Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Different Focus

A long-time friend and neighbor — her children and mine were and are still buddies — passed away last Thursday. I'm on my way to the memorial service in Arizona. Three people, none whom I know well, reminded me of truths. The first one said, "This is life." Trite, but a gentle nudge back to reality. Of course.

When I mentioned all the things I had to not get done with my unexpected trip, a man quoted a tombstone marker. "He didn't get everything done. He died anyway." Or maybe it was instead, "He got everything done. He died anyway."

A third person told me that she has realized that very little in life is more important than spending time with old friends, neighbors, and family — in a crisis, in ordinary days, at the drop of a hat, or  with long-term planning.

So I'm focusing on here and now and not the usual blogging topics for the next few days.
A Different FocusSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Men, Women, and Humor by Ellie Marek and Judith C. Tingley

Men and Women Respond to Humor

This is an article I wrote with an expert on humor — about a decade ago! Does it still apply? I think so. Do you? 

I apologize in advance for the blank space and rectangle in the middle of the post. After 30 minutes I can't figure out how to get rid of it! Sorry.

The war between the sexes has been going on forever. They were duking it out on Mount Olympus. It was certainly one of Shakespeare's favorite themes. The antagonism shows up often in humor. Many learned men (before learned women were recognized) — among them Plato, Aristotle, and Charles Darwin — believed that the basis of humor is assault. According to Victor Raskin, Ph.D. " . . . It's a civilized replacement for physical hostility. ... It's is a way to establish superiority."

We, the authors, (both learned women), thought so too as we reacted to a wave of humor on our e-mail which seemed to be definitely hostile — both male-bashing and female-bashing.

We thought the plethora of Internet gender jokes might well be examples of the "blason populaire" described by folklorist Alan Dundes. The term is used to describe humorous slurs against any group: ethnic, religious, or gender — a much more elegant term than "politically incorrect offensive jokes". Experts in cross cultural communication see this "blason populaire" as here to stay, so we decided to investigate!

We conducted a survey of 114 respondents, ages 20 to 70, equally divided between men and women. We asked them to respond to 21 jokes (half put-downs of each gender) with an adjective (funny, hostile, amusing, annoying, enjoyable, stupid or other) and an intensity: 1-10. 

Here's what we found out.
Men generally find this type of humor funny or amusing much more frequently than women do. They weren't offended by male or female put-down humor. They even thought this joke was funny:
Q. Why is it difficult to find men who are sensitive, caring, and good looking? A. They all already have boyfriends.
Women were much more frequently offended by both male-bashing and female-bashing humor than were men who were rarely offended. Female humor is traditionally keyed to stories and anecdotes, self-deprecating humor; not put-down jokes which are the favorite of many men. Men saw almost none of the jokes as hostile (about either men or women).
Women saw more hostility in jokes than did men and saw them as stupid more frequently.
Neither men nor women saw an increase in this type of humor, but both gave many varied reasons for the increase that they didn't think existed! Increased anger, threatened males, backlash, ignorance etc.

The lessons to be learned?
Women are more readily offended by jokes that slur either themselves or others.
If you want to use humor to influence women positively, eliminate this kind of humor.
They don't like it and probably won't learn to like it.

We also learned that neither men nor women read directions!
Men, Women, and Humor by Ellie Marek and Judith C. TingleySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

David Brooks Knows Similarity Increases Bonding. If You and I Both Like Brooks, We May Like Each Other.

Heard David Brooks, NYTimes columnist speak last night. He has an interesting book out, The Social Animal, which discussed research-based discoveries about emotions and logic, our conscious and unconscious brain processes, the human condition and social psychological systems. I haven't read it yet although I bought it, but his talk was thought provoking as well as funny and entertaining. Here's a column that covers a few of his thinking/talking/writing points.

The New Humanism
Published: March 7, 2011

Over the course of my career, I’ve covered a number of policy failures. When the Soviet Union fell, we sent in teams of economists, oblivious to the lack of social trust that marred that society. While invading Iraq, the nation’s leaders were unprepared for the cultural complexities of the place and the psychological aftershocks of Saddam’s terror.

We had a financial regime based on the notion that bankers are rational creatures who wouldn’t do anything stupid en masse. For the past 30 years we’ve tried many different ways to restructure our educational system — trying big schools and little schools, charters and vouchers — that, for years, skirted the core issue: the relationship between a teacher and a student.

