an evolutionary trait related to having to guess whether a fussy child is hungry, cold or in need of closeness. Moms better at reading cues had better luck at keeping offspring alive, passing on the skill to the next generation. Men in multiple studies were found to be less adept at guessing at the emotions of others, though both sexes have a hard time seeing through perfidious emotions, such as a fake smile.
  5. Men can drink women under the table. Men have an advantage when it comes to drinking more than women in that they’re simply often larger and bulkier than their female counterparts. Of course, the ability of men to pound down beer after beer and feel little effect has deeper roots than just body size. The reason behind the difference is due to the water to fat ratios in male and female bodies. Men have more water in their bodies, helping dilute their alcohol intake naturally. And women don’t just have a disadvantage at this stage either, but as the alcohol moves to their liver they have less of the enzyme that helps them to kill the intoxicating effects of liquor, making them get drunk more quickly and more thoroughly than men. Of course, there are always differences among individuals as some women can out drink men and some men can only handle a few beers before falling over.
  6. Women talk more than men. The stereotype that women like to talk, talk, talk and then talk some more might hold some weight when it comes to science. It seems that the part of the brain that processes language and helps support verbal ability is proportionally larger in the female brain than the male. This may mean that females have superior language skills to men. And since they’re better at talking and communicating what they want through verbal cues, women tend to talk more than men. How much more? One study stated that women use around 20,000 words a day, 13,000 more than the average man. Additionally, some research suggests that women speak more quickly and that communication gives women a natural high, making talk a much more satisfying activity for them than men. Does this mean men don’t talk? It’s simply not the case. Other studies have shown that men can be pretty chatty too, but more keen on focusing their talk on sports and gadgets than on relationships and everyday occurrences.
  7. Men are more aggressive and more likely to act out in anger. It’s not that women don’t get angry or really want to yell, scream and kick something, but that their brains are just better at dealing with anger than men. Research indicates that men are often more aggressive and act out in anger because the part of the brain that modulates aggression is smaller in men than it is in women. Both genders can produce anger and aggression with equal aplomb, but it is women that can better reign it in and cool down. This isn’t to suggest that men aren’t able to control their emotions, specifically anger, but that they have a much harder time in general doing so because they have been genetically shortchanged. Studies have also pinpointed the genetic origins of aggression to two genes, both creating individuals who are more prone to belligerent and sometimes violent outbursts The anger reducing power of women was found to carry over to controlling these genes as well, and men carrying them who grew up in nurturing loving homes were found to be more docile and less aggressive than those who did not.
  8. Women are more emotional than men. Movies and TV would have you believe that women cry at the drop of the hat and can’t handle even a simple crisis without freaking out. Female hysteria has been a stereotype that has dogged women for ages, causing men and women alike to question their ability to lead companies, governments and even their own families. Are women really more emotional than men? Well, sort of. Women and men have been found to be equally emotional, experiencing the same levels of sadness when exposed to a sad external stimulus. The difference is not in the feeling of emotion it is in the expression of emotion, with women being much more likely to show sadness and pain than men. However, women are much more prone to emotional stress than men, due to a stress hormone that can send their emotional state spiraling. Men, accordingly, had little reaction to the hormone, helping them keep their cool in situations the women found quite stressful. Both studies show that women are not really more emotional than men but that they have a harder time dealing with emotional stress (due to medical reasons outside of their control — "and due to psychological reasons within their control" **) and feel more socially comfortable expressing how they feel.
  9. Men have no savvy for color. We’re all familiar with the stereotypical situation where a woman holds up several very similar paint swatches and asks a man to help her choose between toffee, cappuccino, taupe and beige. Of course, the man can’t tell the difference and audiences laugh at the frivolousness of the woman or the seeming stupidity of the man, depending on their sex. Research shows that this inability to see subtle color differences isn’t a product of a male indifference to design or fashion. It’s actually biological. The gene for seeing red is only carried on the X chromosome, leaving men at a serious disadvantage when it comes to inheriting the ability to see the full color spectrum. it’s also the reason that pretty much no females are color blind. Women also have the ability to be tetrachromats, seeing more colors than the average person, sometimes up to a hundred million different shades. Researchers think the color seeing advantages of women date back to when they were the primary gatherers for the family. Being able to tell poisonous foods apart from similar looking non-poisonous ones was key to survival.
  10. Women have less of a sex drive than men. It’s been ingrained into our culture that men are the sexual ones and women just put up with it. Of course, the reality is far more nuanced than that and many women are extremely sexual and want to have sex with men as much as men want to have sex with females. The difference between the sexes lies in that, for women, sex is more than just physical. Research has shown that the male libido is strong and that male sexual desires are pretty straightforward, meaning they can become aroused easily and what arouses them isn’t too hard to pin down. Women, on the other hand, are much more sensitive to environment, context, emotional state and social and cultural factors. Women are often unsure of just what turns them on and are much more likely to be fluid in their sexual preferences than men. And if you don’t know what you want, or who you want it with, you can be less likely to actively seek it out. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and rates of infidelity between spouses that hover at around the same percentage for both men and women are enough to demonstrate that both sexes are interested in sex and sex with different partners.                                                   ** Added by jt

