Monday, May 30, 2011

Stress Less—Monday's Technique for the Week

It's Memorial Day which leads me to think about remembering.  Although memories of pleasant experiences and people, occasions and trips, meals and conversations become a very upbeat part of our inner life and outer interactions, revisiting "bad" memories usually causes stress. Internal or external conversations about difficult, hostile, or just plain ugly interactions or experiences — whether we caused the YUK or someone else did, keeps us stuck.

I acknowledge I have trouble letting go of this kind of rehash of past events, but I'm making progress. Generally, problem-solving thinking doesn't fit because the event was in the past and I can't undo it. I usually have no control over what already took place. Sometimes, if the event was in the recent past, I can problem-solve about how to move forward with the "bad" interaction. But generally, I find that the "bad" interaction is a done deal. I don't find a benefit for revisiting it — regardless of who seems to be accountable for the YUK.

That takes me to letting go of the memory so I can let go of the stress. I'm working to develop a new habit, which really has to do with strategic allocation of attention.  As soon as the ugly memory appears in my mind, sometimes in the middle of the night, I immediately erase the mind picture, turn down the volume of the voice, and move to another topic — a neutral one. E.g. the weather, a new friend, a fun project, an upcoming trip.  Or I watch the geese and their babies in the water for a few minutes. Or take a quick walk around the building. Anything to get my mind off the YUK as quickly as possible. The more I practice, the fewer rehash sessions I have with myself or others.

Occasionally I find that it helps to just vent and rehash once with a reliable, open, unbiased person who will just listen and not give unsolicited advice! That process also helps me bring closure to the whole inner rehash. I'd be happy to be that listening, reading person for you if you just want to vent to me about something that's keeping you stuck.
Stress Less—Monday's Technique for the WeekSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, May 27, 2011

Dr. Tingley's Belief #3: Gotta Decrease NST for Increase in Effective Thinking

As regular readers may have noticed,  I'm working on some changes in format, and recent changes in schedule. The new schedule will be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Monday's post will generally be short — a stress reduction idea. Wednesday may be on gender differences, communication, or something of business/political/cultural interest for women, and Friday's post will be more focused on thinking: NST, PST, RST, problem-solving thinking, cognitive restructuring, strategic allocation of attention, perhaps neuroscience news about thinking.  As you'll note below I've written about thinking and this is a Friday. The post is a bit heavy, but I'm hoping you have the weekend coming up to relax, have fun, and forget about how hard it is to break a habit. As always, I'm open to your thoughts, opinions, and requests.

Dr. Tingley’s Belief #3:  The negative self-talk habit has to be eliminated before realistic or positive self-talk can be learned and maintained.
 Handbook #1 is about how to change your thinking behavior, not how to understand why you started criticizing yourself in the first place. Seeking the “whys” often causes an endless delay in making the choice and effort to break a habit, conquer an addiction, or end a relationship. Yes, understanding why helps us all feel more in control, self-aware, maybe pretty smart and analytical, but generally it’s a waste of time and energy for the analyzer and those who have to listen forever to the ever-changing insights and interpretations.
A flash of insight does not produce change. According to neuroscientific research, the actions of unlearning and learning produce change. The negative self-talk habit has formed automatically over time through learning, practice, and repetition. Often by the time we recognize that we have the damaging habit, our brain is captive to constant self-criticism and doubt.
 In the last ten years, scientists have determined that repeating a specific behavior pattern stimulates the involved brain cells to grow extensions (dendrites), which expand the habit connections.  Consequently, disconnecting the cell connections of the old, unhealthy negative self-talk habit has to take place before the learning and subsequent cell connection of healthy realistic thinking becomes possible. “The challenge is to replace well-established problem behavior patterns with more effective ones.  . . . It takes a fair amount of time for this brain cell growth-and-connection process to complete itself, which explains why it takes so much practical application and reinforcement to master a skill.”[4]
Bottom Line #3: Neuroscience now confirms that it’s an arduous, lengthy but possible task to break a habit and change a behavior. Unlearning negative self-talk has to start prior to learning realistic self-talk.
Dr. Tingley's Belief #3: Gotta Decrease NST for Increase in Effective ThinkingSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stress Management — Away from Connection/Promotion/Productivity

Sorry I'm a bit out of sync with my usual Sunday or Monday, Wednesday or Thursday schedule. I've been out of town and out of internet/cell phone connection which I find very relaxing, but not so great in terms of writing productivity.  I'm thinking of adding a third very short blog once a week — or irregularly — about coping with, avoiding, and/or reducing stress. So here's the first.