I’ve come to believe that these failures spring from a single failure: reliance on an overly simplistic view of human nature. We have a prevailing view in our society — not only in the policy world, but in many spheres — that we are divided creatures. Reason, which is trustworthy, is separate from the emotions, which are suspect. Society progresses to the extent that reason can suppress the passions.

This has created a distortion in our culture. We emphasize things that are rational and conscious and are inarticulate about the processes down below. We are really good at talking about material things but bad at talking about emotion.

When we raise our kids, we focus on the traits measured by grades and SAT scores. But when it comes to the most important things like character and how to build relationships, we often have nothing to say. Many of our public policies are proposed by experts who are comfortable only with correlations that can be measured, appropriated and quantified, and ignore everything else.

Yet while we are trapped within this amputated view of human nature, a richer and deeper view is coming back into view. It is being brought to us by researchers across an array of diverse fields: neuroscience, psychology, sociology, behavioral economics and so on.

This growing, dispersed body of research reminds us of a few key insights. First, the unconscious parts of the mind are most of the mind, where many of the most impressive feats of thinking take place. Second, emotion is not opposed to reason; our emotions assign value to things and are the basis of reason. Finally, we are not individuals who form relationships. We are social animals, deeply interpenetrated with one another, who emerge out of relationships.

This body of research suggests the French enlightenment view of human nature, which emphasized individualism and reason, was wrong. The British enlightenment, which emphasized social sentiments, was more accurate about who we are. It suggests we are not divided creatures. We don’t only progress as reason dominates the passions. We also thrive as we educate our emotions.

When you synthesize this research, you get different perspectives on everything from business to family to politics. You pay less attention to how people analyze the world but more to how they perceive and organize it in their minds. You pay a bit less attention to individual traits and more to the quality of relationships between people.

You get a different view of, say, human capital. Over the past few decades, we have tended to define human capital in the narrow way, emphasizing I.Q., degrees, and professional skills. Those are all important, obviously, but this research illuminates a range of deeper talents, which span reason and emotion and make a hash of both categories:

Attunement: the ability to enter other minds and learn what they have to offer.

Equipoise: the ability to serenely monitor the movements of one’s own mind and correct for biases and shortcomings.

Metis: the ability to see patterns in the world and derive a gist from complex situations.

Sympathy: the ability to fall into a rhythm with those around you and thrive in groups.

Limerence: This isn’t a talent as much as a motivation. The conscious mind hungers for money and success, but the unconscious mind hungers for those moments of transcendence when the skull line falls away and we are lost in love for another, the challenge of a task or the love of God. Some people seem to experience this drive more powerfully than others.

When Sigmund Freud came up with his view of the unconscious, it had a huge effect on society and literature. Now hundreds of thousands of researchers are coming up with a more accurate view of who we are. Their work is scientific, but it directs our attention toward a new humanism. It’s beginning to show how the emotional and the rational are intertwined.

I suspect their work will have a giant effect on the culture. It’ll change how we see ourselves. Who knows, it may even someday transform the way our policy makers see the world.

David Brooks Knows Similarity Increases Bonding. If You and I Both Like Brooks, We May Like Each Other.SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Left-brain Approach to Talk Yourself through an "Upset"! H-m-m-m.

Here's a left brain approach — problem solving — to dealing with an "upset." Next Monday will be a right brain approach. I'm a left-brain person but I have to admit I find this method a bit tedious!
Here's the linkhttp://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/just-listen/201103/trauma-loss-and-recovery-universal-approach. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/just-listen/201103/trauma-loss-and-recovery-universal-approach

The Seven Steps to Recovery is a way to talk and walk yourself through any upset you've had and make things better instead of worse.
  1. Physical Awareness: when you're feeling stressed, think to yourself, "I am physically feeling _____ [what] in my _____ [where in your body]."
  2. Emotional Awareness: "And emotionally I feel _____ [angry? frustrated? scared? sad? disappointed? hurt? upset?] and how my _____ [fill in the emotion you just named] is _____ [name the level of intensity]."
  3. Impulse Awareness: "And feeling _____ [name the physical feeling] and _____ [name the emotional feeling], and feeling it _____ [name the level of intensity], makes me want to _____ [name the impulse]."
  4. Consequence Awareness: "If I act on that impulse, the most likely immediate consequence will be _____, and a longer-term consequence will be _____.
  5. Reality Awareness: "While I am holding off (for now) on acting on that impulse, an other and more accurate perception of what might really be going on is _____________________ [seeing the world as it actually is, can further help you not react to the way it isn't].
  6. Solution Awareness: "A better thing for me to do instead would be to _____ [fill in an alternate behavior such as counting to 10, waiting 24 hours, or thinking of what you want the outcome to be immediately and in the long term, and what you need to do to achieve those outcomes].
  7. Benefit Awareness: "If I try that solution, the benefit to me immediately will be _____ [for example, "I won't make things worse," or, "I won't do more things that I'll regret and then have to apologize to people for them"] and in the long term will be _____ [for example, "I'll be on my way to making things better," or, "I'll have more respect for myself and gain more from others"].
If you are a person for whom positive affirmations or self-talk do not work (I am such a person), imagine doing the above exercise with someone who cares or cared about you (I imagine my deceased parents and deceased mentors going through the seven steps with me).
Left-brain Approach to Talk Yourself through an "Upset"! H-m-m-m.SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Perfectionism and Negative Self-Talk

