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Dealing with Difficult People

Techniques for handling difficult people with tact and skill

1-Day Seminar - US $99.00; For groups of 5 or more, 89.00

Do you know how to work with difficult people? How many of these personalities do you recognize?

The Know-It-Alls They're arrogant and usually have an opinion on every issue. When they're wrong, they get defensive. The Passives These people never offer ideas or let you know where they stand. The Dictators They bully and intimidate. They're constantly demanding and brutally critical. The Gripers Is anything ever right with them? They prefer complaining to finding solutions. The "Yes" People They agree to any commitment, yet rarely deliver. You can't trust them to follow through. The "No" People They are quick to point out why something won't work. Worse, they're inflexible.

Of course you recognize them. They're the people you work with, sell to, depend on, live with. Learn to deal with them quickly and confidently at Dealing with Difficult People.

Concrete techniques for dealing with difficult people in the workplace and at home
Never again fall victim to those who love to make life miserable for the rest of us. This training gives you concrete techniques for dealing with difficult people in the workplace and at home. It provides specific strategies for getting adversaries to cooperate ... bullies to back off ... wallflowers to open up ... chronic complainers to quiet down. Knowing how to deal with difficult people at work will allow you to approach your job with more enjoyment and your coworkers with greater confidence. Cooperation, collaboration, and compromise will improve and that makes for a more productive and efficient workplace for everyone.

How this program is structured...


It's structured for maximum learning. You'll experience a carefully designed combination of:

Informative presentation

Your trainer is skilled at sharing information in a way that's engaging. Just sit back and take it all in.

Practice exercises You'll do some of these alone, and others with groups or a partner. Don't worry no one will be singled out or embarrassed.

Group discussion Get your questions answered. Share your point of view. These are some of the most stimulating segments of the program.

"... lots of practical info! I'm excited about developing my plan of action, and will look at my coworkers in a different, more open-minded and caring way." Denise Weaver, senior benefits specialist

Dealing with Difficult People Seminar Overview



Understand the difficult people in your life Know how to communicate with difficult people Be less of a target for difficult people Bring out the best in even the most difficult people

Understand the difficult people in your life


Learn how they think, what they fear, why they do what they do. Understanding these things makes dealing with difficult people less frustrating.
"Mapping" difficult people to gain insight into what makes them tick The most common mistake well-intentioned people make that actually worsens conflicts What a team can do with a person who isn't a team player The single best response to sarcasm 3 ways to get people to keep their word How to deal with a person who practices one-upmanship When to go to a third party for help in dealing with a problem person

Know how to communicate with difficult people


At this seminar, you'll concentrate on here's-how-you-do-it techniques. You'll leave knowing how to use these techniques in specific situations when dealing with difficult people in the workplace.
What to do when someone even a boss starts yelling What to do when someone takes credit for your idea How to determine if a difficult relationship is worth salvaging, and what to do if it isn't The best way to get someone to stop holding a grudge

Handling the person who says one thing to you but the opposite to someone else When and how to go over someone's head to a superior Dealing with touchy people who take things personally How to get your boss to quit procrastinating and make a decision

Back to Seminar Overview

Be less of a target for difficult people


Look at the difficult people in your life. Chances are, at least one person manages to get along with them. You can, too. Learn how to derail problem people and teach them to treat you with respect.
How to cope with excuse-makers and blamers What to do immediately when someone threatens you 3 tactics that prevent you from being manipulated by others Hot buttons: how to keep people from pushing yours "The boss's favorite": how to cope with the person who's perfect in the boss's eyes but doesn't really do a fair share of the work

Bring out the best in even the most difficult people


Let's face it, nobody's difficult all the time (and everybody is some of the time). Your new skills will help you reinforce positive behavior in even the most difficult people at work and at home.
How to handle a coworker who is too competitive How to handle someone who wants to get "too personal" What to do when people make promises you suspect they won't keep How to give an aggressive person an alternative to direct conflict The special body positions to use in dealing with specific kinds of difficult people (your body language can be even more powerful than what you say) Special for managers: how to deal with employees who don't keep commitments ... have a negative attitude ... or are closed-minded

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March, 1999 - Dealing with Difficult People What Makes People "Difficult"? Symptom: The "Know it All" Symptom: "Do It My Way or Else!" Tips for Dealing with Others Tips for Supervisors Tips for Overcoming Negative Aspects in Yourself Resources (links, books, articles, humor) Printer-friendly version Dealing with Difficult People What makes people "difficult"? Usually, the difficult person is someone who is working from the negative side of their personality, rather than a conscious desire to be difficult. The person is often unaware of themselves and how they affect others. They also don't realize how harmful their actions are to their own career success. In the business world, we are constantly faced with trying to work with others who may challenge our ability to get things done. There is great value to be gained when we take the time to try to understand anothers viewpoint. By changing our attitude toward them and changing our viewpoint about what makes them "wrong" we can find a wealth of knowledge to improve our own ability to work with people.

This article addresses a couple personality aspects that are common in the workplace. In future articles, we will highlight others. We draw on our Personality Game to highlight these personality traits. Symptom: They know it all, so dont dare to question them This is a well-recognized trait, especially prevalent in technical people. Many other professions share the trait. We see it often in computer programmers, software developers, engineers, doctors and attorneys. Example: As a business user of computers, you may ask what you think is a simple question and get a response that is something like "how DARE you question me or my judgment!" Or, you make a suggestion and get a ton of excuses why that is not true, why it shouldnt be done that way, why the person is an expert in their field, blah, blah, blah . . . Eventually, you give up trying to work with them. This symptom is a manifestation of Arrogance. Arrogance is a defense against vulnerability and insecurity, often learned in childhood when parents constantly criticize a child for not being good enough. The person is so afraid of being seen as unworthy or incompetent, that they immediately throw up a defensive shield against any possible attack. This defense protects them for a while, but everyone else sees that it is false. In the end, they lose credibility and respect the thing they fear most. The results of arrogance and defensiveness: 1. 2. 3. 4. People refuse to deal with them People dont believe what they say People think they really dont know their job They may be fired eventually because of their attitude.

Symptom: Do it my way, or else!! This is another well recognized trait that seems prevalent in people in management positions or positions of corporate power. No matter what anyone says or does, this person will force their

ideas on everyone else. There can be no open discussion or involvement. Things MUST be done this persons way or else. Example: In a meeting, if someone offers a suggestion, this person will strongly make it clear that their suggestions are not wanted. If you try to make a point, this person will crush any attempts to deal rationally with the situation. Eventually, everyone gives up trying to work with them. This symptom is a negative aspect of Dominance: Dictatorship. This symptom is at it's worst when the persons primary role is Warrior or King. If they happen to also have Power mode combined with Dominance, people will FEEL as if someone punched them in the stomach when the person lets loose with their verbal abuse. The positive side of Dominance is Leadership. When this person is relaxed and working from the positive side of their personality, they can be quite effective and charming. As with Arrogance, stress or insecurity may bring on the attack. It may seem to come without warning or you may be able to see the stress building up. In the end, the person loses their ability to control events the thing they fear most. Many people operating from this negative position are fired publicly, causing them great humiliation and complete loss of control over events. Needless to say, those who have been subjected to their tyranny are joyous in celebrating their defeat. The results of domineering people: 1. People will avoid them or refuse to deal with them 2. People will not tell them the truth or provide them with vital information that might help them make better decisions 3. People learn to ignore or discount their opinions or decisions 4. People will avoid implementing their ideas and subvert their authority (consciously or unconsciously) 5. They may be fired because of their bad decisions and poor leadership abilities. Tips for dealing with negative aspects in others: 1. When you see someone go into attack mode or excess defensiveness, recognize that it is useless to argue with

2.
3.

4.

5.

6. 7.

them. Realize that the person is feeling very insecure at that time. Dont continue to push them because they will only get worse. If the symptoms only seem to occur when the person is under stress, wait until another time to pursue the discussion. If they are always overly defensive or always attacking others, you may need to find another person to work with who does not have the same problem. Keep your own sense of self-confidence and don't allow yourself to be verbally abused. If the difficult person is your boss, reconsider whether it's time to find a job elsewhere.

Tips for supervising people with negative aspects: 1. Help the person see how much their negative behavior is damaging their career potential. 2. Set goals for them to learn to work better with others and monitor their behavior until it improves. 3. If it does not improve within a reasonable time, send them packing. Tips for overcoming negative aspects in yourself: 1. Learn to recognize when your defensive mechanisms come up. Realize that you are probably not really being attacked. 2. When you catch yourself feeling defensive, dont react so quickly. 3. Learn how to listen when someone asks a question or makes a suggestion. 4. Ask people to re-state their question/comment/suggestion. 5. Try to understand what others are saying by repeating back what you think you heard. 6. You may want to ask for more time to respond, then get back to them. This will give you time to work with the question/comment/suggestion without the pressure of being on the spot. 7. DO consider that other people have good ideas that are just as valid as yours.

8. Take courses or workshops in listening skills and teambuilding. 9. Find someone who can help you work on this negative aspect of yourself a good friend, coworker, teacher or counselor. 10.If it is someone that you interact with regularly, ask them to let you know when you are being a jerk and call your attention to what you are doing. That will help you learn to see what situations and events trigger your insecurity. 11.Recognize that changing learned patterns of insecurity and defensiveness may take years of work. 12.Don't give up on yourself. 13.Learn to understand your own personality and your unique strengths and weaknesses. 14.The effort to improve your ability to get along with others will be rewarded as you find more career opportunities open up for you. Books Speaking Your Mind in 101 Difficult Situations. Don Gabor, ISBN 0-671-79505-8 . Published by Fireside (a division of Simon & Schuster), 1994. The Gentle Art of Verbal SelfDefense. Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D. (Dr. Elgin has a series of books on this subject) John Wiley & Sons; (March 1997) ISBN: 0471157058 Genderspeak: Men, Women, and the Gentle Art of Verbal SelfDefense. Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D. John Wiley & Sons Inc., 605 Third Avenue, New York, NY 101580012. 1993. Suzette Elgin has written several books on communication. ISBN: 0471580163

Internet Resources The Personality Game Overview of the system The Game Board Shows the positive and negative aspects of the personality traits http://www.thericks.com/ Book "Dealing with people you can't stand"

Articles

Dealing with Difficult People (Recognizing & Working with Personality Dragons) September 2003 Newsletter article http://stressdoc.com/difficult.htm The Stress Doc: "Managing Difficult Situations and Challenging People" http://www.ttpm.com/HOD2/general/stress-DIFFICUL-2.html How to Deal with Difficult People http://www.pmi.org/chapters/swohio/swohio81/ Slide presentation: Coping with Difficult People http://workforce.gsfc.nasa.gov/c2e.html Tips for dealing with difficult people http://www.peoplesuccess.com/glass.htm Dr. Lillian Glass, author of "Toxic People" and "Attracting Terrific People" http://www.susankramer.com/DifficultPeople.html Tips for dealing with difficult people http://www.stressdoctor.com/attitude.htm The Stress Doctor: Attitude Therapy http://www.wellmedia.com/news/week60/dpeople.html Tips for dealing with difficult people http://www2.gospelcom.net/rbc/cj/cj-11-21-95.html Difficult People Humor

http://www.livinginternet.com/fun/funstandard.html The Fun Standard, updated 1999 version http://www.jerk.net/ Jerk Net - Good for a lot of laughs! http://www.dailyfix.com/ Clean jokes, changes daily. http://spiritslaughing.com/ Spirituality and Humor a fun place to visit, unrelated to the current topic. This page is http://www.itstime.com/mar99.htm Printerfriendly version

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How To Become Adept at Dealing With Difficult People and Avoiding Conflict
From Elizabeth Scott, M.S., Your Guide to Stress Management. FREE Newsletter. Sign Up Now!
About.com Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by Steven Gans, MD

Research shows that supportive relationships are good for our mental and physical health. However, dealing with difficult people a ongoing negative relationships is actually detrimental to our health. Its a good idea to diminish or eliminate relationships that are fi conflict. But what do you do if the person in question is a family member, co-worker, or someone you otherwise cant easily elimina life? The following are tips for dealing with difficult people who are in your life, for better or for worse: Difficulty: Average Time Required: Ongoing

Here's How:
1.

Avoid discussing divisive and personal issues, like religion and politics, or other issues that tend to cause conflict. If the o tries to engage you in a discussion that will probably become an argument, change the subject or leave the room. criticism, or otherwise make things worse. It also makes you a more difficult person to deal with.

2. In dealing with difficult people, dont try to change the other person; you will only get into a power struggle, cause defensi 3. Change your response to the other person; this is all you have the power to change. For example, dont feel you need to

behavior. You can use assertive communication to draw boundaries when the other person chooses to treat you in an un way. Heres a list of things to avoid in dealing with conflict. Do you do any of them?

4. Remember that most relationship difficulties are due to a dynamic between two people rather than one person being unila
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Try to look for the positive aspects of others, especially when dealing with family, and focus on them. The other person w appreciated, and you will likely enjoy your time together more.

However, dont pretend the other persons negative traits dont exist. Dont tell your secrets to a gossip, rely on a flake, or affection from someone who isnt able to give it. This is part of accepting them for who they are.

7. Get your needs met from others who are able to meet your needs. Tell your secrets to a trustworthy friend who's a good l
8.

process your feelings through journaling, for example. Rely on people who have proven themselves to be trustworthy and This will help you and the other person by taking pressure off the relationship and removing a source of conflict.

Know when its time to distance yourself, and do so. If the other person cant be around you without antagonizing you, mi contact may be key. If theyre continually abusive, it's best to cut ties and let them know why. Explain what needs to happ ever is to be a relationship, and let it go. (If the offending party is a boss or co-worker, you may consider switching jobs.)

Tips:
1. 2.

Try not to place blame on yourself or the other person for the negative interactions. It may just be a case of your two pers poorly.

Remember that you don't have to be close with everyone; just being polite goes a long way toward getting along and app dealing with difficult people. Naked can help you see the humor in dealing with difficult people.

3. Keep your sense of humor -- difficulties will roll off your back much more easily. Shows like "The Office" and books like D
4. Be sure to cultivate other more positive relationships in your life to offset the negativity of dealing with difficult people.

More How To's from your Guide To Stress Management


Updated: November 15, 2007

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Top 10 Conflict Resolution and Communication Skills


From Your Guide, Elizabeth Scott
About.com Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by Steven Gans, MD

Newsletters & RS

Most Popula

Conventional wisdom (and research) says that good communication can improve relationships, increasing intimacy, trust and support. The converse is also true: poor communication can weaken bonds, creating mistrust The Type A Pers Your Body25 Str and even contempt! Here are some examples of negative and even destructive attitudes and communication patterns that can exacerbate conflict in a relationship. How many of these sound like something youd do?

1. Avoiding Conflict Altogether:

Rather than discussing building frustrations in a calm, respectful manner, some people just dont say anything to Related Sites their partner until theyre ready to explode, and then blurt it out in an angry, hurtful way. This seems to be the less Headaches & Mi stressful routeavoiding an argument altogetherbut usually causes more stress to both parties, as tensions Panic Disorders rise, resentments fester, and a much bigger argument eventually results. It's much healthier to address and resolve conflict. Sponsored Links PMR Mediation Trainers UKWorkplace Mediation public courses and conflict training for managerswww.workplacemediation.co.uk How To Stop ConflictCommunication Secrets Of Conflict Management For Great RelationshipsEarthlingCommunication.com

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2. Being Defensive:

Rather than addressing a partners complaints with an objective eye and willingness to understand the other WhyCreate an O persons point of view, defensive people steadfastly deny any wrongdoing and work hard to avoid looking at the Home?Finding P possibility that they could be contributing to a problem. Denying responsibility may seem to alleviate stress in the short run, but creates long-term problems when partners dont feel listened to and unresolved conflicts and continue to grow.

Office Humor:Wh

3. Overgeneralizing:
When something happens that they dont like, some blow it out of proportion by making sweeping generalizations. Avoid starting sentences with, You always and You never, as in, You always come home late! or You never do what I want to do! Stop and think about whether or not this is really true. Also, dont bring up past conflicts to throw the discussion off-topic and stir up more negativity. This stands in the way of true conflict resolution, and increases the level of conflict.

4. Being Right:
Its damaging to decide that theres a right way to look at things and a wrong way to look at things, and that your way of seeing things is right. Dont demand that your partner see things the same way, and dont take it as a personal attack if they have a different opinion. Look for a compromise or agreeing to disagree, and remember that theres not always a right or a wrong, and that two points of view can both be valid.

5. "Psychoanalyzing" / Mind-Reading:
Instead of asking about their partners thoughts and feelings, people sometimes decide that they know what their partners are thinking and feeling based only on faulty interpretations of their actionsand always assume its negative! (For example, deciding a late mate doesnt care enough to be on time, or that a tired partner is denying sex out of passive-aggressiveness.) This creates hostility and misunderstandings.

6. Forgetting to Listen:
Some people interrupt, roll their eyes, and rehearse what theyre going to say next instead of truly listening and attempting to understand their partner. This keeps you from seeing their point of view, and keeps your partner from wanting to see yours! Dont underestimate the importance of really listening and empathizing with the other person!

7. Playing the Blame Game:


Some people handle conflict by criticizing and blaming the other person for the situation. They see admitting any weakness on their own part as a weakening of their credibility, and avoid it at all costs, and even try to shame them for being at fault. Instead, try to view conflict as an opportunity to analyze the situation objectively, assess the needs of both parties and come up with a solution that helps you both.

8. Trying to Win The Argument:


I love it when Dr. Phil says that if people are focused on winning the argument, the relationship loses! The point of a relationship discussion should be mutual understanding and coming to an agreement or resolution that respects everyones needs. If youre making a case for how wrong the other person is, discounting their feelings, and staying stuck in your point of view, your focused in the wrong direction!

9. Making Character Attacks:


Sometimes people take any negative action from a partner and blow it up into a personality flaw. (For example, if a husband leaves his socks lying around, looking it as a character flaw and label him inconsiderate and lazy, or, if a woman wants to discuss a problem with the relationship, labeling her needy, controlling or too demanding.) This creates negative perceptions on both sides. Remember to respect the person, even if you dont like the behavior.

10. Stonewalling:
When one partner wants to discuss troubling issues in the relationship, sometimes people defensively stonewall, or refuse to talk or listen to their partner. This shows disrespect and, in certain situations, even contempt, while at the same time letting the underlying conflict grow. Stonewalling solves nothing, but creates hard feelings and damages relationships. Its much better to listen and discuss things in a respectful manner.

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Created: June 21, 2007

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When confronted with the behavior of difficult people, it might be helpful (although difficult!) to follow these steps: 1. Actively listen to the difficult person. Try to be non-judgmental and recognize that what they are sayi ng or doing makes sense to them.

2. State your observation; react using an I statement. I feel/am when you because .

3. Indicate your request. My request is that you . Or What I want is . Or I would prefer that you . 4. Be silent, maintain eye contact, appear neutral.

5. Repeat the steps, if necessary.

Planning When confronting an employee about his/her difficult behavior, it is important to plan for that meeting: 1. Describe the behavior. What is its impact on you? Your work performance?

2. What are your reactions to the behavior? 3. Be intervening, what do you hope to accomplish? Is that realistic? 4. If you do intervene, what reactions might you expect? How will you handle them? 5. What personal pitfalls will you need to overcome? How?

The following are a few of the common types of difficult behavior by co-workers with tips on how to deal with them: Praise/Put Down Specialists: That presentation was good. You must have put some effort into it. Try to maintain your cool and get control of the conversation by questioning the offender about his/her inappropriate remarks. Usually, the person will respond by saying you misunderstood them, but they will sense that you arent vulnerable to those remarks and avoid them. Strongly opinionated colleagues: The best way to do this is Try to stay professional, rather than emotional. Determine whether the speaker has a valid point and consider how they will be affected by the action. Be convincing in expressing your viewpoint, but open to other viewpoints as well. I appreciate your enthusiasm on this program, however these records suggest that we should The Intimidator: Intimidators dont threaten directly, but imply that they can hurt or embarrass you. Present a poised and calm frontprepare responses that will get your point across without directly forcing the issue. Im not totally comfortable with that plan. Im thinking about what you said. The Backstabber: Confront the person you think has talked about you behind your back. Report what you heard, but dont be argumentative. Id appreciate your clearing up some confusion. Ive been told that you said I did Did you really say that? If so, Id like you to explain it to me Dont blame or point fingers, but be firm.

Competitors: Be professional and gracious. Give these employees the respect they are seeking. Make them feel important so they dont have to run you down to life themselves up. Be honest in taking and giving credit.

Have a difficult boss? Or a difficult mother-in-law? Need to confront somebody, but not sure how? We are here to help! This website offers a wealth of resources on dealing with difficult people, confrontation skills, along with anger and stress management. Browse through our extensive collection of tips and solutions, or call in to participate in interactive teleseminar. If you think that your co-workers and boss would benefit from what you learn here, you can arrange a full day or half-day training session in your office.

Let your frustration go


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Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 more info

Web Teleseminars

Dealing With Difficult People Confrontation Skills How teleseminars work

Confrontation Skills
Length of the teleseminar: 1 hour Control, Confidence & Composure in the most highly charged situations! Learning to confront someone can be done easily and quickly! No more panic, no more holding back from saying what you want to say. Learn professional confrontation skills that will allow you to maintain control, confidence and composure! If you are like most people when a situation requires you to say something, you either lash out in anger, or say the wrong thing. Do you ever walk away and say "I wish I had said ...."? Those days are over. Confrontation Skills can be learned, practiced and mastered. Here's What You'll Learn: What to say, how to say it, when to say it, all the while being in complete control of yourself Keep your confidence high! Don't let them bully you into submission Keep your emotions in check. Tips to avoid crying, screaming and blanking out Prepare yourself to say what you should say (and take the professional path, not the emotional one) How to give feedback in stressful situations Learn to keep your cool at the same time as confronting someone!

Sign up to learn powerful strategies and techniques for dealing with those confrontations you've been avoiding! Reduce your stress, increase your effectiveness and repair the relationships damaged by the conflict. We'll discuss how to handle the confrontation, things to say, how to say them, all while maintaining your composure and defusing anger for both of you. Price of the workshop includes: 1. Executive Overview Document (emailed prior to session) 2. Live Q&A session following presentation

3. MP3 download of session 4. 30 days unrestricted email coaching 5. 1-800 access Your Presenter: Rhonda Scharf, CSP Canadas Workplace Efficiency Expert! Date: Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 Time: 2pm EST Cost: Only $87.00 CDN per dial in site (no limit attendance)

Dealing With Difficult People


Length of the teleseminar: 1 hour Dealing with difficult people on a daily basis can turn a dream job into a nightmare! As pressures in the workplace increase, many office professionals are finding there are more difficult people to deal with on the job as well as in our personal lives. Whether you have to handle a customer who shouts at you for doing your job or a team member who takes credit for your ideas, this unique audio conference will show you ways to stop falling victim to those difficult people who love to make life miserable for the rest of us! Here's What You'll Learn:

5 strategies for improving communication with difficult people (so you can end your frustration!) How to defuse people who are angry, upset or just plain rude and how to calm tense situations (improve your reputation as the professional and reduce your stress) Understand what motivates the attitudes and behaviours of difficult people (knowledge is power for future interactions) Techniques for giving feedback to difficult people to help correct or even improve their behaviour (make it easy for you) Learn to face life confidently, knowing you're up to any challenge (stop getting kicked around and increase your self-esteem)

Sign up to learn powerful strategies and techniques for handling the difficult people in your work life. Learn what to say and how to say it, strategies for maintaining your composure while defusing angry people and what to do to improve your working relationship with people who challenge you to the limits of your patience. Learn how to deal with conflict, problems and manipulation rather then spend your life being a victim! Price of the workshop includes: 1. Executive Overview sent prior to session

2. Live Q&A during session 3. MP3 download of session 4. 30 days unlimited email coaching 5. Toll Free access phone line Your Presenter: Rhonda Scharf, CSP Canadas Workplace Efficiency Expert! Date: Thursday, March 13th, 2008 Time: 2pm EST Cost: $87.00 CDN in site (no limit attendance) Attention, managers - if you've been looking to offer inexpensive, convenient, efficient and effective training for your staff, this is your opportunity!

How teleseminars work


Not sure what a teleseminar is? It is as easy as 1-2-3

1. Register online, then put the date in your daytimer to remind yourself 2. on date of the teleseminar, 2 minutes prior to the workshop time, dial the toll free access
number that Rhonda will send you. You can call directly from any telephone, but if you have access to a speakerphone, you can use that and your co-workers can join into the teleseminar without extra charge.

3. follow along with the "Executive Overview" Rhonda will send you. If you have questions,
you can stop Rhonda at any time to ask. It is a simple telephone call. It costs you only the $87 registration fee, and as many people as you want can join you on the telephone call. The fee is per dial in telephone, so please don't pass around the call-in information :-) 4. Rhonda will give you directions on how to use the phone, but I promise that it is simple!

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008


Rhonda kept things interesting - time flew by!! Filled with practical example ~ Jana Hryhorka ... Thunder Bay & District Health Unit The contents of this seminar will be put to work! Very useful presentation ~ Kelly Bailey ... Durham College Excellent, useful material for day-to-day interactions ~ Yvonne Clark ... Spectrum Health I am pleased to say that staff found the content of the workshop very relevant and useful and your presentation dynamic, engaging and fun. The impact is very encouraging. ~ Barb Banick Manager, Business Office and Communications Toronto Rehab

Listen to the audio snippets

Dealing with Difficult People teleseminar


In extreme conflict situation How not to get angry back How not to cry

Office Training

Office Training Working with Difficult People


Full day or half-day program - customized to your needs Never again fall victim to those who love to make life miserable for the rest of us! The ability to communicate effectively in the workplace has become a basic skill in todays environment. As the workplace becomes more stressful there seems to be more difficult people to deal with. In this program you will lean how to work in more challenging environments by expanding your communication skills with all types of people that you encounter. This program addresses the science of difficult people. This science is translated into a host of proven tools and techniques for effectively dealing with them. They will enhance your ability to deal creatively and sensibly with the unique needs of your own difficult person.

Difficult People & Situations


Difficult People and Conflict Prime Targets for Change Steps for Handling Difficult People Understanding Attitudes and Behaviour

Communicating Professionally & Effectively


Its not What you Say, Its How you Say It! Do you know the difference? Your actions speak louder than Words! Tips on How to Speak your Inflection, Volume & Pacing Words that trigger!! 5 Steps to Ensure Communication Controlling Emotions Achieving Control Confrontation Skills

Personality Styles
Understand your own style, and the styles of others why they clash, and what to do about it Communication Strategies

Your Presenter:
Rhonda Scharf, CSP Canadas Workplace Efficiency Expert! Rhonda Scharf calls it Edutainment (education + entertainment). Rhonda has a solid content core, but it is delivered in a relaxed and humorous style. She likes to say that she is allergic to

lecture and we will spend our time discussing the information in a very interactive environment. Her experience has been that this allows everyone to picture themselves in each situation and apply the information immediately because they completely understand the why, the where and the how-to. Rhonda's style of speaking involves the audience. She like to use humour, participation from the audience, and applicable situations and examples. She will spend time discussing the audience in advance as well as do my own research to ensure that the program is completely applicable to everyone. The examples will be specific to the situations that the participants would encounter (and are often real examples, with the names changed to protect the innocent!). When you hire Rhonda Scharf, you are getting a highly experienced speaker who has spoken in seven different countries and to literally tens of thousands of people. She was the 2004 National President of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS). Rhonda also sat on the board of the International Federation of Professional Speakers, as well being listed in Whos Who in Professional Speaking 2008 edition (where she has been listed since 1998). Rhonda have also received CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) designation. In Canada there are currently only 32 CSP award recipients. It is a professional designation that is earned over a minimum of 5 years, the highest earned speaking designation in the world, and very difficult to qualify for. Rhonda was Canadas third female to earn this designation, and is the only Ottawa based recipient. When hiring speaking or training professionals, you should always look for the CSP designation - it guarantees you are getting a proven professional. Rhonda am also co-author of the book (September 2002) of WOMEN SPEAK OUT Strategies, Tips, Tools by women, for women, to attain success and balance in their lives. In July 2003, her second book became available in the United States through Insight Publishing called "Communication Skills. In 2004, Rhonda released a CD program entitled How to Get Things Done When Youre Not in Charge!. 2006 was a busy year with the release of Rhonda's CD program Dealing with Difficult People and the just released book Getting Things Done. You can find out more about Rhonda on her website dedicated to her motivational speaking and corporate training.

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 more info


Many of our members have expressed to me that they have used some of the techniques you demonstrated, in both their work and personal lives with positive outcomes ~ Marilyn Best ....PIPSC You effectively touched upon those communication skills that affect our day to day work routines and raised issues that staff could easily relate to. ~ Sandra R. Machiella ... Region of Peel

Web Design by Idea Bureau > Tips & Solutions >Stress Management

Let your frustration go


Recently, my 18-month-old computer died. It had a hardware failure that my computer technician called "irreparable." I am totally frustrated at not having a computer, at the expense, and most importantly, with the time I am having to spend to get a new system up and running.

Do you ever get frustrated at work? Have you ever gotten annoyed because someone else in the office wasn't doing what you want her to do? Do you get frustrated with red tape? What do you do about it? There are a few different ways you can deal (or not deal) with frustration. Focus on the frustration The first option is something we've all done from time to time: allow circumstances to take control. You've seen it happen to others, too. It's what happens when you just whine and complain but do nothing about it. You allow it or her to wreck your day, your week, your month. If you complain about something long enough it even starts to control the way you think. For instance if you say "all lawyers are crooks" often enough, you will start to believe it is true. You and I both know that it isn't true. If your lawyer is frustrating you for whatever reason, and you choose to allow the frustration to control you, you will never get over being frustrated by your lawyer. Every time you think about needing a lawyer your temperature will rise, your anger will re-appear and you will be frustrated. Avoid the situation The second option is to avoid the situation or person who is frustrating you. I could have said that I was fed up with computers and refused to use another one again. That is a perfect example of biting off my nose to spite my face. Who am I hurting in this situation? Me. I know of people who get very frustrated driving on major highways, so their response is to never drive on them. They must take much longer to get anywhere because they are avoiding the frustration of the highway. Others have quit their jobs because they didn't like the frustration of certain aspects of it. That's a pretty drastic, and life-altering, solution to the problem of frustration. A better option The third option is to understand the situation and let it go. Don't allow it to control you. When I ordered my new computer, I was told it would take two to four business days until it was delivered. A week later, it still isn't here. Yes, I could obsess about it not being here, or I could just say "that's too bad, I could really use it now." I am choosing to just let it go. There is nothing I can do to get my computer here more quickly. If there was something I could do, I would, and that would be another excellent option. But since there isn't, I will let go of what I cannot control. I also need to let go of the fact that the computer didn't last as long as I thought it should. I need to change my expectations for the next time. The same thing applies with co-workers. If you have a co-worker who is continually late, and who drives you crazy each morning with frustration, what are you going to do about it? Well, realistically, what can you do? Can you go to her house each morning and get her out of bed? I doubt it. Can you just let it go and not obsess over her being late? Yes you can. If you are in a supervisory position, you have a few more choices, but being frustrated does not have to be the one you choose. Frustration is something that occurs in many aspects of life. We can let frustration control us, or we can decide not to let it. It's a choice.

As for me, I will wait for my computer and ensure that frustration doesn't dictate my feelings or how I live each day while I'm waiting. And when a co-worker does things a little differently than I expect her to, I will choose not to let it ruin my day. I will choose to let my frustration go.
For practical, interactive and inexpensive training on dealing with difficult people and confrontation skills, join Rhonda for the next 1 hour teleseminar. Workshop includes 1-800 access, live Q&A session and mp3 session download. Next teleseminar date: Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 . Learn more...

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 more info

Web Tips & Solutions > Stress Management

Work less, live more


I once had an affair... with my job. It started around 2001 and wasn't just for a few busy weeks either, it went on for a couple of years. I cheated on my husband and my children, spending a significant amount of time away from them. I cheated them out of time they should have had with their wife and mother. My 'partner' was available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 'He' was easy to spend time with... he was fun and rewarding. He was at the end of a phone call, at the keyboard of my computer, ...More of "Work less, live more"

A false sense of security


Remember when computers were introduced into the workplace? We were told we would have a paperless society. But on average today, 19 copies of each original document are made. Hardly a paperless society! I think all that paper gives many of us a false sense of security. We assume there are multiple copies of everything floating around, and that nothing can really get lost. Bad assumption. This month it happened. However, my false sense of security allowed me not to panic. I've since ...More of "A false sense of security"

Are You Prone to STRESS?


Stress, Stress, Stress - one of the most popular words of the 1990's and into the new millennium. Why are we so stressed? What is different now than compared to 40 years ago? EVERYTHING is the answer. Take a look at your weekly schedule. Is there any extra time just for you? Or, are you like most people, and have virtually every moment accounted for - doing something for, or with someone else? When I teach my Stress Management programs, I never cease to be amazed ...More of "Are You Prone to STRESS?"

Are You Sleeping Enough?


I'm guessing that the most commonly asked question everyday is "How Are You?". I'm also guessing that the most common answer is "Fine." However, I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that the second most common response is "I'm a little tired."

How often have you said that? I personally have used that line, oh, just a few times. How much sleep is enough? The experts tell us that we need between 6-8 hours of sleep each night! That is not 6-8 hours spent ...More of "Are You Sleeping Enough? "

A Facelift for the Mind: - Reduce Negative Stress Stress Management - one of the most popular topics when people ask for training and keynotes at conventions. It doesn't seem to matter your age, your sex, your position in life or how much money you make. Everyone has stress! Maybe our causes of stress are slightly different - but it still exists. And if we read the paper every once in a while, we know that stress will kill us! However, not all stress is bad! There is such a thing as positive stress - and we need a little bit of that every ...More of "A Facelift for the Mind: - Reduce Negative Stress -"

A Facelift for the Mind: Reduce Negative Stress Part Two!


Last month I introduced to you four of the negative stressors that we have in our life with tips on how to reduce the negative effect they each create. I want to continue the list this month with the final four. We know that we need to manage our stress - and take advantage of the energy that positive stress creates, and reduce the impact the negative stress creates. So we need to identify where that negative stress is coming from. Fear of Failure. Ah ...More of "A Facelift for the Mind: Reduce Negative Stress Part Two!"

WHAT IS RELAXATION? DO YOU KNOW HOW TO RELAX?


Relaxation means various things to various people. Taking a walk in the country can be very relaxing; so can soaking in a hot bubble bath after a long day. When I use the work "relaxation", I am referring to a state of being, initiated by you, in which there are physiological and psychological changes. Just feeling relaxed may not mean that you are. It can be very frustrating not to be able to relax (and of course, very stressful and even unhealthy). Think about what your perfect day ...More of "WHAT IS RELAXATION? DO YOU KNOW HOW TO RELAX?"

Slow Down and Smell the Roses


Summer is such a rushed time. We all think that it is supposed to be more relaxed, with days spent leisurely around the pool, beach or campground. What happens to all of our good intentions? Before you know it, the summer is over, and we didn't do nearly enough relaxing. We over schedule! Almost everyone does it and we just never seem to learn. Yesterday was scheduled to be our "family picnic". The one Sunday a year where all of my dad's family get together and just ...More of "Slow Down and Smell the Roses"

Ever Been"Nervous?"
Do you ever get really nervous about doing something? So nervous that the butterflies are not only flying in formation, they are also doing something like synchronized swimming in your stomach? Why is it that sometimes we can do a task that doesnt make us even skip a beat, and other times it immobilizes us from doing anything at all? You can use many examples when we talk about nervousness; in a job interview, delivering a speech at work, even reading bible verses at church. ...More of "Ever Been"Nervous?""

Recharging Your Batteries


Do you ever notice that at the beginning of the year we often set resolutions that never last? Well, I think that for 2003 we should all make one resolution that we intend to keep. And it doesn't involve losing weight, exercising, or quitting smoking. At least not directly. I'm talking about resolving to regularly "recharge our batteries". Let's make some concrete and realistic plans that we can follow through with. Be honest with yourself. How much "recharging" did you ...More of "Recharging Your Batteries "

Let your frustration go


Recently, my 18-month-old computer died. It had a hardware failure that my computer technician called "irreparable." I am totally frustrated at not having a computer, at the expense, and most importantly, with the time I am having to spend to get a new system up and running. Do you ever get frustrated at work? Have you ever gotten annoyed because someone else in the office wasn't doing what you want her to do? Do you get frustrated with red tape? What do you do about it? There ...More of "Let your frustration go"

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 more info

Web Design

Let your frustration go


Recently, my 18-month-old computer died. It had a hardware failure that my computer technician called "irreparable." I am totally frustrated at not having a computer, at the expense, and most importantly, with the time I am having to spend to get a new system up and running. Do you ever get frustrated at work? Have you ever gotten annoyed because someone else in the office wasn't doing what you want her to do? Do you get frustrated with red tape? What do you do about it? There are a few different ways you can deal (or not deal) with frustration. Focus on the frustration The first option is something we've all done from time to time: allow circumstances to take control. You've seen it happen to others, too. It's what happens when you just whine and complain but do nothing about it. You allow it or her to wreck your day, your week, your month. If you complain about something long enough it even starts to control the way you think. For instance if you say "all lawyers are crooks" often enough, you will start to believe it is true. You and I both know that it isn't true. If your lawyer is frustrating you for whatever reason, and you choose to allow the frustration to control you, you will never get over being frustrated by your lawyer. Every time you

think about needing a lawyer your temperature will rise, your anger will re-appear and you will be frustrated. Avoid the situation The second option is to avoid the situation or person who is frustrating you. I could have said that I was fed up with computers and refused to use another one again. That is a perfect example of biting off my nose to spite my face. Who am I hurting in this situation? Me. I know of people who get very frustrated driving on major highways, so their response is to never drive on them. They must take much longer to get anywhere because they are avoiding the frustration of the highway. Others have quit their jobs because they didn't like the frustration of certain aspects of it. That's a pretty drastic, and life-altering, solution to the problem of frustration. A better option The third option is to understand the situation and let it go. Don't allow it to control you. When I ordered my new computer, I was told it would take two to four business days until it was delivered. A week later, it still isn't here. Yes, I could obsess about it not being here, or I could just say "that's too bad, I could really use it now." I am choosing to just let it go. There is nothing I can do to get my computer here more quickly. If there was something I could do, I would, and that would be another excellent option. But since there isn't, I will let go of what I cannot control. I also need to let go of the fact that the computer didn't last as long as I thought it should. I need to change my expectations for the next time. The same thing applies with co-workers. If you have a co-worker who is continually late, and who drives you crazy each morning with frustration, what are you going to do about it? Well, realistically, what can you do? Can you go to her house each morning and get her out of bed? I doubt it. Can you just let it go and not obsess over her being late? Yes you can. If you are in a supervisory position, you have a few more choices, but being frustrated does not have to be the one you choose. Frustration is something that occurs in many aspects of life. We can let frustration control us, or we can decide not to let it. It's a choice. As for me, I will wait for my computer and ensure that frustration doesn't dictate my feelings or how I live each day while I'm waiting. And when a co-worker does things a little differently than I expect her to, I will choose not to let it ruin my day. I will choose to let my frustration go.
For practical, interactive and inexpensive training on dealing with difficult people and confrontation skills, join Rhonda for the next 1 hour teleseminar. Workshop includes 1-800 access, live Q&A session and mp3 session download. Next teleseminar date: Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 . Learn more...

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 more info

Tips & Solutions

Confrontation Skills Difficult People at Home Difficult People at Work How to Deal with Anger Stress Management

Latest Tips and Solutions:

After the Confrontation


'Pretending' is a valid way to begin the healing process. When we think about a confrontation, we think about handling the situation, and we tend not to think any further than that. We assume...More of After the Confrontation

Strange techniques to help you keep emotions in check


I'm a pretty private person. The 'Rhonda' I take to work is not the same 'Rhonda I let my friends and family see. At work, I prefer not to show my emotions. I may be a big marshmallow in my personal...More of Strange techniques to help you keep emotions in check

Work less, live more


I once had an affair... with my job. It started around 2001 and wasn't just for a few busy weeks either, it went on for a couple of years. I cheated on my husband and my children, spending a significant...More of Work less, live more

A false sense of security


Remember when computers were introduced into the workplace? We were told we would have a paperless society. But on average today, 19 copies of each original document are made. Hardly a paperless society!...More of A false sense of security

UNCOMMON SENSE FOR ANGER


Anger can be a self-destructive emotion when it's out of proportion to the situation and/or when it is inappropriately expressed. And it seems to me that every time I open a newspaper or watch the news,...More of UNCOMMON SENSE FOR ANGER

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 more info

Web Design

UNCOMMON SENSE FOR ANGER


Anger can be a self-destructive emotion when it's out of proportion to the situation and/or when it is inappropriately expressed. And it seems to me that every time I open a newspaper or watch the news, yet another person has seemingly overreacted to a situation, and has used excessive force (such as knives or guns) to deal with anger! We need to realize when we are angry, why we are angry, and what we plan to do about it. No more should we be surprised by our reactions - we need to have thought them through before hand. So - where do you get angry? Does a particular person or situation push your anger button? Condescension, aggressiveness, apathy or stupidity? How do you want to react? Do you respond to aggressive driving by becoming a more aggressive driver? When someone yells at you - do you yell back? Is anger a problem that you usually keep hidden? Here are some easy techniques to handle your anger - before it gets out of control: Keep logs of your anger: what makes you angry, who makes you angry and to whom you express it, your anger's duration, and any thoughts that accompany it.

Deal with your anger directly. If possible, confront the person with whom you are angry, rather than taking it out on someone else or complaining about it to another person. Take several deep breaths and relax your muscles; exercise after work. Don't brood about what makes you angry. It only keeps you in a stress response and can lead to health problems. Ask yourself, "Is it worth getting upset about?" If it is, deal with it. Easy steps to look at - much harder to actually spend time and follow through on each of them.

For practical, interactive and inexpensive training on dealing with difficult people and confrontation skills, join Rhonda for the next 1 hour teleseminar. Workshop includes 1-800 access, live Q&A session and mp3 session download. Next teleseminar date: Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 . Learn more...

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 more info

Web Design by Idea Bureau

UNCOMMON SENSE FOR ANGER


Anger can be a self-destructive emotion when it's out of proportion to the situation and/or when it is inappropriately expressed. And it seems to me that every time I open a newspaper or watch the news, yet another person has seemingly overreacted to a situation, and has used excessive force (such as knives or guns) to deal with anger! We need to realize when we are angry, why we are angry, and what we plan to do about it. No more should we be surprised by our reactions - we need to have thought ...More of "UNCOMMON SENSE FOR ANGER"

Stages of Anger (and how to deal with them)


I deal with the topic of anger in many of my training programs - and it has been the subject of previous columns as well. In the past, I have discussed how to control our own anger - this month I will discuss how to control the anger of others. In my Customer Service, Conflict Managment and Difficult People seminars, I use the "MAD" stages for anger.

The "M" in MAD stands for "Miffed". Your customer/co-worker/spouse ...More of "Stages of Anger (and how to deal with them)"

Stages of Anger (and how to deal with them)


I deal with the topic of anger in many of my training programs - and it has been the subject of previous columns as well. In the past, I have discussed how to control our own anger - this month I will discuss how to control the anger of others. In my Customer Service, Conflict Managment and Difficult People seminars, I use the "MAD" stages for anger. The "M" in MAD stands for "Miffed". Your customer/co-worker/spouse is "angry" but it is a Level One stage (sounds kind of like an earthquake barometer doesn't it - and funny enough it sort of is!). Level One (M) is the easiest to deal with because the other person is still rational and able to listen. They are focused on what the problem is or what he or she is experiencing. They will describe whatever has provoked their anger. The solution for you is to just listen. Mainly they just want to blow off some steam - and, yes, they would like the situation rectified which you should hopefully be able to do by listening to what they are upset about. The "A" in MAD stands for "Aggravated". Level Two is a little more difficult (as you might have expected). At this point the other person is no longer focused on the problem - they are focused on you! You are more likely to hear verbal attacks on you (or your physical characteristics, your ancestry, your language, sex, education levels etc. - you know what I mean). Level Two is something that most of us have had experience with - but only a few of us get good at dealing with it. My first rule of thumb is to never take this type of abuse sitting down. If you are sitting (even if you are on the phone) stand up (do be careful that it does not give the appearance of you being aggressive though). We need to not take this personally - but separate our involvement in the situation, and focus on what the problem really is. The problem is not that you are completely incompetent and that you can't do anything right (which is what the Level Two angry person will tell you) - the problem is their report didn't get typed in time, or the reservations were entered into the system inaccurately. I am fully aware that this is easier said than done - but focus on what you can do for that person, and not on their attacks on you. It is in your best interest at this point to not even respond to those attacks (you can do that later if necessary). The "D" in MAD stands for Destructive - and that is exactly what this stage of anger is like! Destructive on relationships. Hopefully you really don't run across many people at this stage of anger, and because it is extremely difficult to deal with - and we rarely get good at it (unless it is our job to deal with this type of customer every day!). In Level Three (the top of the barometer) the angry person is threatening to do something - perhaps ensure you lose your job (or fire you if it is the boss), sue you or your company, or divorce if it is a personal disagreement. They really have a lot of steam to blow off - so it takes a huge amount of patience (and biting your tongue) to let them blow some of it off. If you interrupt them - they will just get angrier and rant a little longer. At this serious point of anger, I would want someone else to witness this (if it was professionally oriented) in case it escalates to a legal matter. Once they have vented, they are still likely unable to listen to what you have to say. This is when you should call in the boss, supervisor, or a higher authority. If you are the higher authority, you need to make

a judgment call at this point. Are you able to deal with this professionally without losing your temper? If you cannot, the best thing you can do is to put your hand up in the stop sign motion and say something along these lines "I realize that this is a discussion that needs to continue. Before either one of us says something that we cannot retract, why don't we agree to walk away right now, and get back together in one hour to discuss the possible solutions". Then leave. This line works in your personal life too. After the time has passed, you can calm down and hopefully they have as well, and you can become solution oriented. I would suggest that when you get together again to discuss it that you bring someone else into the conversation as a sort of mediator. While I wish I could guarantee that this would solve the anger of others - you and I both know it won't. What it will do is stop you from reacting to the situation, and hopefully bring the anger to a reasonable place where you can deal with it. We need to respond to the situation - not react to it! Good luck - and keep you eyes out for future columns on Anger Management!
For practical, interactive and inexpensive training on dealing with difficult people and confrontation skills, join Rhonda for the next 1 hour teleseminar. Workshop includes 1-800 access, live Q&A session and mp3 session download. Next teleseminar date: Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 . Learn more...

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 more info

Outline:
1. Introduction 2. Defining the Problem of Difficult People 3. Connection Between Personality Types and Difficult People 4. Redemptive Strategies For Difficult People A. Disruptions in Fellowship B. Disabled Unity C. Ruined Relationships 5. Redemption and Discipline 6. Strategies for Redemption A. Identification B. Coping C. Counseling D. Connecting E. Disciplining

1. Introduction

Dealing with difficult people is something each one of us will have to do so long as we live on planet earth. The world is, of course, filled with individuals who are each unique in their combination of age, health, personality, experience, upbringing, faith, reasoning abilities, and many other facets of individuality. In this sense, it will be somewhat of a challenge for anyone to relate to another. Yet to this we were called by our LORD Jesus Christ who commanded us: "Love one another" (John 13:34, NIV). If everyone strived to love one another as our LORD commanded, there would likely be no need for a course on difficult people. The reality is that not only are people individuals but many strive to create strife and turmoil for others. This course has been helpful to me in understanding the general categories of these difficult people and strategies for dealing with them in all walks of life.

In this document, I will reflect on the definition of difficult people, the course of study used to gain insight into this topic, the connections between personality types and difficult behaviors, and present my thoughts on redemptive strategies for dealing with difficult people.

2. Defining the Problem of Difficult People


In my studies, I read a number of books specifically on defining difficult people in and outside the church. It was interesting that none of the required books really gave a sense that there was real hope in changing the behavior of a difficult person. Here is a brief summary of the books I included in this study: Kenneth C. Haugk's Antagonists in the Church1 presents a rather pessimistic view of relating to various types of difficult people, which he labels "antagonists". In his opinion, such antagonists are terminal cases.

Marshall Shelley's Well-Intentioned Dragons2 follows a similar course of describing the various types of difficult people while presenting a somewhat more redemptive view. Shelley at least describes several situations where a "dragon" turned into a normal person. He failed to reflect on the process which resulted in the change -- an unfortunate omission (perhaps he will write another book on this topic?). Robert M. Bramson's Coping With Difficult People3, as the title suggests, merely covers techniques for coping with a difficult person. He openly admits his purpose is not to address the ability or approach to changing a difficult person.4 Tim LaHaye's Transforming Your Temperament5 takes a Christ-centered, biblically-based view of basic personality types, including strengths and weaknesses of each. This provided me with a better understanding of people and personalities as a context for studying about difficult people. Tom Allen's Congregations in Conflict6 addresses the various types of disruption in the church caused by difficult people as well as strategies for managing and overcoming the conflicts that ensue. Larry Crabb's Connecting7 is a book that at least identifies a redemptive component that is lacking in the other books.
From this core set of books, I learned that difficult people are difficult people because they are difficult -- therefore they cannot change because then they would no longer be difficult people. So it is useless to try and change them. One can only learn to "cope".

Apart from the ridiculous circular logic, this notion certainly contradicts the strategy of redemptive love our Savior put in motion at the cross. If "His blood can make the vilest sinner clean" and "There is power, power, wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb" as the old gospel hymns proclaim -- and it is so -- then we as ministers of the good word of God must believe and work toward that end. This means that there is always hope in the power of God to change even the most difficult "dragon". Perhaps we do need to cope at times. But coping should never be the end of our work in relating to a difficult person. The end of our work should always be to view that person as God views them -- a special human being made in the image of God to be made new in Christ and conformed to His character.

3. Connection Between Personality Types and Difficult People


While there are many different categorizations proposed, Tim LaHaye uses the four types of: Sanguine -- the cheerful, warm, people-loving, extrovert. Choleric -- the strong-willed, self-sufficient task master. Melancholy -- the analytical, emotional, perfectionist. Phlegmatic -- the calm, easy-going, introvert.8

The point of interest in dealing with difficult people is that their basic personality type has inherent strengths and weaknesses. Both the strengths and weaknesses can make for difficult people depending on the situation. In a church setting, a Sanguine person who must plan and forecast the budget may eagerly say "Yes, I'll do it!" but will quickly become restless and procrastinate. The Choleric in a goals-setting session which requires collaboration and group consensus will demand that his vision or solution be implemented at once. The Melancholy person in a critical leadership position may be unable to take decisive action, causing frustration and conflict for all those involved. The Phlegmatic may appear to cooperate in a group ministry situation, initially going along with the crowd. His desire to be merely a spectator in life will bring resentment and a passive resistance to such efforts which require involvement with other people.

Ingrid Wagler of Trinity College and Seminary offers this categorization:9


The "direct" group includes hostile-aggressives and complainers. The "indirect" group includes passive-resistors and people-pleasers.

While any person/personality type has the potential to become a difficult person in any of these categories, one can certainly see a tendency for Choleric persons to become hostile-aggressives, Sanguines to engage in people-pleasing, Phlegmatics to become passive-resistors, or Melancholy persons to be complainers.

This is a useful insight from a ministry perspective. It points out the need to be careful in assigning people to various roles in the church when their personality type is not appropriate. At a minimum, such a situation would need to be monitored more closely than when an individual's personality type was appropriate for the task at hand.

4. Redemptive Strategies For Difficult People


Another pressing issue in my own ministry is understanding how to work with difficult people to bring about positive changes. A difficult person will disrupt fellowship, disable unity within the church body, and ruin relationships with specific individuals. These are grievous consequences of a difficult person's behavior. While there are many specific techniques to be learned for coping with difficult people, there are few focused on redemptive strategies. The most obvious and powerful strategy for redemption is the power of love -- the love which sent our LORD Jesus Christ to the cross. His mission of love provided redemption for all who will call on His name. It was an outreach to the unlovable, difficult people who reject their Creator. This must be a model for our own ministry to difficult people.

The following examples from my own experience -- both good and bad -- will serve to illustrate the possibilities for redemption.

A. Disruptions in Fellowship
One family joined our church fellowship but quickly gained a bad reputation in the couples Sunday School program. The husband seemed to enjoy asking the teacher "tough" questions during the lessons to the point of hindering the teacher's message to the class. Since the fellowship has a history of being cordial and polite to all, no one ever discussed this with them -- they simply ignored them. Being ignored seemed to stimulate his tendency to provoke the teacher and the class. Imagine my delight in finding this out as I reviewed the new class roll along with my director. As a teacher, I encourage dialog during the lessons to help people think through what God is saying to them. I could see in advance that would be a difficult thing to manage with such a person in the class.

When faced with a difficult person in one's fellowship, it pays to get to know them. How can you effectively minister to anyone without understanding who they are and what they need? Rather than continuing the present practice of ignoring this couple, I decided to live out Jesus' command to love them, period. My wife and I spent the time getting to know them. I found myself engaged in many deep and sticky doctrinal conversations with the husband. In teaching the first few months, I also received many difficult questions from him. I did my best to be responsive yet not lose track in delivering the message. Every time he would speak, I could see many people in the class roll their eyes impatiently. Yet, the thing I found interesting is that, over time, the more this couple felt loved by us the less he provoked the class with difficult questions. After several months in the class, other people began to love them also. We became close friends, even to this day. He let me know that before they came to our class, they were ready to leave the church. He and his family did not experience the love of Christ until people reached out to them. His difficult behavior was not intended to be antagonistic (though it seemed to be to others) -- he had a deep faith in God and desired that others grow deeper in their own faith. The questions, to him, were intended to spark discussion, debate, and, most importantly, growth. As I got to know him, I found myself studying and preparing more, anticipating the controversial questions he might ask. This was a victory for me as a teacher, for the class that learned to love the unlovable, and for a family that was almost pushed away. May the name of the LORD God be praised forever!

B. Disabled Unity
In another situation, a "doctrinal dragon" emerged within our fellowship. This person was warm and affirming to anyone who agreed with sound doctrine -that is, her doctrine. She and her husband joined our class and quickly got involved as care group leaders. She insisted on having certain families in her group. Since the care groups were formed in geographic boundaries, we tried to accommodate her while insisting that she also include certain families close to her home. It became obvious that she had certain "friends" in the class which, on the surface, is not a bad thing. Yet it was equally obvious that she ONLY had those friends and would not open up her heart or her life to admit anyone else. Over time, it was clear that only certain individuals agreed with her legalistic doctrine and even fewer lived up to her standards. This interfered with the unity of our fellowship. She made plans on her own with her small circle of friends. When the class decided as a group to do something that she did not like or desire, she would not participate. She encouraged others not to participate. Her small circle of friends, of course, followed her in this defiance. Others in the class saw what was going on and were quite dismayed.

My approach to dealing with this growing problem was to confront her privately. Haugk disagrees with this approach10 insisting you should not meet with an antagonist if possible; otherwise, always let the antagonist ask for a meeting so you can control the situation. This approach is flawed for it allows no option to resolve the problem nor to redeem the individual. I do, however, see his wisdom in making a definite appointment time for the meeting. I failed to make an appointment for this purpose. One Wednesday evening, when it was convenient for me, I caught her in the hall and asked to speak with her. She was still warm and affirming at this point. I shared with her my desire for a fellowship that is constantly reaching in and reaching out to people. She agreed, pointing out her work in the care group. Her work engaged a small circle of friends, I pointed out, and did not seem to be inclusive. Here she revealed her "doctrinal dragon" nature: she would only befriend those who were committed Christians! In reality, this meant that they agreed with all her "biblically-based" views. I attempted, in vain, to help her understand the commandment to "love one another" (John 13:34, NIV) ended with a period -- no constraints, no boundaries, no exclusivity. She simply would not listen. Obviously, I was wrong because I disagreed with her "biblicallybased" view of Christian fellowship. This problem ended in a stalemate. I could not convince her and she would not change. The spontaneous nature of the meeting allowed it to end with no outcome and no action plan. As I reflect on this situation, I see what should have done differently. Understanding her nature, I could have spent less time helping her understand my view -- this seemed to be a time-waster for this type of difficult person. A better use of that time would have been to help others in the class learn to reach out to her and love her in spite of this irritating quality. Perhaps she would learn that not everyone is "bad" who disagrees with her. Perhaps she would learn to respect others who disagreed with her rather than looking down at them. Experiencing the love of others in the fellowship would seem to have greater impact on a doctrinal dragon that going "toe-to-toe" on Bible verses. As the Apostle Peter pointed out,
"And above all things have fervent love for one another, for 'love will cover a multitude of sins'" (1 Pet 4:8, NKJV). This has the advantage of being not only a coping strategy but a

redemptive strategy based on the truth and the love of Christ. Even if the difficult person never responds, the people in the fellowship will grow deeper in faith and in their walk with

Christ.

C. Ruined Relationships
The most grievous part of dealing with a difficult person in a church fellowship is the ruination of relationships. Disrupting group plans, hindering the fellowship, and disabling unity in the body are all serious problems. But the worst of all is when the relationship between two individuals is irreparably broken. Two people have infinite capacity to share a bond of love through the Holy Spirit no matter what their upbringing or culture might be. To break such a fellowship is unthinkable. Yet people tire of dealing with a person who acts unreasonably over such long period of time. The wounds of insults, strife, snobbery, and other boorish behavior run deep. Many find it easier to simply run away from the problem.

Such broken fellowship is inevitable when the committed Christian loses his or her commitment in the situation. If the committed Christian in the relationship gives up, what hope for redemption is there? It is certain that shutting the door to one who is hard to love will never help. The example of our LORD here is startling: even as Judas brought the Roman soldiers to arrest Him, Jesus called this betrayer "Friend". (Matt. 26:50, NKJV) Is that the kind of commitment that will win over a difficult person? Perhaps it will and maybe it will not. In any case, it will demonstrate to the LORD and to the world your own faithfulness to Christ. And it always offers the hope of redemption. Ultimately, a positive response to the Holy Spirit resides within the difficult person. This outcome is in God's hands. Our job is to remain faithful in spite of whatever insults, persecution, injustice, or false accusations we receive in the process.

5. Redemption and Discipline


Is there a point where the strategy of redemptive love for a difficult person breaks down? Clearly, there is a biblical mandate for church discipline. (Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; Titus 3:9-11) The cases involve obvious sin by one who claims the name of Christ yet flagrantly disregards the clear commands of Scripture. In such a case, church discipline is necessary. The New Testament reveals several instances of gross sin (1 Cor. 5:1-13) and divisiveness (Titus 3:10-11) which require the person to be disfellowshiped from the Church.

It is important to keep redemption as the clear focus of such discipline. In so doing, you demonstrate love at its finest; without a redemptive focus, you join the throngs of the Pharisees who enact justice without mercy. When Jesus spoke of the process for discipline (Matt. 18:15-17), He immediately followed this with specific teaching on the necessity for forgiveness. (Matt. 18:18-35) The ultimate purpose of discipline is to redeem rather than simply condemn.

6. Strategies for Redemption


Perhaps there needs to be a general strategy for acting redemptively toward difficult people. While I have not personally done the depth of research in this area necessary to develop a process, I do see several areas where redemptive strategies can be employed. These activities are usually involved in dealing with difficult people:

A. Identification B. Coping C. Counseling D. Connecting E. Disciplining In each of these activities, redemptive strategies can be employed to help the difficult person rise above his dysfunction.

A. Identification
Kenneth Haugk presents a good set of criteria to use in identifying potential "hard-core" antagonists. This includes such general character traits as negative self-concept, narcissism, aggression, rigidity, and authoritarianism. Common observations of difficult people also include some degree of paranoia and antisocial behavior.11 These character traits are supplemented with various "red-flag" conditions which, when observed, require caution.12 Once a situation has revealed a genuine difficult person -- not to be confused with someone simply having a bad day -- the particular aberrant behavior can then be addressed through appropriate redemptive strategies. Another point made by Haugk13 and Bramson14 is the danger of relating to people in terms of labels -- identification relates to observed behaviors in individuals. If you look to categorize everyone you meet in terms of difficult people types, you risk becoming one yourself.

B. Coping
Dr. Bramson's work in coping techniques is a fine place to start in learning to deal with difficult people. Chapters two through eight are specific and practical suggestions for seven common types of difficult people. It is important that this not be the end of the process. If we only choose to cope, then we have accepted failure in relating to this person who drives us crazy. There is great victory to be won through the work of Jesus Christ in your own life and in the life of the difficult person. The strategy is to cope while you plan and implement redemptive strategies for this person.

C. Counseling
Difficult people need solid biblical counseling in order to change their ways. God's word offers much counsel on the need for good relationships and how to relate properly toward one another. The method of confronting such a person for counsel needs planning. Certain situations where the difficult person is a highly influential member of the local church require the utmost of prudence and tact. Nevertheless, we are commanded to try and help people back to the full fellowship of the LORD and His Church. (Gal. 6:1-2) Many a brother or sister in Christ can be turned around when confronted with clear, biblical teaching. Though the difficult person may not initially accept such admonitions, we cannot discount the convicting work of the Holy Spirit promised by our LORD. (John 16:8-

13)

D. Connecting
The one thing which is striking about our culture today is the lack of intimacy between people, especially in the Church. Mega-churches and the emphasis on numerical growth have not helped in this area. Perhaps if there were more intimacy in the Church, divisive issues and difficult people would not be quite as destructive. The concept of community-connectedness suggested by Mrs. Wagler15 is an interesting approach that may help control a difficult person's behavior. This is not to suggest an Adlerian solution.16 The redemptive connection will always be the individual-connectedness -- two people who share intimate, Christian friendship made possible through the common bond of the Holy Spirit. This is the goal we should seek in redeeming difficult people. You can be disruptive to a group much easier and far longer than you can to your own close friend. As the Bible makes clear, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend..." (Prov 27:6, NKJV). Such relationships need to be taught, modeled, and encouraged in our churches.

E. Disciplining
Biblical church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20) is sorely lacking in churches today. No one really wants to be accountable to another. Nor do people want to risk potential lawsuits as a result of accusations made publicly before the church (after requisite private disciplinary steps have been taken). Yet the whole counsel of God must be believed, taught, and practiced if a local church will ever reach its full potential. Difficult people make trouble which will typically require such discipline. In highly influential positions, the need is even greater. The Apostle Paul wrote that even elders in the church may require public reproof because they are leaders in the congregation (1 Tim. 5:19-20). From a redemptive standpoint, discipline is necessary. It should not be conducted in order to drive the person away from the church (this only gets rid of your problem while most likely creating one for another church somewhere down the road). To correct their sinful practice, redemption of the individual must be pursued as the overall goal of any disciplinary effort.

There is much more to be learned in dealing with difficult people. It is certain that difficult people will always be around and appear when you least expect them. They are the "heavenly sandpaper" in our lives the Holy Spirit uses to help us become more Christ-like. So with His abiding presence, experience will be the best classroom in which to truly apply the knowledge and techniques from this course. Redemption, I am convinced, is always a possibility. The Bible reveals that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8). Surely the behavior of difficult people is included in this. Community-connectedness could help to control such behavior. Yet, individual connectedness is the key to change. A "hard-core" difficult person may find perverse satisfaction in being ostracized for his behavior, thinking his persecution is because of his faith in Christ. It is hard to take such a "me versus the world" stand when someone you are intimately close to in Christian friendship tells you of your disruptive ways. By striving to

implement redemptive strategies, you shine the light and love of Christ into the soul of a difficult person. In this holy process, whatever pain you experience from dealings with the difficult person will surely lessen as you realize the "fellowship of His sufferings" (Phil. 3:10, NKJV). Jesus did no less for you; you can do no more and no less for others.

End Notes:
1. Haugk, Kenneth C. Antagonists in the Church. Augsburg Publishing House: Minneapolis, Minnesota. Copyright 1988. 2. Shelley, Marshall. Well-Intentioned Dragons. Bethany House Publishers: Minneapolis, Minnesota. Copyright 1985 by Christianity Today, Inc. 3. Bramson, Robert M., Ph.D. Coping With Difficult People. Dell Publishing: New York, New York. Copyright 1981. 4. Ibid. pp. 6-7. 5. LaHaye, Tim. Transforming Your Temperament. Inspirational Press: New York. Published 1991 in three volumes: Spirit-Controlled Temperament, copyright 1966; Transformed Temperaments, copyright 1971; Why You Act the Way You Do, copyright 1984. 6. Allen, Tom. Congregations in Conflict. Christian Publications: Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. Copyright 1991. 7. Crabb, Larry. Connecting. Word Publishing: Nashville, Tennessee. Copyright 1997. 8. LaHaye, p. 16. 9. Wagler, Ingrid. "Dealing With Difficult People." Asheville, North Carolina. Trinity College and Seminary Seminar on 6/5/98. 10.Haugk, pp. 128-129. 11.Ibid., pp. 61-64. 12.Ibid., pp. 69-79. 13.Ibid., p. 60. 14.Bramson, p. 160. 15.Wagler, Study Notes, p. 2. 16.Alfred Adler suggests that one of the key problems with the "mentally ill" is that they have lost a sense of community. The "feeling" of community is necessary, according to Adler, for both community and individual development. With all due respect to Alder, such communityconnectedness cannot exist for long without a power source to enable it. The fallen nature of man precludes unselfish, sacrificial love for others on an ongoing basis. For the Christian, such love is actually possible and normative through the Holy Spirit. For the unbeliever, such selfless devotion to others is not normative, however badly it is needed.

Dealing with Difficult People


By Laura Benjamin Anne Lamott, in her book "Bird by Bird," wrote "I don't think you have time to waste on someone who does not respond to you with kindness and respect. You don't want to spend your time around people who make you hold your breath." While her comment in the book refers to someone who offers constructive criticism of a writer's first draft, her philosophy applies just as clearly to dealing with people in general. You don't need to go through life "holding your breath" around people who are considered "difficult!" Dealing with them has more to do with setting boundaries and limitations for ourselves regarding what we will, or will not tolerate from others. The best we can do is understand what motivates them, try to improve the effectiveness of our actions, maintain our integrity and self-esteem, and know when to let go!
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Difficult People Defined Just for giggles, poll the people around you and ask what is their definition of a difficult person. Most likely you'll get just as many versions as the number of people you survey. But if you looked for the common themes, you'd find it's typically someone whose troublesome behavior Affects most people, not just the overly sensitive,

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weak, or incompetent. In other words, 99% of the people you work with also think this person is a pain in the posterior! Is set at a lower threshold and is more easily triggered. They're unpredictable, and seem to "go off" over the smallest little things. Is frequent and habitual. They exhibit this type of behavior most of the time.

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Human behavior experts, like Dr. Robert M. Bramson, in "Coping with Difficult People," has categorized them into 6 types and recommends the following strategies for working more effectively with them: (Click on the personality type to read the
coping strategies)

Hostile/Aggressive The Complainer Silent/Unresponsive Super-Agreeable Negativist Know it All Expert

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Deal With It Or Know When to Let Go? Typically, the longer we ignore a situation, the worse it gets rarely does it "give up" and go away! Clearly, it's to our advantage to develop and practice effective conflict management practices that facilitate discussion yet do not dissolve into highly charged emotional exchanges. Kofi Annan, the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations is a soft-spoken, yet provocative leader who is known to say things in a civil way that others may not have the courage to say. He believes, "We work in an organization where one usually tries to avoid conflict, but when the issues are that important and also that persistent, one needs to find a way of getting them debated, and move forward in a rational and perhaps more organized manner." So, how should we proceed? Dr. Bramson suggests: 1. Assess the situation. Are they really a difficult person or just having a bad day? If you find yourself reacting negatively to practically everything they do, it may be a response to something quite specific about them like their hair, perfume, or mannerisms that remind you of your 3rd grade teacher, etc. 2. Stop wishing they were different. We assume everyone must think and behave like we do and if they don't, we assume they're doing it on purpose to irritate us! 3. Distance yourself from them by taking a detached, impersonal view. The more you can see them as separate from yourself, the less likely you'll be to interpret their behavior as being a personal attack against you. It's just the way they are; you had nothing to do with it! 4. Interrupt the action. Recognize that a difficult person is adept at bringing the worst out of everyone! You, however, are free to change the nature of the

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interaction versus getting caught up in a cycle of frustrated expectations. You are not a victim! Do the opposite of what they expect. 5. Time your response carefully. Choose a time when the difficult person is not under excessive stress or obligation. People are less resilient and flexible when under stress. In the final analysis, consider whether or not you have the time and energy to "engage." Perhaps you recognize more damage could be done to your own mental health and selfesteem by participating in any interaction with this person. Your best option may be to withdraw from the relationship, and yes, that could mean you consider quitting your job, divorcing your spouse, eating lunch with a different crowd, or moving far away from your grown children. We get to choose whom we allow to take up space in our lives, and as Anne Lamott also so eloquently said, "You can't fill up when you're holding your breath." You can't fill up with life, love, and laughter when important parts of you are simultaneously being drained away! Also see: How can a coach help a working mom like me? Negiotating a larger salary package Laura Benjamin is the owner of "Laura Benjamin International," an international speaking, training, coaching and consulting firm specializing in workplace relations and professional development issues. Her programs include, "Got STRESS? Balancing Work & Life," "Call of the WildDealing with Difficult People," and "A Manager's Guide to Developing Your People." Contact her by phone: 719-266-8088, email: laura@laurabenjamin.com, or visit her website at www.laurabenjamin.com.

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The Hostile/Aggressive
By Laura Benjamin This is the bully who always needs to be right. They tend to be abusive, abrupt, accusatory, intimidating, arbitrary, and arrogant. They value high levels of self-confidence and aggressiveness and demean those who don't possess them.
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Coping Strategies: Stand up to them without fighting by assertively expressing your opinion ("In my opinion, I disagree with you.") If you allow a fight to escalate you'll never win against these people and you may end up losing the war. Take unpredictable actions to get their attention: drop a book, stand up, firmly call them by name, get them to sit down and don't sit until they do. Be prepared for friendly overtures as soon as they view you as worthy of respect. The Complainer Silent/Unresponsive Super-Agreeable Negativist Know it All Expert

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Other personality types:

Laura Benjamin is the owner of "Laura Benjamin International," an international speaking, training, coaching and consulting firm specializing in workplace relations and professional development issues. Her programs include, "Got STRESS? Balancing Work & Life," "Call of the WildDealing with Difficult People," and "A Manager's Guide to Developing Your People." Contact her by phone: 719-266-8088, email: laura@laurabenjamin.com, or visit her website at www.laurabenjamin.com.

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The Complainer
By Laura Benjamin They avoid taking responsibility. These are the people who find fault with everything, but may be some legitimacy to their complaints. They use an accusatory tone, and come across as powerless, fatalistic, morally perfect, and self-righteous.
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Coping Strategies: Break the self-fulfilling cycle of passivity, blaming, and powerlessness by insisting on a problem solving approach. Ask for complaints in writing, ask open-ended questions, and assign them to fact-finding tasks. Listen attentively. They may just need to blow off steam, which could provide information that's important to you. Be prepared to interrupt and take control. Pin them down to the specifics. Don't agree. Agreeing only validates for them that it is your fault and they are blameless. If all else fails, ask them how they would like the discussion to end; what results do they want to achieve? Hostile/Aggressive Silent/Unresponsive Super-Agreeable Negativist Know it All Expert

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Laura Benjamin is the owner of "Laura Benjamin International," an international speaking, training, coaching and consulting firm specializing in workplace What is the most

relations and professional development issues. Her programs include, "Got STRESS? Balancing Work & Life," "Call of the WildDealing with Difficult People," and "A Manager's Guide to Developing Your People." Contact her by phone: 719-266-8088, email: laura@laurabenjamin.com, or visit her website at www.laurabenjamin.com.

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The Silent/Unresponsive
By Laura Benjamin These people limit risk and seek safety by refusing to respond, and are often non-committal despite the fact that something is definitely wrong. They use this form of calculated aggression to avoid facing their fears.
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Coping Strategies: Get them to talk by asking open-ended questions beginning with "how" and "what." Apply a friendly, silent stare toward the person

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and hold it. Don't be tempted to fill the space with words to ease your own discomfort. Comment on the fact you find it interesting they're refusing to communicate, then ask: Are you concerned about my reaction? How do you think I'll react? You look distressed/worried/concerned. Am I misinterpreting? Am I wrong that you're feeling uncomfortable, annoyed, angry, or impatient? Set time limits and be prepared for an "I don't know" response. You may either assume it's genuine or it's a stalling tactic and reply, "It appears our meeting is at an impasse." Return to the friendly, silent stare and wait for a response. If the clam opens up, be attentive, demonstrate active listening, and allow them be vague (it may lead to their main issue). If they don't respond, avoid a polite ending by stating you intend to revisit the issue again. State you assume their lack of response means X to you, and list the actions you will take if effective communication doesn't occur. Hostile/Aggressive The Complainer Super-Agreeable Negativist Know it All Expert

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Other personality types:

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Laura Benjamin is the owner of "Laura Benjamin International," an international speaking, training, coaching and consulting firm specializing in workplace relations and professional development issues. Her programs include, "Got STRESS? Balancing Work & Life," "Call of the WildDealing with Difficult People," and "A Manager's Guide to Developing Your People." Contact her by phone: 719-266-8088, email: laura@laurabenjamin.com, or visit her website at www.laurabenjamin.com.

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Negativist
By Laura Benjamin These people have been deeply disappointed in life and are unable to work through it. They've lost trust, tend to throw cold water on every idea, easily deflate optimism, and believe in absolute, immovable barriers. They are convinced they have little power over their own lives and believe those who do have power cannot be trusted to act reasonably or consistently. They may be angry and resentful most of the time.
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Coping Strategies: Recognize your own vulnerability to discouragement. The impact these people have on others can be contagious unless you meet it directly with confident, assertive optimism. Don't argue with them or embarrass them. You won't get far by making it a "win/lose" battle. Allow them to play the role of "reality checker" by analyzing what could go wrong. Require them to cite specifics rather than make sweeping generalizations. Offer examples of past successes. Show that some alternatives are worth trying by saying, "I have faith that we haven't tried everything." Hostile/Aggressive The Complainer Silent/Unresponsive Super-Agreeable Know it All Expert

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Laura Benjamin is the owner of "Laura Benjamin International," an international speaking, training, coaching and consulting firm specializing in workplace relations and professional development issues. Her programs include, "Got STRESS? Balancing Work & Life," "Call of the WildDealing with Difficult People," and "A Manager's Guide to Developing Your People." Contact her by phone: 719-266-8088, email: laura@laurabenjamin.com, or visit her website at

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Super-Agreeable
By Laura Benjamin This is the "people-pleaser" who over-promises and never delivers. They avoid conflict at all costs, are outgoing, sociable, personal with others, and very attentive. They will tell you things that are good to hear and then let you down by making unrealistic commitments.
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Coping Strategies: Make honesty non-threatening. Ask for their opinion without jeopardizing your acceptance of them as individuals. Be personal without being phony and let them know you value them as people. Don't allow them to over-commit or take on more than they can handle. Ask for feedback on things that might interfere with your good relationship.

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Pay attention to their humor - it often masks their true feelings. Hostile/Aggressive The Complainer Silent/Unresponsive Negativist Know it All Expert

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Laura Benjamin is the owner of "Laura Benjamin International," an international speaking, training, coaching and consulting firm specializing in workplace relations and professional development issues. Her programs include, "Got STRESS? Balancing Work & Life," "Call of the WildDealing with Difficult People," and "A Manager's Guide to Developing Your People." Contact her by phone: 719-266-8088, email: laura@laurabenjamin.com, or visit her website at www.laurabenjamin.com.

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The Know it All Expert


By Laura Benjamin They have a strong need for security in an unpredictable world, value facts and logic, and seek respect through acknowledged competence. Often described as "bulldozers," they are highly productive, thorough, and accurate. They possess an aura of personal authority and sense of power, and a tone of absolute certainty. They are usually right and will confront those who question their logic with a data "dump" that leaves others overwhelmed. They can be condescending, imposing, pompous, and sometimes make you feel like an idiot.
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Coping Strategies: Help them consider alternative views while avoiding direct challenges to their expertise. You must do your homework, discuss facts in an orderly manner, and make sure your information is accurate and complete. Don't 'ball park' it or they will dismiss you as incompetent. Listen actively and acknowledge. Paraphrase rather than interrupt; it shows you respect their expertise. If you must point out an error or omission, do it by questioning firmly with confidence and ask for clarification by saying, "How will that look 5 years from now? Resist the temptation to assert your own expert credentials. It won't work. No one knows more than they do in their opinion! Hostile/Aggressive The Complainer Silent/Unresponsive Super-Agreeable Negativist

In a Man's World Professional Organizations Company Seminars Career Archive Small Business Advice Online Job Search Entrepreneur's Corner Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Ask an Expert Image Consultant Career Coach Work/Life Coach Business Coach Work at Home Professional Organizer Emotional Wellness Business Advisor

Career Poll
What is the most important benefit your employer can offer you?
Top of Form

Other personality types:

37 http://w w w .blues

Laura Benjamin is the owner of "Laura Benjamin International," an international speaking, training, coaching and consulting firm specializing in workplace relations and professional development issues. Her programs include, "Got STRESS? Balancing Work & Life," "Call of the WildDealing with Difficult People," and "A Manager's Guide to

Flexibl

e work hours Extended hours/shortened work week

Developing Your People." Contact her by phone: 719-266-8088, email: laura@laurabenjamin.com, or visit her website at www.laurabenjamin.com.

Job sharing Telecommuting On-site daycare Take home meals On site dry cleaning
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It's a New Year: Improve Your Productivity


The end of the year is a classic opportunity to look back over how things have been going and look forward to see how they could improve. January brings that fresh start that we all long for - let's make the most of it! Read on for tips and suggestions to improve your productivity.

Getting What You Want: Talking to the Boss


Shorter hours, a pay raise, change of title, promotion. These are all reasons to initiate a talk with the boss. But remember this when approaching your boss about changing something in the workplace: Your boss's number-one priority is to make sure you are satisfied enough to do your job well. Otherwise, everyone loses, including your employer. Use our seven quick tips the next time you need to speak with your boss.

No Child Left Inside


Help your children get or stay healthy by getting out and moving around! Children not only discover nature's wonders in a unique way during each outing, but it is also a great way for them to avoid obesity and ailments, which derive from lack of movement. Instead of grabbing the next bag of chips and watching excessive TV, your kids will quickly get in the habit of wanting to get outside. Read on to find out how to help your kids to get out and get active.

Recent Videos Get Organized for Tax Time


Imagine kicking back with your refund already in hand (yes, the early bird will beat the rush with the IRS) while all the procrastinators out there are still scrambling to dig up old receipts and complete IRS forms. So, with lots of time between now and April, let's make this the year to get caught up, straightened out, and financially organized once and for all. You can get a head start on the process. By putting yourself in tax mode nice and early, you can DRAMATICALLY reduce the amount of stress in your life down the road. Read on ...

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Family: Putting the Fun back into Potty Training Career: Your Brand Is Everything Money: 3 Quick Tips to Avoid Impulse Purchases Time for You: Take Break and Rejuvenate Health: The 5 Essential Summer Weight Loss Tips Food: How to Outsmart Your Picky Eater Travel: Selecting a Family Travel Destination

Email this page to a friend Difficult Conversations


We all experience difficult discussions from time to time. Whether it is with our clients, our colleagues, our bosses, we want to get the best out of our conversations. And sometimes we have to deal with conflict and do our best to prevent it escalating, so we can resolve it with the best outcomes for both the agreement and for our relationships. Course Outcomes We are at the blunt end of dealing with clients in properties over 200k where there is a slow market at present. Your approach has given the staff a positive way of dealing with 'no activity' properties. Business owner, Lancaster University LEAD programme participant

During this intensive and practical two-day training, you will learn to Take a strategic approach to discussions to get more of what you want Remain polite and friendly even in difficult circumstances Handle emotions safely both yours and your conversation partners Take pre-emptive steps - to stop the discussions becoming difficult Deal more confidently with the toughest of situations

Contact us Future Focus Project Access Downloads The organisation was about to change its identity a new name, under new ownership, with far tougher targets. To counter the fear factor and the rumours, they asked us to design a positive event to mark the start of the new era the Capita L+D Future Focus day. Join Mailing list

Tips and Techniques


1. Caffeine: A surprisingly subtle stressor 2. Sleep: Don't leave home without it 3. How to stop unwanted thoughts

4. Do you have trouble making decisions? 5. More ideas for making decisions 6. What did you expect? (Managing your expectations) 7. Be careful what you say 8. Long distance worrying 9. The art of reframing 10. Attitude is everything 11. Reframing: The upside of a "crisis" 12. If you can't "optimize", then "neutralize" 13. Reframing other people's behaviour 14. Dealing with difficult people 15. Stop giving power to other people 16. Stop giving power to abusive people 17. How I learned to meditate 18. Relaxation techniques 19. The importance of social support 20. Social support: Why and how? 21. Communication aggravation 22. Communication aggravation (part two) 23. The power of permission 24. Good health - It's your choice
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Dealing with difficult people


Early in my training I encountered a doctor who triggered a tremendous amount of stress in me. I found him extremely arrogant, smug, and full of himself. He also seemed to have a very condescending and patronizing manner that I found very offensive. It was bad enough that I had to periodically encounter him in some of my training rotations, but the capper came when I was assigned to his service for two months. I couldn't imagine how I'd get through the ordeal. As we started to work together, I found him less abrasive and irritating than I'd expected. Then something amazing happened. He asked me to work with him on a long case and I found myself feeling flattered by the request. During our several hours together I found myself lightening up and kibitzing a bit. He responded and by the end of the afternoon we had made a real breakthrough. That was a turning point, but it got even better. As I got to know him I enjoyed him more and more. Most importantly, I realized that he wasn't arrogant or smug at all. In fact, he was extremely shy and soft-spoken and what I had taken to be arrogance was a combination of shyness and the way he compensated for his social unease. His behaviour and mannerisms didn't change, but my view of them changed totally. In the final ironic twist, he actually became one of my favourite people and we became real friends. It was a lesson in how easy it is for us to misinterpret other people and to react not to who they are, but to our interpretations and judgements of them.

This experience taught me something very important about dealing with difficult people: that the more you learn about them, the better you understand them. Even if you don't end up liking a person, getting to know him or her can lessen the feelings of tension. So, Appraisal of where they're coming from and what makes them tick is an excellent way of dealing with difficult people, but not the only one. Let's look at some others. Avoidance: An obvious way of dealing with stressful people is to just stay away from them. And where this is feasible, it usually works. However, there are four problems with this approach. One is that it's not always possible to avoid people, particularly if you work or live with them. Second, if you avoid people who are still in your orbit you may find yourself looking over your shoulder to make sure they're not nearby. This can be stressful in itself. The third problem is that you don't learn how to deal with the person if you simply skirt around the problem. It won't help you to develop better coping strategies. And fourth, you could actually end up magnifying your stress when you do see them. I learned this lesson years ago when I ran into someone I'd been studiously and stubbornly ignoring. He was sullen, abrasive and generally disliked and I wanted nothing to do with him. One day I found myself walking towards this person with not another soul around. It would have been too obvious if I'd turned around and gone the other way. So I kept walking, determined not to make eye contact with him. I was going to show him what a jerk I thought he was! Well, guess whose stress level went up with every step? As I passed him, I noted with dismay (and, frankly, some amusement) what a lousy strategy I'd concocted. I felt more stress when I couldn't avoid him. After that, I realized avoidance was a "losing game" - and I gave it up. Appeasement: This is where you concede to the other person and give them what they want in order to avoid conflict. This is the "line of least resistance" often employed by "pleasers." One of my patients used this approach with an aggressive friend of hers, saying that "being a pleaser is easier." However, she started to realize that appeasement wasn't really easier at all. It perpetuated her upset and gave her friend the impression that her behaviour was acceptable. In effect, she gave tacit permission to the other person to continue to be controlling, domineering, and bossy. Appeasement may be necessary at times (to avoid a scene, for example), but isn't a great strategy on an ongoing basis. It keeps you feeling powerless and victimized. In my next columns, I'll explore other (better) ways of dealing with difficult people.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

Sleep: don't leave home without it


How long does it take you to fall asleep at night? I used to pride myself on being able to fall asleep in a nanosecond. In fact, I used to snap my fingers and say, "I can fall asleep on a dime!" Only recently did I realize that what I was really saying was, "Hey, I'm sleep deprived!" Let me explain... As a society we are short-changing ourselves on sleep by about 60-90 minutes a night. If you're wondering, "Am I getting enough sleep?" here are some criteria to help you decide: Do you need an alarm clock to wake you up in the morning? Or, two alarm clocks the one close enough to hit the snooze button and the one across the room that makes you get out of bed to turn it off? Do you wake up feeling refreshed or tired? How is your daytime energy? Do you find yourself running out of steam halfway through the day?

How much sleep do you get when you don't have to wake up? (E.g. on weekends or when you're on vacation.)

This is the one I didn't know about until recently: How quickly do you fall asleep at night? This is the criterion used by sleep researchers and it's called "the sleep latency period." For normal, well-rested people, this transition period between waking and sleep takes about 15-20 minutes. If you fall asleep in less than 10-minutes - and, especially, in less than five minutes you are, by definition, sleep deprived. When patients complain about fatigue, I always begin by asking two questions: How much sleep are you getting at night? The answer is often "Six to seven hours." How much sleep do you need to function at your best? (Not how much can you get away with, but how much do you really need to be at the top of your game?). Usually the answer is a decisive, "eight."

Now, I'm sitting here like Sherlock Holmes, trying to make a diagnosis, and I've just heard an important clue. If they need eight hours and are getting only six or seven, the simplest solution is to start getting more sleep. How much sleep do we need? Most adults need 8-9 hours a night, which is what people were getting until 1913 when Thomas Edison perfected the tungsten filament incandescent light bulb - artificial light. Today we average about seven hours a night even though we haven't changed physiologically in the last 87 years. But we're cheating ourselves of sleep in order to work, watch TV, socialize, etc. It hasn't been very good tradeoff. What's The Cost of Sleep Deprivation? The damage caused by sleep deprivation is much greater than we realize. We fall asleep while driving--- in the United States, 100,000 road accidents a year are attributed to sleepy drivers. We become more prone to infection (because our immune system is stimulated during sleep). We make mistakes on the job which can cause injury or financial loss. Our concentration and short- term memory are impaired and intellectual function is diminished.

In a Toronto Star article on sleep last year, Dr. Stanley Coren, a University of British Columbia psychologist, said: "One hour's lost sleep out of eight results in a drop of one point of I.Q. and for every additional hour lost, you drop two points. And it accumulates. So if you cheat on sleep by two hours a night over a five-day week, you've lost 15 points." Perhaps even more importantly, sleep deprivation affects our mood. We become irritable and depressed. Interestingly, many of the symptoms of sleep deprivation are also symptoms of stress. Tired people are less resilient, less adaptable and flexible, less tolerant of irritation and frustration. Going to work without proper rest is like starting your day with one foot in a hole. Sleep Debt The difference between the amount of sleep we need and the amount of sleep we get is called "sleep debt." If you need eight hours a night but only get seven, you have a sleep debt of one hour. However, as Dr. Coren points out in his best-selling book "Sleep Thieves," if this continues for a week, you now have an accumulated sleep debt of seven hours. The effect is similar to losing all seven hours in the same night. The good news is that you can repay the sleep debt. So if you fall behind, a few consecutive nights of full, uninterrupted sleep will usually return you to full function.

Four years ago I stopped setting my alarm and simply woke up when my body was ready. Of course, I had to go to bed early enough to wake up naturally and still not be late for work. The result has been dramatic. I feel profoundly better every day for doing this. And so do my patients who have started getting the sleep they need. So, if you're walking through your day like a zombie, feeling cranky and having trouble concentrating, assess your sleep situation and start getting the amount you need. Go to bed a half-hour earlier for a week and see what happens. Add another half-hour the next week and continue until you can wake up naturally and refreshed. A good night's sleep is the best way to start your day. Don't leave home without it!
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

How to stop unwanted thoughts This story has a dozen versions. Pictures of work, piled high on your desk, dance through your mind at night. Or you've just had an argument with someone and can't get it out of your head. Maybe you have money worries, a sick child, a nagging boss or mice in the basement. Whatever the problem or problems, the thoughts just won't go away. How do you get rid of this infernal racket in your head? There is a technique for stopping stressful thoughts that is deceptively simple and it really works. You know what it's like to listen to someone go on and on about a particular issue. Eventually you get irritated and think, "I wish he'd stop already!" In a way, this is what happens when the inner voice in your head talks excessively. Perhaps you're mulling over a problem, or ruminating about a past event. You analyze it in minute detail, worry incessantly or even wallow in self-pity. The technique for dealing with this stressful monologue (in which you are both the talker and the listener) is called "Thought-Stopping." Just as you might say to a friend, "Can we talk about something else?" or even "Knock it off," you use a similar approach with yourself. Yell something sharp and loud and jarring at yourself to interrupt the flow of stressful conversation. Try words like, "Stop it!" "Enough!" "Cut it out!" "Cool it!" Use a forceful voice to really grab your attention. (Obviously. It's a good idea to do this when you're alone, otherwise you may alarm your family or co-workers!) Practise it in your car, in the shower, or when you're home by yourself. Try it for a few days to get the full impact. Then gradually quiet the messages until they're silent. I use the phrase, "That's enough, David!" when I catch myself with unwanted and unpleasant thoughts. Another phrase in vogue these days is, "Don't go there!" Anything's fine, as long as it stops you in your tracks. One of our hospital nurses taught me this variation. Place an elastic band around your wrist and, when you notice upsetting thoughts, snap the elastic gently - for impact, not pain - as you say, "Stop it!" or "Enough." Three tips here: make sure the elastic band isn't too tight; snap it on the back of your wrist (the hairy part), not the sensitive underside; and don't pull the thing back like a slingshot to give yourself a huge welt - a small gentle snap is all that's needed. Thought-stopping, however, is only half the story. If you use the technique and then sit there in a vacuum, the unwanted thoughts will likely return. So the second part of the exercise is to use some form of diversion or distraction. This can be a form of "thought substitution" where you purposely start thinking about something else - pleasant activities for the weekend, who to invite for lunch, or gift ideas for

an upcoming birthday. Or you might think about your next vacation or the trip you took last summer. Thought-stopping and thought substitution are especially useful if you waken at night with thoughts about work and have trouble shutting off the voice. This is where the elastic band works especially well (Rather than yelling "Stop It" and scaring your bed partner half to death!) If you can't get back to sleep, just lie quietly and think relaxing or pleasant thoughts. One of my favourite images is lying on the beach at Paradise Island in the Bahamas, seeing very clearly in my mind the white sand, the turquoise-blue water, the bright sunshine and palm trees waving gently in the breeze. It's a restful picture that helps me drift back to sleep. Another way to keep unwanted thoughts from recurring during the day is to use some form of physical diversion. Pick up the phone and call a friend, grab a magazine or read through your mail, turn on the radio or TV; have something to eat; do a crossword puzzle or focus your mind on something stimulating and challenging. The amazing thing about thought-stopping and thought substitution is that, simple as they are, they're very effective. Patients have left me voice mail messages over the years in which they've added at the end, "And by the way, tell David that thought-stopping really works!" It also illustrates the extent to which we can take control of our own minds and thinking. We can't stop thoughts from popping into our heads, but we certainly can choose how long to put up with them and how involved we want to get with them. You can change the way you feel by changing the way you think. Just knowing that fact is in itself very empowering. It's another reminder that we have more control than we think.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

Do you have trouble making decisions?


A friend of mine likes to tell the story about the time she and I went shopping in Los Angeles to find me a new bathing suit. We went to a couple of stores and looked at tons of bathing suits. I just couldn't decide. There was a lot to choose from - bathing trunks in every style and color imaginable. My friend was unbelievably tolerant and patient. Later, of course, I realized how close she must have been to tearing her hair out - or mine. You'd have thought I was buying a beach house - not beach wear! When I look back on that strange day, I think there were two problems: they had far too many choices and nothing really felt suitable (pardon the pun). Stuck with what felt like a bunch of second choices, I simply couldn't make up my mind. The irony is that I made the decision to change careers within days and I bought my last car within hours of test driving the one that fit my fancy. There are times we just know that the decision feels right and there's not much left to debate. At other times (often with more trivial choices), we can dither endlessly. Difficulty making decisions (or indecisiveness) is one of many stress symptoms discussed in an earlier column. I always ask new patients if they have trouble making decisions. One day a man paused, then said, "Well, yes and no..." I quickly wrote down, "Has trouble making decisions." However, difficulty making decisions can also be a source of stress in that uncertainty can lead to feelings of insecurity and confusion. The amount of choice we have in today's world is staggering. Walk into a supermarket to buy salad dressing and there are dozens to choose from. Compare that with my shopping experience in the Arctic in 1968. First of all, there was only one store - The Hudson Bay Company. And they sold only three kinds of salad dressing: Kraft Italian, French, and

Thousand Island. Shopping at The Bay in Inuvik was a five-minute experience. There was minimal debate, and no second-guessing afterward. Life was simpler then. Over my years as a physician, I've helped patients struggle with big and very difficult decisions (such as whether or not to leave a marriage, quit a job, or sell a house). While I can't decide for them, I assist them with the process and help them live with whatever decision they make. Here are some approaches that I've found helpful. 1. List all the options you can think of to solve a problem. Don't edit yourself at this stage - just make the most comprehensive list you can. For example, in a severe marriage conflict, the options aren't just simply to stay or leave. A list might look like this: A. Stay put and accept the status quo. B. Stay together, but work on the marriage and try to make it better. C. Stay in the marriage and get professional counseling. D. Stay in the marriage, but live separate lives. E. Trial separation F. Permanent separation G. Divorce. After you've listed your options, eliminate those that are unacceptable to you. Number the remaining items in order of preference and then decide which option to pursue. Then formulate a plan of action. 2. Use a "Ben Franklin Balance Sheet." I've used this helpful technique for years with patients and in my own life. Take an issue you're struggling with and list all the pros and cons of each option. For example, we had a condo up in cottage country that we felt ambivalent about (especially the 3hour drive). One day we discussed selling it. We set up a grid sheet with four quadrants as shown in the diagram.

Then we listed all the pros and cons we could think of for "Keeping the Place" and for "Selling the Place." You might expect that all the "pros" of one option would simply be repeated in the "cons" of the other. But by shifting your mind set from 'staying' to 'leaving,' you actually generate different ideas in the various lists. We also weighed the pros and cons of keeping the property but renting it out. By the end of the exercise, we had explored the issue much more fully than in our previous general discussions and the decision became clearer. Even when the balance sheet doesn't give you a clear answer, it does help to clarify the issues. In this sense, the process can be as important as the final decision. Another thing. Not all the factors will be of equal importance. You can deal with this by highlighting the most significant points or by using a rating scale. Apparently Ben

Franklin ranked each item on the "pros" side from +1 to +10 and each item in the "cons" list -1 to -10. He then calculated the totals to get a numerical answer.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

More ideas for making decisions...


3. Ask what's the best and the worst that can happen? Then weigh upside benefits vs. downside risks. A friend called me about a hot investment tip---a secure second mortgage paying 4% higher than current rates. I bounced it off my brother who is very wise in these matters. He asked two questions: "If it's so secure, why are they paying a 4% premium?" and "How much are you planning to invest?" I said, "$5,000." He did the math: "The extra 4% would only increase your return by $200 a year (your upside potential benefit). But your downside risk is that you could lose the whole $5,000. I wouldn't touch it." Put in those terms, the decision was easy. Here's a story where the upside benefit exceeded the downside risk. A patient was very unhappy in his job but wondered whether he should say anything about his grievances. He wanted things to improve but was afraid of making waves. However, he'd reached a point where, if things didn't get better, he was planning to leave. Speaking up had a potential upside of resolving his problems whereas the downside risk was minimal because he had one foot out the door anyway. So he talked to his employer, changes were made, and he happily stayed with the company. 4. Don't look for the perfect decision. A patient was struggling with a difficult decision. We listed all her options and every one of them had serious drawbacks. Finally, I suggested we change our perspective. "Let's stop looking for a good solution---there isn't one. Just pick the one that's least bad". 5. Imagine you've already made the decision and then notice how you feel. One of my patients was struggling with a decision and finally I said, "It sounds like a tie to me. Why don't we just flip a coin?" She said, "Okay." As soon as she saw that it was tails, her face dropped. "Do you want to go two out of three?" I asked. She quickly said, "Yeah." In that moment, she realized that her reaction was an indication of her true preference. 6. Use the 80/20 rule. In today's fast-moving business world, decisions have to be made quickly, often without having all the information. A rough rule of thumb is that, if you have 80% of the information you need, you've got enough to make the decision. 7. Listen to your heart, but give your head a vote. In relationships, we tend to go by gut reaction and emotion. This is understandable and probably unavoidable. But, when it comes to major decisions, you should also listen to your rational side. One of my patients was so taken by the new man in her life that, a month after their first date, she moved in with him. As she learned more about him warning bells started to go off in her head. Emotionally, she was still tremendously attracted to him. But her rational self started to admit that there were incompatibilities that were going to pose huge problems down the line. With great anguish she decided to end the relationship before she got in any deeper. 8. Listen to your intuition.

There are times when the little voice in your head keeps saying, "I don't think this is a good idea." It's tempting to ignore that voice, but sometimes it comes from the deepest part of your wisdom and you need to listen. Look at your previous track record. If you've ignored this voice in the past to your regret then it would be smart to take heed. On the other hand, if your internal voice has been overly cautious and you've missed some wonderful opportunities, then you may want to override it on occasion. 9. Don't make major decisions when you're angry or depressed. Strong emotion can skew your judgement and make it hard to see things clearly. When people are angry they may be tempted to punish another person or to do something out of spite. Similarly, when people are depressed their judgement is influenced by negative thoughts about themselves, the situation and/or the future. It usually pays to delay the decision until you feel better and see the situation more clearly. It might also help to bounce your thinking off a trusted friend or professional person to get their perspective. The next time you're in a state of indecision, consider some of these ideas. And if you're shopping for a bathing suit and you don't see anything you like leave the store! And take your fashion advisor with you.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

What did you expect?


When we decided to re-do our kitchen we wondered what to do with the cupboards. We were told about a broker who bought used cabinets and who might pay us $500 - $600 for them. When he offered $900, it so exceeded our expectations that we accepted on the spot. To this day I don't know whether we got a good deal or not. But it was much more than we expected so we were happy. Conversely, a lot of our stress reactions work like that: it's not the event itself that upsets us, but how it compares with our expectations. And when those expectations are unrealistic (i.e. unlikely to happen), we're almost guaranteed to feel some disappointment, frustration, or even anger. A woman was upset that her recently-separated husband wasn't calling or seeing the children. I asked how much time he'd spent with the kids before the separation. "Not very much - that's another thing I'm angry about." I then asked why she expected him to show more interest in the children than when he'd lived at home. She had no answer. I said: "I think your expectation is perfectly reasonable, but it's unrealistic given his track record over the years. I don't think it's going to happen." She agreed and her anger slowly dissolved. Even though his behaviour didn't please her, she reduced her stress by matching her expectation to the reality. We all have expectations - of situations, of other people and of ourselves. But when they're unrealistic, they're like a trap that we unwittingly set for ourselves. Unrealistic expectations about: A. Situations Do you get upset every time your computer glitches? Do you get ticked off when the computer help line puts you on hold for ten minutes? How about when your car-phone signal breaks up or cuts out in tunnels or bad weather? How do you feel when your airline departure is delayed---again? These are some realities of life in the age of technology. A few years ago, my son, then 12, understood this better than I did when I was getting frustrated with our computer. "Daddy, don't get upset. It's a new technology; they haven't worked out all the bugs yet." His expectations were realistic - mine weren't. Guess who had the stress?

B. People My patient has a boss who was driving him crazy. This guy, Roger, was generally uninvolved or nowhere to be seen. But when there was media coverage or they got an award, he was suddenly front and centre to receive the kudos. My patient found his behaviour exasperating. Every week he told me another "Roger" story. One day I said, "Roger seems to be a model of consistency. I can see why you're irritated by his behaviour, but why are you so surprised each time? Why are you expecting him to behave differently after all these years? Roger's just being himself." (A friend of mine calls this "Roger doing Roger.") I suggested he modify his expectations to conform with reality. The next week he came in with another "Roger" story, but he told it with a little less upset. "Well, he did it again this week!" The following visit he said, "The guy never lets you down. Listen to this." By the third visit, he actually laughed as he told me another totally predictable story. As he slowly acknowledged the pattern, his stressful reactions diminished. C. Ourselves People have a tough time if their expectations of themselves are so high that they can't be met. Perfectionists head this list. These people think that they will never make mistakes, that they must always be right and that they should never have a bad day. The reality is that we can't do it all, and we can't be all things to all people. We will make mistakes, we won't win every game (including Tiger Woods!). And not everybody is going to like us, no matter what we do. It would be easier if we stopped putting such impossible expectations on ourselves. Salesmen know they won't close every sale. In the insurance industry there's a rule of thumb that ten cold calls yield three appointments which result in one sale. That puts the hang-ups and rejections in perspective. It's all part of seeing things as they are, not as we'd, ideally, like them to be. So the next time you're upset, ask yourself why. And check to see if, maybe, you were expecting too much in the first place.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

careful what you say


One of my highly stressed patients was lamenting the pressures of his overloaded schedule. Among his many activities was volunteer work in a community organization. His position on the board required far more work than he'd expected. To lighten his load, I suggested he consider resigning his position. He said, "I can't do that. I'd feel like a quitter. I've never quit anything in my life." His father had taught him to never give up or surrender in the face of a challenge - especially in sports or schoolwork. I suggested that he not get hung up on the word "quit." "Think of it as making a necessary choice to help you take control of your life and reduce your stress. I'm not saying you should "quit" - only that you should "resign." (Actually, the dictionary defines "quit" with words like: "to set free, depart from, leave, let go, discontinue," and "to stop doing a thing." All these words describe an action without making any character judgements.) After our discussion, he gave notice that he would be leaving his position, a decision with which he now felt comfortable. This story illustrates the connection between language and feelings. I heard a phrase once that "we use language, but language also uses us." Certain words are like stress triggers or hot buttons where other words evoke far less reaction. The making of linguistic distinctions can help to reduce stress. I learned about the use of language from my mentor at Harvard, Dr. Matthew Budd. He's just written an excellent book on this subject called, "You Are What You Say: A Harvard Doctor's Six-Step Proven Program for Transforming Stress Through the Power of Language." (Crown Publishers, 2000) (Movie fans take note: the introduction is written by Patch Adams,

M.D.) It combines profound ideas and up-to-date brain research with a very conversational style and is filled with stories and examples. Each chapter ends with a summary and exercises you can do as a home study program. It's a terrific book which I highly recommend. Here are some distinctions in language that my patients have found helpful. A. Assertive vs. Aggressive Many people have difficulty speaking up for themselves and expressing their feelings. They fear they'll be perceived as aggressive. So they choose to say nothing and become passive. Fortunately, there's a middle ground between these extremes: being assertive. Aggressive speech involves being forceful, loud, blunt or even attacking other people. Assertiveness is when you speak up for yourself without putting the other person on the defensive. It involves telling them how you feel by using "I" statements. So instead of saying, "You're rude and inconsiderate," you'd say, "I get frustrated when you don't return my phone calls." Or, "I get upset when you're late for our appointments." Different words generate different mindsets. Being assertive feels O.K. where being aggressive does not. B. Feedback vs. Criticism If something bothers me in a restaurant, I find the management is much more receptive if I start with the phrase, "I'd like to give you some feedback - this is not criticism." Then I convey my message. If giving negative information is difficult for you, stop thinking of it as criticism (which feels threatening) and present it as feedback (which is constructive). C. Declining vs. Refusing If you have trouble saying "No" it may be the language you're using with yourself. Instead of thinking that you're "adamantly refusing," (which feels obstinate) think of yourself as "graciously declining." The fact is that you can't do everything that's asked of you or you'd quickly become overwhelmed. We all have to draw a line somewhere. So if someone makes a request you can't accept, think of yourself as "declining" rather than "refusing." It'll feel easier. D. Relaxation vs. Laziness A patient was deriding himself for his "laziness." Now a senior citizen, he found he needed to lie down and rest about an hour after breakfast and again in the afternoon. He'd always been active and busy, so he was unhappy with his current situation. I felt he was being unfair and hard on himself. After all, he was in his 70s and retired. But, he also had three serious diseases which left him tired and in constant pain. I was actually impressed by how well he was functioning and was captivated by his warmth and good humour. Laziness connotes sloth, indolence, and aversion to work - none of which applied to him. I said: "You're just lying down to 'relax' and 'take it easy'. That's not 'laziness'". He found this distinction helpful and started giving himself permission to do it without selfrebuke or guilt. These are some examples of how the words we use can make a difference in how we feel. Try some of these distinctions in your own life and see if they work for you.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

Long distance worrying


I saw a patient this morning with a very common problem. She had wakened twice in the night worrying about problems at work. And while some of the issues were current, many were more general and related to things that won't happen for a long time, if at all.

Worrying is both a cause and a symptom of stress. It's also a terrible drain on time and energy. Some worrying is normal and inevitable - such as when your teenager is still out two hours after curfew. But some people worry weeks or months in advance. This is a real timewaster - especially since most of the things we worry about never come to pass. I call this "long distance worrying." One of my patients calls it "borrowing trouble from the future." It's almost as if people are trying to get a head start so they can be miserable for as long as possible. It reminds me of the guy who receives a telegram that says: "START WORRYING - DETAILS TO FOLLOW." Some people believe that worrying wards off trouble. One of my patients calls it "preventive worrying." His philosophy is that if he worries about something, then it's not going to happen. Since it's impossible to prove a negative, this can be a difficult notion to dispel. It's like the story of the guy who's snapping his fingers all the time and somebody asks him, "Why are you doing that?" "To keep the elephants away." "There are no elephants within 5000 miles of here." "See, it works!" During the 1990s, a lot of worrying was about the possibility of job loss either through downsizing, restructuring or merger. People became hypervigilant to every nuance in the workplace. Any directive or off-hand remark was seen as a potential tip-off about some change in company policy. I learned to take a different approach to these matters. Whenever there were rumors of new government policy regarding doctors, I chose to take a "wait and see" approach and not get caught up in speculation and "what ifs." It saved me considerable aggravation. I've developed a philosophy for dealing with fears and unknowns about the future: "Don't worry about things until you know you have something to worry about." And there's a corollary: "If there is something to worry about, you'll have all the time in the world to worry about it then. You don't have to start early." These mottos have served me and many of my patients very well over time. What's the alternative? My antidote for worrying is not to ignore everything and bury your head in the sand. That kind of denial can be irresponsible or even dangerous. However, there is a middle ground between complacency and worry: "Concern." This is another distinction in language that relates to my column last week. On a spectrum it looks like this:

Here's how I define the difference between worry and concern: WORRY Involves emotion Fear, fretting, anxiety Problem-oriented CONCERN Involves the mind Caring about, interest in Solution-oriented

(reactive) Stressful, draining Hurtful

(proactive) Appropriate, constructive Helpful

In one of my seminars a man put it this way: "Worry is what I choke on; Concern is what I chew on." So, the alternative to worry is not blanking out your mind to matters of importance, but developing a more constructive and organized approach. There's an exercise that I've been using called "Creative Worrying". It can be done when you're fretting about a particular issue. For example, if you're worrying about something at bedtime, you might try this exercise before you crawl into bed. Sit down with a pen and paper and answer these four questions in writing: 1. What's the worst thing that can happen? What's my greatest fear? 2. How likely is it to happen? What is the likelihood of this actually occurring? 3. If it does happen, what would I do to handle it? What measures would I take to deal with the problem? 4. What can I do to either prevent it from happening or to prepare for it? Once you've answered these questions, you now have a game plan to implement if the worst really does occur. File it away and go to bed. There's nothing more that you can do right now. Further worry will add absolutely nothing. And just to keep things in perspective, remember the words of the French philosopher, Montaigne: "My life has been a series of catastrophes - most of which never happened." If you're a chronic worrier, review your track record and see that most of the things you worried about didn't happen after all. Also notice that, even when certain things did happen, you usually dealt with them and landed on your feet. That's a helpful reality check.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

The art of reframing


I was presenting a workshop at a conference, one of several concurrent sessions in the morning to be followed by a gala luncheon. There were about 100 people in my group and things seemed to be going well for the first 20 minutes. Then a woman at the back of the room gathered up her purse and writing materials and quietly walked out. My immediate thought was, "Gee, I must have been a big hit with her." The moment passed, I regained my confidence and carried on. An hour later the same woman reappeared, sat at the back of the room, opened her workbook and started to participate in the session. After 15 minutes she again picked up her things and left. This time I thought: "Well, there's strike two! She gave me a second chance and I blew it." Again I was taken aback, but quickly put it out of my mind.

At lunch, all the speakers were seated at one table. And guess who was sitting with us? She came over to me and said, "Your session was terrific. I'm sorry I couldn't stay." ("Yeah, right!" I thought.) She continued: "I'm one of the (conference) organizers and it was my job to slip in and out of the sessions to make sure things were under control. I could see your participants were really enjoying themselves. I wish I could have heard more." I was pleasantly surprised and relieved. That incident became a touchstone for me, a reminder not to jump to conclusions. It also illustrates that most of our stress comes not from events and situations, but how we interpret them. Things aren't always what they seem. In addition, it raises an exciting possibility. If stress usually results from the way we think about things, then we can reduce our stress by changing the way we think. The technique for doing this is called Reframing. It's one of the most powerful skills in our stress management repertoire. We all use reframing at times, spontaneously and by instinct. For example, I made a housecall on a teen-aged boy who was very sick. He had a high fever, raw red sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and an enlarged liver and spleen. After examining him, I said to his mother, "I'm pretty sure he has infectious mononucleosis. I just want to confirm it with a blood test." She immediately became alarmed and said, "He's got Mono?" Just then I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, that the kid was smiling. A moment ago he looked really sick, but now he looked pretty happy. I asked, "What are you smiling about?" He replied: "I have two exams next week. And I'm not prepared for either of them. Now I'm off the hook." He was right about that. He was too sick to go anywhere. But what he had done in that moment was a classic example of reframing. He had seen an upside to a down situation. We all do this on occasion, but we can learn to do it more consistently and by intention. When I was writing my first book, it took me four years to find a publisher. When the first rejection letters came in, I got a little discouraged. So I developed other ways of looking at the situation. 1. I did a reality check and admitted that it would be pretty unlikely for an unknown author to find a publisher on the first try. Obviously, the process takes time. 2. "The longer I wait for an acceptance, the more exciting it will be when it finally happens." (which certainly proved true) 3. "It'll make a much better story to tell later on than if I'd found a publisher quickly." ('The saga of how I overcame adversity') Success is more interesting when it involves struggle. 4. "This is a test of my determination and persistence," (plus patience and optimism). 5. "This gives me a chance to keep re-working my manuscript, to make it better." As Tom Peters observed: "Feedback is the breakfast of champions." In retrospect, I'm grateful the manuscript wasn't accepted in its early drafts. I think it's a much better book because of the time-consuming process that was required. Reframing helped me to manage the feelings of frustration and disappointment. By holding the rejections in a different way in my mind's eye, those letters started to look like rungs on a ladder rather than rebukes from the universe. By changing my thoughts I changed my feelings. I'll talk more about reframing next week. Incidentally, if I'd discovered that the woman left my seminar because she thought I was doing a lousy job, I would have reframed that too -perhaps by saying, "Well, I guess you can't please everybody all the time."

All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

Attitude is everything
In a baseball tournament I played in, we went into the bottom of the 9th inning trailing 17-7. We scored three runs before someone flied out to end the game at 17-10. As we walked off the field, our shortstop said, "You know what guys, we didn't lose. We just ran out of time!" This was an example of Reframing - looking at something from a different perspective to reduce stress. His comment didn't change the score. We still lost. But he gave us a bit of a lift, finding something positive to comment on. He also gave us a feeling of momentum for our next game. And he gave us a laugh - Reframing can be playful. People who see the world this way are more resilient and handle setbacks better than people who haven't yet learned the skill. If you study "stress-hardy" people, one of their shining characteristics is the ability to think differently about situations. A famous example is the story of Tom Sawyer. Mark Twain's hero was given the job of whitewashing a picket fence, which he wanted no part of. To avoid this task, he enticed his friends to do it for him. His strategy was to reframe the activity as being fun rather than a chore. He got them so keen to participate that they actually paid him for the privilege. And while they worked, Tom relaxed under a tree. In this case the reframing was for others - but it cleverly demonstrated that we can look at the same things from different points of view. There are certain questions that can help us to reframe situations: "How else can I look at this?" "How can I put this in a different perspective?" "Are there any positives or benefits to this situation?" "Is there anything I can learn from this?" Sometimes it's easier to reframe things for other people. So a helpful question would be, "What would I tell a friend in a similar situation?" When my children were small, we planned a Thanksgiving weekend with my sister and her family in Minneapolis. We were all looking forward to the trip when, at the last minute, one of the kids developed an ear infection and couldn't fly. We had to cancel and stay home. A mood of disappointment prevailed. My wife then said, "All right, there's nothing we can do about this. How can we reframe it?" My immediate thought was "That's easy - we just saved $1,000." But we came up with other benefits, including taking in a play we would otherwise have missed. This story illustrates an important point: often we can't choose what happens, but we can always choose how we think about what happens. This is the essence of reframing. In 1978 I developed pneumonia. When the diagnosis was made (complete with a chest x-ray that looked like a snowstorm) I was put on antibiotics and sent home for 10 days. I wasn't thrilled with the situation - but I quickly noticed an upside. There was a pile of books on my night table that I'd been itching to get at for months. This was the perfect opportunity - 10 days with nothing else to do but sleep and read. I decided the situation wasn't so bad after all. It had at least one redeeming feature - and that's what I chose to focus on. Here's another example of reframing. A patient of mine had been working like a drayhorse for years at a very demanding job and finally reached a point of burnout. He had to be off work and go on medication. He said his leave-of-absence made him feel weak, that he couldn't handle the pressure. I said, "It's interesting that you say that, because I had exactly the opposite thought. What struck me was how strong you must have been to put up with that grueling schedule and pressure for as long as you did. Most people would have wilted long

ago. I think this demonstrates your strength, not weakness. There's only so much any of us can put up with before our bodies says, 'I don't want to do this anymore.' Your body is only now saying 'that's enough'." This made him feel much more comfortable. He replied with a phrase that told me the reframe was both credible and helpful: "Gee, I never thought of it that way." So again we see that how you look at things influences how you feel. Negative thoughts drain you. Positive thoughts energize you. And you have a choice. So in any difficult situation, look for the positives and focus on the benefits.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

Reframing: The upside of a "crisis"


In the 1970s there was a postal strike that went on for several weeks. Businesses couldn't send invoices, people couldn't send birthday cards, and in Oakville, doctors couldn't mail letters to one another. One day, someone had a brain wave. "We all have mailboxes at the hospital for our lab reports. Why don't we just bring our letters to the hospital and pop them in each other's mailboxes until the strike is over?" That creative solution worked very well. But guess what happened after the strike? Nobody went back to using the mail. To this day, Oakville doctors exchange letters at the hospital - same day service and it's free. The strike had forced us to find a temporary solution that turned out to be better than the system we were using. We weathered a crisis and found an unexpected benefit. In English, "crisis" is a negative, stressful word for most people. If you hear that someone's having a crisis, you don't say, "Hey, that's great. Can I come over? I'll bring pretzels and beer and we'll have a crisis together." You're more likely to say, "Gee, I'm sorry to hear that. I hope things work out. Let me know if I can help." But in Chinese, the word crisis is written with two characters and each stands for a different concept: the first for "danger," the second for "opportunity." So while the English word, "crisis," has a negative connotation, in Chinese it invites you to see both the down side and an up side. It doesn't deny the negative. But it suggests a positive aspect as well. It encourages you to reframe the situation - to acknowledge the downside, but also to explore the possibilities and opportunities - just as we did during the postal strike. Overload is probably the biggest problem in today's workplace. In fact, it has reached crisis proportions for many people. Everyone seems to feel they have too much to do and not enough time. I ask participants in my seminars to articulate why having too much to do is stressful for them. This goes back to the premise that situations are rarely stressful in themselves. As Dr. Robert Sapolski says in his wonderful book, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers; "Our lives are filled with events that are ambiguous in meaning." It is our interpretation of these events that produces the stress. In analyzing why having too much to do is stressful, participants come up with many self-statements: I won't be able to finish I'll let other people down People will be angry with me It will affect my performance appraisal It could affect my career path I feel inadequate It isn't fair They're exploiting me I feel out of control

I then ask the group to reframe the same situation in order to reduce the stress. Strikingly, the list of positive ways to look at "too much to do" is always longer than the list of negative interpretations. Here are some examples: The time will pass quickly I won't be bored They must think I can do this (i.e. it's an implied compliment) I must be important It gives me job security (when there's so much to do) It's a chance to shine and profile my skills It's an opportunity to practice delegating and prioritizing (necessity forces us to develop better skills and to work smarter) It's an opportunity to learn new skills and information It's an opportunity to contribute to the company's success It's a chance to earn overtime income or get free time in lieu of It's a challenge ("I'll roll up my sleeves and dig in") I'll make it a game ("I'll see how much I can get done by the end of the day") Reframing a crisis is a practical, valid way of looking at things. It's not a con job or looking through rose-coloured glasses, or pretending to be Pollyanna. It's an acknowledgement that there are different ways to look at the situation, but some feel better than others. If the situation is happening anyway, then your best way to reduce stress is to choose positive ways to look at it. As Dan Sullivan, who mentors entrepreneurs in his "Strategic Coach" program, says: "Some of our best opportunities in life come to us cleverly disguised as problems." Several patients have told me that their heart attack was the best thing that ever happened to them. Sounds like a stretch, doesn't it? But they're very clear about the fact that it woke them up to a destructive lifestyle they'd been ignoring for years. So when a crisis arises in your own life, look for the blessing in disguise. You might be surprised at what you find.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

If you can't "optimize," then "neutralize"


Every outdoor social activity needs a back-up plan in case of bad weather. When Joe and Barbara were getting married, they planned a garden wedding on the shores of Lake Ontario. When the special day arrived, the weather was cloudy and, sure enough, in the afternoon a light rain started to fall. Was this a problem? Something to get stressed about? Not to Joe and Barbara. They'd planned for this contingency by arranging for a large outdoor tent just in case. So when they saw that rain was coming, they simply launched into Plan B. A large, colourful tent was set up with the side facing the water left open to expose the view. With an abundance of umbrellas and a lot of good cheer, the wedding went off without a hitch. Some people would have seen the weather as a serious "problem" and gotten very upset. Others would see it as a "situation" and therefore not get unduly stressed. This is another example of reframing. If you can't reframe things from negative to positive, you can still reduce your stress by reframing from negative to neutral. In other words, instead of saying "This is terrific," you'd say, "It's just the way it is. We can live with this." In my last column I talked about reframing a heavy workload or having too much to do. I listed some of the negative/stressful interpretations of this all too common phenomenon, but also related many positive ways of looking at the same thing. However, we can also reframe it by "neutralizing" it - with statements such as "It is what it is," or "this is the reality of today's workplace," or "I can only do what I can do" or even "I'll do the best I can, and take satisfaction from what I can get done."

In my 20 years of public speaking I've encountered a host of glitches and snags--- everything from rooms being too small and crowded to outside noise, from absent equipment to microphones that screech. I've learned to handle each of these with philosophical acceptance. I don't say, "Hey, this is great!" I use phrases like "This is what I have to work with. I have to make the best of it." I've learned to see these events not as problems, but simply as issues that have to be dealt with. Once, twenty minutes before I was to give a presentation to 200 schoolteachers, the power failed throughout the hotel. The only light in the room was the exit sign (perhaps a message from the universe to cancel the event and leave?) My seminar included overheads and an audiotape, none of which I could now use. I expected the program to be cancelled. How could you ask 200 people to sit in the dark and listen to a speaker they couldn't see? However, ingenuity prevailed. The hotel staff brought in a number of candles in elegant candlesticks and even a candelabra. (I felt like Liberace without the piano.) They brought me a flip chart so I could draw the diagrams I couldn't show on the screen. I then presented a two-hour workshop on stress management - by candlelight. It wasn't ideal and I had to make a lot of adjustments. It wasn't a fabulous turn of events. But we neutralized most of the problems, made do with the circumstances, turned a "problem" into a "situation" and simply got on with it. (Actually, it turned out to be a very peaceful atmosphere in which to talk about stress reduction.) Anthony Robbins offers an excellent example of reframing by "neutralizing" in his book, Unlimited Power. He notes that the word "failure" is negative and stressful. He suggests that we replace it with "results" or "outcomes." This removes the negative connotation on things that don't work out as we might wish. We can then evaluate these results and outcomes and decide how to improve them. We don't need to label them "failures" in order to do that.

As this diagram shows, we can reframe things helpfully in two ways. We can turn a negative into a positive ("optimizing" the problem) or we can turn a negative into a neutral ("neutralizing" the problem). Either way, our change of thinking will decrease the stress we experience in our bodies.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

Reframing other people's behaviour

My former junior high school principal told me how he handled discipline problems. One story was about a boy sent to the office because he had thrown a snowball through a window (which, unfortunately for him, was closed at the time). The student knew he was in trouble not only for the damage, but also for breaking a school rule. The principal sat him down and began by asking, "So tell me Bobby, what was going through your mind when you threw that snowball?" Totally disarmed, the boy explained

himself while the principal listened with patience and respect. Then the principal said: "Thanks for helping me understand what happened. Is there anything else? Is everything okay at home?" And again, Bobby filled in some relevant background information. The principal then said, "It's helpful for me to know what contributed to this incident. Now, as you know, a school is a form of community and communities have rules. And when rules are broken there have to be consequences. What do you think would be a fair consequence in this situation?" He told me that students would often come up with harsher punishments than anything he had in mind. The result of the conversation was that the student felt listened to, heard, understood and fairly treated. And the principal learned more about what made his students tick and behave as they did. What a much more enlightened way of dealing with children than to simply bring them into a room and bawl them out. It's stories like these that made this man so admired by his colleagues and respected by his students. There's an important lesson here about how we can use reframing to reduce the stress of interacting with other people. We usually react not to what somebody does, but to our interpretation of why they did it. For example, you walk into work on Monday morning and say "Hi" to Joe - but he doesn't return your greeting. You feel a little hurt or insulted. Your upset results not from Joe's lack of response, but from what you think it means. You may say to yourself, "He seems to be angry at me, or he doesn't like me or he thinks I'm not very important." In essence, you're assuming that his lack of reply reflects a negative feeling about you. It would be helpful at that moment to consider other possible reasons for Joe's behaviour. Maybe he didn't hear you; or he was preoccupied with other thoughts, or some personal problems were weighing on his mind, or perhaps he was just in a hurry. Given that your interpretation of his behaviour is based on mind reading, guessing and conjecture, there's no way for you to know with any certainty why Joe didn't acknowledge your greeting. So much of our interaction with others is based on this kind of judgement and self-talk. In discussions with patients, I often challenge their interpretations and ask them what other possible explanations they can think of for someone's behaviour. For example, a man applied for a job and went for an interview. The meeting went well and he was told he'd be called back by the end of the week. He hadn't heard anything for ten days. His mind was filled with negative messages: they didn't care about his feelings, he was hanging in limbo, he didn't get the job, the company was unreliable. I asked him what other factors might explain why he hadn't been called. He came up with several possibilities: perhaps the selection process hadn't been as clear-cut as they expected; maybe new applicants had surfaced; a corporate emergency might have come up; the decision-maker could be sick, etc. Early the following week he got a call to come in for another interview. The person apologized for the delay - a family crisis had taken him away from work for several days. The applicant felt relieved. But during the stressful waiting period, it helped him to look at other reasons why he wasn't phoned, instead of assuming the worst. We often jump to conclusions about why things happen - or don't happen - and get ourselves unnecessarily upset. The fact is that people's behaviour is mostly about them, not you. It's an important perspective to keep in mind. It will not only reduce your stress, but will help you to be a more open-minded, understanding person as well.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

Dealing with difficult people

Early in my training I encountered a doctor who triggered a tremendous amount of stress in me. I found him extremely arrogant, smug, and full of himself. He also seemed to have a very condescending and patronizing manner that I found very offensive. It was bad enough that I had to periodically encounter him in some of my training rotations, but the capper came when I was assigned to his service for two months. I couldn't imagine how I'd get through the ordeal. As we started to work together, I found him less abrasive and irritating than I'd expected. Then something amazing happened. He asked me to work with him on a long case and I found myself feeling flattered by the request. During our several hours together I found myself lightening up and kibitzing a bit. He responded and by the end of the afternoon we had made a real breakthrough. That was a turning point, but it got even better. As I got to know him I enjoyed him more and more. Most importantly, I realized that he wasn't arrogant or smug at all. In fact, he was extremely shy and soft-spoken and what I had taken to be arrogance was a combination of shyness and the way he compensated for his social unease. His behaviour and mannerisms didn't change, but my view of them changed totally. In the final ironic twist, he actually became one of my favourite people and we became real friends. It was a lesson in how easy it is for us to misinterpret other people and to react not to who they are, but to our interpretations and judgements of them. This experience taught me something very important about dealing with difficult people: that the more you learn about them, the better you understand them. Even if you don't end up liking a person, getting to know him or her can lessen the feelings of tension. So, Appraisal of where they're coming from and what makes them tick is an excellent way of dealing with difficult people, but not the only one. Let's look at some others. Avoidance: An obvious way of dealing with stressful people is to just stay away from them. And where this is feasible, it usually works. However, there are four problems with this approach. One is that it's not always possible to avoid people, particularly if you work or live with them. Second, if you avoid people who are still in your orbit you may find yourself looking over your shoulder to make sure they're not nearby. This can be stressful in itself. The third problem is that you don't learn how to deal with the person if you simply skirt around the problem. It won't help you to develop better coping strategies. And fourth, you could actually end up magnifying your stress when you do see them. I learned this lesson years ago when I ran into someone I'd been studiously and stubbornly ignoring. He was sullen, abrasive and generally disliked and I wanted nothing to do with him. One day I found myself walking towards this person with not another soul around. It would have been too obvious if I'd turned around and gone the other way. So I kept walking, determined not to make eye contact with him. I was going to show him what a jerk I thought he was! Well, guess whose stress level went up with every step? As I passed him, I noted with dismay (and, frankly, some amusement) what a lousy strategy I'd concocted. I felt more stress when I couldn't avoid him. After that, I realized avoidance was a "losing game" - and I gave it up. Appeasement: This is where you concede to the other person and give them what they want in order to avoid conflict. This is the "line of least resistance" often employed by "pleasers." One of my patients used this approach with an aggressive friend of hers, saying that "being a pleaser is easier." However, she started to realize that appeasement wasn't really easier at all. It perpetuated her upset and gave her friend the impression that her behaviour was acceptable. In effect, she gave tacit permission to the other person to continue to be controlling, domineering, and bossy. Appeasement may be necessary at times (to avoid a scene, for

example), but isn't a great strategy on an ongoing basis. It keeps you feeling powerless and victimized. In my next columns, I'll explore other (better) ways of dealing with difficult people.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

One of my patients was having problems with her verbally abusive husband. While he could be charming at times, and was never physically abusive, he had a way of attacking her on occasion, often when she least expected it. He would go into a tirade of berating and criticizing, making her feel small and unworthy. These attacks were taking a toll on both her self-esteem and her affection for him. I sensed that he wasn't a malicious guy and probably didn't appreciate how much harm he was doing to her and their relationship. One day I made a suggestion. "The next time he does that, why don't you listen as impassively as possible and, when he's finished, just say to him, 'Thanks for sharing that with me' and walk away." She burst out laughing and couldn't wait to try it. At her next visit she reported what happened. He got all wound up and went into his spiel. She listened without getting upset. Then she delivered her quiet message in a dignified way, without sarcasm. He got flustered and embarrassed. He looked totally deflated - like a balloon that had suddenly lost all its air. From that point on, he became a pussycat - pleasant, subdued and easy to get along with. However, a few weeks later he reverted to form and started winding up to take another strip off her. Only this time, she pre-empted him. Feeling empowered from having stood her ground before, she did something that was totally out of character for her. Spontaneously, she said to him, "Are you about to launch into one of your attacks again? Because if you are, I don't want to get into it with you, but I do want to watch." And with that she pulled over a chair, sat down and ceremoniously got herself adjusted and comfortable. Then she looked up at him and said, "Okay, I'm ready." He stood there nonplussed, mumbled something and walked away. And, again, he immediately became more pleasant toward her. This woman finally realized that she didn't have to put up with his behaviour anymore - and that she had tacitly been giving him permission to verbally abuse her in the past. She had given power to him by allowing him to treat her badly without objecting. She had now found ways to break the cycle. Better yet, she did so without being argumentative or provoking a fight. One of my metaphors for this dynamic is the game of tennis. How many people does it take to play tennis? The answer, of course, is two. How many people does it take to break up a tennis game? The obvious answer is one. Either person can decide that they don't want to play anymore and stop the game. They can walk off the court or, as one of my patients put it, "stop returning the serve."

In abusive relationships there are two participants: the abuser and the "abusee" (who has tacitly agreed to be the victim). It's a subconscious dynamic, but in essence the victim is in collusion with the attacker. For every dominant person, there needs to be someone willing to be submissive. (Please note that I'm not talking about unprovoked acts of violence or crime where the victim is truly a victim. I'm talking about relationships in which the balance of power has shifted with one person assuming certain prerogatives and the other, subconsciously, going along and condoning that behaviour.) One key to dealing with this kind of situation is to realize it's happening. If you feel intimidated, anxious, or not good about yourself when you're with a particular person, you're quite possibly experiencing some form of abuse from them. The other key is to realize you don't have to put up with it. Patients have used phrases such as: "I decided not to let him get to me anymore" or "I'm not giving her permission to keep doing this to me." Then they take measures to interrupt or stop the game. Occasionally the abuser will up the ante and escalate the abuse. But, usually, they back down when their victims stand up to them. Next week I'll talk further about this.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

Stop giving power to abusive people


One of my patients was dealing with a verbally abusive boss. He would ride herd on her in a variety of ways: using foul language, criticizing, nagging, and being in her face. She was very good at her job and valuable to the company, so he didn't have a lot to complain about, but that didn't stop him from undermining her every chance he got. Unfortunately his continual harassment kept her off-balance and eroded her self-esteem, so she had less confidence with which to fight back. However, one day she came into my office and announced that she had finally addressed the problem and asserted herself. She summed it up by saying, "I decided to take the 'kick-me' sign off my back." In other words, she decided that she'd had enough and wasn't prepared to put up with this behaviour any longer. It was risky, but she was prepared to take a chance. And, as often happens when abusive people are confronted, he backed off (after a few petulant remarks as his parting shots). Things improved after that. Abusive behaviour is a strategy that some people use to control situations or other people. In a sense, it's a weapon being used in a power struggle. When I encourage patients to stop putting up with this abuse, some think I'm suggesting that they become dominant and take control. This would be a role reversal which most people

would be afraid to try. It's not what I'm advocating. I merely suggest that they stop participating in the perpetrator-victim struggle that's going on. The metaphor I use is a Popsicle, which has two halves. In an uneven, power-wielding relationship, it's as if the abusive person has the whole thing. The message to get across is not "I want the whole Popsicle," but rather "I don't want your half. I just want that you not have my half. In other words, let's share the Popsicle by splitting it." The result is more balance in the relationship. This is what I mean when I encourage people to take back the power that they've given to others. There are two kinds of control: one is control over others (which I call power) and the other is control over yourself (which I call autonomy). CONTROL OVER OTHERS (POWER) CONTROL OVER SELF (AUTONOMY) So in taking control back from other people, aim for autonomy and self-determination, not power over someone else. Abusive people are not as tough as you think I often ask patients to evaluate the self-esteem of the abusive people in their lives. "On a scale of 1-100, how high would you rate this person's self-esteem?" The answer usually is "very high" or "90," something like that. It's interesting how we view abusive people. They seem confident and imposing so we assume they like and feel good about themselves. The fact is, it's usually the opposite. Abusive people almost invariably have low self-esteem, feel insecure about themselves and are actually trying to build themselves up by putting other people down. It's as if they can't feel good about themselves on their own merits, so they try to make themselves feel bigger by making others smaller. Incidentally we can all be irritable or unwittingly abusive at times---for example: when we're highly stressed, angry or are frustrated about something. I'm not talking about this occasional behaviour. I'm referring to a pattern of abuse and harassment. So, remember that when people are routinely abusive and hard to get along with, they are usually feeling not very good about themselves. Whatever bluster or facade of power they're trying to project, they are usually feeling pretty small or even frightened inside. It's like Dorothy discovering that the Wizard of Oz is nothing more than a small man with a microphone hiding behind a screen. Before you give power to intimidating people, keep in mind that they're not as big and tough as you've made them out to be. And as soon as your backbone gets straighter and stronger, you'll see how quickly they usually retreat from trying to push you around.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

How I learned to meditate


Let me begin with a confession. When I started to do stress management counseling in 1981, I thought that relaxation techniques were flaky. I'd heard they were effective but they seemed out on the fringe to me. I couldn't relate to them. Here's the story of my personal odyssey from skeptic to advocate. When I decided, in 1985, to make stress management my full-time pursuit, I realized that I needed to know more about relaxation skills. I enrolled in a course taught by Eli Bay whom I'd met at a conference. My wife was interested as well, so we went together. There were 20 people in the class. I fully participated in the sessions and did the homework assignments faithfully. But I felt detached from the group - and frankly a bit smug. My inner

voice said: "I'm here out of academic interest - not because I really need this stuff!" However, by the third session I noticed something interesting -- I was no longer clenching my jaw nor grinding my teeth. Then it hit me: "Wake up, Wise Guy, there's something of value here for you too." That certainly shifted my attitude and I became fully committed to the process. I completed the course with a considerable repertoire of relaxation techniques, many of which I still use to this day. Fast forward to 1996. By now I was a firm adherent to the principles of relaxation, and had referred many patients to the course. One day, a young man I was counseling told me he'd enrolled in a course on Transcendental Meditation. A few weeks later he was meditating for 20 minutes twice a day. I asked how he found the time to do that. "When you get this much benefit out of something, you make the time." That really caught my attention. I decided to check it out myself. My wife joined me for the introductory lecture. They showed a video which featured the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi himself as well as clips of several high-powered CEOs and celebrities who practiced meditation. One of them was football legend Joe Namath who used to meditate in a corner of the dressing room before games. We signed up for the course. It finished on a Tuesday and the next day we flew to the Bahamas for a vacation. We arrived in Nassau at night, checked into our hotel and went to bed. The next morning I looked outside at the inviting scenery and prepared to go to breakfast. My wife said we had to meditate first. (The course advocates meditating for 20 minutes on waking in the morning and, again, in the afternoon.) I said, "Let's start when we get home. It's a beautiful day out there." Fortunately, she persisted. "No, we have to do this. We need to get off on the right foot." Of course she was right so we delayed our breakfast and meditated. That afternoon we were out on the beach, swimming and reading and enjoying the sun. Around 4:00 Susan said, "We need to go in and meditate again." There was no way I wanted to leave this gorgeous afternoon and so, again, I resisted. We compromised. We decided to meditate on the beach. Now you have to know this was one busy place: scores of people, music, chatter, local folks selling everything from tee-shirts to parasailing rides to braiding peoples' hair. There, in the midst of all this chaos, we settled into our chairs and mediated. (Actually, aside from all the external commotion, it was a pretty idyllic setting.) We continued to do this for the rest of the week and after we returned home. Within a few weeks, I began to notice the benefits. I felt more calm and relaxed and the activity itself was effortless and pleasant. It was a great way to start the day and provided a wonderful break in the afternoon. I was hooked and I still meditate regularly. I meditate quietly at home and at my office, but also on trains and planes, in the dentist's chair during a procedure - just about anywhere. I've also noticed a lot of creative thoughts during meditation. It's a real discipline to keep from jumping up to write them down. However, I usually remember the ideas after I'm finished. I've gone from being a skeptic to an adherent to an advocate of relaxation and meditation, recommending it to others and extolling its many virtues. Next week I'll talk further about the theory and principles of relaxation. The human body is beautifully designed and balanced. Just as we have the ability to trigger a stress reaction when we feel threatened, we also have, hardwired into our nervous system, an opposite physiological state of total relaxation. Harvard's Dr. Herbert Benson calls this "The Relaxation Response." It's not only a pleasant state to be in, but is an important natural antidote to the stress reaction, allowing our bodies to recover from and reverse the effects of sustained stress.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

The "relaxation response" is the mirror image opposite of the "fight-or-flight reaction." When we feel threatened our heart rates speed up, blood pressure rises, breathing gets faster, muscles tense, etc. In a relaxation state, the heart rate slows down, blood pressure decreases,

breathing gets slower and deeper, muscles relax and so on. However, unlike the stress reaction which is involuntary and triggers automatically, the relaxation response has to be brought forth voluntarily and by intention. This means that we have to choose to become relaxed in order for it to happen. Fortunately, there are many ways to do this that are easy to learn: meditation, yoga, hypnosis, visualization and others. In the "relaxation response," unlike sleep, the body is fully relaxed but the mind is awake and under conscious control. The goal is to "empty the mind" of thoughts and concerns and to let it simply exist in a relaxed state. To prevent distracting thoughts, concentrate on a mantra, or your breathing or other calming, repetitive images. Relaxation exercises should be done in a quiet, comfortable environment. You can sit or lie down. Loosen tight clothing, remove shoes and glasses, and get fully comfortable. For maximum benefit, you should practice regularly (15-20 minutes/day) but you can also use the skills on an "as needed" basis (e.g. before a job interview or giving a presentation). Relaxation (abdominal) breathing Relaxation breathing can be used on its own, but is often combined with other techniques. It gets its name from the fact that we breathe differently when we're stressed than when we're relaxed. Under stress, the chest expands, shoulders rise, and we breathe rapidly ? in order to take in air quickly. During relaxation, the movement is in the abdomen, which expands with each breath in. This is the way we all breathed when we were infants and how we still breathe when we're asleep. As Eli Bay of "The Relaxation Response" in Toronto puts it, "When you breathe as if you are relaxed, you become relaxed." Five principles of relaxation breathing: 1. Breathe in through your nose and out through your nose or mouth (opened slightly). 2. Breathe into your abdomen ? feel your tummy rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. 3. Breathe slowly ? otherwise you'll hyperventilate. 4. Start by breathing out ? to empty your lungs in preparation for the first deep breath. 5. Focus on and observe your breathing (like a form of self-hypnosis). If you're having trouble coordinating this, put one hand on your tummy and the other hand on your chest. As you breathe, focus on the abdominal hand moving, but the chest hand staying still. Practice this for five minutes to start ? then slowly increase to 15 or 20 minutes. Progressive (muscle) relaxation Edmund Jacobson was a Chicago physician who published a 1929 book called, Progressive Relaxation. In it he described a technique of deep muscle relaxation which reverses the muscle tension of a stress reaction. This is another way of accessing the relaxation response. It involves focusing on different muscle groups and consciously letting them relax. Start from your toes and work up, going slowly and with conscious awareness. Focus your attention on the muscles of your toes and allow them to relax. Then move your attention to the muscles of your feet and then let them relax. Then your ankles, shins, calves, knees, etc. As you let go of tension in each muscle group, continue to relax the muscles that you've already relaxed so that you can feel the wave of relaxation rising in your body. The best books for learning a variety of relaxation techniques are: The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook, by Davis, Eshelman, and McKay (New Harbinger Publications) and The Wellness Book by Dr. Herbert Benson and Eileen Stuart (Birch Lane Press, 1992). While these techniques can be learned from books or even tapes, I think the best way of acquiring these skills is to take a course. It gives you hands-on teaching and practice, along with structure and support if you have problems with self-discipline. I recommend that

couples take the course together, to increase the commitment and to be able to give support to each other. Relaxation techniques are safe, portable, natural, and have no negative side effects. They are easy to learn, pleasant to do, and there are multitudes of different techniques to choose from. And they work!
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

The Importance of Social Support


Chris Michalak is one of the real feel-good stories of this young baseball season. Michalak is a rookie pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays who began the year by beating the New York Yankees right in Yankee Stadium. But what's most notable about Michalak is that he's 30 years old and spent the last eight years in the minor leagues - which is unusual by today's standards. Many stories have already been written about Chris's determination, persistence, and patience while trying to get his professional career on track. And in most of these articles and interviews, Michalak has made a point of paying tribute to his wife whose support was invaluable to him over the last four years of struggle. However difficult those years may have been, the fact that his wife believed in him and continued to encourage him was crucial to his success. This story illustrates the importance of support systems in our lives. Here's another example. A friend of mine just had her first book published, a wonderful and satisfying accomplishment. It was also an occasion for celebration. Her husband and children pulled together a spectacular party with great entertainment and an even bigger surprise - two of her siblings flew over from Europe for the event. What made the affair so memorable and meaningful was that it was shared with dozens of loving relatives and friends - who were celebrating the author herself, not just her book. Milestones such as special birthdays and anniversaries are enriched immeasurably when our nearest and dearest are there with us. Social support is most helpful at times of stress. My children have had several surgical procedures in their young lives. And even though I'm a doctor, these are times when I can do nothing for them medically. I have to leave that part to my surgical colleagues. But what I can do is to be there with them for as much of the time as I'm allowed. The unspoken message is that "I can't always protect you from pain, but I can be here with you when you have to experience pain so that you won't be alone." My wife and I see our role as giving comfort, providing distraction, giving reassurance, answering questions, allaying fear, and even, when appropriate, being a kibbitzer and trying to get the kids to laugh. Sharing difficult times together made those experiences more manageable and also brought us closer together as a family. Being a member of a team provides another kind of support system. I play in a baseball league in which the friendliness among the players is a big part of game. There's a lot of good-natured ribbing, but it's at times of difficulty that the camaraderie really shows. When guys commit errors or strike out with men on base, there's rarely a critical word said. Almost invariably, words of encouragement or consolation are heard. Friendly pats on the back help to overcome any sense of embarrassment or disappointment that might pull the game down for the person in question. A much more important form of teamwork goes on with medical support groups. Studies have shown that women with breast cancer have considerably better outcomes when they participate in support groups with other breast cancer patients. In one British study, survival rates were double for women participating in such a group. With alcoholics, the most effective treatment program has been Alcoholics Anonymous. I attended several AA meetings when I was a family doctor (accompanying my alcoholic patients) and I can attest

to the amazing dynamics at those meetings. There is an air of welcome, acceptance, and understanding. Members provide support to struggling peers. They also acknowledge and celebrate milestones of sobriety. The support is most meaningful because it comes from other alcoholics who know exactly how hard it is to overcome this addiction. So we see that social support makes our lives richer, helps us overcome adversity and comforts us better than almost anything else. Next week I'll talk further about support systems and how to develop them. Incidentally, in the course of my preparing this column, Chris Michalak just won his third game as a Blue Jay by knocking off the New York Yankees again, this time at Toronto's Sky Dome. The guy looks like he's "for real" - and I'm sure his support system is cheering louder with every victory.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

Social support: Why and how


A new patient came to see me for stress counseling. He had never talked to any professional before and the words just poured out of him. He talked in an animated way for almost an hour. At the end of the session he stood up, grasped my hand with both of his and enthusiastically told me how much I had helped him. In fact, I had said little and offered no specific suggestions. The benefit came from venting his feelings and getting years of emotional pain off his chest. What I provided was a safe environment in which he could speak freely. And I provided a caring, attentive ear. In that hour I became part of his social support network - which, unfortunately, had no other members at that time. Social support has a huge impact on reducing stress. Many studies show that social support decreases the stress response hormones in our bodies. In his book, Love and Survival (Harper Perennial, 1998) Dr. Dean Ornish notes that people who have close relationships and a strong sense of connection and community enjoy better health and live longer than those who live in isolation or alienation. People who suffer alone, suffer a lot. Benefits of social support include:
1. Emotional support and encouragement: a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen.

Talking about feelings (ventilation) reduces stress and helps us to work through problems and feel better about ourselves.
2. Logistical support: at times of overload, illness or injury, people can take care of our

children, help with tasks or errands or drive us to medical appointments.


3. Mentoring and Coaching: after a job loss or relationship break-up, it helps to talk to

people who have been through a similar experience and can share the lessons they've learned. They can also show us how to use a computer, build a deck, write a resume or prepare for an interview.
4. Networking: people in our support system can tell us about a job opportunity, a good

car mechanic or a new book club. A lot of people have difficulty opening up to others. Many patients tell me they feel weak or vulnerable when they admit they're having problems. Or they don't trust people to keep the information confidential. And yet, as hairdressers, bartenders, and taxi drivers will tell you, people often reveal surprisingly personal information to total strangers. This indicates that people feel a need to talk about their feelings, although they're selective about who they'll open up to. Interestingly, many patients who don't share their feelings tell me that other

people often confide in them - and that they feel flattered and enjoy being helpful. Yet they're reluctant to discuss their own personal lives or feelings. How to develop and use a support system 1. Find people whom you trust and who care about you. You don't need a gallery of folks - a few close friends or relatives will suffice. 2. The best time to develop a support system is before you need it. Don't wait till you're halfway up the twist and then run out to some passer-by on the street and say: "I have to tell you about my day!" 3. The best way to develop a support system is to give support to others. This establishes a relationship and builds trust and goodwill. When you know someone is upset, ask if they'd like to talk about it. Then listen patiently and empathically. Call or visit someone who's sick or going through a rough time. Then, when you need a listening and caring ear, you'll have built a connection that can be reciprocated comfortably. As my father put it: "Just keeping giving and the taking will look after itself."
4. Confide only what's comfortable for you. You don't have to divulge your entire life

story. Venting feelings is more important than sharing details. A couple went through a very tough time when their child was hospitalized after a serious injury. "We called on our support system and told them what we needed. We knew we couldn't get through it alone." 5. Turn to people with whom you feel comfortable (relatives, friends, neighbours, colleagues at work, family doctors, clergymen, or even specific professionals such as therapists--what a colleague of mine calls "renting a friend."). 6. Don't judge yourself as weak or "less than" when you seek support. We all feel stressed, angry, frustrated or scared at times. It's a mistake to keep those feelings in. Having problems doesn't mean you're weak. It only means you're human. And there's a saying that "A problem shared is a problem halved."
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

Communication aggravation

I was invited to give a workshop for a group of high-powered executives. It was held at a small lakeside resort on a sunny day in June - an idyllic setting for talking about work-life balance and values. At the mid-morning break I noticed three group members chatting out on the driveway. But they weren't talking to one another. Each had a phone against his ear, presumably talking business. "Well," I thought, "maybe some things can't wait." But then I looked out the lakeside window at another group on the deck. Despite the lovely view, they also had phones stuck in their ears, each preoccupied with a seemingly important conversation. I wondered: "What's wrong with this picture?" We're gathered for a peaceful retreat on a beautiful lake to get some perspective on their lives - and they're trying to fit business into the cracks. This is not an isolated incident. I've asked people to turn off their laptops during seminar breaks. They reply that if they don't pick up their messages continuously, they'll have 100 emails to deal with by the end of the day. We live in a wired world. It's a mixed blessing. I remember the big breakthrough when doctors got pagers. They allowed us to be out and about when we were on call instead of being tied to a telephone. What freedom! However, in today's world, pagers, cell phones, voice mail and email, have created an electronic leash instead of liberation. As David Brooks put it in a recent Newsweek article, "Never being out of touch means never being able to get away."

And this isn't the only kind of communication aggravation. We've all been on trains and buses where one insensitive passenger with a cell phone and a loud voice can infuriate dozens of travelers who only want to read or sleep. We also get to learn far more about the exhibitionist than any of us wanted to know. Here's another scenario. I recently called the help line for one of my office techno-gizmos that was on the fritz. I was then led through a maze of voice mail menus the likes of which I'd never encountered before. They were so multi-layered you needed to draw flow diagrams to keep track of all the options. The meta-message it conveyed to me was, "We've already made the sale. We're not interested in your problem. Go away!" After three rounds of this charade, I hung up, called the dealer from whom I'd bought the equipment, and said, "I'd like you to handle this. Your supplier doesn't seem to be very customer-focused." Then there's the steady stream of misdirected faxes I receive that are meant for a professional office in town with a fax number similar to mine. This leads to questions of "fax etiquette." Do I ignore them (and risk being a bad citizen), resend them to the proper number (which takes time - some of these documents are 10-20 pages long), call the sender (or intended recipient) to tell them their message went astray? And who should pay for all the paper and ink these unwanted faxes consume? And while we're at it, unsolicited marketing faxes are another plague, adding to your overhead costs while the advertiser incurs no expense at all. Great racket - no wonder there's so much of it. Then there's the "hurry-up" factor. A lawyer told me: "I used to get letters asking for an opinion. I'd think about it and mail back a reply. Now I get a fax asking for a response by 2:00 p.m. today. Then I receive a phone call an hour later, asking, 'Did you get my fax? What do you think?'" This expectation of accelerated turnaround is not only stressful, but often precludes any time for reflection. We're expected to react rather than respond. And unless we do something about it, it's only going to get worse. And finally, my favourite: call waiting - (which I label "call aggravating"). I understand the need for businesses to answer each call, which sometimes means putting people on hold. But residential phones where each incoming call beeps a signal to interrupt? Persistently? Every time a phone partner says, "Oh, just a second, let me get this call." I feel like they're really saying, "Hold on a sec - this call might be more important than you." What a great technological innovation! How did we ever get along without it? Did I mention spam emails that take several minutes to download? Or those error messages that come up to tell you that you can't connect with your Internet server - just as you're tidying up to go on vacation? These are some of the joyous wired-world experiences I call "Communication Aggravation." Next week I'll discuss ideas about taming the monster that's taking over our lives.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

Communication aggravation
I was invited to give a workshop for a group of high-powered executives. It was held at a small lakeside resort on a sunny day in June - an idyllic setting for talking about work-life balance and values. At the mid-morning break I noticed three group members chatting out on the driveway. But they weren't talking to one another. Each had a phone against his ear, presumably talking business. "Well," I thought, "maybe some things can't wait." But then I looked out the lakeside window at another group on the deck. Despite the lovely view, they also had phones stuck in their ears, each preoccupied with a seemingly important conversation. I wondered:

"What's wrong with this picture?" We're gathered for a peaceful retreat on a beautiful lake to get some perspective on their lives - and they're trying to fit business into the cracks. This is not an isolated incident. I've asked people to turn off their laptops during seminar breaks. They reply that if they don't pick up their messages continuously, they'll have 100 emails to deal with by the end of the day. We live in a wired world. It's a mixed blessing. I remember the big breakthrough when doctors got pagers. They allowed us to be out and about when we were on call instead of being tied to a telephone. What freedom! However, in today's world, pagers, cell phones, voice mail and email, have created an electronic leash instead of liberation. As David Brooks put it in a recent Newsweek article, "Never being out of touch means never being able to get away." And this isn't the only kind of communication aggravation. We've all been on trains and buses where one insensitive passenger with a cell phone and a loud voice can infuriate dozens of travelers who only want to read or sleep. We also get to learn far more about the exhibitionist than any of us wanted to know. Here's another scenario. I recently called the help line for one of my office techno-gizmos that was on the fritz. I was then led through a maze of voice mail menus the likes of which I'd never encountered before. They were so multi-layered you needed to draw flow diagrams to keep track of all the options. The meta-message it conveyed to me was, "We've already made the sale. We're not interested in your problem. Go away!" After three rounds of this charade, I hung up, called the dealer from whom I'd bought the equipment, and said, "I'd like you to handle this. Your supplier doesn't seem to be very customer-focused." Then there's the steady stream of misdirected faxes I receive that are meant for a professional office in town with a fax number similar to mine. This leads to questions of "fax etiquette." Do I ignore them (and risk being a bad citizen), resend them to the proper number (which takes time - some of these documents are 10-20 pages long), call the sender (or intended recipient) to tell them their message went astray? And who should pay for all the paper and ink these unwanted faxes consume? And while we're at it, unsolicited marketing faxes are another plague, adding to your overhead costs while the advertiser incurs no expense at all. Great racket - no wonder there's so much of it. Then there's the "hurry-up" factor. A lawyer told me: "I used to get letters asking for an opinion. I'd think about it and mail back a reply. Now I get a fax asking for a response by 2:00 p.m. today. Then I receive a phone call an hour later, asking, 'Did you get my fax? What do you think?'" This expectation of accelerated turnaround is not only stressful, but often precludes any time for reflection. We're expected to react rather than respond. And unless we do something about it, it's only going to get worse. And finally, my favourite: call waiting - (which I label "call aggravating"). I understand the need for businesses to answer each call, which sometimes means putting people on hold. But residential phones where each incoming call beeps a signal to interrupt? Persistently? Every time a phone partner says, "Oh, just a second, let me get this call." I feel like they're really saying, "Hold on a sec - this call might be more important than you." What a great technological innovation! How did we ever get along without it? Did I mention spam emails that take several minutes to download? Or those error messages that come up to tell you that you can't connect with your Internet server - just as you're tidying up to go on vacation? These are some of the joyous wired-world experiences I call "Communication Aggravation." Next week I'll discuss ideas about taming the monster that's taking over our lives.

All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

Communication Aggravation - Part Two


Here are some suggestions for dealing with information overload and techno-irritation. Decide what technology you want to use and how you want to use it. You don't need every gadget just because it's available. For example, I choose not to carry a pager, cell phone, electronic organizer or laptop. I use a car phone for emergency calls only. I have caller I.D. and take calls selectively during high-concentration work. I don't have a fax machine at home. These choices suit my business practice and lifestyle. Choose what works for you. Tell people your favoured method of communication. I prefer telephone first, fax second and e-mail third. I inform people that I only check my e-mail twice a day so, to reach me quickly, telephone is best. We ask people not call us after 10:00 p.m. Notify others about your preferences. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Don't spam others if you don't like them spamming you. Don't use your cell phone like a megaphone in public places. Be selective about who you give your cell phone number and e-mail address to. Voice Mail A. Receiving calls. 1. Keep it short. Identify your name or company and invite a message. You can say "I'm sorry I missed your call" but don't list a bunch of reasons - it doesn't matter if you're on another line, in a meeting, out for lunch, taking a walk, or in the bathroom. The point is - you're not available. My two favorite "cut-to-the-chase" (residential phone) messages are "Speak at the beep" and "You know what to do." 2. Tell callers if your machine has a time limit so they don't get cut off in mid-sentence. 3. If you require a long message, use a bypass system that allows callers to get right to the "record" tone. 4. Avoid cliches - everyone's busy. My own pet peeve is "Your call is important to us," usually used by companies that never answer with a live voice. 5. If you're away, tell callers when you'll be picking up messages and calling back. 6. During high-concentration tasks, avoid the temptation to answer the phone. It's a discipline - you may break out in a cold sweat - but it will protect your most productive time. B. Leaving messages. 1. Be brief. Anticipate a recorded greeting and plan your message in advance. Most of us don't think fast enough to leave a concise message instead of rambling. 2. State the purpose of your call and the best time to call you back. 3. Repeat your name and phone number at the end of your message (and say your number s-l-o-w-l-y) 4. Leave only one message - even if you call back 2-3 times. Fax. 1. Don't send unsolicited marketing faxes. 2. If you ignore #1, at least indicate how recipients can get off your mailing list.

3. Ask if people require a cover sheet and tell them if you don't need one. It saves a lot of time, ink, and paper. 4. Be respectful of privacy. Don't send highly confidential information by fax. Unopened or misdirected letters are sealed. But faxes are open to anyone and may lie around for days. E-Mail 1. Check e-mail only once or twice a day. It's a tempting toy, but a sinkhole for time and energy. 2. Don't open your e-mail first thing in the morning if you're a morning person. You'll end up giving away your best 30-60 minutes/day, when you're freshest and most productive. 3. Turn off the sound on your computer that signals the arrival of each new e-mail. 4. Don't respond to messages unless you have to. Your quick "Thanks Bernie--have a great weekend." Is just one more message for him to download and open. It can be a greater courtesy not to reply. 5. Keep your messages short -saves time for everyone. 6. If you're sending the same message to multiple people, use the "blind cc" option so the recipient only sees their own name. I once received a 4-line message that was preceded by 16 lines of e-mail addresses of other people. 7. Use high or highest priority designations only when you really mean it. I once got a message marked "highest priority"- only to find a solicitation for a charitable donation. 8. Get your name taken off as many e-mail lists as possible. This includes joke lists--unless the jokes are really funny. 9. Use filtering programs if you're inundated with unwanted e-mails. 10. Be your own filtering system. Before you press send, ask yourself if this message really needs to be sent at all. Communication is a great thing. Over-communication is a blight. Use your toys wisely - and encourage others do the same.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

The power of permission


A woman came up to speak to me after one of my seminars. She was struggling with a time management problem, trying to juggle several elements of her life. In addition to a full- time job and raising two pre-school children, she was spending 15 hours a week starting a new business with a friend. Having difficulty doing everything, she had called a radio talk show to explain her dilemma to a guest expert. Apparently his response was "Well, you're just not organized. What you have to do is..." and he gave several suggestions about being more efficient. She told me she'd already been feeling overwhelmed but, after hearing from the expert, she also felt guilty for being unable to manage her schedule. I asked her two questions: "What do you really want to do?" and "What do you think you could comfortably handle?" She said she couldn't keep doing it all. I agreed, "It's tough to work 55 hours a week and still have anything left for your family and yourself. Once your kids are a little older, perhaps you could rethink the situation. But for now it sounds like a full-time job and raising two children is quite enough. Maybe your friend can find someone

else to partner with." The sense of relief that radiated out of her was almost palpable. She thanked me for validating her feelings and for reinforcing what she really wanted to do. What was this story about? Why did she need advice from "experts" when she already knew what was right for her? I think she was looking for permission. She wanted an authorityfigure to sanction her decision and to tell her it was O.K. to scale back. Perhaps she was also seeking external support to justify her decision to her friend. We often need someone's approval to give us courage to act. One of the best parts of my job is giving people permission until they can comfortably give it to themselves. Here's an example. A patient told me that she was proud of her skills as both a gourmet cook and hostess. However, she was also a Type-A perfectionist who made things hard for herself. She believed that, when she entertained company, she should prepare all the dishes from basic ingredients. She made her soup from stock and marrow, she made her own salad dressings, and so on. I think she secretly slipped off to Brazil twice a year to pick her own coffee beans! All this work started to feel onerous and preparing for dinner parties became more of a chore than a pleasure. She said, "One of these days I'd just love to serve a Sara Lee cake for dessert." The first question that crossed my mind was "So why don't you do that?" But instead, I asked her, "When's your next dinner party?" "Next Saturday." "Do you have any Sara Lee cakes at home?" "Oh sure, I always have a few in the freezer." "Let me make a suggestion. Why don't you serve a Sara Lee cake next Saturday night and see what happens?" She was enticed by the idea but felt uncomfortable with it. So I said, "Let me give you permission to do this. We both know it'll be easier for you and I'm sure everyone will enjoy it. Do it as an experiment." The next week she reported back. She did what I suggested and it worked out fine. She said she'd feel comfortable doing it again - in other words, to give herself permission next time. The benefits had reinforced the behaviour. Later, in a chance meeting in town, she confided to me: 'I'm still serving Sara Lee cakes!" This story illustrates that we sometimes need an external voice to condone our behaviour or to reinforce our desire to do something. Permission is a form of endorsement from other people. It's as if they're giving their blessing to a course of action that, in our heart of hearts, we want to follow but something still stops us. However, we should get past our reliance on other people. If we're to achieve the lives we envision, we need to get better at giving ourselves permission - to choose what feels right and then to act on it. This is not about acting selfishly - it's about self-determination and selfreliance. It's about living according to our own values and priorities, not somebody else's. Too many people are giving up parts of their lives to fulfil other people's agendas. Whether it's a choice of career or plans for the weekend, start listening to your inner voice and let it guide you. It's another way of taking more control of your life.
All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.

Good health - It's your choice


Let me begin with a premise: that most of our behaviour and activities are actually strategies designed to reduce stress. Before you think I don't get out much or that I've been doing stress counseling for too long, let me explain.

What happens when we experience stress or feel upset? Some of us grab our favourite comfort food or light up a cigarette. Several people tell me the first thing they do when they get home at night is pour themselves a good, stiff drink to help them unwind from the day. Others withdraw and isolate themselves. Still others "dump their bucket" on arriving home, ventilating at length about the upsetting day they've just had. Some go out for a run to release built-up tensions. Then there are folks who veg out in front of the TV every evening. All of these (and this is only a partial list) are ways that patients tell me they cope with stress. And while some are healthier or more constructive than others, all of them work to some extent or people wouldn't keep doing them. But let's go further. Why do people leave early to get to meetings or appointments if not to avoid the stress of rushing and/or arriving late? Angry outbursts are a way that many people vent frustration. Crying and laughing are also tension relievers. For a lot of people, worrying is a subconscious strategy that they use to deal with difficult situations. In fact, some individuals use worry as a conscious strategy to ward off trouble ("If I worry about it, then it won't happen.") Often people use procrastination to put off unpleasant activities or situations. Most of what we do can be looked upon as a coping strategy, conscious or unconscious. If this premise is true, then we should ask ourselves two questions: 1. Do our strategies work? 2. Are they causing any other problems? Let's compare "bad coping strategies" and "good coping strategies." Bad Coping Smoking Alcohol Over-eating Drugs Withdrawing Self-Pity Blaming Good Coping Nutrition Exercise Relaxation Recreation Assertiveness Time-Outs Humour

Stress is one of the leading causes of ill health in our society. But, as if that's not bad enough, many of our coping strategies are, in themselves, unhealthy. So we're hit with a double whammy. Conversely, by shifting from "bad" coping strategies to "good" ones, we can achieve two benefits. 1. They're better stress-reducers. 2. They improve our health. If we think of our bad habits as not just self-destructive lifestyle choices, but actually misguided attempts to relieve stress, then we can start to look for better strategies that are effective stress relievers and healthier for us overall. So the next time you have a glass of wine to help you relax in a social situation, or compulsively chomp on potato chips to reduce anxiety, stop and consider that you're actually trying to deal with stress. Then think of alternative ways to achieve the same result - without the negative side effects.

All material copyrighted, David B. Posen M.D.