Frankly Speaking – 3/17/14

How do I bond with my coworkers without getting sucked into office drama?

This is a very common question for many people. Gossiping is indeed one way to bond with others, but it is certainly not the only way. Regardless of your work environment, you probably want to stay away from the drama.

One of the most common fears of entrepreneurship is of social isolation. Of not having the regular human contact that accompanies a 9 to 5 job. What most of those that have taken the leap to self-employment have found, however, is that the connections they have built with others since have actually been much stronger.

Think about the last job you left. How many people did you keep in contact with once you left? How many people do you still keep in contact with now that you’re even further removed? Of those with whom you chose to continue a relationship, why did you do so? I would bet it was because those were the people you liked the most and with whom you had the most in common.

So why does this phenomenon happen? Why do we choose not to keep many of those acquaintances once we leave a job? Why do entrepreneurs find their new connections to be better than that of their traditional job?

When two people work at the same company, they immediately have something in common: their place of employment. Depending on the field, there may be other self-selection factors that people have in common as well. For instance in a hospital setting, multiple people (hopefully!) have a nurturing disposition and a desire to help others.

Once that common thread is removed, however, the differences between two people, even two people working right next to each other, can be striking. Whereas I would always advocate that it can be extremely enriching to have relationships with those that differ from us in some ways, the overwhelming likelihood is that we become closest to those that are most like us.

So to your question, I say look to form bonds with co-workers who are similar to you and talk about those similarities, not about the job. This does mean you will not be bonding equally with everyone, because the only commonality you will ALL have is the job!

While it can be convenient and commonplace to vent about your frustrations on the job with your coworkers, it does set up a slippery slope to begin gossiping about the boss, the new hire, or why Joe has been spending so much time in Susan’s office lately.

If you need someone to vent to about frustrations on the job (and who doesn’t?), look to your non-work friends or relationship partner for that. Together you can then bond over similar feelings of frustrations with your respective jobs without getting caught up in the content and drama of who did what to whom. You can also remind each other about good steps to take to minimize your own frustrations.

It is a way to get closer to the people who are already in your life while safeguarding your attempts at getting closer with coworkers.

Ultimately, as I often say, first decide what your long-term goal is; how do you want your life and, in this case, your work environment to be? Then work backwards. Only with knowing how you want to end up can you take the necessary and proper steps to get there.

“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 one or more 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 – 3/10/14

I’ve already given my two weeks’ notice to my employer, who is now acting unprofessionally and is actively seeking retribution against me. I have done nothing wrong; it only took my resignation letter for him to throw me under the bus to my peers. I fear that I won’t be able to use him to verify my employment because he’s acting so vindictively. Is it worth sacrificing my mental health to stay until the end of my two weeks when he’s refused to give me a reference or letter of recommendation out of spite?

Unfortunately, not everyone likes to play by the rules, but that does not excuse your boss’ behavior; it is wrong for him to be acting unprofessionally. I can imagine the discomfort of having to show up to work each day in the face of this and I’m sure you’re counting down the days until your two weeks is up.

Reality is you are probably right that this employer will not be available for a reference in the future. Regarding your ability to verify your employment, most times your future employer will only be concerned with 1) Did you work at the place you said you worked for the amount of time you said you worked there, 2) Did you engage in the activities/duties which you reported, and 3) Did you earn the salary you reported.

If you do not list your employer as a reference (which of course you won’t at this point), it is unlikely your current boss will have any opportunity to comment on anything but these facts.

It may not even be your boss specifically that is the one who will share this information.

Regarding whether or not to leave your current position prior to the two weeks, my recommendation is to not. The exception to this would be if any of your boss’ actions crossed the line into harassment, at which time a report should be filed against him and your time there should end immediately.

My reasoning for saying not to leave early is simple: to this point, you have done nothing wrong.  Leaving prior to the required two weeks’ notice, however, could be considered as not fulfilling your job duties. This could potentially be very difficult to overcome in future job applications, interviews, and employment verification processes.

Despite the severity of the situation as you describe it, future employers might not know the extent to which your boss is making your day to day life uncomfortable (again, unless a formal complaint is filed). However unfairly, it may reflect poorly upon you. By sticking it out, knowing there is a finite end point, you can move forward with your future work endeavors knowing that you won’t have anything to hide or explain.