I just spent three days on the Long Beach Peninsula in southern Washington — just before "the season" actually starts. We did mostly nothing but walking, riding bikes, playing cribbage, eating lots of seafood, sleeping. We drove from south to north, visited the cranberry farm, watched the oysterman replant oysters from their original basinette into a day bed, saw lots of eagles and shore birds, marveled at the beauty. We were rain doused and sun charmed, whipped by the wind, warmed by the friendliness of the native razor clam diggers at low tide. We were relaxed.

We agreed early on to not talk about any problems of work or family, but to stay in the present.   This was surprisingly easy to do once we made the decision.  We realized after we returned home that we often "overtalk" the problem-solving process: chew it up and hash it over more than is needed for sure. Why? Not sure.

Research shows that increased exposure to nature can decrease stress, particularly for women.  That — and no news coming in from the world at large and our own small world, no clicking or buzzing, ringing or rattling from sundry machines gave us a few bonus days of stresslessness even on our return to some everyday YUK.

No, I can't and you can't do that 3 day away thing often, but even an hour or so away from it all occasionally, sitting on the grass looking at clouds could help reduce stress — as long as you're not doing any negative self-talk.
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Back to the Beginning: Catherine Price, O, and Negative Self-Talk

 If the topic is in O it must be big. And if you're a free-lance writer, whose articles are regularly published in O you must be a very cool, excellent, smart, writer. That's what I think after reading some of Catherine Price's articles and going to her web page. http://catherine-price.com/ In contrast, "Aiming Higher" by Catherine Price in the January 2011 O magazine tells all that Catherine, the author, has "many flaws"; flat, lifeless hair being a top preoccupation right now. She confesses that she's not very compassionate to herself. "I have a gift for letting trivial things suck me into a vortex of self-loathing." Whew. Price labels it self-directed anger. I call it heavy-duty negative self-talk; always a harsh put down which can generate feelings of anxiety, helplessness, hopelessness, tension, and sadness too.

Price goes on to describe what comes next. "Anything can churn my mind into an emotional whirlpool that gathers strength by pulling in unrelated failings . . . ." Eventually she moves from flat hair to "Why am I so pathetic?" Recognize that kind of thinking?  Women Who Think Too Much by Susan Holen-Hoeksema addresses it as overthinking.

I'm writing about Catherine and her article because she is similar to thousands of women who have the NST habit. She is undoubtedly an intelligent, capable, attractive, successful woman, with what many of us would think are substantial credentials. And she has acquired a thinking habit that's bumming her out. Bah humbug. My guess is that any negative self-talking blog readers would think how silly Price is to dump on herself that way because wow she really is a star.  I would also imagine that many NSTers have friends and family who regularly tell them that they are being way too critical of themselves, who remind them of their strengths and attributes in realistic ways. But it doesn't work. As with Catherine Price, the habit hangs on.

She knows that her thoughts are irrational and silly, and asks herself, "Why can't I stop them?" That question implies more criticism. e.g. "Something's wrong with me that I can't stop thinking irrational and silly thoughts."  For action and potential progress, I suggest instead the question, "How can I stop them?" Price chose cognitive behavior therapy as her how. She says, "In the world of CBT, if you want to change the way you feel, you have to change the way you think."

In honor of Price's openness and her choice to take action I'd like to suggest cognitive restructuring, a CBT approach, as The Technique of the Week. If you want to dive into this stuff you can read Feeling Good by David Burns or A Guide to Rational Living by Albert Ellis and Robert Harper. If you want to get started, here's a beginning CBT approach.
• Start to pay close attention to your negative self-talk. Write down one "thought of the day" for a week: at breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime. If you're not having a negative thought when you check with your inner voice, just note that down too. If possible, do this exercise without judgment. Write the thoughts down as you would write down the titles of library books on a shelf or the makes of cars driving by.
Back to the Beginning: Catherine Price, O, and Negative Self-TalkSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, May 16, 2011

Words As Signals and Much More — In the Words of Anne Doyle

Here's the link http://blogs.forbes.com/annedoyle/2011/05/12/women-are-not-guys-and-men-are-not-the-norm/ if you want to see the article by a new Forbes collaborator in its home. With Anne Doyle's permission I'm publishing the article on my blog in full. I like the direct, open, and real person Doyle style, the homage to the old feminism, the cheeky comments (expecting more of the President), and the "words do matter" theme. As always I'm interested in your thoughts and reactions. Please comment on this post if you have time!
Women Are Not “Guys” and Men Are Not the “Norm”
May. 12 2011 - 11:11 am | 2,175 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments
The death of Osama Bin Laden.
Image by US Embassy New Zealand via Flickr

We’ve had three stunning examples in less than a week of the cultural headwinds that women are still up against, ranging from the need to “spin” Hillary’s body language, photo-shopping her out of of history and crediting only “the guys” for the complex, clandestine operation that closed the Osama Bin Laden chapter.
First came the riveting photo from the White House Situation Room of President Obama and his national security inner circle monitoring the raid on Bin Laden’s lair.
  The good news is that two women — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Counter-terrorism Director Audrey Tomason – are part of that circle of trust.   The bad news is the ridiculous angst the photo triggered over the gender differences it captured.   The men were stone-faced, revealing little.  It was only the expression and body language of the most powerful woman in our nation that most clearly communicated the tension, high stakes and, yes, even fears that every leader in the room was experiencing.  No surprise there.  We socialize men and women to express emotions very differently.
But here’s the astonishing part.  After the now-iconic image was released, Clinton, whose hand was raised to her mouth in the photo, felt she needed to explain the gesture by telling media she was “trying not to cough” at the instant the photo was taken.  Are we still that uncomfortable with powerful women behaving like women rather than “men in skirts” that even she needs to spin her actions that deviate from the male norm?   And since when is the behavior of only fifty percent of the human race “the norm”?
The next astonishing example came just a few days later when an Orthodox Jewish, Brooklyn newspaper, Der Tzitung, made the outrageous and journalistically flawed decision to air brush Clinton and Tomason out of the Situation Room photo.  Why?  Because the paper has a “long-standing editorial policy” of never publishing photos of women, supposedly to “show respect for women.”   Please!  The newspaper has since apologized, but their policy stands and reveals plenty about the deeply-ingrained gender biases that women still face – even in the U.S. 
But the most discouraging example of the cultural muck women are still slogging through came disguised as colloquial language used by the president of the United States.   During his globally-televised interview with “60 Minutes” about the Bin Laden operation, President Obama used the word “guys” over and over and over. By my count, he used the male-branded word close to 30 times.  Not simply to refer to the Seals, who were all guys, but to the entire team of highly-skilled intelligence officers, CIA staff, Cabinet members and military personnel who played essential roles in the operation’s stunning success.
Women Are Not Guys.   I’m tired of being told that the word “guys” is “gender neutral” and includes women.  I’ve heard that before, decades ago when grammarians and most major newspapers insisted that the pronoun “he” included women and the use of he/she was clumsy and unnecessary.  Because enough people understood how powerful language is, today the inclusive “he/she,” flows off our tongues without a second thought.
As the former Director of North America Communications for Ford Motor Company, I have prepared multiple CEOs for high-stakes interviews, including with “60 Minutes.”  A leader’s choice of words in a major interview is critically important.
 Here’s my test with language.  Put the shoe on the other gender’s foot.  What if we just start using the word “gals” instead of guys every time we are talking about or to a mixed gender group ?  How long would men tolerate that?  They would be insulted and wouldn’t accept for a minute the explanation that “gals” is now a gender neutral word that includes them. 
 And I’m not the only one who is tired of being called a guy.  Shortly after the “60 Minutes” interview aired, a friend I haven’t been in touch with for years called me from Washington, D.C. to vent her outrage.  “I’m sick and tired of being referred to with male language.  I am not a guy,” she told me.  “My husband says I’m over-reacting and being menopausal.  But my reaction has nothing to do with hormones.  The Bin Laden operation was not a male-only effort. There are plenty of women on the intelligence teams that worked for months to prepare this plan.”  That was the reaction of a high-level professional who reports directly to the White House and has written speeches for two four star generals.  It’s her job to understand the power and impact of well or poorly-chosen language.
 Presidential Words Have Power:  Here’s the final point.  I expect more of the president of the United States – especially when the world is watching.  Barack Obama’s oratorical skills carried him to the White House.  His ability to use words to inspire, guide and lead people is one of his greatest strengths.   He is also, arguably, one of the most progressive and enlightened leaders in the world when it comes to the urgency of empowering half of the world’s citizens.  Millions of women look to the U.S. as their greatest hope for release from cultures that deny them basic human, legal and social rights, let alone freedom from systematic gender violence.
 I have just returned from an inspiring 2 ½ days at General Electric’s legendary Leadership Development Center in Crotonville, N.Y.  I was privileged to join 180 women leaders from all over the world for GE’s ninth Leading and Learning conference for its own top female executives and selected guests.  This year’s theme was all about the “Passion and Possibilities” that women bring to leadership as catalysts for solving the challenges of our times and moving culture forward.
 The closing speaker was Gloria Steinem, who received a standing ovation from the multiple generations of highly-accomplished women in the audience.   Steinem’s message is the same today as when I first heard it in the early 1970’s:  The world becomes stronger by releasing and empowering the uniqueness of each individual.  She challenged us to “Keep sending out signals” that help to move our culture forward.
 Here’s my signal:  Language is powerful.  Words Do Matter.   They reflect our thinking, reveal the biases we all carry and shape our ever-evolving culture.
 We will never truly be “one of the guys.”  Just ask any woman who has tried to join Augusta National Golf Course or integrate herself into the “inner circle” of a male-dominant, power group.  So let’s stop passively pretending that it doesn’t matter when we disappear into male-branded language.  Being called “guys” may feel less consequential than photo-shopping women leaders out of historic moments.  But it’s a step backwards rather than forwards in our long cultural march towards the highest development of humanity.  The change we want to see in the world all begins with our own actions.    What signals are you sending with your words?
Anne Doyle is the author of Powering Up:  How America’s Women Achievers Become Leaders.  She has been tested in multiple-leadership laboratories, including men’s sports locker rooms, the auto industry, political office and parenting (which she insists is “the toughest!).  She can be reached at:  www.annedoylestrategies.com, http://www.facebook.com/poweringupwomenbook and Linked In.
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Positive Self-Talk Can't Create a Positive Reality!

