Thursday, October 17, 2019

A Inspirational Short Story to Share

I was taking a yoga class and the teacher shared a very short story which struck me. I wanted to share it with you today.

There is a story they tell of two dogs.

Both at separate times
walk into the same room.
One comes out wagging his tail
while the other comes out growling.

A woman watching this
goes into the room to see
what could possibly make one dog so happy
and the other so mad.

To her surprise
she finds a room filled with mirrors.

The happy dog found
a thousand happy dogs looking back at him
while the angry dog
saw only angry dogs growling back at him.

What you see in the world around you
is a reflection of who you are.

How do you like this story?

Although not always the case, this is often how we behave. We psychologists call it “projection” where we project our unwanted feelings onto others, and react to them, without knowing the feelings are coming from us. If we are open to our own emotional experience, accepting them without any self-judgment, we can be ourselves, and let those around be themselves too.

*I was unable to find the author of this story, although I spent some time trying to research it, so I could not add a reference to it. If anyone happens to know exactly where it is from, please let me know and I will add the information.

Monday, October 14, 2019

"I’m sorry, Okay?"

I’m not a “Doctor of Censorship” or a “word-hunter,” but I do pay attention to the possible psychological and relational impacts of our expressions, because coaching clients on effective communication strategies is one of my areas of expertise. In the past, as some of you know, I talked about “Shoulds and Shouldn’ts,” “I know, I know,” “I feel guilty,” “Are you Okay?” “Be more positive,” and “Yes, but…” Today, I would like to briefly write about the very common expression, “I’m sorry, Okay?”

The reason I wanted to talk about this expression is because it appears that some people genuinely don’t know why they receive negative responses from others whom they sincerely apologized to. They made an apology, they meant it, but it still won’t work… It makes them feel sad, frustrated and so powerless. One of the possible reasons is that they used “I’m sorry, Okay?,” and if that’s the case, it is something that is so easy to fix. That’s why it is worth it to be aware of using this expression. 

“I’m sorry” is an expression with strong power. When we own up to our mistake and sincerely apologize for it, it can change others’ minds and hearts instantly. We are aware that we all make mistakes and we are kind to each other for that reason. But if someone does not apologize but keeps making excuses, that triggers us negatively so much.

When you add “Okay?” after “I’m sorry,” it actually works negatively. When we say, “I’m sorry,” it is an apology and the respondents tend to feel better. On the contrary, when you say, “I’m sorry, Okay?,” then the respondents feels forced to dismiss things while forgiving this person no matter what. This “Okay?” means, “I did apologize to you, so now you need to shut up and let it go. Forget about it, Okay?” Of course, it does not work! It is so useless as a function of an apology. The similar issue happens when people say “I’m sorry, but…” Once you add “but,” now your apology is not working as an apology but making an excuse, which does not work effectively, either. This issue is similar to “Yes, but….

In short, if you mean to say, “I’m sorry,” do not add “Okay?” or “but…” A simple and sincere apology is the best way to ask for forgiveness. Even if we are so anxious to be forgiven or to explain things, adding these words really affects the effectiveness of the apology negatively. It’s sad when what you are trying to do won’t work. So let’s be careful, shall we?

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Decision Making in Crisis

I took a workshop last weekend about legal and ethical issues, something which psychologists are required to do every two years. For some reason I love to learn about legal and ethical problems and the workshop was quite enjoyable, even if the room was freezing and my back was hurting a lot!

One of the remarkable things based on a various research that was addressed at the workshop was how our emotional state can influence our decision making and behaviors when we are in trouble. Putting it simply according to my understanding, when we are experiencing fight or flight mode, our anger or anxiety/fear can impact our actions more than we realize. Therefore, a major recommendation was to slow down. When we are threatened and in crisis, we need to slow down by consulting with others, relaxing, breathing deeply, and the like, so that we don’t screw things up. Yes, that’s understandable.

At the same time, interestingly, the importance of our emotions in the decision-making process was also emphasized. This means that if we ignore, disregard, or detach our emotional state, our decisions won’t be the best, either. This can be counter-intuitive for some “logical” people, but it has been found to be so, and I have seen it as well.

What is cool about these two important findings is that it aligns with what I have been believing and advocating for: I have been encouraging people to acknowledge, accept, and as needed express their emotions, instead of avoiding and ignoring them. In a crisis situation, for example, we may feel angry and/or fearful. If we can acknowledge those feelings and accept them, that itself would slow down our reactivity. Also if we express our emotions, we can consult with someone or undertake some more introspection. When we do that, we are no longer just emotional beings; we are now aware that we are experiencing our emotions. These two states are quite different.

The bottom line is that in catastrophic situations, we may want to acknowledge, accept, and as needed, express our emotions, so that we can slow down our reactive process, while remaining in touch with our emotions. This way we can make the best decision and take action. It sounds quite reasonable and helpful to me. How about you?