In the mean time, actively seek support of others at your job if you can, and especially from those outside of it. Don’t let the unfortunate and unfair actions of one person put you at a disadvantage for your future!

 

I have a male friend who was beaten daily as a child. He has emotional scars and he cycles between depression and outward rebellion. He is a good person but I am afraid he cannot love anyone, even himself. How might I help this man?

I think your understanding of your friend is very accurate. When we have emotional pain that we have not yet worked through, we deal with it in different ways. Some sink into depression while some rebel in various ways or self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Some, like your friend, may exhibit both.

I’m going to modify one of your statements slightly: you said that your friend “cannot love anyone, even himself.” Reality is, he likely “cannot love anyone, ESPECIALLY himself.”

When children experience abuse, whether it is one time or ongoing, it is common for feelings of worthlessness and blame to be internalized. Without a proper outlet or resolution, these thoughts and feelings swirl until that is the only identity they know.

Unfortunately the adage is true: you cannot love others until you love yourself, and you are absolutely correct that right now he is struggling to do so.

One of the most common things for people who care (like yourself) to do is to try to overcome this by showering the person with praise and compliments, consistently and constantly reminding him of how valuable you think he is.

The problem is we only accept that which we already believe about ourselves; he is not going to accept your positive statements as reality because they are not HIS reality.

The abuse he experienced needs to be explored with a trained professional, preferably one who specializes in early childhood trauma. It is a lengthy process, and things might even get harder for him before they get easier.

Encourage him to seek this help. As his friend, this is not something you can do yourself, even if you were a therapist. It will take the work of someone who is unbiased, not someone who has a previous relationship with him. He needs to start new right now.

In the mean time, continue to be his friend and only that. He is likely struggling with feeling responsible for the terrible things that happened to him, even though we know he is not. Don’t make a similar mistake by feeling responsible for having to “fix him.” Be a friend, point him in the direction of the help he needs, and support him on this journey.

“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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3 Reasons We Have Become Obsessed with Technology

Have you ever checked your phone after 30 minutes, an hour, maybe two hours, only to have nothing new to see on it? No missed calls. No texts. No Facebook notifications or new Twitter followers. Nothing from Instagram. No Snapchats.

Have you then ever checked your level of service, or your internet connection, or gone so far as to turn your phone off and back on again? It must be some kind of mistake, right?

We live in a world now where our ego is based very much upon our technological and social media connections. How many “Likes” we get on a photo we post or “Retweets” or “Favorites” we get from our Twitter musings directly affects our sense of self-worth.

The degree that this affects each of us varies. Previously, I wrote about how we are becoming addicted to technology. But not everyone is addicted. Many of us are merely obsessed.

It took us decades to realistically go from the first telephones to the first televisions. Over roughly that same amount of time, we more recently went from no one owning a personal computer to people carrying multiple devices on them at all times. The access to information and the ability to connect with others is astounding. And dangerous.

How did this happen? How did we, as a collection of individuals, so quickly grasp onto this blossoming area known as technology? Below are three reasons why technology has grabbed onto us tight and hasn’t let go.

1)      FEELING CONNECTED TO OTHERS

Abraham Maslow, a famous psychologist, theorized that humans must feel a sense of belonging with others before they can increase their own self-esteem. Therefore, to belong or fit in with others is a requirement to feel good about oneself. Technology allows us to feel connected to others. To be a part of something.

As I write this, I have the Oscars on in the background. Just a moment ago, Ellen DeGeneres attempted to set the all-time “re-tweet” record on Twitter for a photo. They snapped a selfie that included the likes of Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, and Julia Roberts, among several others. In 13 seconds, that photo had been re-tweeted over 6200 times. In 13 seconds. (Update – as I edit this a day later, the photo has since been retweeted over 3 million times)

But then a funny thing happened. Twitter died. At least temporarily, anyway. The incredible surge and rush among all of the Oscars’ viewers to be a part of this moment overwhelmed the site. Later in the show, Ellen, live at the Oscars, announced to the world that they had successfully crashed Twitter. Immediately, thousands of people smiled to themselves as they know they contributed to this.

They helped. They were part of something.

Despite not actually having contact with anyone else.

