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?
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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