    Women ARE More Emotionally Expressive and Cleaner Too. So Says Science.SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    Thinking Under Pressure: Do you Clutch or Choke?

    "What does it mean to be clutch?" Paul Sullivan asks in the Introduction to his 2010 book, Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don't. I was delighted that he asked, because I was clueless. I do practice what I preach in my book Genderflex — women need to know something about sports to survive in the world of work.  Workplace conversations, still rife with sports analogies, and "wealth acquisition" stories keep women thinking "Huh?" at times. And I was still saying "Huh?" to myself after reading Sullivan's stories about John Havlicek, Tommy LaSorda, Eli Manning and Roger Federer. Even though I know who these men are, I still didn't get it about clutch.

    My second problem with the clutch thing was that the author uses the word as an adjective. e.g. "being a clutch performer", or a noun, "He proved himself in the clutch." Maybe this is a male thing. I  think of clutch as a verb, e.g. grab, grasp. Nonetheless, I ultimately understood. Clutch means to be good under pressure. Choke means NOT being good under pressure.

    OK, so what you're maybe wondering, given all my opposition, why didn't I just shut the book and shut up about clutch? Chapter 8, which is called "The Perils of Overthinking," notes the connection between clutch and the "empowerment of being realistic." Wow! That's what I'm talking about too. Not freaking out with the negative. Not faking out with the positive. Just plain old realistic thinking. "What it certainly is not is overthinking," the author says about clutch.

    The final sentence in Chapter 8 notes, "To avoid the perils of overthinking, a person needs to just do what he does — and not think of what he could, would, should do in that situation." Hm-m-m-m. I'm still mumbling to myself. I think Paul Sullivan, in a very lengthy, sports analolgy, male-targeted way is saying something to men that I'm saying to women. Dump the negative — dump the positive — get real and focus on solving the problem! Men and women do speak different languages, with different tones, analogies, stories and points, but yes, there are underlying similarities.

    I'm taking the book back to the library tomorrow before it sends me to sleep, albeit with a renewed appreciation for the fact that men also overthink, negative think, and often are overconfident thinkers!
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    Sunday, September 5, 2010

    What Does it Mean to Grow Up?

    The title of today's post is is taken from Dr. Gerald Stein's article, "Signs of Maturity: What Does It Mean to Grow Up?"  http://tinyurl.com/2bhvcol

    Here are a couple of paragraphs about men and maturity.

    "Let the last words on the subject of being a grown-up (and much more) go to Adlai Stevenson II, in his 1954 speech at the senior class dinner of his Alma Mater, Princeton University. These 55-year-old words spoken by the 54-year-old Stevenson are as appropriate now as then:
    "…What a man knows at fifty that he did not know at twenty is, for the most part, incommunicable. The laws, the aphorisms, the generalizations, the universal truths, the parables and the old saws—all of the observations about life which can be communicated handily in ready, verbal packages—are as well-known to a man at twenty who has been attentive as to a man at fifty. He has been told them all, he has read them all, and he has probably repeated them all before he graduates from college; but he has not lived them all.
    What he knows at fifty that he did not know at twenty boils down to something like this: The knowledge he has acquired with age is not the knowledge of formulas, or forms of words, but of people, places, actions—a knowledge not gained by words but by touch, sight, sound, victories, failures, sleeplessness, devotion, love—the human experiences and emotions of this earth and of oneself and other men; and perhaps, too, a little faith, and a little reverence for things you cannot see…"
    Yes, that was a long time ago when "men" was retroactively said to mean men and women, but this particular quote does not seem so much applicable to men as to women. We do people best, faith more, and reverence for things you cannot see, a lot.

