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Crazy-Makers: Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

When You Have Been Betrayed

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Happiness is An Attitude

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Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?

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PsychNotes June 2015
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Clinical and Sport Psychologist

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June 21, 2015

Is Your Boss Unfair? What You Can Do About It

Frequently, when employees learn to act assertively they are rewarded. I've had numerous clients who swore to me they would be fired if they approached their boss assertively. Instead, when I finally convinced them to act assertively and they learned the techniques of assertion, they were promoted or received other positive responses.

Research has found that the likelihood of a manager treating an employee fairly is based upon the expectation the manager has of how the employee will react. Generally, the more assertive the employee, the more likely the manager will treat the employee fairly (Korsgaard et al., 1998).

However, before confronting your boss be sure to learn the proper techniques of assertion. Assertive behavior is not merely stating your opinion or request directly. It is also about knowing your audience and learning to identify your goal, attend to tone of voice and nonverbal behavior such as eye contact and expressions, and choosing your words carefully. Practicing these techniques will make you more effective in getting your needs met in the workplace.

Korsgaard, M.A., Roberson, L. and Rymph, R.D. (1998). What Motivates Fairness? The Role of Subordinate Assertive Behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83, 731-744.

June 18, 2015

Toxic Parents: Mean or Emotionally Distressed?

People are often confused by toxic parents who are also very loving and will do anything for their children. Such a duality is often due to emotional problems that are acted out in a toxic manner to the children. For example, a controlling OCD parent who is anxious about germs and spends hours a day cleaning may believe they are protecting their children. However, when the child breaks a rule such as coming into the house without showering the parent becomes angry and berates the child.

Sometimes the parents have self-esteem issues that cause them to want to be the perfect parent or social anxiety which causes them to be concerned about how they appear to others. Either of these is often reflected through attempts to have perfect children. The result, however, since children are not perfect is for these parents to be critical and demanding of the children. This can sometimes cause the opposite effect that they desire and the child may have behavioral problems or it may exacerbate the child's anxiety and cause the child to be more people-pleasing and passive. Read more...

June 17, 2015

Cognitive Diary Training Example: Toxic Family and Holiday Visits

EVENT: Don't Want to Visit Family on Father's Day

EMOTIONS: anxious, discouraged, hopeless

DISTRESS RATING: 8--High level of distress

THOUGHTS: “My family is always mean to me. I can't stand going to family events. They put me down and ignore my children. They're probably right about me. I am a loser. My friend says I don't need to go and put up with such treatment. But if I don't go, it will make things even worse. They will talk about me and my parents will be angry with me. They are my family. I should love and respect them. I should go to keep the peace. It's only one day. I'll just take extra medication and I'll get through it.”

CAN YOU IDENTIFY THE IRRATIONAL THINKING IN THIS EXAMPLE? There are at least 4 irrational beliefs.

HOW CAN YOU CHANGE THE THINKING? What is another way of thinking about the situation that won't cause the feelings of anxiety, discouragement, and hopelessness?


June 13, 2015

“I'm Old, Not Stupid!” Patronizing Speech and the Elderly

In recent years my husband, a senior citizen who uses a cane, complains how restaurant staff talk to him. At first I thought he was being overly sensitive and would tell him that's just how they talk. However, one particular time it was noticeable even to me. The server used a high pitched patronizing voice when she talked to him and when she turned to me (I'm much younger than him) she used a normal tone. Then she turned to him and changed voices again. I could barely restrain myself from bursting out in laughter because it was so comically obvious.

Apparently, this is a significant problem for older adults (as well as those with mental illness) especially when hospitalized or in a nursing home. My husband, being a very assertive person, will ask the wait staff to speak to him in a normal tone, but usually, they don't even recognize what they are doing. As a result, he comes across as a cantankerous old man. Read more...

June 8, 2015

“Which Coping Strategy Should I Use?”

Sometimes when people visit Excel At Life's website they are overwhelmed with the variety of coping techniques and are unsure where to start. “Should I use an audio?” “Which audio is best for me?” “Or, should I use the cognitive diary?” “Which kind of cognitive diary should I use?” “Or, should I use a reward system?” “Should I take a tai chi class?” They want a step-by-step manual to tell them what to do. Read more...

June 4, 2015

Listening to the Message of Anxiety

Mr. Zip Recently, an acquaintance described feeling anxious and stated she needed to get some anxiety medication from her doctor. She said, "My family treats me so bad whenever I visit them that when I even think of visiting I get heart palpitations. My husband hates seeing them, too, and its affecting my marriage."

This example illustrates not listening to anxiety. Normal anxiety has a purpose. The intention of anxiety is to inform us of a problem that needs to be resolved. However, sometimes people don't want to address a problem because it might be uncomfortable. Read more...

June 1, 2015

The Costs of “Get Over It”

Frequently, when distressed, people receive the message from others to just “get over it.” In other words, they are being told to ignore the distress, let go, and move on. Even though this message may be valid when considered in a long-term context, it can be harmful as a strategy for dealing with problems. People who are more emotionally sensitive will especially be harmed by this message by concluding that they need to suppress their emotions.

Many times people give advice from the advantageous perspective of the final outcome of their own experience. They tend to forget the process they went through to obtain that outcome. Therefore, advice to “let go” or “get over it” often ignores the messy process of feeling the distress, grieving, and the emotional expression/release prior to the outcome of resolving the distress. Read more...

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Dr. Monica Frank

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