By Paul Faulkner (Excerpt from the book, “Making Things Right”)
Do you ever decide before you even meet a person that you’re not going to like him? Do you ever make up your mind before you go somewhere: “I’m not going to like it”? Or before you go to the company picnic, do you think, “It will be boring”? The fact is you usually find exactly what you expect to find. Your predispositions determine beforehand the way you will see things.
Consider the perceptions of two neighbors: The first husband wakes up in the morning and looks at his wife. Her hair is in rollers. Her face is covered with cold cream. There’s a rip in her robe. The guy thinks: “Man, what on earth am I doing married to this?” The fellow next door wakes up in the morning, looks at his wife and sees the same things. Her hair is in rollers. Her face is covered with cold cream. There’s a rip in her robe. But he thinks: “Isn’t she a doll?She jumps up in the morning, fixes breakfast and gets the kids off to school before she takes care of herself! What a wonderful wife!”
What made the difference? Attitude! Psychological tests reveal that our responses toward others are determined more by our attitudes than by what others actually do. It’s all in how we look at things.
For example, a child spills a glass of milk. Mama is in a good mood, so she says, “Oh, dear, the milk is spilled. I’ll make a dam with this napkin. You run get a towel, and we’ll clean it up.” When her disposition is cheerful, the mother addresses the issue, which is the milk, not the child.
Two weeks later, the same child spills some milk and the same mom points her finger at the horror-struck child and shouts, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times not to set your milk so close to the edge of the table! (And then there is the usual question:) Haven’t I? Haven’t I?” The mother makes what the child does the issue, not the milk. Do you remember being at the end of one of those pointing fingers? You don’t know whether to shake, cry or just roll over and play dead.
How do you treat someone when they mess up? Do you put them down with a barb like, “I’ve told you a thousand times, haven’t I?” Do you kick them while they’re down? Or do you gently pick them up, dust them off and get them going again?
It all depends on whether you are predisposed to find the negative or the positive in life and people. You’ll find what you’re looking for every time.
Negative attitudes toward people and things distort our mental capacity to see things as they really are. So, we respond foolishly or irrationally to the imaginary notions our minds invent about people and events.
By Florence Littauer Excerpts from the book, “How to Get Along with Difficult People;” Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 1984
Dale Carnegie’s basic principle for winning friends is to give compliments, to find something genuinely good in everyone. This is not doing what comes naturally, because we all tend to knock other people to make ourselves look good.
Thirty years ago when I taught adults elementary psychology, I assigned my students to give genuine compliments for a week. I suggested that they look around for people in need of praise and find something sincere to say.
A nurse reported at our next session that twice a week a little old man came to the office for shots. He would be outside waiting when she would arrive, and she would pass him by with a nod. When 9 o’clock came she would let him in from the cold, give him his shot, and dismiss him. After our assignment, she noticed him the next morning and wondered what she could find about him to compliment. As she glanced his way, she saw he was wearing a bright red tie with a palm tree painted on it. She smiled and asked, “Is that a new tie you have on, Mr. Costello? That palm tree is a beauty!” He nodded as she went quickly inside. A few minutes later she thought, “Why do I let that little man stand out in the cold? I could let him in to wait.” She called to him and he entered thankfully.
Two days later when she came to work he was standing proudly at the door with a dozen roses in his hands. “These are for you because you were so kind to me. My son sent me that tie from Palm Springs and you’re the only one who’s noticed.”
A young man lived with his brothers and widowed father. His one sister kept house for them all, and her services were taken for granted. Because of his assignment, he looked around at home for something to compliment and noticed some new flowered drapes. He told her how beautiful they were, and she replied, “I’m glad someone finally noticed. I made them months ago and I felt none of you even cared. You’re the only one who’s noticed.” The next day when he came home from work, there was a new sweater on his bed with a note: “Because you noticed.”
To compliment we first have to “notice.” We have to open our preoccupied minds and take the blinders off our glazed eyes. From the time I taught this class and heard the amazing reports from the students, I put myself on a compliment course. As my daughter Marita and I travel, we look for people who could use encouragement. One day I noticed a lady in line at the ticket counter at Los Angeles Airport who had on a simple dress and was carrying a shopping bag. As I glanced her way I saw she had very interesting, silver-etched, heart-shaped buttons down the front of the dress. “What beautiful buttons you have!” I commented. She looked up and beamed. “My friend brought these home from Germany and I made the whole dress to go with the buttons. You’re the first one who’s noticed them.”
Start today on a compliment course. Practice on everyone you meet. You can always praise the buttons. Be the first one to notice what’s good. “If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think [and comment] on these things.” Practice noticing and praising, for there are very few people in life who have really lost all their buttons, and who have nothing about them you can compliment.
How do you use compliments to deal with difficult situations? Think now of some person who troubles you much. The next time you see that body heading your way, look for the buttons. Quickly find something genuinely positive to compliment. It’s hard for that person to tackle you when you’ve started on a gracious note.
How about your husband? What do other women notice about him? Have you told him lately that you love him?
How about your teenager? So many feel their parents haven’t said a kind word to them in years!
As I shared this point one day with Dr. Starr, she looked reflective and said, “That’s what my daughter is looking for–some praise from me. I’ve paid for her training as a classical pianist and all she wants to play is jazz. Each time she sits at the piano to play I suggest Beethoven and she responds with jazz. I sigh and turn away. Now I see I must encourage her even if her music is not my choice.”
So many of us parents are not complimenting our children on what they’re doing well, because it isn’t what we had in mind for them to do. They either become discouraged and quit or find someone else who will appreciate their abilities.
One day Marita returned from a week in a friend’s home where she was doing color consultations. As we discussed her time there she said, “There’s something not quite right about that family. I don’t know what it was, but I felt a tension in the home.” We talked over the possibilities and then it clicked. “No one ever gave compliments to anyone else.” A home with no compliments is not a happy place, and it’s up to the parents to set the tone.
When we as parents use compliments as the norm, we give our home a warm, positive atmosphere and set the stage for a loving home life in our children’s future. They learn from what we do, as well as from what we say.
How do compliments help in your social life or business? In any position of leadership, we run into people who don’t see things our way. Our human tendency is to try to convince them we’re right, but when we’re willing to praise them and make them look good in front of other people, they often become supportive. As I have been president of different organizations, I’ve found many women whose sole joy in life was scuttling the president’s plans. I’ve always gone out of my way to compliment them in person. “Why, that’s a brilliant idea! There’s not one of us here who couldn’t profit from your suggestion.”
Even more effective is quietly saying positive words “behind their backs.” To Mabel’s friend, “Have you ever noticed how agreeable Mabel is? She always wants what’s best for the club, and I appreciate that attitude.” The friend may be stunned at the thought of Mabel being agreeable, but she’ll tell her about it within minutes.
As we drove in toward a church in Dallas where I was having a seminar, the hostess said to me, “I hate to tell you this, but not many people are coming tonight. I cleared this program with the pastor but I didn’t know I should have checked it with Dolores. She doesn’t really have a title, but she is constantly cleaning up the church, and I found out that through the years she has unofficially had the final word on all the women’s activities. She’s offended that I didn’t know her position, and she’s called the women and told them not to come.”
I tried not to show my disappointment, and I pledged to speak to whatever ones appeared. We entered the foyer and the hostess left me to go and find the pastor. As I looked around, I noticed a woman in the sanctuary polishing the pews with Liquid Gold. She had on a print house dress with a different print apron, plus stockings rolled down around her ankles, and she was astride a basketful of cleaning supplies. I took a chance that this was Dolores. I walked down the aisle behind her and startled her with, “Are you by any chance Dolores?” She turned quickly, the ring of keys on her belt clanking against each other as she looked me over. Since my picture was on posters in the foyer, I assumed she could guess who I was. “How did you know?” she asked suspiciously. “I’ve spoken in many churches in this town and they all wish they had someone who really cared for their church. I’ve heard that’s what you do for this one.”
She smiled slightly on one side of her face and then shot another squirt of Liquid Gold on the pew. I told her my name and gave her the news that I was doing a seminar in this very room tonight. I thanked her for caring enough to polish the pews for me and then asked her a favour. “When I go into a church I need to find a responsible person who can assist me and pass out my outlines at the right time. Since I don’t know a soul here and you are obviously someone I could count on, I wonder if you’d be willing to help me out.”
Before she had a chance to say no, I asked if she could call a few friends to assist her and be available 15 minutes early for my instructions. I thanked her again for her industry, patted her on the shoulder, and said I’d see her later.
What did Dolores do the rest of the afternoon? She called her friends and I had the biggest group of ushers I’d ever had!
When you have a human-relations problem, don’t run away or weep and wail. Tackle the situation quickly, get to the source of the problem, praise the person for whatever you can find, and let him know you have confidence in him. Difficult people need loving too!
Excerpts from the book, “Bringing Out the Best in People,” Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, 1985
Giving praise–what is known as “positive reinforcement” in the current psychological jargon–is an essential art for an executive or a teacher to master. As a rule, it’s important to expect the best from people overall, but there is another important rule. Although it’s very good to have a positive attitude about a person’s general possibilities, here I’m advocating reinforcing specific behavior. It’s the difference between saying “I’m expecting great things from you” and saying “You’ve done a terrific job straightening out this department.”
If there is a complaint employees most often express, it is this: “I never get any feedback from the boss–except when something goes wrong.” And the teenagers who sit in my office tell me again and again, “My dad gets all over my case when I mess up at school, but when I bring home a good grade he acts as if it’s nothing–that I’m finally doing what I should have been doing all along.”
In The One Minute Manager, Blanchard and Johnson suggest taking frequent breaks for what they describe as “One Minute Praisings.” Catch your subordinate “doing something right,” they advise, then give an immediate compliment.
Such straightforward acts seem easy enough, and we all know they are an effective way of reinforcing good work in our children and employees. Yet stop and think. How long has it been since you took a full 60 seconds to talk to your son or daughter about some fine thing they’ve just done? Or your secretary, or the managers who work under you?
What we’re discussing here is a very basic courtesy that should apply in all human relations–taking the time to thank people who help us. My friend Mike Somdal is a specialist at this. One reason he is so successful in business is that he has mastered the fine art of making people feel good by thanking them regularly. Often he will call customers simply to thank them again for the order they placed last week or for the recommendation they made to another customer or for the lunch. Anything. And before the conversation is over, Mike has often secured another order. Of course, if he called simply with ulterior motives, his clients would recognise the manipulation and resist. But Mike has made gratitude a lifelong habit, and those of us who do business with him appreciate that quality. And we respond.
Teachers are in the habit of calling parents when a student is not performing well, but they might be wise to spend a portion of that time calling parents of kids who are excelling or who have improved markedly. Such obvious respect for students gets around the school and can do a great deal to influence the climate of the classroom.
Nearly every one of us is starving to be appreciated, and when someone comes along who genuinely thanks us, we will follow that person a very long way. “The applause of a single human being,” said Samuel Johnson, “is of great consequence.”
The Art of the Compliment
There are right ways and wrong ways of expressing appreciation and reinforcing positive behavior. Here are some suggestions for praising the people under you.
a. Hand out commendations in public. One-to-one praisings are not nearly as effective as public appreciation. I shall never forget a Monday afternoon during my sophomore year in high school. I knew I had played better than usual in the previous Friday’s football game, and when we assembled for practice I wondered if the coach had noticed my good blocks. Not only had he noticed! He proceeded to tell the whole squad. It was not brilliant praise, for I was not a brilliant player, yet I remember 35 years later my deep pride as he chewed out certain members of the team for poor performances and said, “Now McGinnis is another story. He’s not the most coordinated player we’ve got, but he was really putting out on Friday.” I recall the words verbatim because I desperately needed to be accepted in that group, and when the coach praised me before the team, I finally felt that I was somebody in their eyes.
Parental praisings at dinner will go further than individual commendations, for you have made your child feel good before an audience. And when you have meetings with your employees, use that as an opportunity to dispense your thanks. We all feign modesty and are reluctant to boast about ourselves, but I’ve never known people who did not like having others boast about them. To be present when your boss is telling about your success to someone on the telephone, for instance, or to be at a party when your wife is describing the intelligent way you handled a problem with the children yesterday–those are sweet pleasures.
b. Use every success as an excuse for celebration. My wife is an expert at praise, and when anything out of the ordinary has happened–a book goes into another printing, or I complete a piece of furniture in the garage–she makes a very big thing of it. She greets me at the door with a special hug, and perhaps with tears in her eyes, she stands with me and talks about how happy she is. Then she fixes us all a special dinner. The best families frequently celebrate each others achievements. Life is sometimes dreary for the people around us, and we can make their existence more pleasurable as well as increase their production if we seize every opportunity for celebration.
c. Employ some gesture to give weight to your commendation. One of the best investments an employer can make is to buy gifts for his staff. When gift-giving becomes ritualized, as at Christmas, it never means as much as when some project is completed and you take the group to lunch and hand out tokens of your appreciation or have secretly had plaques made for their office walls. Thomas Watson Sr. at IBM is said to have made a practice of writing out a cheque on the spot for achievements he observed in his own itinerant management role. When Peters and Waterman were doing the research for their book on excellence in business, they found many such examples of on-the-spot bonuses.
At Foxboro Corporation, a technical advance was desperately needed for survival in the company’s early days. Late one evening, a scientist rushed into the president’s office with a working prototype. Dumbfounded at the elegance of the solution and bemused about how to reward it, the president bent forward in his chair, rummaged through most of the drawers in his desk, found something, leaned over the desk to the scientist, and said, “Here!” In his hand was a banana, the only reward he could immediately put his hands on. From that point on, the small “gold banana” pin has been the highest accolade for scientific achievement at Foxboro!
d. Put your compliment in writing. There is almost magical power in a note, especially the handwritten letter. When you are important to a person and you take the time to send a letter of commendation, that gesture can have rich rewards. Sometimes you can double the effect of the gesture by writing, not to the person, but to someone else. I have a friend who travels a great deal, and when an airline employee does him a favour he not only thanks the person face to face, but also asks for the name of the employee’s supervisor, and drops a note to that supervisor when he returns home. You can be sure that carries more weight than any expression of thanks to the employee.
e. Be very specific in your praise. Vague slaps on the back, like telling people that they’re “doing a good job”, do not have nearly the impact of a detailed commendation. “I liked the way you used the colors for the tree in your picture” registers with a five-year-old more than your saying, “That’s a pretty picture.” It shows that you have looked at it with care. Moreover, you are reinforcing specific behaviour. Let’s say that your staff has successfully pulled in a large contract. They may not be aware of the exact reasons they succeeded this time and failed at another time. So it is important for you to point out exactly what you liked about their presentation, and to show that you noticed how they worked overtime on a crucial weekend to sharpen the proposal, for example.