    With no specific gender recognition of his advice , Gerald Stein makes a pertinent comment more specific to women than Stevenson's comment was to men — at least from my viewpoint.

    "Accepting and liking oneself is a part of being a grown-up. Not that you don’t need to or want to change, but to appreciate what is good about yourself and to accept some of the inevitable limitations to which all of us are prone. Not to avoid self-improvement, but to avoid self-denigration."

    We learned negative self-talk at 11 or 12. Let's unlearn it at 21 or 22, not 61 or 62.

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    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Another Tough View on The Secret and the Law of Attraction

    This week’s post borrows Tony Brenna's article, previously published in The Bainbridge Buzz, a local blog site that ran out of gas. Tony is a fellow Toastmaster, a journalist and writer. I agree completely with his viewpoint about The Secret, though I wasn’t at the town hall.

    I’d love to hear what some of the intelligent women out there think about The Secret and The Law of Attraction — particularly your reasons for buying into the concept, other than personal anecdotes.

    "The recent town hall meeting to discuss The Secret drew mostly wistful comments from an audience obviously besotted by the main idea that the Law of Attraction rules everything in life, i.e. if you want something strongly enough, if you think about it constantly, you can literally will it into your existence.
    While Dr. Jennifer Manlowe (author and writer on the psychology of religion) did an excellent job pointing to failings in this philosophy, you could feel her running into resistance from those who preferred to embrace The Secret’s core message: you can get rich, find the perfect mate, in fact have everything you want simply by visualization.  This message advocates embracing Magical Thinking, telling yourself you’re at the center of the Universe, even believing you’re God, not merely made in the likeness of the Creator.
    New Thought Minister LeeAnn Gibbs, leading the discussion, appeared to agree with the central premise of the best seller, that the law of attraction really works — although she did concede The Secret is overly directed to the self-centered, self-indulgent aspects of human nature. And as another New Thought follower pointed out: “Worse, it doesn’t really tell you how to do what it advocates.”

    Listening to comments one couldn’t fail to be amazed at the naïveté and self-delusion that permeated most of what was said.  This brilliantly packaged product wasn’t seen as full of clever hocus pocus, but rather as weighted with meaningful messages promising abundance, love and good health — just by placing your order positively with the universe.
    Since these thoughts have been expressed in writings going back centuries, one risks being burned at the stake as a heretic by arguing against positivity.  But one must counter the current trend to banish reality, to not face facts. As much as it disturbs those wishing to see only goodness and light, the negative still has a valid  place in our lives and should be examined closely, too. 
    We live in a society bombarded by artfully crafted messages from those seeking to sell us products or ideas; TV and films are full of mythical characters, situations and creations.  We watch all this rather than deal with the grim realities of the modern world.  The Secret seems like an escape hatch out of collective disappointment and despair. But it isn’t. The Western world is facing a host of problems right now:  an unraveling economy; environmental degradation; disintegration of the family; wars spurred by greed, religious wackos, poverty and disease. The Secret tells us just to go on our merry metaphysical way, emitting magical signals that will attract to us larger homes, luxurious cars and perfect partners."

    That process won't work for individuals, groups or nations. As Paul Sloane, a British expert on thinking said on Twitter, "The Law of Attraction is a Dangerous Delusion."
    Another Tough View on The Secret and the Law of AttractionSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Don't Take it Personally?

    "Don't take it personally," is an oft-used disclaimer. What does that really mean when you receive that message?
    To me, it generally means:
    • Criticism will follow. e.g. "Your report isn't clearly worded." "Do you always wear those baggy jeans?"
    • The person speaking is trying to avoid your being defensive or angry in response to criticism.
    • Or the person may want to get into a conflict with you, after which they end the conversation with, "You always take things so personally. I can't talk to you about anything."

    Maybe you don't mind that conversational opener or closer. I do. I think it's disingenuous — particularly when it comes from men. Many women and men know that women are more likely to be emotional, to have the inner NST critic chatting all the time, and thus to take things personally.

    Here are a few ideas about combatting the "Don't Take it Personally," approach.

    • Quickly say, "Please be cautious in your wording. I will take it personally." If the person has good motives they will be careful and rethink the wording. e.g. "I think the report would be clearer if you also state the three most important points in a sidebar."
    • Quickly say, "I won't take it personally. I understand you're just telling me your opinion. I might agree or I might disagree." If the person's motives are to get you on the defensive, this may disarm them slightly. Plus it helps you to reframe the comment.
    • Remind yourself in your head, "He/she is telling me something about him/herself, not about me."
    • Detach. Don't get into it. Listen. Perhaps say, "Interesting comment," and nothing more. If the speaker keeps at you, "How are you planning to fix the report?" you say, "I'll give it some thought."

    Any of these options require restraint and calm — both of which are hard to achieve when you're ticked off, your NST is going 100 mph and you're feeling vulnerable. Nonetheless, just about anything is better than biting the bait, getting into it, and ending up feeling worse than ever.
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    Sunday, August 15, 2010

    Writers: Gender Differences and Stress — March 11, 2011

    Here's a repeat early post about gender differences in dealing with stress — and focused on writers in particular.

    Blogger and writer, Kelli Russell Agodon, speculated about gender differences as they show up in writers. See the complete post and her blog at www.ofkells.blogspot.com
    I have borrowed with permission and shortened the sequence, but not changed wording.

    "If an editor of our press rejects work from a male writer, but writes something like, "This came close.  We'd like to see more of your work in the future, please resubmit" - we will usually receive another submission from the male writer within a month (though sometimes two) after he receives his rejection.

    When we send this same note to a woman writer, she will resubmit maybe in 3-6 months (if that) but more likely it will be later than 6 months and sometimes a year (or the next submission season later).  Sometimes she will not resubmit at all.

    I do not know why this is, but as a woman writer who grew up in the age of not imposing on people or being a bother, here is my guess to why--

    When we ask a woman to resubmit she thinks, "When would be the best time to resubmit?  I don't want to seem pushy, but I do want to get them my work.  Maybe I should wait a few months so I don't seem desperate or so I don't irritate them by submitting so fast.  Do they really want to see more work, or were they just being nice?  I'm sure they want to see more work, but I should probably wait a couple months, I wouldn't want to be an imposition and it would be better manners and more respectful to wait a bit.  Or should I?  Yes, I'll play it cool and wait a few months. I wouldn't want to impose."
    And then the woman writer waits and either forgets or send her submission out a few months to a year later.  (The generalization of women over-thinking things is going through my head right now.)"

    Kelli's speculation fits in with research on gender and stress.  From a study by P. Matud about gender differences in stress we find out that one of several reasons that women experience more stress than men. Women carry a larger burden of demands and limitations at work and in the family than men, related to gender role expectations. WOW! The more things change the more things stay the same — still and again. My 1994 book, Genderflex, Men and Women Speaking Each Others Language at Work, is fortunately and unfortunately not outdated yet!

    A further finding of the study is that men cope better with stress. They use problem-solving and emotional detachment to cope. They act. We use emotionally focused techniques and avoidanceand we don't take action. We stew. I'm sure you can see the connection to not resubmitting as a writer, which is a relatively benign consequence of women experiencing more stress and coping with it less well as you know. Our overthinking, inner critic is a powerful stressor — a stressor that fewer men have to deal with.

    Writers: Gender Differences and Stress — March 11, 2011SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    Is Your Psychology a Performance?