Here's a link to a good article by Heidi Grant Halvorson on Realistic Optimism.http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/05/be_an_optimist_without_being_a.html

It inspired me to jump from my Belief#1 to Belief#4. You'll understand why if you read both. You'll also understand my
somewhat over reactive negativity about positivity if you read my post below.

Dr. Tingley’s Belief #4: Positive self-talk cannot create a positive reality even after the negative self-talk habit is broken.

The positive thinking trend got its start in the 1930s with Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and in 1951 with The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. Both books introduced the concept that thinking positively is a useful practice. Both books explain in detail additional requirements for success: setting goals, outlining a plan, setting timelines plus personal characteristics of creativity, intelligence, and persistence.

Martin Seligman’s 1998 book, Learned Optimism added to the positive thinking trend, although more because it was misunderstood than because it added fuel to the positive thinking fire. Seligman, a psychologist and clinical researcher, has been studying optimists and pessimists for 25 years and has determined that optimists generally are healthier and live longer than pessimists.

Optimists believe that defeat is a temporary setback or a challenge, and will slightly delay a good result. In fact, they aren’t positive thinkers but just plain old realistic thinkers. Pessimists are definitely negative thinkers. They believe that bad events occur through their own lack of ability, luck, or skill. Outcomes will be poor and lasting. Clearly they are negative thinkers.

Seligman advocates changing pessimists into optimists by eliminating the self-blaming negative thinking of pessimists, not by adding positive thinking. But ultimately, he and his research were swept along in the tidal wave of positivity.

Many books have followed the early Hill-Peale model, but none as far out and removed from the classic origins as Rhonda Byrne’s recent books, The Secret and The Power. A smart friend recently read The Secret and told me, “I just put it out to the Universe that Joe will divorce his wife and finally marry me. I feel so relieved and happy.” What? How can she possibly believe that after ten years of an affair with a married man he will suddenly leave his wife because the “Law of Attraction” says so?

In case you aren’t familiar with the tenants of the two books, The Laws of Attraction and Love advise readers to send thoughts of what they want and love out to the Universe. The Universe will return and reward them with the relationships, skills, objects, and outcomes they desire. Byrne doesn’t discuss the means by which this miraculous process takes place, but apparently no laws of physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, or math are involved. Instead the process seems fueled by magical thinking, a common practice of young children, but not of smart, sane adults.

The Law of Attraction is BS, fantasy, wishful thinking, group-think, grab-the-coattails, get-on-the bandwagon, and share the spotlight and the hoopla thinking. It is not grounded in any kind of science except science fiction. I know there are many intelligent men and women who’ve bought in, but in reality, the Law of Attraction wears not a single stitch of clothing.

Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2009 book, Bright-Sided, How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America takes on a gamut of positivity purveyors, including the American Psychological Association, corporate America, evangelical mega churches, and the positive philosophy for treatment of cancer. Ehrenreich also chewed up motivational speakers at the National Speakers Association convention who spoke passionately about the wonderful results of positive thinking and its connection to the science of quantum physics. The New Agey 2004 movie What the Bleep? was widely quoted by all speakers. Ehrenreich’s summary? It’s “inescapable pseudoscientific flapdoodle.”

I wish I had thought up that phrase myself. As part of a temporary consulting job for a New Age psychologist, I was required to see that silly movie 13 times – and talk to 13 different business clients about their “take away.” Fortunately I didn’t have to talk about my thoughts and reactions, which were definitely less eloquent than Ehrenreich’s comment. Somehow or other in my pre-job interview with the fringey psychologist, I missed her tilt.

Psychology Today blogger and Canadian researcher Jo Anne Wood conducted recent research on the effect of positive affirmations, a common technique advocated by believers in positive psychology. “Two experiments showed that among participants with low self-esteem, those who repeated a positive self-statement (‘I'm a lovable person’) or who focused on how that statement was true felt worse than those who did not repeat the statement or who focused on how it was both true and not true. . . . Repeating positive self-statements may benefit certain people, but backfire for the very people who ‘need’ them the most.”[1] In a nutshell, affirmations didn’t work for people who don’t feel good about themselves. It made them feel worse. No surprise that conducting a dialogue between your inner critic (“I’m unattractive, dull and dumb”) and your fake positive cheerleader (“I’m a lovable person”) doesn’t work well for you.

Bottom Line #4: Positive thinking is not the solution to the negative self-talk habit nor is it the way to live happily ever after.

[2] The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1995, 63, pp. 644-650.
Positive Self-Talk Can't Create a Positive Reality!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Male-Female Communication: From Conversation to Conflict in 60 seconds

I read a great article in the April 2011 Psychology Today titled, "Zoom". http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ambigamy/201008/zoom-the-art-multi-level-headed-thinking  I suggested my husband read it too, which he did and also liked it. I think it is particularly a male-female pattern although I've seen and heard it at business meetings, Board meetings, and friendly everyday conversation.

Today my husband and I did exactly what the article told readers was a bad pattern: starting with one topic of conversation, and ending up with 12, none of which was resolved while we sat, parked in the car at the grocery store on Mother's Day.

• Should we go to Bremerton this afternoon?
• Are you feeling OK to drive?
• Have we decided about getting a new loveseat?
• Are you changing your mind?
• Do we have very different decision-making processes?
• Do we have to have all the information now or can we do this step-by-step?
• Is there enough time to make the trip?
• Are you sure what you want? Are we in agreement?
• We've long ago left the initial topic.
• We can't make a decision about the initial topic until we have more information and we can't have more information until we go to Bremerton.
• Look at us. We're doing exactly what the article in Psychology Today was talking about. Let's go to Bremerton anyway. OK.

Fortunately we recovered quickly from this time-consuming run-around discussion, but it was still a time-waster and mutual morale busterer.

The author of the article, Jeremy Sherman Ph.D. suggests "going meta", which is staying a level above the argument. This is much easier to do as an external person (e.g. with your kids) than it is when you're part of the problem. He has two other suggestions which I didn't find very helpful, but you might. Check the link. I think the best thing is to notice the pattern and return to the initial topic, without resolving the intervening ones. That's what we did — eventually!

Male-Female Communication: From Conversation to Conflict in 60 secondsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dr. Tingley’s Belief #1: Intelligent Girls and Women Limit Themselves

Handbook #1 for Intelligent Women: Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit is the book I'm working on — and plan to have published. As part of the Introduction to the book and included in the book proposal, I explain my mission, beliefs, and supportive facts and research for the beliefs. Here's a bite. The other four beliefs will be showing up here as May moves along.

"My mission and the purpose of this book is to:

•  Motivate and encourage women to break the NST habit – now.
•  Tell and show readers specific techniques for eliminating negative thinking and feelings.
•  Guide and support readers in attaining and sustaining no-negative-self-talk practices.

If you’re wondering, “Who’s this person who thinks she knows what’s going on in my mind, what I should do about it, and what’s best for me?” I’m glad you asked. I’m a psychologist who, like many women over 60, no longer spends much inner time or energy dealing with negative self-talk. The realistic thinking that prevails produces a sense of relaxation and acceptance, comfort and confidence, energy and efficiency. I’m writing this book to teach, motivate, and invigorate women in their teens, twenties and thirties, forties and fifties to dump the ugly NST habit now instead of waiting until the wisdom of older age convinces you to finally let it go. Lynn Redgrave, the late actress, noted that she was in her sixties and coping with breast cancer before she chose to abandon what she labeled her ”inner critic and fearmonger.” Don’t wait. Use your time and smarts in pursuit of outcomes more profitable than lowering your self-esteem, increasing your stress, and decreasing your productivity – the harvest of negative self-talk.

I have a firm infrastructure of beliefs, grounded in science, related to what I write, advise, suggest and, yes, push at you in this book. Here they are. I’d like you to read them and understand.

Dr. Tingley’s Belief #1: Intelligent girls and women are more likely than intelligent boys and men to limit themselves because of their self-talk.

In a presentation to a 2009 conference, “Nurturing Gifted Girls into Gifted Women,” Lori Comallie-Caplan identified barriers to the achievement of a successful transition from gifted girl to gifted woman: fear of success syndrome, the Cinderella complex, the imposter phenomena, and the pre-adolescent self-esteem plunge. All are variations on the same theme. All are products of critical self-evaluation, manifested in negative self-talk, which leads to a scarcity of self-confidence, self-regard, and self-esteem. Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, who identified the imposter syndrome in 1978 noted, “Women who experienced the imposter phenomenon maintained a strong belief that they were not intelligent; in fact, they were convinced that they had fooled everyone.”

The imposter syndrome illustrates attribution theory: how individuals interpret events and how they relate their interpretation to their thinking and behavior. Women, in contrast to men, generally believe any success they experience is due to luck or other factors outside of their control. We hear it from each other all the time. “I never would have gotten anybody to read my proposal if my mentor hadn’t strong-armed her agent.” “There was nobody left in the division to promote but me. They’d all left because it’s such a lousy place to work.” Rarely do women say, in answer to a compliment, “Thank you. I think I’ve done a good job of parenting too.” And when that kind of response happens, the conversation ends because that’s not how women are accustomed to playing the game. It’s usually compliment, denial, increased reassurance, increased denial until one side or the other tires.

Although attribution theory research results have been mixed, a recent study of women in engineering concluded, “Women are more likely than men to attribute success in engineering to hard work or outside help and failure to their own lack of ability.” Wow! No wonder we have problems.

Bottom Line #1: Women’s negative self-talk restricts their potential achievements. Limited achievement causes further negative self-talk, which keeps women stuck."

Dr. Tingley’s Belief #1: Intelligent Girls and Women Limit ThemselvesSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, May 2, 2011

The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same — in Many Times and Places

The more things change, the more things stay the same. Wikipedia says the phrase was coined in 1839 by Alphonse Karr, a French writer and editor. "His epigrams are frequently quoted, for example — "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" which sounds more charming in French than the English translation, but is equally as valid in most cultures and subcultures.

An article about gains and drawbacks for female professors at M.I.T. over the last 12 years reminded me of unintended consequences of change. Initially MIT acknowledged that it had discriminated against female professors and committed to erasing the bias. Here are the improvements.
•  An aggressive push to hire more women.
•  Increased prizes and professional accolades for women faculty.
•  Women included on all faculty committees.
•  Family friendly faculty policies and facilities on campus.
•  Disparities in salaries and resources between men and women have disappeared for the most part.

The primary unintended consequences.
• Perception that too much effort is made toward recruitment of women and acknowledgment of their accomplishments.
• Perception that work-life balance and parenthood are women's issues, not family issues.
• Persistent stereotyping that women still must walk a tightrope between too aggressive and too soft.
• Perception that correcting bias means lowering standards for women.

Two interesting comments:
"It's almost as if the baseline has changed, because things are better now," according to the associate dean of the School of Science.
"The more fundamental issues are societal and M.I.T. can't solve them on its own," according to the dean of the School of Science.

My comment about change isn't pro or con, or even directed at M.I.T's process or faculty., just an interesting reality of life in many spheres.

Here's the link if you want to read the whole article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/us/21mit.html
The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same — in Many Times and PlacesSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend