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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Frankly Speaking – 4/28/14

Dear Frank,

I am having a birthday party for my son next weekend and still have not heard from 8 parents, which is about half of everyone that was invited. The RSVP deadline already passed several days ago. Should I call them or assume they aren’t coming? Also, I would like your opinion on why people are not courteous enough to respond.

I am actually going to answer your second question first because I think it will lead us to the first answer together. You’re absolutely right that some people do not have the courtesy to realize they affect other people’s plans when they do not engage as expected. It is easy to say that this is the case for all 8 parents, but there are definitely other possibilities as well.

First, it is possible that some of those parents have been too busy to respond. Balancing family with work and other responsibilities can be overwhelming at its worst (and sometimes mildly stressful at best!), and unfortunately responding to a birthday party invitation does not crack the top of the priority list. That doesn’t mean they do not still intend for their child to attend and in fact still might.

It is also possible that, right or wrong, some of those parents may believe they only need to respond if they are planning on coming. Conversely, some may actually believe they only need to respond if they are NOT coming! This may be the case even if the invitation specifies what the respondent should do! We have a tendency to, even in the face of contrary evidence, assume that other people do things the same way that we do.

There are a host of other possibilities for why some people have not yet responded but a final possibility, and a highly likely one, is that they have simply forgotten. This may not even be related to being busy as mentioned above. In our world of constant communication (e-mail, text messages, snail mail – some people still use that, right?), we can get in the habit of thinking “Oh I’ll get to that later.” Through no fault or malicious intent, we put an invitation aside fully meaning to return to it. Sometimes, we just don’t.

I wrote in a previous article about reducing your frustration when it comes to interacting with other people. It is easy to blame others when they do something differently than you, especially when it goes against what we think is social convention (such as responding to an invitation). What we must constantly remember is that there are often many more potential explanations for someone’s behavior beyond what we first believe to be true.

With that in mind, it is perfectly acceptable to reach out to these individuals to double-check with them about their plans. I have a hunch many of them will be apologetic for not responding and/or thank you for reminding them. Personally, I very much appreciate (and sometimes expect) reminders about impending events.   The person who will become annoyed at this reminder will be in the minority, and may be one of the aforementioned individuals who silently assumed that you should know what their lack of response meant. Understand that this is where they are coming from, say thank you, hang up, and move onto the next call!

“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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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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Frankly Speaking – 3/24/14

My boyfriend and I have been together for about 6 years, off and on. We have 4 kids (we each have one and two together). He is the financial provider of our house and I am a house mom; he wants me to get out and find a job to help, which I understand and am working on. He feels as though I do not support him in his attempts to own his own business and has told me he feels as though he is all alone. I’m also fairly certain that he has been cheating on me. Is our relationship too messy to be fixed?

There certainly do seem to be a lot of working parts to this but my answer, in short, to your question is “No, it is not too late.”

I don’t believe that it is ever too late to repair a relationship. Some individuals/couples identify past difficulties (cheating, frequent arguing, etc.) as “too much to overcome.” They may be right, only in that it might be too much for them to overcome. For every relationship that ends for a given reason, there is another couple out there somewhere that was able to work through the same issue(s).

There are a couple of keys to making it work, however. First, both of you need to be committed to wanting to make it work. What may be even more important, however, is being able to agree on the values that you each hold. This does include things such as who will work and who will stay home, views on parenting, financial decisions, etc. Even if two people love each other, differences in values will make it very difficult to work toward a common goal.

In your situation, it sounds like there are a number of things that need to be talked through with your boyfriend, not the least of which is your suspicion of his infidelity. Only by getting everything out in the open is there any chance that you can then work to decide what you want, and how to get there.

Without taking these steps, you may only continue to live parallel lives under the same roof, but never grow your intimacy and neither of you will be fully satisfied. If you find that it is too difficult to have these conversations on your own, you may enlist the help of a therapist to help facilitate those discussions. That person’s job is not to decide who is right, who is wrong, and what needs to change; he or she will merely help you and your boyfriend have those conversations together.

If this relationship is truly something that you want, don’t stop fighting for it. You can’t be the only one fighting, though.

 

My eighteen year old son has quite the case of narcissism. Everything is “all about him.” He interrupts conversations and changes the subject to get the focus back on him. I don’t know how to tell him in a way that will not hurt his feelings, but to make him see that people he encounters are annoyed by this character flaw. Thanks in advance for any help.

Actually, I think you may have answered your own question.

The concern you expressed is giving your son feedback “in a way that will not hurt his feelings.” My guess is this is not the first and only time you (or others) have tried to spare his feelings. Do that for too long, and you are left with someone who doesn’t understand others’ perspectives because he likely never hears them!

Although Narcissistic Personality Disorder is an official diagnosis from the DSM-5 (the guide used by all mental health professionals), let’s assume for a moment that he does not meet these criteria; it would be unprofessional of me to diagnosis someone that I have not interviewed and evaluated personally, anyway.

What may be happening instead is an exaggeration of a typical teenager who is self-centered and perhaps entitled. As we grow up and mature, we naturally begin to understand ourselves better, although some people develop this skill to a higher level than others. What does not occur as naturally, and instead must be TAUGHT, is how to understand other peoples’ perspectives.

You’re right, in that you can’t be mean and demeaning to him regarding this blind spot that he has. Of course he will interpret that as a shot to his ego and he will become defensive. But that doesn’t mean you have to sugar coat things, either.

Instead of telling him anything, try asking (very general) questions instead. For instance, you could ask “How do you think someone would feel if they weren’t being listened to in a conversation?” If he doesn’t know the answer, tell him. Then see if he can apply it to himself. “Remember when you were talking with X? It seemed like he was never able to finish the point he was making. How do you think he felt?”

If he’s able to at least repeat the answer that you spoon-fed him to the previous question just before that, we’re on the right track. If he becomes defensive and can only hear the insult of what he did wrong, there may be a more deeply ingrained issue, although this is likely his first attempts at trying to figure some of these things out.

Be patient and try this type of question and information sharing a couple of different times. If any headway seems to be made, keep at it. If not, you may begin to think about pursuing professional assistance from someone in your area who can get to know you and your family dynamics in much greater depth.

“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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