Karen Pryor tells about her friend Annette, who is good at comforting and offers sympathy and advice when you’re in trouble. “But it is in the area of good news that Annette offers unusual reinforcement,” says Pryor. “Tell her the bank approved your loan, and she does more than say, That's great!' She points out exactly what you did to earn and deserve the good news.You see?’ Annette might respond. `Remember all the trouble you went to with the phone company and getting an air-travel card? Now it pays off for you; you’re recognized as a good businesswoman. But you had to make the right moves first, and you did. I’m really proud of you.’ That,” says Pryor, “is more than approval, that is reinforcement.”
The alert leader will always be on the lookout for signs of positive change. There is nothing more demoralizing than to change at great expense, then have our superiors allow the change to go unnoticed. Too frequently they assume that we have the same bad habits or attitudes that we had last month, when in fact we may be quite different.
A. W. Beaven tells of a heartbreaking incident. A little girl had been misbehaving and her mother had to rebuke her often. But one day the little girl had tried especially hard and hadn’t done a single thing that called for reprimand. That night, after the mother had tucked her in bed and started down the stairs, she heard her daughter sobbing. Turning back, she found her head buried in the pillow. Between sobs her daughter asked, “Haven’t I been a pretty good girl today?” “That question,” said the mother, “went through me like a knife. I had been quick enough to correct her when she did wrong, but when she had tried tobehave, I had not noticed it. I had put her to bed without one word of appreciation.”
Excerpts from the book by William Kirk Kilpatrick
(Westchester, Ill: Crossway Books, 1985)
(William Kirk Kilpatrick is associate professor of educational psychology at Boston College. A graduate of Holy Cross College, he holds degrees from Harvard University and Purdue University. He is a popular lecturer on psychology and religion at colleges and universities around the U.S. Other books he has written are Identity and Intimacy and Psychological Seduction.)
The Emperor’s New Clothes
As a short commentary on our capacity for self-delusion it’s hard to improve on Hans Christian Andersen’s story of the Emperor, the tailors, the little boy, and the suit that wasn’t there.
Like any good piece of mythology, the story has almost infinite application. But it seems to me it has a special application to our current veneration of psychology and psychologists.
Why? Well, because the story is essentially about bowing to expert opinion. It has to do with vanity, and conformity, and foolishness in high places as well; but mainly it’s about the folly of letting common sense take a back seat to expert knowledge. If you recall, the ploy used by the swindlers was to claim that the beautiful clothes could only be seen by those who were fit for the offices they held or who were very clever. They could not be seen by anyone who was unfit for the office he held or who was very stupid.
Who can blame the Emperor and his court for being duped? Most of us would much rather be thought very bad than very stupid. The Emperor, despite his vanity, is really a bit unsure of his judgment; so he sends his faithful Minister to check on the progress of the weavers. The Minister, despite his position, is likewise unsure of himself. And so on down the line. Each one thinks, I can’t see anything in this, but who am I to say?” Moreover, by the time the contagion reaches the public, the new enlightened view of clothes-making has the added authority of state endorsement.
Now I wouldn’t go so far as to say that psychology is completely naked–that is, completely devoid of truth. There is a solid and growing body of useful facts as well as useful theories and useful therapies coming out of the psychological community. We mustn’t forget that. But the greater danger, I think, is not that we won’t take psychology seriously, but that we take it too seriously. Because along with the respectable work just mentioned, there is also adrift in the psychological community an abundance of speculation, wishful thinking, contradictory ideas, prejudice, doubletalk, and ideology disguised as science.
In short, the psychological garment, while not completely imaginary, nevertheless has large holes in it. If we fail to notice these holes, it’s partly because psychology has achieved emperor-like status in our culture, and partly because all the clever people swear that it’s cloaked in handsomely woven ideas. If we are tempted to think, “I can’t see anything in this,” we are quick to remind ourselves, “but who am I to say?” Our confidence has been over matched by the force of expert psychological opinion.
The situation we are in concerning our mental health is similar to the situation we are in regarding our physical health. Given the years of training, sophisticated technology, and specialized vocabulary available to doctors, not many of us are inclined to question a physician’s diagnosis. The same sort of ultimate expertise now attaches to the psychological profession. And in some ways the psychologist’s position is even more secure. After all, if the physician makes a mistake–a faulty diagnosis or the wrong treatment–it soon becomes apparent. But mistakes on the part of the therapist are not as evident. If the client gets worse rather than better, it can be blamed on his own resistance or lack of motivation or some such thing. And if a theorist makes a mistake, it can go undetected for decades.
Despite the overlap between the two professions, however, there is still a basic difference between the physician’s expertise and the psychologist’s. The physician deals with bones and blood, muscles, organs, and nerves; the psychologist with moods and motivations, memory, thoughts and relationships. Or, to put it more directly, the physician’s subject matter can be touched and seen, even if sometimes only with the help of surgical instruments or microscopes. It’s another matter with the psychologist’s subject field. Who has ever seen an ego structure or an inner dynamic? Much of the psychological garment truly is invisible. Which is not to say there is nothing there–Christians, too, believe in many unseen forces–but rather to suggest that psychology, like Christianity, is partly a matter of faith.
Of course, most people don’t regard psychology as a form of religion but as a form of science. They are under the impression that all the theories and therapies are based on research and hard facts. In addition, most of us are somewhat awed by psychology’s alliance with the medical profession, and by its alliance with government. Most states have both a department of mental health and a department of social services. And the professionals who staff these bureaucracies have very similar training and views. Both bureaucracies have considerable powers of their own, and in conjunction with the courts their power is nearly absolute. When, in addition to all this power, we consider the prestige accorded psychology by the media, which seek out and amplify every psychological pronouncement or opinion, it is little wonder the average citizen falls into line. If the Emperor and his court insist that he is fully clothed, who are we to dissent?
Except that the subject matters at issue are those things closest to our hearts: our sense of right and wrong, our families, our happiness, our dreams, our purpose for living. Somehow we have been made to believe that psychologists know more about these personal things than we do. The long and short of the psychological revolution is that ordinary people are treated as amateurs in the matter of living their own lives. And the amazing thing is that ordinary people have accepted this professional judgment upon them.
Psychology purports to be neutral about values. It simply wants to help you make better choices. Exactly what those choices will be is up to you. Or so it seems. This cloak of neutrality makes it difficult to criticize the flaws in psychology or even to see them.
Is psychology neutral? Well, yes, in some respects. In some respects it is what it claims to be, a science and a profession. But if you care to look closely, you will find that in many other respects it looks suspiciously like a “liberal and progressive” movement. And that usually means anti-traditional and anti-religious.
It is suspicious, for example, that the supposedly neutral values espoused by clarification curriculums in our schools turn out to be a kind of basic training in relativism. In these classes, choice is elevated to the status of a virtue. In fact, there appear to be no other virtues. There are really no right choices or wrong choices in values clarification, just choices that make you feel comfortable or uncomfortable.
A study by Everett Ladd and S.M. Lippsets of the political beliefs of American academics disclosed that among their colleagues in the various disciplines, academics in sociology and psychology hold the most radical political views.
Once you get to know people in these professions, a pattern quickly emerges. It is the same pattern that distinguishes media professionals–that is, a strong preference for what is liberal and progressive, and a strong bias against what is traditional or religious. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the American Psychological Association requires its members to subscribe to a code of ethics that favors abortion rights, gay rights, and women’s rights (of the more radical variety). If this is neutrality, then, to paraphrase Shakespeare, neutrality should be made of sterner stuff.
I would suggest that there is something about the psychological mentality and approach which perpetuates and even aggravates the conditions it means to cure. Many ideas which had their start in the psychological community (or received a big boost from it) have now worked their way into the heart of society. I think it fair to say that many of them have wreaked havoc. The subjectivism and relativism of psychological thinking, the confusion about free will, the overemphasis on autonomy and self-acceptance, the denial of guilt, the neglect of and even hostility toward traditional and religious values, the lack of any meaningful system to replace these, the transmutation of virtues into hang-ups and perversions into preferences, the undermining of all forms of authority except psychiatric and bureaucratic–all have helped to bring our society to a crisis of catastrophic proportion.
Mixing Psychology with Christianity
C.S. Lewis once said that he preferred to take his Christianity in the same way he took his whiskey–straight. Since Christianity is strong stuff, there is always a temptation to water it down. But, as Lewis realized, the result of such dilutions is a weakened faith.
The current recipe for a Christianity that will travel more smoothly down the gullet calls for blending it with psychology. This mix has become extremely popular with Christian educators, since it seems to add a dash of relevance to the ancient faith. They think of it, of course, not in terms of a dilution, but in terms of the improved product that results when one metal is alloyed with another.
In any event, the practice of blending Christianity with psychology constitutes one of the major trends to have surfaced in American churches over the last thirty years. And it cuts across denominational lines. Catholics do it, Episcopalians do it, even (to paraphrase the old song) evangelicals do it. For example, not long ago a Boston-area priest ended his sermon by concluding that the purpose of Christ’s coming was to say, “I’m OK and you’re OK.” Similar messages abound in the new catechisms. Book Four of the Benziger series for Catholic schoolchildren states that Jesus … “was trying to show people how they could be themselves.” Book Eight seems to attribute most of Saint Paul’s success to his high self-esteem. A study guide for evangelical students goes to great lengths to assure the reader that Moses had a “good self-image.” In a recent book a leading Protestant evangelical redefines sin as “negative self-image.” And religious educators in both Catholic and Protestant circles seem exceedingly anxious to rework Christian ideas on moral growth in order to make them compatible with the schemes proposed by psychologists.
Although there is room for some accommodation between Christianity and psychology, there are some areas where it is clearly a matter of either/or. Either the psychologist is right or the Christian is right. Both can’t be.
In such cases, attempts to reconcile Christianity to psychology will actually have the effect of undermining the Christian point of view. The most obvious example of this undercutting is provided by the psychological emphasis on self-acceptance. Although there are many kinds and types of psychological theories and therapies, this remains a prevalent theme. It is very nearly the First Commandment of the psychological society that we should accept ourselves as we are. We are urged to greater self-awareness on the happy assumption that we will like what we find. We are, as the saying goes, OK. We just have to learn to be ourselves.
In contrast, Christianity starts off by saying that we’re not OK the way we are. There is something wrong with us–a twist in our natures. And the twist is not removed by liking yourself, but by starting to live in Christ. There are plenty of reasons why Christians ought to be happy about themselves, but those reasons are linked to the fact that we’ve been rescued from the fate of just being ourselves, and they have very little connection with psychological rationales for self-love. Christians are not supposed to facilitate the growth of the old self. They’re supposed to give it up and put on a new self.
The main practical effect of this psychological infiltration has been a lowering of the consciousness of sin among Christians. In the Catholic Church, for example, there has been an enormous falling off of the practice of confession over the last twenty-five years. Like everyone else in the psychological society, Catholics have learned to accept themselves. Although this may be good for the ego in the short run, it might be unfortunate for the soul over the long run, since Christ came to save sinners, not self-actualizers. Just as a rich man has a difficult time entering Heaven, so does the fellow who knows nothing but psychological adjustment and self-esteem. Both types are insulated from the saving knowledge of how desperate the human condition is and how utterly dependent they are on God. C. S. Lewis said that “Christian religion is in the long run a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in dismay, and it’s no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay.” This kind of necessary dismay, however, is precisely the thing that the psychological society, with its encouragement to self-esteem and self-sufficiency, is designed to preserve us from.
Most psychology is relentlessly reductionistic. It is in the business of reducing things to a size where they can be examined with psychological calipers or fit into psychological categories. For example, a psychoanalytically trained psychologist will tend to look at a great painting not as a reflection of man’s search for the Good and the Beautiful, but as a sublimation of the sex drive. In a similar way, when a behavioral psychologist looks at a man offering worship to God, the only explanation he can supply is that the man has been conditioned to act that way. The reductionist world view does not leave much room for the Christian view that some things are sacred and therefore on an entirely different level of being. The psychological mind is more comfortable with reducing everything to the same level.
On Serving Two Masters
Much of the content of humanistic psychology derives from the central assumption that man is good and has no inclination toward evil. Selfishness, aggression, and other undesirable behaviors are blamed on man’s environment, not on man himself. The biblical notion that man is weakened by sin is either implicitly or explicitly rejected by most psychologists of this persuasion. Erich Fromm, for example, states that his psychology would be untenable if the doctrine of original sin were true.
Unlike the Christian view, the psychological one fails to distinguish between physical or existential goodness and moral goodness. Man is simply good as he is. As a consequence, much stress is laid on simply being oneself and accepting oneself. This self-acceptance is encouraged without regard to any prior transformation of the self, meaning, of course, that the need for repentance, for forgiveness, for baptism, or for God’s grace are all nullified at the outset. Tied in with this concept is the standard humanist notion that man is perfectible and can achieve this perfectibility through his own powers. In the language of human potential psychology, people are either “self-actualized,” or “self-determined,” or “self-fulfilled.” (Abraham Maslow, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature [New York: Viking Press, 1971], p.7)
The Cross Is Rendered Unintelligible
This very broad broom sweeps away a few more Catholic/ Christian dogmas. Since man can perfect himself without God’s help, and since there is very little wrong with him in the first place, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross becomes both unnecessary and unintelligible. Sacraments, likewise, are rendered unnecessary as means of grace, and come instead to be looked upon merely as celebrations of human virtue. Prayer also becomes an activity of dubious merit within this framework. And the Christian practices of self-denial and sacrifice can only appear as obstacles to growth. In humanistic psychology, man achieves fulfillment by satisfying his wants, not by denying them. Other Christian virtues such as obedience and conformity to God’s will are difficult to reconcile with the humanistic emphasis on self-will and autonomy. Where the psychological model prevails, these virtues will tend to be slighted or ignored even by Christian educators.
Objectivity of Truth Denied
Another stock ingredient in humanistic psychology is subjectivism. The idea of a common truth to which all are bound is seen as an encroachment on freedom. Hence, the only truths are personal truths. This attitude explains why humanistic therapies are invariably nonjudgmental, and why humanistic education is geared in the direction of having students create their own values. Moreover, since the humanist has no objective criteria for choosing values, he has to rely on instincts. When an activity feels as though it is valuable or worthwhile,” writes Carl Rogers, it is worth doing.” (Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961], pp. 90, 91)
All of this is, of course, very much in keeping with modern sentiments, but it is difficult to square with Catholic and Protestant belief which maintains that truth is both objective and unchanging, and that the most important truths (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Redemption) come to us through divine revelation rather than self-revelation.
The Sense of Sacredness Must Be Restored
Now in many respects, teaching Catholic/Christian faith is more like teaching a physics class than a social studies class. It has to do with immutable laws. One does not decide upon the validity of divine truths by the group discussion method any more than one uses that method to decide upon the point at which water boils.
In other respects, teaching Christianity is like teaching poetry or folklore or myth. Memorization–the storing up of wisdom–is called for. In still other respects, it is like a class in gym or dance: the muscles need to be trained as well as the mind; the proper movements and steps have to be practiced over and over.
But finally, of course, faith is literally like nothing else on earth. The church is at once our supernatural mother and the Bride of Christ, and God our Father dwells in unapproachable light. These mysteries can only be approached in an atmosphere of reverence and humility. The atmosphere of free inquiry and self-concern simply won’t work.
Why the Secular Needs the Sacred
At the time of the U.S. Supreme Court’s deliberations over the legality of Christmas creche displays, ABC’s Nightline” interviewed, among others, Father Robert Drinan and the mayor of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the city where the issue first boiled over onto the national scene.
Father Drinan worried about the trauma and mental anguish such displays cause to little boys and girls who are not Christian. It was a case, said he, of the arrogant majority imposing its values on a minority, and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen in a pluralistic society. The mayor of Pawtucket, on the other hand, was in favor of a Christmas display, but took pains to downplay its religious nature. The manger scene, he said, had become a tradition in Pawtucket, and people should be allowed to keep their traditions. If you look at it in the right way, suggested the mayor, it’s not really a church/state problem at all.
It’s understandable that he would take such a tack. This is a pluralistic society, after all. And indeed his argument is quite typical. Many attempts at defending the church” side of church/state issues are framed in similar terms. It’s either a defense (we’re not really trying to influence anyone else”) or a demand (Christians have a right to educate their children in their own way”). Unfortunately, neither approach gets at the main source of resistance to the religious side of such questions, because the main problem is not hostility toward religious practices (though there is plenty of that) but indifference. A great many people have come to the conclusion that as far as the everyday functioning of society is concerned, religion doesn’t matter one way or the other. So why rock the boat? In other words, there exists a widespread assumption that the secular can get along without the sacred. From this point of view, religious beliefs may be seen as nice and commendable, and even helpful, but they are not seen as necessary to leading a good life or having a good society. Many Americans seem to believe that a secular culture can maintain morality without a sacred core. And so, if a Christmas scene offends, it’s better to pluck it out and replace it with a nonoffensive Santa. If the creche is nothing more than a nice tradition, it’s not worth the fuss.
The mayor might have had more effect on this indifferent mass if he had said what he probably really thinks: cut out the creche and you cut out the heart of Western civilization. And he would be right. The sacred view of life is not simply an alternative within society; it is indispensable to society. To step away from it is to step into the void.
What does the sacred do for the state? The brief answer is simply that it makes sense out of life–a service the state cannot perform for itself, and yet without which it cannot exist.
This is hardly a new argument, but it is one that is not often used. Although it can be sensed or intuited by the simplest folk, it cannot be easily put into words. Nevertheless, it’s worth trying. Dostoyevsky puts the matter in its most direct formulation when he has Ivan Karamazov say: If there is no God, everything is permissible.” Dostoyevsky meant this not as a figure of speech, but as something akin to a mathematical axiom, something along the lines of if a triangle has one right or obtuse angle, its other two angles must be acute.”
A recent study reported in the Journal of Business Communication disclosed that good listeners hold higher-level positions and are promoted more often than those with less effective listening skills.
And many executives believe that listening skills are vital to the success of an organization. Lee Iacocca, CEO of Chrysler, once said that “listening can make the difference between a mediocre company and a great company.”
Unfortunately, a number of experts note that managers and executives tend to become better talkers than listeners–“because they’re used to being listened to.”
Walter Kiechel, writing in Fortune, warned that senior managers risk becoming isolated at the top, hearing only what the subordinates think they want to hear.
And James Calano, CEO of Career-Track Inc. said in Inc., that he understands that CEOs tend to be “lousy listeners” despite the fact that “listening is the skill that makes them most effective once they get to the top.”
Here’s a roundup of tips that can help all of us become better listeners. Many are based on studies conducted at the former Sperry Corporation.
Spend more than 50 percent of your time listening, especially if you’re a manager. And don’t offer your opinion until you’ve given your employees a chance to air their views first.
Listen for ideas, not just facts. Listening only for facts often prevents you from grasping the speaker’s meaning.
Avoid jumping to conclusions when someone is speaking. Don’t anticipate what a person is trying to say.
Try to stay interested in what a person is saying even if the delivery is boring or wordy. Avoid the tendency for your mind to wander. You have to work at listening.
Don’t evaluate or judge how something is said. Keep listening for ideas and avoid the tendency to become upset by strong words that may tend to irk you.
Never rush or interrupt the speaker. And don’t change the subject until you’re sure the speaker has finished.
Ask questions to clarify points and to let the speaker know you’re paying attention.
Tell yourself that every speaker is important enough to listen to. Don’t fake paying attention.
How to Make Better Friends and Be More Influential
By Oliver Crom, President of Dale Carnegie & Associates, Inc.
Many people complain that it’s harder than ever to make friends. And they’re right. Reason: There are fewer opportunities for people to meet and interact.
Many of us spend our days involved with machines rather than people. We work with computers and come home and sit in front of televisions. Result: The time we spend with people is diminished…and so are the opportunities to practice relating to others.
Also, our society has become more fast-paced. This means people have less time to get to know one another.
Many people have trouble making friends because they’re shy and think that they shouldn’t impose themselves on others. They feel standoffish, reluctant to push themselves forward to meet and get to know people. Trap:We all have a comfort zone–an area in which it’s relatively easy for us to relate to other people. This area is made up of people that we already know–our families, colleagues in business, old friends. Anything that demands we move beyond that area causes discomfort and fear. Example: At a meeting or party, most people immediately look around for someone they know to chat with, rather than walking up to someone new and introducing themselves.
Although making friends and maintaining friendships involve a variety of skills, there are a few basics that anyone can follow… Overcome shyness. A big part of shyness is a lack of self-confidence. Before you can accept new friends you have to learn to accept yourself. This calls for self-awareness–knowing both your strengths and weaknesses and accepting them all.
Once you realize that you’re a whole person –and that other people also feel awkward and unsure of themselves–it will be easier for you to make the first move. Inside of everyone there’s a confident, friendly person who wants to get out. Banish fear. Millions of people are more afraid of speaking to a group than they are of dying. Reason: They’re sure they are going to embarrass themselves or appear foolish.
But most people discover that once they stand up to address a group–or approach someone new to start a conversation–it isn’t horrible or embarrassing at all.
What we really fear is the unknown. The way to overcome that fear is by doing the thing that scares you… and keep doing it.
The following tips on how to make friends comes from Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Don’t criticise, condemn or complain.
Give honest, sincere appreciation.
Arouse in the other person an eager want.
Become genuinely interested in other people.
Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
Talk in terms of the other person’s interests. Make the other person feel important — and do it sincerely.
Have you ever been driving along a country road at night and come upon a deer frozen in the beam of your headlights? Here’s my theory about that. The deer thinks the headlights are spotlights, and what has it paralyzed is stage fright. It imagines the worst has happened: It is on stage and has to give a speech.
Speaking in public is most people’s least favourite thing. Indeed, many of us would rather have root-canal work than talk in front of a group of people.
The reason is that we’re all afraid of making fools of ourselves. And the more important the speech, the more frightened we become.
But stop biting your fingernails. Public speaking is easy. It’s just plain talking, and you talk all the time. Although I’m basically shy, I’ve been making speeches and appearing on radio and television for more than 30 years, and I can tell you that public speaking is not a “gift” like being able to draw. Anybody who can speak can speak in public. Here are some of the lessons I have learned:
Keep it simple. Once, after a long church service (so an apocryphal story goes), U.S. President Calvin Coolidge’s wife asked him what the sermon had been about. “Sin,” said Coolidge.
“What did the preacher say about it?” she wanted to know.
“He was against it.”
Your audience is going to come away with one or two of your main ideas. One or two. Not ten. If you can’t express in a sentence or two what you intend to get across, then your speech is not focused enough. And if you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to say, there’s no way your audience will.
Get organised. No matter how long or short your speech, you’ve got to get your ducks in a row — how you’re going to open, what major points you want to make and how you want to close. When I do a radio or TV piece, I often write the last sentence first. Once you know where you’re headed, you can choose any route to get there. A strong close is critical: The last thing you say is what your audience will most likely remember.
Keep it short. The standard length of a vaudeville act was 12 minutes. If all those troupers singing and dancing their hearts out couldn’t go on longer without boring the audience, what makes you think you can?
General P. X. Kelley retired as commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps on a muggy June morning in 1987. Kelley had written a dandy stem-winder of a speech. But when temperatures climbed into the 90s, he simply said: There is no prouder commander than the commandant of the Marine Corps, and I salute you. Carry on.” Some who were there swear it was the greatest speech they ever heard.
Be real. If you try to be what you are not, you probably won’t get away with it. If you don’t think a story is funny, don’t expect the audience to laugh. If you aren’t moved by the information you’re passing on, the audience won’t be either. Robert Frost once wrote: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” The same applies to a public speaker.
You’re talking because you have experienced something the audience has not. Share it. Make them feel as you did–hot or cold, frightened or sad, annoyed or baffled. The first person singular is a powerful tool.
Take charge. The first few moments of your speech establish the relationship between you and your audience. Smile. Acknowledge your introducer with a nod and a thank you. Then wait. Don’t begin until you have everybody’s attention. Once it’s clear that you won’t start until they quiet down, you’ll be surprised how quickly they will.
Establish eye contact. People expect to be looked at. It’s what we do when we talk. There are too many people out there to establish eye contact with them all, so pick out three friendly faces: one left, one right, one center. By speaking first to one, then to the other, you take in the whole audience, and nobody feels neglected.
Talk, don’t read. Once I flew out to Los Angeles with Gene Jankowski, president of CBS Broadcast Group, who was to receive an award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews. On the flight he spent hours writing his acceptance speech.
The next night entertainer Danny Kaye, presenting the award, called on Jankowski. Gene walked up with his speech in hand, and Kaye said, “Don’t read, just tell the folks how you feel.”
With that he tried to grab the paper out of Gene’s hand. Gene held on for dear life, and for a few seconds there was a playful little tug-of-war. Jankowski won. But Kaye was right. Reading to the audience is not as good as talking, directly and from the heart. Even if it’s not as smooth, it’s better.
I’m against scripted speeches. But it’s a good idea to use notes. They’ll help you remember what you want to say and remind you where you are in your speech.
Relax. Comedian Robert Klein, in his routine about the Lamaze method of natural childbirth, points out that the father’s principal role seems to be to remind his wife to breathe. That’s funny because it seems absurd that anybody should have to be reminded to breathe. But under stress we sometimes forget how to breathe right.
Don’t take big, gulping breaths or try to breathe faster than usual. You’ll hyperventilate. Just take easy, rhythmic breaths from your diaphragm. It will help you relax.
Every actor, singer, dancer or public performer knows that controlled breathing is important.
Public speaking is no more difficult than using chopsticks or tying a bow tie. The mysterious becomes simple once you know how to do it.
It’s all too easy to get lost in the paperwork and interruptions that dominate many workdays. A disorganized approach to your work and life can leave you wondering at the end of each day what you accomplished — and knowing it wasn’t much.
You won’t get anywhere until you gain control of your time and tasks. You have to get organized and learn to manage your time, your paperwork, and even the telephone.
The place to start is with time management. A concise outline of what you need to do is presented in The Working Woman Report by the editors of Working Woman with Gay Bryant. As you read this list, check the ones on which you should concentrate to improve your management of your time.
Draw up a plan each day of what you want to accomplish.
Develop daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly lists of goals.
Set priorities, and learn to weigh yours against those of your boss. Don’t passively accept a deadline you can’t meet.
Schedule hours for quiet work and other times when you will be available to other people.
Never handle a piece of paper more than twice. Once is much better. Aim for that.
Use technology — computers, calculators, phones.
Cut down on business reading. Learn to skim.
Attend only the most important meetings.
Do business during coffee breaks and lunches.
Exercise at least twenty minutes a day to clear your head and boost your energy.
Delegate. Use your time and effort for those tasks that only you have the authority or skills to handle.
In The Energetic Manager, Fred Pryor offers some suggestions for getting a handle on your priorities and finding the time to complete your high-priority items.
Do you have trouble doing things simply because you can’t seem to harness the time or the concentration? But, when it’s something you enjoy, do you find time?
On the task that you enjoy., you don’t procrastinate because you anticipate the sense of achievement you’ll feel when the work is completed. You are working toward a clearly defined goal that stems from your values.
You must learn to gather the same excitement for less pleasant tasks by creating a clear and favorable picture of the end result. Focus on that result rather than the tedious or difficult steps leading up to it.
Take a few minutes to analyze your workday. Do you find yourself reading unimportant material or answering equally unimportant phone calls when you should be tackling a project that you’ve been putting off for weeks? Do you find yourself, at the end of the day, unable to think of any true accomplishment?
If your answers were “yes,” you’re creating tremendous stress and anxiety for yourself, because you’re feeling vulnerable and out of control.
What to do about it?
First, ask yourself, many times a day, “Is this the most important thing I could be doing right now?” Change if your answer is “no.”
Daily `To Do’ List.
Make a daily To Do” list with items listed in order of importance. Check them off as you complete them. Add items if you do other things. You’ll know, at the end of each day, what you accomplished and what you wasted time in doing.
Are you a morning or an afternoon person? You should know, and schedule your work accordingly, with the important projects scheduled for when you are at your peak.
Most people function best from the time they get to work to about 11, think of food or are lethargic after eating until about 1:30, then swing back to better work until quitting time. Schedule your work and your meetings to take advantage of the time when you function best. Avoid late afternoon meetings, however. People’s tempers and attention span are short at that time.
Learn to Say `No’
Interruptions can be one of the biggest problems you face in managing time. The phone rings. An employee drops in. If you give in to such interruptions, you’ll be wasting valuable time, dissipating your energy, and frustrating yourself by your lack of achievement.
Prevent this by learning to say “no.” If you’re working on a deadline, say “no” or “later” to the drop-in guest.
Adopt a “screen-door policy” instead of an “open-door policy.” Ask your secretary to screen all calls and guests, interrupting you only when it is necessary.
Help your staff to become independent by asking them, before they bring you a problem, to write out the problem, suggest three possible solutions, and identify the best solution of the three. Often they’ll realize they don’t need to see you, or they only need an OK on the solution.
“‘To do’ lists and techniques for establishing priorities are among the ways to gain control of your workday,” says Stephanie Winston in The Organized Executive.
However you do it, your aim is to refocus and harness the time you can control, and minimize the impact of the demands you can’t control. Gaining control requires you to:
Define what you have to do and when you should do it.
Develop strategies for defending your schedule against interruptions, time wasters, and procrastination, and find the most efficient ways to do what you have to do.
Evaluate your daily activities against your aspirations, in order to organize your time so that you can realize your long-term goals.
Planning your workday requires you to make two basic lists, a comprehensive Master List and a specific Daily List.
The Master List is a single, continuous list, kept in a notebook or on computer, of every single thing you have to do, big or little, right away or in six months. The list quantifies your workload.
To use this list, you must distribute and schedule the items in it so they actually get done. Thus you must review it daily, deleting anything unnecessary or finished. You should also break down complicated tasks into components, so that you can schedule each component.
Refer all tasks that can be delegated to staffers and cross them off, using your calendar for follow-ups. Schedule action dates for long-term tasks, transfer them to your calendar, and cross them off. Then select the items that require immediate attention.
To work with the Daily List, late each afternoon draw it up for the following day. Put down the immediate tasks that have evolved during the course of the day, the previously scheduled calendar items that have become current, and those items from the Master List that require immediate attention.
A Daily List shouldn’t include more than ten tasks. Limiting the list to ten items prevents the paralysis that can arise when your workload seems unmanageable.
Since not all items on the Daily List are equal in importance, you must set priorities and match your commitment of time and resources to the relative importance of each task.
Do this by ranking each item on your Daily List as a 1,2, or 3, according to these criteria:
is an immediate, must-do” item, a task requiring special effort or concentration.
is a middle-range item.
is routine busy-work, such as reading a journal.
Never schedule more than three or four priority 1 items during a day, because you won’t be able to do them all, and you will get frustrated. Also, don’t increase the number of items on the Daily List to accommodate left-overs from previous days.
The Payoff/Priority Rating
Get in the habit of evaluating each item on your Daily List on the basis of its payoff– its contribution to your goals and responsibilities.
High-payoff items promise to yield substantial or dramatic benefits. There should be at least one high-payoff task on each Daily List, particularly since these items sometimes tend to get lost in the day-to-day surprises of “crisis management.” Negative-payoff items are must-dos, because the consequences of not doing them are disastrous. Paperwork processing is such an item.
Medium-payoff items are the basic, day-to-day substance of your job. They are usually number 2 priorities.
Low-payoff items offer few benefits, positive or negative. They should rarely appear on your Daily List, and never with a priority higher than 3. One of your goals should be to get rid of them.
Control Your Time
You can’t control your time without scheduling your workday. Otherwise, you will spend your day reacting to “crises,” and end the day without having gotten even your top priority tasks accomplished.
Schedule those top priority tasks during your personal “prime time.” This period, along with your daily paperwork sessions, are the fixed points in your daily schedule. The scheduling of the rest of the day depends on the kind of job you have and your own temperament.
Develop a schedule by first dividing your day into “public” and “private” activities. Public activities include “drop-in meetings,” phone calls, and unexpected events. Private activities include paperwork, writing reports, and reading.
Select your most demanding activities and schedule them into your “prime-time” block. For some people, these will be private activities like writing. Schedule the less demanding tasks in blocks during your “lower” time. Read during your “slump.”
Charles R. Hobbs is frank in his assessment: some managers can’t even manage the tops of their desks.
Their goal is to have everything they need at their fingertips when they need it. Then they bury themselves in paper while trying to achieve this goal. Stacks of paper on the desk do create a sense of urgency, but they also tend to mix the vital and the trivial.
These managers also try to organize themselves with calendars. They have a large flat monthly calendar, one-sheet-per-day calendar, and a wall calendar. Then there’s an expense book, phone directories, and a Rolodex, all at arm’s length. Also close at hand are a pile of “to-do” lists.
The result: When they want to retrieve information, they go from one pile or calendar or file to another, wasting a lot of time.
Declare war on this complexity and promise yourself that you will have a perfectly clean desk.
Start by throwing away all of the varied calendars and putting all of that information in a date book organizer.
The space you can reach from where you sit should contain only items you use very frequently, like that date book organizer.
Keep occasionally used items such as paper clips slightly out of reach. Files and other less frequently used papers should be placed several steps away in a filing cabinet. And some of those papers belong in the wastebasket.
Instead of in-baskets and out-baskets claiming a lot of your desk top, use an in-drawer and an out-drawer. That takes the urgency out of that pile of paper. Inform the people who leave you things about the new arrangement.
Impressed with the new look of true fingertip management? Perhaps now it looks too much like an austere cell. A plant or pictures can bring beauty for you and for others.
Master the Time Wasters
The surest way to destroy your schedule is to allow the incessant demands of office life to go unchecked. You must defend your organized day by managing the interruptions and meetings that threaten to throw you off course.
The first necessity is to reduce interruptions. Since crises do arise, in even the best organized offices, it is simply not practical to shut yourself off completely for the whole day. In fact, this approach can shield you from problems until they become crises.
A more realistic approach is to limit the time you control fully to certain blocks, including your prime-time block and scheduled appointments, and to deal with the rest of the day more flexibly.
But the periods when you are available for questions and advice should not be free-for-alls. You should eliminate avoidable distractions and reduce the time spent on unavoidable ones.
Deal with Unexpected Visitors
Too much interoffice visiting can cause problems. One strategy for dealing with visitors is to put your secretary between you and them. Have her tell them you are busy. Would you like me to “interrupt him/her?” will deter all but the most nervy. If you don’t have a secretary, a sign on the door indicating that you are working should help. If you can, do your private work elsewhere–at home, in the library, or in an empty conference room.
Consolidate visitors by scheduling appointments and meetings into a block of time. Set up regular meetings with staff and your secretary, if they are your most frequent visitors, and aim to cover all problems and questions at one session.
If you do need to confer, try to do it in a colleague’s office. rather than your own. It’s easier to leave than to ease someone out.
Sure, it’s easy to blame others — demanding bosses, social co-workers, help-seeking staff members — for our inability to get things done.
But be honest. How often is it your own fault, that you simply put off doing what will still be in the in-box tomorrow?
Procrastination is rampant in the business world. It affects both sexes, and people of all ages. It devastates personal relationships, causes emotional anguish, wrecks any attempt at effectiveness, and has probably ruined more careers than hard drinking.
Procrastinators are looked upon as easygoing and relaxed. They aren’t. They are victims of stress at several levels, and the more they put off action, the more anxious they become. And they spread tension among those around them.
Do You Procrastinate? Procrastinators are experts at self-delusion, so an honest answer by them to that question is difficult. A diary of your activities for a day, minute by minute, may show the answer. Do you watch TV at home just because it’s on? In the office, do you shuffle papers? Do you wait for just the “right time” to do specific work?
Did you answer yes” to any of those questions? If you did, welcome to the Loyal Order of Procrastinators.
If you want to turn in your LOP badge, there are things you can do to overcome this. Try at least one of these– today:
Prepare daily “to do” lists. Each morning jot down what you want to accomplish that day. Establish priorities. Cross off each item as it is completed. You’ll get a feeling of accomplishment from this that will help you to continue the system.
Delegate. This is especially difficult for procrastinators because they feel that they are the only ones who can do the job.
Divide big jobs into little ones. This is the best method for those whose goal is to complete tasks of earth-shaking proportions. Finishing a designated part of the task gives you that feeling of accomplishment and keeps you going on to the next step. The daily accomplishment adds up fast.
Use self-exhortation. Talk like a Dutch uncle (severly but kindly) into a cassette recorder, urging yourself to do this or that task. Just making the tape will keep you going for some time. Then play it back from time to time, when you need a talking to by the world’s foremost authority on you: yourself.
Look around your home. Are you being crowded out by clutter? Would you be embarrassed if a friend got a peek inside your closet? Do you have trouble locating a specific object because it is buried under piles of accumulated possessions? If so, you are not alone.
“I am too confirmed a `saver,'” confesses Ralph. Leon adds: “I was drowning in clothes, newspapers, books I had collected over 15 years.” “Just thinking about cleaning it up makes me tired before I begin,” laments another clutter victim.
“Some children grow up in an environment of clutter.” Says one such person: “As long as I can remember, I’ve always warned people what to expect the first time they come to our house. I told them it was OK to move something so they would have a place to sit down.” Even adults may hesitate to invite anyone outside the family to visit because the house is unpresentable.
Often people do not realize how much they have stockpiled until faced with moving. If one has not kept a regular program of clutter control, moving is much more time-consuming — and expensive.
But for many, cleaning up clutter is more than the simple matter of throwing things out. A number of obstacles must first be overcome.
Why Can’t They Just Throw It Out?
For some time, psychologist Lynda W. Warren and clinical social worker Jonnae C. Ostrom had assumed that all clutterers were older people who had survived the Depression of the 1930s. Hoarding was, they thought, “a rare and harmless eccentricity.” However, after studying the matter, they reported: We were surprised to discover a younger generation of pack rats, born long after the 1930s…. “We now believe that such behavior is common and that, particularly when it is extreme, it may create problems for the pack rats or those close to them.”
How extreme can it get?
“Ostrom has seen marriages break up over mess,” reports Health magazine. Some people turn to professional counselors for help. In fact, Health magazine calls personal organisation counseling a burgeoning field whose practitioners may charge as much as $1,000 a day to do what our mothers nagged us to do: “clean up our rooms.”
It is unlikely that you have a clutter problem as extreme as that. Still, you may find it difficult to get past the following four barriers that stand between the items in question and the trash can:
Possible future need. (“Better to save it than to be sorry later.”)
Sentimental attachment. (“Aunt Mary gave this to me.”)
Potential value. (“It might be worth something someday.”)
Lack of wear or damage. (“This is too good to throw away.”)
Psychology Today, says: The stuff keeps mounting, and so do the problems it produces.”
So how can you bring clutter under control?
Where to Begin
Asked to imagine how she would feel if a hurricane were to strike and destroy all but a few possessions, one woman said: “What I felt most at the idea of losing everything was relief — being freed of my mess without the anxiety of sorting it out and letting it go.” This well illustrates that sorting and discarding can be a challenge.
“Clutterers have two problems,” says consultant Daralee Schulman. “The stuff that’s already in the house and the stuff that’s coming in.” Instead of engaging in cleanups, she suggests spending as little as 15 minutes a day organising one area at a time. This is a much more effective way to deal with the clutter inside your home. But what about the stuff that’s coming in”?
Before purchasing any item for your home, ask yourself: `Do I really need it? Where am I going to put it? Will I use it?’ Daralee Schulman claims that by asking such questions, 75 percent of the stuff you were going to bring into the house, you won’t.”
Out of Sight — And in the Closet
“On a day’s notice, I could whip my apartment into shape,” says Joan, “but the closets were always a disaster.” Some use the closet as a disposal unit, simply moving the clutter to a place where it cannot be seen. The problem only gets worse as more and more is put into a space that stays the same size.
Can your closet stand some relief from accumulated clutter? Good Housekeeping magazine suggests: “Closet-organiser systems come in a variety of materials and accessories that can be adapted to fit any space. Use one to conquer the storage crisis in your house.” So don’t make the closet your refuge for refuse. Keep it uncluttered and organised.
Although I sometimes deny the mounting evidence, I know when I’m getting disorganized. You can know too. Here are the telltale symptoms.
1. When I am slipping into disorganization I know it because my desk takes on a cluttered appearance. The same thing happens to the top of my bedroom dresser. In fact, almost every horizontal surface in the path of my daily travel becomes littered with papers, memos to which I have not responded, and pieces of tasks that are unfinished.
2. The symptoms of disorganization tend to show themselves in the condition of my car. It becomes dirty inside and out. I lose track of its maintenance schedule, and I find that I am pressing deadlines for things like getting the annual registration sticker.
3. When disorganization takes over, I become aware of a shrinking in my self-esteem. I feel the slightest tinge of paranoia, a low-level fear that people are going to discover they are not getting their money’s worth out of me. I may become irritable, resenting any attempt to call to my attention things I have left undone or people I appear to have let down.
4. I know I’m disorganized when there are a series of forgotten appointments, telephone messages to which I have failed to respond, and deadlines that I have begun to miss. The day becomes filled with broken commitments and lame excuses.
5. If I am disorganized, I tend to invest my energies in unproductive tasks. I actually find myself doing small and boring things just to get something accomplished. There is a tendency toward daydreaming, an avoidance of decisions that have to be made, and procrastination. Disorganization begins to affect every part of my will to work steadily and excellently.
6. Disorganized people feel poor about their work. What they manage to finish they do not like. They find it very hard to accept the compliments of others. In the secrecy of their hearts they know that they have turned in a second-best job.
7. Disorganized Christians can miss enjoying intimate times with God. They certainly have intentions of pursuing that camaraderie, but it never quite gets established. No one has to tell them that time must be set aside for the purpose of Bible study and reflection, for intercession, for worship. They know all of that. They simply are not doing it. They excuse themselves, saying there is no time, but within their private worlds they know it is more a matter of organization and personal will than anything else.
8. If I am in a state of disorganization, the quality of my personal relationships usually reveals it. The days pass without a significant conversation with my family. We will be in contact, but our conversations may be unaffirming.
9. The fact of the matter is that when we are disorganized in our control of time, we just don’t like ourselves, our jobs, or much else about our worlds. And it is difficult to break the destructive pattern that settles in.
This terrible habit-pattern of disorganization must be broken, or our private worlds will fall quickly into total disorder. We must resolve to seize control of our time.