2)      POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT

Technology offers us something that no one human being on this earth can: immediate, constant, and never-ending positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement, the idea that any action that is rewarded is likely to be repeated, is far and away the most effective form of behavior modification. A text. A tweet. A “Like.” They all make us feel good. They give us the warm fuzzies. Someone is thinking of me. Someone likes me.

See after my own site launched, I installed Google Analytics. It is a wonderfully informative and terribly addicting tool that shows me how many people are viewing my site at any given moment, where they are from, among plenty of other great information.

Seeing that people are viewing my site is incredibly reinforcing to me. It tells me that the content I am creating is of interest and of use to others. I check my Analytics often (probably too often) on the off chance that I can notice my readers on my site.

On a daily basis, though, is that why we post pictures? Announce moment-by-moment updates on our lives? On the off chance that we receive “approval” from others through comments and shares? Of course it is.

We all do it.

We announce the sad times because we want and need sympathy from others. We share the great things and the accomplishments because we want the congratulations from others. It’s not wrong. It’s human nature. And technology figured out a way for us to be able to receive that all the time.

3)      ESCAPE FROM REALITY

Technology offers us a way to feel (at least superficially) connected to others, and it provides us a source of constant and immediate positive reinforcement. But it also allows us to escape from others.

We sit in a classroom. In a boardroom in a meeting. On a date. In a movie. At a red light (but never while driving, right?). In line pretty much anywhere. At any moment, we have the ability to be anywhere we want to be. It is like having a personal genie in our pockets. But instead of 3 magical wishes we get as many as we can ask over the course of a 12-hour battery life. Then we plug it in and keep going.

No matter what we type into Google. No matter what website we go to. No matter what video we seek, or song we listen to. For the first time, we have complete control over our entertainment and our information. If we are the least bit dissatisfied with the physical world around us, we can escape immediately into a virtual life that we create.

The increase in satisfaction that we immediately feel when we do so? You guessed it: immensely positively reinforcing. It feels good and we’re going to do it again. And again. And again.

No longer do we have to agonizingly watch the clock tick until we reach that moment of freedom. No longer do we have to make idle conversation with those nearby. No longer do we have to exhibit patience, or feign interest, or display any semblance of an attention span. It’s not needed because in just a click or two or five, we are immediately where we would rather be.

And what could possibly be more reinforcing than that?

This is the second 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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Frankly Speaking – 3/3/14

Frank,

     I just got a new job and I want to start out making clear boundaries with my co-workers and supervisors. I want a fresh start from my previous experience with my former employer. How do I show initiative and prove myself without becoming a doormat?

This is a very common concern that many people have and a problem many people do not attempt to address until they’re on the wrong side of the line. That you are aware of this possibility at the start of a new job gives you a great advantage.

Depending on the nature of your job, this balance can become particularly tricky. For instance advancement, raises, bonuses and other types of perks may be based not only on the quality of your performance, but on your ability to go “above and beyond.” This is where most people experience difficulty because we find ourselves doing things or acting in a way that we would not normally want or choose ourselves.

In general, never do anything one time that you’re not willing to do every time. As soon as a “favor” is completed, it becomes an expectation whether you think it will or not. For instance, if you are a salaried employee and you agree to stay late one night without additional compensation, expect that you will be asked to do so again in the future.

Saying “No,” is probably the most difficult and uncomfortable part, even if you know that’s the answer you wish to give.  At the same time, trying to skirt around the issue by saying things like “I’m working on something else right now,” or “I can’t stay late tonight,” opens yourself up to be asked those things again. Saying “No,” is not wrong. It only feels that way to most of us because we are not used to saying it. Any employer that is not willing to accept your boundaries, assuming your job duties are being fulfilled, is not an employer I would want to work for, anyway.

Ultimately, you need to decide what it is that you want out of your job. Even if there are potential perks to going above and beyond, be purposefully selective with which of them you choose to do. Maybe you are willing to do extra tasks during the day, but not stay after hours. If you set your long-term goals ahead of time, decide the purposeful actions you will take (and more importantly, NOT take!) to get there and stick to them, you will find yourself on the healthy side of the line!

 

Frank,

     My sister-in-law got into a bad car accident several years back, before I met my husband. From what I have heard she is a completely different person. She has severed many ties with the family. Her mom (my mother-in-law) tries to keep the peace with the family despite the fact that my sister-in-law and my husband have not spoken in 4 years. I feel very conflicted because some family members keep giving her chances because of her injury, however I also feel like she is an adult and has made choices she should live with. Sometimes I just can’t get past how much they enable her. Please help!

There are multiple layers to this, so let’s try to take a quick look at each of them.

Let’s put the car accident aside for a moment. In general, people ascribe to one of two theories when it comes to family members. Either A) family is family no matter what, or B) respect and consideration are a requirement for someone to be in your life, family or not.

Neither one is more right than the other. It sounds like those involved may be split as to which side of this fence they come down on. This may be why some members continue to give her chances, or enable her, while others may choose not to.

From your description of the situation, it sounds like the car accident may have resulted in a Traumatic Brain Injury. A TBI can result in impairment in cognitive functioning and affect things like language and memory. It can also affect an individual’s personality, including their decision-making, impulsivity, and mood. A common change in TBI patients is to go from mild-mannered to more angry, irritable, and aggressive.

The hardest part is understanding that she does not have the level of control over her abilities and actions as we might expect. She might not even be aware of the changes that have occurred within her. This can be particularly frustrating for everyone.

Despite not knowing which of the above possibilities apply to your sister-in-law, the likelihood is that she is now a very different person in some important way. The old version of her is gone. Loss occurs in many different ways in our lives. Sometimes it is an actual death of a loved one. Sometimes it is the end of a relationship, or a friendship. Sometimes a friendship changes when one of the members gets a new job and moves across the country.

Whatever the logistical reason, what exists now is not what existed before, and mourning that loss is crucial to moving forward. In the case of your in-laws, they may be struggling with accepting this notion as they are still holding on to the way things were. The way she was.

Having met her after her accident, you only know who she is now and don’t have the same basis of comparison and the same level of conflicting information. The conflict that exists for you now, however, is more about protecting your new family unit (including yourself, your husband, and whoever else has or will come along).

Ultimately, as a unit, you need to decide what is best given the current set of circumstances. Once that occurs, it becomes a matter of setting up those boundaries with the rest of the family. As I wrote in my above response, remember that what is an exception one time becomes an expectation the next time.

Between you and your husband, decide what is and is not acceptable regarding your relationship with your sister-in-law. Perhaps more importantly (and more difficult), decide how this will affect your relationship with the rest of your in-laws. For example, there might be a boundary set that this topic is not to be discussed at family gatherings.

Whatever boundaries are set, first make sure that you and your husband agree. Then implement them. Change those boundaries in the future only if you both decide to, not if someone outside your family unit pressures you to do so.

 

“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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Treat Your Relationship Like Your Gym Membership

There are many similarities between romantic relationships and physical activity. Below are just five of the ways we would all be better off if we treated our relationship like we would a gym membership.

1)      DECIDING WHEN TO BEGIN

Maybe you haven’t worked out in a while. Maybe some holiday is coming up that sparks your desire. A New Year’s resolution? Wanting to get in better shape before that summer vacation? Perhaps you consider your age and fear that if you don’t get into shape now, it might never happen. Even worse, maybe someone else made a comment implying it would be good for you to hop on a treadmill.

To continue reading, the full article is available here: http://www.datingadvice.com/for-men/treat-your-relationship-like-your-gym-membership

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Technology Addiction: Is it Happening to Us?

Do you (or someone you know) carry your cell phone charger with you wherever you go? Do you plug it in while in a public place (bar, restaurant, etc.) to ensure you don’t lose battery life before you return home? Do you get upset when the internet is going slower than usual or goes out completely? Do you get annoyed at sporting events, concerts, and other large gatherings because it is impossible to get a signal? Do you text and drive? Do you text and drive despite people asking you not to? Despite near-accidents? Do you continue to bury your face in your phone even when others complain about how much time you spend doing so? Is your first thought when something happens in your life that you need to text someone or post it online to tell others about it?

To be addicted to an activity, habit, or substance means to be dependent on it. To need it. To not feel complete, satisfied, or calm without it. On a physical and psychological level, your body and mind crave the very thing it is being deprived. Even when we have it, the craving is only partially and temporarily satisfied. To the addicted individual, there’s no such thing as “too much,” only “not enough.”

There are some addictions that are more common and more well-known: alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, gambling. The list goes on.  Receiving much less attention, however, is our society’s ever-growing dependence on technology and the associated negative consequences. But don’t just take my word on it.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, is the Bible of mental illness. It is the reference guide that all mental health professionals (including social workers, counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists) use to diagnose psychological and psychiatric disorders, including addictions. This manual creates consistency across professionals when diagnosing a patient’s symptoms or problematic behaviors; it is not one person’s opinion. It is science.

One category that the Manual specifies is referred to as Substance Use Disorders (read: addictions), and they all carry the same set of criteria. The only thing that varies from one to the next is the name of the substance. I have included these criteria below and inserted the word TECHNOLOGY where it would normally read “alcohol,” “tobacco,” etc. To be sure, “technology” is a terribly broad term and encompasses everything from television and video games, to social media outlets and texting, to our phones and the internet in general. For each individual, it will vary. Think about which aspect of technology you or someone you know uses the most, and insert that as you read the following criteria. Keep count of the number of items that apply.

1.  TECHNOLOGY is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended. For example: frequently being late to scheduled activities due to distraction from technology use.

2.  There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control TECHNOLOGY use. For example: aiming to minimize use of technology, or perhaps avoid a certain aspect of technology for a certain period of time, only to be unsuccessful in that attempt.

3.  A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain TECHNOLOGY, use TECHNOLOGY, or recover from its effects. For example: time spent desperately trying to get a cell phone signal , charge your phone, or locate a Wi-Fi hotspot.

4.  Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use TECHNOLOGY. For example: having difficulty waiting until a class, meeting, work, or other event concludes so you can check your phone, social media page, or browse the internet.

5.  Recurrent TECHNOLOGY use resulting in failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home. For example: consistently not meeting appropriate deadlines for assignments or tasks as the result of distraction by the use of technology.

6.  Continued TECHNOLOGY use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of TECHNOLOGY: For example: your family, friends, or significant other regularly complains about the frequency and/or timing of your technology use.

7.  Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of TECHNOLOGY use. For example: skipping lunch with co-workers or a weekend night out with friends in favor of upgrading your phone or updating or checking in on your social media outlets.

8.  Recurrent TECHNOLOGY use in situations where it is physically hazardous. For example: texting while driving!

9.  TECHNOLOGY use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by TECHNOLOGY use. For example: continuing to dive deeply into your friends’ social media pages despite feeling worse about yourself as you compare your life to what you see of theirs.

10.  Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:

              A) A need for markedly increased amounts of TECHNOLOGY to achieve the desired effect.

              B) A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of TECHNOLOGY

For example: the need for ever-increasing speeds of internet connection as Google introduces the new fiber internet. Anyone remember dial-up?

11.  Withdrawal as defined by a physiological reaction to the absence of TECHNOLOGY, or the use of TECHNOLOGY to avoid the experiencing of such effects. For example: anxiety-laden reactions to having to turn off your cell phone during an airplane flight and having to wait until you land to be able to text, tweet or post about the smelly guy next to you.

Now for the sobering news (no pun intended): Saying “Yes,” to just TWO of the above items is enough to meet diagnostic criteria for a Mild Use Disorder (addiction). Saying “Yes,” to 4: Moderate. Saying “Yes,” to just 6 of the 11? Severe.

In many ways, technological advances have been, and can continue to be, incredibly beneficial to us. Now, petitions, protests, and calls to action can reach millions of people in minutes. Information can be disseminated with a click or push of a button. Heck, advances in technology are the only reason that I am able to produce this blog and you are able to have immediate and free access to it. So don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate technology. I am concerned, however, with how we’re using it and the effects it is having on us as individuals and on our relationships with others.

The unfortunate truth is that anyone can become addicted to anything. It is not a matter of will power. It does not mean someone is weak. Addictions are diseases. They grab hold and don’t let go until there is an intervention.  The first step to solving any problem is to recognize it. Let’s solve this problem together by first helping everyone recognize its severity. I recognize the irony in asking my readers to e-mail, tweet and post on Facebook about this article. At the same time, consider the most common place to see a “1-800” telephone number to call for a gambling problem: in a casino. We must first reach everyone where they already are before we can lead them anywhere else.  Be a leader.

This is the first installment of the Psychological Effects of Technology series. Future topics will 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, 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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