    Provocative article, "I Tweet, Therefore I am," http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/magazine/01wwln-lede-t.html

    Peggy Orenstein has produced an original, insightful article about the effect of social media on "the self." Quoting MIT professor Sherry Turkle, Orenstein writes, "On Twitter or Facebook you're trying to express something real about who you are. But because you're also creating something for others' consumption, you find yourself imagining and playing to your audience more and more. So those moments in  which you're supposed to be showing your true self become a performance. Your psychology becomes a performance." YIKES. 

    Orenstein asks,  "But when every thought is externalized, what becomes of insight? When we reflexively post each feeling, what becomes of reflection? When friends become fans, what happens to intimacy?" Lots more worth reading, and thought-provoking. Do you identify? Think it's way off? Only applicable to young people?
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    Sunday, August 8, 2010

    How Much Stress Do You Create with Negative Self-Talk?

    OK. Now that you notice the negative self-talk, look at the effect that inner critic creates in terms of everyday stress.  I propose that for many women, inner stressors such as unrealistic demands and expectations of themselves, communicated through harsh negative self-talk, create greater and more frequent pressure than external stressors.

    For example, you’re driving on an icy road, without chains or snow tires. You’re late for a meeting that you’re facilitating. You’re shoulders are up to your ears with tension as you focus intensely on the road, your speed, your vision. The voice in your head gets faster, loud and pushy, impossible to ignore. “Idiot. You should’ve started 30 minutes earlier. You knew it was going to be bad driving. You’re such a bad time manager. Oh, God, Harry’s going to be ticked off. I’ve messed up again.”

    What’s the major cause of the stress? The external or the internal stressors? The icy road or the self-criticism?

    Intelligent women have to wonder why they hang on to this useless, energy consuming, ineffective, self-talk, habit. Imagine if a friend were saying the same ugly things to you that you’re saying to yourself. Would it motivate you? Move you toward your goals? Make you feel good about yourself? Or would it instead send you spinning off into a stressed out funk? And, if you were smart, once you’d recovered from the second or third bout of nasty criticism from that same friend, you’d dump him or her. So why would you hang on to your own inner critic, year after year, when it doesn’t help you to feel better or do better? When the constant critiquing doesn’t increase self-esteem or improve performance? What’s keeping you from dumping the habit? I'd like to know what keeps you stuck in the rut. Do you know?
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    Sunday, July 25, 2010

    First Step in Dumping NST — Recognize that You Do It

    If you've been reading this blog, you know that negative self-talk is a nasty thinking habit; a consistent pattern of frequent, often automatic, critical inner monologues. “I’m a loser.” “How stupid was that move?” “I never handle these situations the way I should.” “I look like a blimp.”

    Today I'm suggesting that the first step in breaking the habit is noticing if you have it! Perhaps you don't have the NST habit. It's easy to find out. Just take a minute as you're getting ready for work in the morning, again at mid-day, and at the end of your workday or after dinner to listen to what you inner voice is saying to you.   You might hear the put down message delivered with subtle whispers, a contemptuous tone, or even intrusive inner shouts, which tell the thinker, “You’re not good enough.” Because women define themselves in terms of relationships, their negative thoughts are often about what other people think of them. “Why doesn’t my best friend/ mother/ lover/ boss/ like/ love/ respect me more? What’s wrong with me?”

    We often learn the habit as children, listening to our mothers put themselves down about appearance or abilities. “I have such ugly legs.”  “I never could do math and I still can’t even balance my check book.” We also buy in to family labels: the shy bookworm, a total klutz, the airhead. Girls often adopt negative self-talk by imitating older sisters or girlfriends, thinking it’s the way to act mature.
     For many women, the gray ghoul of self-doubt and disapproval dwells within, from the age of eleven or twelve. Over time, negative thinking’s insistent presence creates submission and acquiescence “I know. I know. You’re right. I messed up again.” The misguided mental behavior is repeated. The habit is acquired.

    Just notice, without reaction or evaluation. Strategic allocation of attention can focus attention on your self-talk as well as take focus away when you want to detach. Right now you want to focus on it only briefly to see what's there.Then you want to detach rather than analyze or obsess, just as you might notice that there were clouds in the sky, without further interpretation or rumination. It just is!
    First Step in Dumping NST — Recognize that You Do ItSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend