Frankly Speaking – 5/19/14

Dear Frank,

I was academically dismissed from the college I was attending and it hit me really hard – to the point that I ended up taking about a year off from school in general. This past October I decided to get back on the horse and try to boost my GPA so I could apply for readmission. Now that I have submitted my application I am starting to feel like I might not be able to do this after what happened last time. Do you have any advice on this type of situation?

First of all, I want to congratulate you for “getting back on the horse.” I use the same mantra for the patients I work with, the athletes I coach, and as a general reminder for both myself and others: Not succeeding is not failure, quitting is. As long as you are still trying, then you have not failed and success is still attainable.

There is likely a reason (or multiple smaller reasons) why you were not successful on your first go around. Despite what many people begin to think about themselves, it probably has absolutely nothing to do with your intellectual ability. Colleges do their due diligence when it comes to who they accept. It is in their best interest to accept those that they believe will be successful at their school. That you were accepted and enrolled the first time indicates that you demonstrated the necessary abilities.

However, not everyone experiences success right away, whether that be in college, a new job, or just about anything else you can imagine. The key is figuring out what factors prevented you from being as successful as you could have been the first time. Without proper reflection on what did not work the first time and why, you are setting yourself up to repeat the same mistakes.

There are many differences between high school and college and sometimes it takes students some time to adapt to those. For example, the amount of work and amount of studying required can change drastically from high school to college. You’re also now thrust into a very independent environment, likely for the first time, and must navigate academics in addition to roommates, the social scene, extracurricular activities, potentially being away from home for the first time, among many other things. These are a lot of things, all very important, to have to learn how to navigate all at once.

Understand that college is a learning process. Yes you will learn content in your classes, but it also is an opportunity to push yourself. To expand beyond who you were, what you knew, and what you used to be able to do. Receiving some poor grades the first time around is likely no reflection on your intellectual abilities. Rather it may serve as a (perhaps not-so-gentle-) reminder that you have many more things to be responsible for and there is a learning curve associated with that.

Also recognize that, although it is an environment in which opportunities present themselves to learn how to be independent, this does NOT mean you must learn how to do it on your own. Seek out support from others, including the services available through the school in addition to friends and family. Just as you are doing now, continue to ask others for advice as specific situations arise. Don’t expect to know every answer. The trick is more about being able to ask for help. My guess is, the first time around when you felt things beginning to slip, you kept it more to yourself rather than ask for help from others. Personally, I can remember calling up my mother the first weekend I was ever away at college, standing in front of the washing machine and asking her, “Okay, how do I do this laundry thing?” Sometimes, the difference between failure and success is one tiny piece of information.

Some of the most successful athletes have not made every team they ever tried out for. Some of the most successful businessmen and women were not a success at their first business venture. Sometimes, I truly believe, being successful the first time you try something is more about luck than skill. Sticking with something in the face of adversity, learning from your mistakes, and showing improvement each time around: THAT is success.

 

“Frankly Speaking” is a weekly segment on this blog that provides an opportunity for my readers to ask questions aimed at better understanding themselves, others, or their relationship with others. Each week I will select some of those questions to answer here. As you can see, the askers of those questions remain anonymous.

To submit a potential question for future installments, the only thing that I ask is that you first become a fan of my Facebook page. “Like” my page, and then send me a private message with your question(s). Until next week!

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Frankly Speaking – 5/12/14

Dear Frank,

There is this girl I was friends with in high school and for a while after. We were really close friends, but we had a huge blowout. We have e-mailed back and forth some since, but the friendship just doesn’t seem to be there anymore; I really don’t want anything to do with her anymore. Should I just stop answering the e-mails and hope she takes the hint or tell her straight out?

I am always a fan of being clear with someone upfront and then using the ignore method if that happens to not work out. In this situation, it sounds like there is a past wound that may not have healed for you and you would rather just move on. If that is the case, then why not just say so?

In many instances, we often think others are privy to the same information that we have, feel the same way that we do, or interpret things with the same slant as us. As I have written about before (and I can’t stress enough), this is almost NEVER the case. My bet is that if I asked your “friend” her interpretation of the relationship between you two, I would get a response that varies widely from your own.

Perhaps she is simply trying to deal with your blowout in a different way: trying to move on, put it in the rearview mirror. Maybe act like it didn’t happen. Maybe she desperately wants back the close relationship that you two once had and is going about it the only way she knows how: by continuing to communicate. It’s possible she, too, feels the lack of substance. Or maybe she is completely on the same page and feels that you two are merely artificially extending your relationship when neither of you really want to.

There is nothing wrong with saying, “Look, I just don’t think our relationship has been the same since XYZ happened,” and offer what you think you should do about that. In this case, it might be proposing that you go your separate ways. It need not be a lengthy conversation. It might not be a conversation at all. It might just be a simple statement. No blame need be placed. No fingers pointed. Just your feelings about the situation and be done with it.

Sharing your thoughts and feelings also gives one final chance for reparation. The relationship you have right now might not seem worth the effort, but perhaps the relationship you once had was. What if all it took was the simple statement above for a more honest and open sharing to occur? If this is truly not your desire, then you needn’t pursue it. Either way, it will help provide more closure for both of you.

As I previously alluded to, ignoring works in one of two instances: 1) After you have already made a very clear statement about your intention or your desire and the other person is not acting in accordance, or 2) when there really is no identifiable reason for your decision. In the latter instance, you may have naturally drifted apart after some shared experience ended (school, a job, etc.). In that case, it is perfectly acceptable to minimize or cut contact and simply move on.

If there is a reason, though, as there seems to be here, then share it. If nothing else, it is likely to reduce or eliminate those frantic, “Why haven’t I heard from you?!” e-mails that you otherwise might get with increasing frequency. Don’t leave someone on the hook.

“Frankly Speaking” is a weekly segment on this blog that provides an opportunity for my readers to ask questions aimed at better understanding themselves, others, or their relationship with others. Each week I will select some of those questions to answer here. As you can see, the askers of those questions remain anonymous.

To submit a potential question for future installments, the only thing that I ask is that you first become a fan of my Facebook page. “Like” my page, and then send me a private message with your question(s). Until next week!

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Frankly Speaking – 5/5/14

Dear Frank,

A friend of mine’s brother recently attempted suicide. This is not his first attempt, and my friend is understandably very upset. Is there anything that I could tell her that would help her be able to help her brother?

Suicide is, for obvious reasons, a very serious matter and professional intervention would seem necessary. If he will not seek treatment voluntarily, most (if not all, I believe) states allow for involuntary commitment when a person poses a threat to him- or herself. These may be options that are sought to help her brother.

Here is the harsh truth about suicide: it is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The afflicted individual, however, does not see his or her situation as temporary. He sees no other way out. Hope no longer exists for a better tomorrow. As outsiders, we can often see potential that the troubled person does not. We can see how things can get better. We see the hope that they don’t.

Suicide is also a very selfish act. This may not sit well with some to hear, but the fact remains: an individual who commits suicide often does so to escape the pain that they are experiencing. In doing so, however, pain is inflicted upon the loved ones left behind.

Both suicide and attempted suicide are bound to invoke similar feelings in loved ones, although obviously there will be some great relief accompanied by an attempt over a completion. In both circumstances though, loved ones are often left with their own guilt. That they “should” have seen something coming, that they “should” have been more involved with the individual, and that they “should” have helped more.

Help your friend to realize that she does have an opportunity to point her brother in the right direction and get him the professional help it sounds like he needs. Help her to understand that she is not responsible for his actions. It is not her fault. It is no one’s fault.  Help her to feel supported by you. Make sure your friend knows that YOU recognize that she is doing everything she can do to help, because I promise she will not believe it on her own.

We are always left thinking we could have done more.

By being supportive, you can actually model for your friend how to show support for her brother. Your friend can pass along encouragement that there are still things worth fighting for and that everything that can be done will be done to help.

Because everyone needs someone to fight for them when they temporarily feel unable to fight for themselves.

“Frankly Speaking” is a weekly segment on this blog that provides an opportunity for my readers to ask questions aimed at better understanding themselves, others, or their relationship with others. Each week I will select some of those questions to answer here. As you can see, the askers of those questions remain anonymous.

To submit a potential question for future installments, the only thing that I ask is that you first become a fan of my Facebook page. “Like” my page, and then send me a private message with your question(s). Until next week!

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How Selfies Actually Lower Self-Esteem

The Selfie (you know, a photo taken of oneself), has easily become the most popular type of picture that we see on the internet and in our text message and e-mail inboxes. With most people owning cell phones (including children who, in my opinion, are entirely too young to need one), and most of those people with phones owning one with a built-in camera, photos can be taken everywhere. Constantly.

Does anyone else remember when telephones actually made telephone calls?

I digress. The Selfie has taken on a life of its own. I mentioned in a previous post how Ellen DeGeneres managed to crash Twitter with the most epic group Selfie of all time. Social media outlets, dating sites, and cell phone photo galleries are flooded with self-taken photos and the trend is only going upward.

There are certainly many benefits of the Selfie: no longer do I need someone else to snap a photo of me in order to capture some occasion. In fact, many phones now come equipped with cameras facing the user just for this purpose! One can also send photos wearing two different outfits to a friend from a department store dressing room and ask for opinions without the friend needing to be present.

The sheer convenience is astounding. Remember the days when you repeatedly wished you had a camera with you to capture the moment? No? Well then you’re probably not yet of legal drinking age. Of course there was always the phenomenon that when you actually DID bring your camera, nothing exciting happened, or you only had 24 shots to take on a roll of film and had to be very selective! Not to mention you had to wait days or weeks to see what your photos looked like!

But now, we can capture everything, and review it immediately!

Is there a dark side to this convenience? Are Selfies actually causing more harm than good?

“Guilty,” on both counts. And here’s why:

THEY END UP IN THE WRONG HANDS

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. There have been entirely too many instances of famous individuals, from politicians to athletes and other celebrities, whose Selfies have ended up in the wrong hands or been seen by the wrong eyes. Anyone else wonder what kind of trouble former President Clinton may have found himself in if he served his term now instead of back when The Zach Morris phone was popular?

There are plenty of well-publicized examples of Selfies-gone-bad because they happen to famous people, but I imagine this happens to “regular folks” much more. The reputation that can be ruined or the opportunity lost because of a poorly made Selfie decision is not worth it.

SELF-ESTEEM NOW STEMS FROM THE SELFIE, NOT THE SELF

So as long as we remember to keep our clothes on, the Selfie isn’t really so bad, right? Well, you tell me.

“Back in the day,” we used to take pictures because we wanted to remember the occasions that those photos represented. We developed our photos and we put them in photo albums so that we could go back and look at them. Perhaps even show them to other select individuals. Primarily, though, a photo was taken to afford the picture-taker with a visual memory.

Not to mention that we dare not waste precious limited photos on ourselves. (Remember when you attempted the “best friends selfie” only to wait 3 weeks to develop the photo and realize you had really only captured your chin and your friend’s ear and one eyeball? #SelfieFail)

Fast forward to today, and our audience for our photos has changed completely. We no longer take pictures with our future selves in mind. Instead, we take a photo to immediately show others, whether individually or globally. We snap a photo and send it to a friend, a significant other, or post it online so that others can see us.

Because we want others to see us.

Social media in sum can be represented by a child jumping up and down on a trampoline shouting “Look at me! Look at me!” with a bullhorn. We want others to look at us, because that is now how we have learned to feel good about ourselves. The number of friends, followers, likes, favorites, re-pins, retweets and comments in general are directly related to how worthy we view ourselves to be.

We don’t know we are beautiful until we post a picture of ourselves and other people tell us we are.

Because this is not truly fulfilling, however, the effects are short-lived. So we must post again. And again. And get a new haircut and post again. We require constant reassurance and approval from others about how we look and the decisions that we make.

When it comes to one’s body image, this is a very dangerous trend to follow.

SELFIES ENCOURAGE PROVOCATIVE PHOTOS

Ask any teen or young adult which types of Selfies are the most popular and you will hear one answer repeatedly: the provocative ones.

That new parka you received from grandma is nice and all, but that bathing suit from Victoria’s Secret is going to get a whole lot more attention. You can unbutton the top button on your shirt for 1 or 2 comments, or unbutton the second button as well for 20 comments.

If our worth is tied into how much attention we get from Selfies, and the way to get more attention is to be more provocative, and being more provocative can lead to all sorts of trouble…

Well, you get the idea.

Our eternal “connectedness” with one another has created a society of individuals who heavily rely on others for reassurance and esteem. We are treading water in a rapidly accelerating river flowing directly downhill. Is there any hope of reversing the trend and diminishing the importance of other peoples’ opinions?

I mean, it is called SELF-esteem for a reason.

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Frankly Speaking – 3/31/14

Dear Frank,

      There are a couple of people that I work with that no one seems to get along with. One acts like he is above everyone else and the other tries to act overly friendly and gets on almost everyone’s nerves. What is the best way that we can deal with them on a daily basis?

On a previous segment of Frankly Speaking, I touched upon a somewhat related topic regarding making friends in the workplace. In that response I described how oftentimes the job itself is one of just a few things you might have in common with someone else. The truth is you certainly won’t be best friends with everyone you work with. Indeed there will be people toward whom you gravitate more than others.

Depending on your work environment and how much daily contact you must have with these individuals, you may simply choose to spend your time with someone else. Many people simply choose to distance themselves from anyone who has a negative impact on them. Find others whom you enjoy more and spend the majority of your time with them, if possible.

Your other option is to go the complete opposite direction and befriend your coworkers. Get to know them. Both of the people you described – the arrogant one and the overly friendly one – sound to me like individuals who are acting from a place of insecurity.

We are all insecure about different things, and we all handle those insecurities in different ways. You are seeing two of the latter manifested in these two individuals. What you don’t yet know is the “Why?”

If you’re willing and able, get to know these coworkers and eventually (likely without even having to ask directly), you’ll learn where they are coming from. Perhaps they’re nervous about being new to this job, or maybe their last position did not end well. Maybe they’re just following some bad advice about how to act in the workplace. Either way, once you understand where someone is coming from, you’re a little less likely to be as bothered by it.

An additional benefit of befriending these individuals is that you are then in position to offer feedback to them as a friend and a peer. It is obvious that both of these individuals want others’ approval. They are approaching this in a way that is not effective and actually turning others off, however. Telling this to them now, unsolicited, is likely to have a negative impact if any at all.

When genuine feedback comes from a caring person close to us, though, we are more likely to hear it and incorporate it. But remember, it is not your job (nor your right), to change anyone else. Offering feedback is one thing, but only if it comes from a place of concern for THAT person’s well-being, not your own.

“Frankly Speaking” is a weekly segment on this blog that provides an opportunity for my readers to ask questions aimed at better understanding themselves, others, or their relationship with others. Each week I will select some of those questions to answer here. As you can see, the askers of those questions remain anonymous.

To submit a potential question for future installments, the only requirement that I ask is that you first become a fan of my Facebook page. “Like” my page, and then send me a private message with your question(s). Until next week!

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How Technology Hinders Workplace Productivity (and What Employers Can Do About It)

Technology offers us a myriad of psychological benefits. With its infinite abilities to constantly connect us with others, entertain us, inform us, and distract us, technology can fulfill virtually our every need. Each encounter with technology is positively reinforced: there is an immediate reward for engaging in this behavior, increasing our likelihood of doing it again.

But at what expense?

As one consequence of this behavior, many fear that this constant, tantalizing distraction will greatly hinder one’s productivity, particularly in the workplace.

They would be right.

Technological distractions are everywhere. Because we can use technology to seek exactly what it is that we want (be it entertainment, information, or connections to others), it will invariably be a more desirable option than the requirements bestowed upon us by others (read: work duties).

For instance, as an alternative to completing a work assignment, an employee may use his or her phone to text a partner or friend, use the internet to read the news or check sports scores, check or update social media pages, watch videos or listen to songs on various websites, and plenty more.

The options are limitless.

The first days of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in March are widely believed to be among the least productive days across all employees. Technology has allowed us to not only keep tabs on the scores of those games, but also to watch them in real time. The sites making this possible have even included a “Boss Button” on the same page as the video feed. When clicked, the page instantly transforms into something that is vaguely productive-looking.

The fact that this button even exists is a testament to the understanding that, left to their own device, employees will often choose the distraction over the duty.

How does an employer circumvent this? What parameters can be put in place to increase the chances of productivity in the workplace and not succumb to the tempting distractions that are everywhere around us? Many employers will have internet restrictions in place so that common websites are blocked from one’s access. With cell phones being able to do basically as much as a computer can, however, this is largely ineffective.

Below are 3 ways that employers can increase employees’ productivity when it comes to technological distractions, without being punitive.

1.  SET STRICT BUT ATTAINABLE DEADLINES: Depending on the nature of the business, there may be open-ended deadlines for various projects to be completed. Or perhaps there are several different items being worked on simultaneously.

Whenever possible, limit the number of tasks on which one is concurrently working, and provide ambitious deadlines for completion. This will result in the employee recognizing that he or she does not have the opportunity for distraction because of an imminent deadline that must be reached. When faced with “crunch time,” most employees are able to put aside distractions temporarily to meet a deadline.

Be careful not to implement this strategy too often, however, as it can take on a flavor of being micromanaged.

2.  SET PRODUCTIVITY GOALS: Punishing an individual for not being productive, or putting childlike restrictions in place (such as blocking various website access), is not nearly as effective as rewarding someone who chooses to be productive. This reward need not, and indeed should not, be in the form of monetary compensation or other external benefit.

Instead, publicly (within your organization) recognize the individual(s) who attain a particular mark or reach a certain level of performance. As human beings, we can become accustomed to putting up with negative consequences of our actions (especially if those actions are at least providing short term rewards like entertainment and distraction). What we can’t do, at least not forever, is continue to thrive without feelings of accomplishment and some level of recognition for our positive performance and contribution.

Seeing others attain this motivates us to want to attain the same thing. If there are things in place within your organization to internally motivate people to perform to a certain level, it is more likely that individuals will choose the distractions less and work more toward being productive.

3.  RUN A CONTEST WITHIN YOUR OFFICE: We have all heard of the “game” dining patrons play whereby they each place their phone in the middle of the table and the first to touch theirs must foot the bill. There are also restaurants that will offer discounts to patrons for turning in their cell phone at the beginning of a meal.

Come up with ways to implement these practices in your office, especially if the use of a cell phone is not imperative to completing one’s work duties. Offer rewards or incentives to individuals for not using their phone throughout the day.

Remember, computers and internet access can be more tightly controlled than individuals’ phones. Getting an employee to give up his or her cell phone for some period of time will result in that individual having “nothing better to do” than work!

The harsh reality is that even the most well-intentioned employees will succumb to the temptation to check their e-mail, read the news, check a sports score, or watch an entertaining video (or 15) during work hours. Technology has made it possible for us to be constantly positively reinforced and rewarded for engaging in these distractions. The only way to “beat” technology is to set up environments in which it is more appealing to the individual to avoid technology than it would be to use it!

This is the third installment of the Psychological Effects of Technology series. Topics include how we have come to be so dependent on technology, the effects technology is having on us individually, the effects technology is having on our relationships with others, and what we can do about our reliance on technology. Help these conversations happen. Please post your comments and questions to my Facebook Fan Page or share this article on your own Facebook profile. Follow me and tweet at me on Twitter @Bevacqua_PhD, or simply print these articles and share them with loved ones. 

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