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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