As I'm working on reorganization of intelligentwomenonly.com I'm surprised to find that I haven't written before about the connection between negative self-talk and perfectionism. Or if I have, I haven't included perfectionism in my labels. What brought it to my attention recently was:

• The furor about the book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, related to the author/mother's demand that her children be perfect.Although the author says this is not a book about parenting, but a memoir, parents throughout the world reacted strongly against her style.

• My discovery of a book by Dr. Alice Domar and Alice Kelly, Be Happy Without Being Perfect: How to Worry Less and Enjoy Life More.
   The book didn't get great reviews (repetitive, best for novices at the stress-less game), but it makes the point that if you want to enjoy life and be happy, you have to reduce the demands and expectations you have of yourself to be perfect. These expectations show up in negative self-talk. e.g. "I should learn to sew so I can  make the kids great home-made Halloween costumes like my sister does. I'll have to get better at time management too. She's so organized and I'm a mess. I just have to get my act together."

• Bainbridge author Claire Dederer's very popular and well-reviewed new book, Poser. She finds yoga as a way to let go of some of the perfectionism fostered by the new "extreme competitive mom" syndrome of the last decade. It took this smart, capable women most of a decade to realize she doesn't need to be perfect. It's OK. She learned to let go of her negative self-talk, lighten up and give herself a break through yoga! Another indication of the normalcy, but damaging effects of negative self-talk. She's enjoying her children, her husband and their relationships much more now that she's imperfect.
Perfectionism and Negative Self-TalkSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, March 11, 2011

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

Monday, March 7, 2011

Differences Between Male and Female Brains? Of course.

 Here's the link to the interesting new neuroscientific research that confirms old social psychological research. (See Genderflex, Men and Women Speaking Each Other's Language at Work, 1994 by Judith C. Tingley Ph.D.)

Women are more emotional and men are more logical the researchers say. This is not news to most people. It is an accurate stereotype. I found it interestingly annoying however that the researchers equated logical thinking with "smarter". E.g. men are smarter apparently because they do better with math and science and women do better with human relations. I don't agree with that opinion. A musician isn't smarter than an artist. A writer isn't smarter than an electrician. Smart men and smart women have different areas of expertise, which doesn't make them smarter or dumber, but rather having a different set of skills.

 However, I am fascinated with the imaging results that give researchers greater knowledge of what's going on in our brain. I'm waiting for the day when they actually find the thousands of tiny inner critics running amok, breeding and overpopulating women's neural pathways. Maybe they'll have some solutions for eliminating the nasty critters effortlessly. But in the meantime, don't give up on problem-solving thinking, cognitive restructuring and detachment which you can read more about on future posts and in my book in progress, Handbook #1 for Intelligent Women: Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit.
Differences Between Male and Female Brains? Of course.SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spring Cleaning — Throw Out the NST

I like the metaphor that the Lauren Miller suggests; focusing our spring cleaning on getting rid of the negative thoughts in our mind. She discusses negative self-talk as a source of stress, which all of us with inner critics experience daily. She has suggestions for how to clean 'em out which are OK, but to truly eliminate the negative thoughts and reduce the stress takes more time and effort than she implies.
Here's the link.http://www.ereleases.com/pr/stress-relief-expert-lauren-miller-offers-quick-tips-spring-clean-thought-life-47749

While I'm reorganizing my site, I'll be doing more linking than original writing. Probably take me a couple more weeks. Thanks for your patience. I'm excited by increasing readership of this blog.  I'm thinking of adding cartoons, maybe sketches. What do you think? I'll try one out next blog.
Spring Cleaning — Throw Out the NSTSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend