I was already running late when I downed a quick cup of coffee, snagged my keys on the way out and automatically pushed the button to open the garage door. As I hesitated to make sure the door from the kitchen locked, I more sensed than noticed that something was not right. The garage door rumbled up about halfway and the outside light was replacing the darkness. That’s the instant I was very sure that something was not right but making sense of the picture was beyond me.

The lawn mower was in the corner where I keep it. The gas can was there too. The trash ben was along the inside wall and the back of the garage was cluttered with the usual collection of disorganized stuff. I even had the passing thought that I really should get around to straightening up the clutter. But still, something was not right.

I knew what was not right, but nothing computed. For that instant, I didn’t want to know what was not right, I didn’t want it to compute. I just wanted the picture to change, wanted the video to move along a few frames to where nothing is not right, to where my car is just sitting in the middle of my garage where it’s supposed to be. I could get in, start the car and calmly back out of the garage and head off to my meeting.

I was back in the kitchen and thinking I should call someone – maybe the police – when the text tone beeped on my cell. “I was running quite late and your garage door was down. Thought you might have already called it a night so left your car in the drive. Will bring your key over after work. You said it was a spare so you should be good to go. If that’s a problem, text me and I will get it to you now. Thanks for letting me use your ride. You are a lifesaver.”

I just shook my head and wondered if I might be losing it. I could have pondered that possibility for a while but was now running even later. A quick check to be sure I closed the garage door and I was off … again. I don’t really want to share what I was mumbling to myself as I checked to make sure the front door locked and got into my car that was sitting patiently in my driveway.

“Yes officer, I now realize that I didn’t come to a full stop at that stop sign.”

“Yes, I do understand how dangerous not coming to a full stop can be.”

“No, I do not have a good excuse for running the stop sign.”

“Thank you. I will definitely slow down and be more careful.”

“Do I have to appear, or can I just pay the ticket by mail?”

Now you know so there you go.


Diane Loomans once reminisced, “If I had my child to raise all over again, I’d build self–esteem first, and the house later. I’d finger–paint more, and point the finger less. I would do less correcting and more connecting. I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes. I’d take more hikes and fly more kites. I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play. I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars. I’d do more hugging and less tugging.”

Being a parent is both satisfying and challenging. Knowing exactly how to handle any situation can be very difficult. Sloan Wilson captured the central issue this way, “The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.”

Although being a parent is very complex and will have many twists and turns over the years, knowing how you and your child are doing through the process is less daunting. If the following statements are most always tru for you as a parent, both you and your child are most likely making the journey rather successfully. Before we get to the statements though, there is a point that needs emphasis. Joyce Maynard made the point for us this way when she said, “It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours.”

Okay, here we go. Think about each statement and honestly decide if it is true for you. If it is, you and your child are probably doing just fine. If not, you definitely have some work to do and possibly changes to make with your parent relationship with your child.

1. I am reasonable and fair when disciplining my child.

2. I know what my child needs and what is important to him or her.

3. I am able to get my child to cooperate with me.

4. I spend time with my child everyday.

5. My child likes to spend time with me.

6. I am pleased with and proud of my child.

7. I am familiar with and interested in my child’s activities.

8. I know about and am helping with my child’s problems and difficulties.

9. I set a good example for my child.

10. I give my child his or her space.

11. My child and I regularly talk with each other.

12. I am interested in my child’s ideas and thoughts about things.

13. I support and encourage my child’s being who he or she is and his or her unique style.

14. I am a good parent.

Now you know so there you go.

The Perfect Rejoinder

I have made what may be one of the world’s seventeen greatest discoveries. It is this: “Always keep it short and to the point.” You may disagree, citing Robert Southey who said, “It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn,” or Shakespeare who promised in Hamlet, “Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief.”

Of course you are not questioning my point, just my assertion that I personally made the discovery. Naturally, I know that Baltasar Gracián said that “Good things, when short, are twice as good.,” in The Art of Worldly Wisdom; and Thomas Jefferson said, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

These great minds along with many others counsel us to be concise and not impose on the patience of anyone when we can avoid it. They have mostly intended their advice for the written word. For example, Lord Sandwich advised, “If any man will draw up his case, and put his name at the foot of the first page, I will give him an immediate reply. Where he compels me to turn over
the sheet, he must wait my leisure.”

Or even more expansively and intending his point for every–day conversation, Mozart reported this, “My great–grandfather used to say to his wife, my great–grandmother, who in turn told her daughter, my grandmother, who repeated it to her daughter, my
mother, who used to remind her daughter, my own sister, that to talk well and eloquently was a very great art, but that an equally great one was to know
the right moment to stop.”

Dennis Roth made the same point but even briefer, “If it takes a lot of words to say what you have in mind, give it more thought;” and David Belasco was even more pithy, “If you can’t write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don’t have a clear idea.” The point is whether writing or talking, don’t be who Rabelais was talking about when he said, “He replies nothing but monosyllables. I believe he would make three bites of a cherry.” William Strunk Jr.cut to the chace for us, “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.” Just omit whatever is not necessarily necessary.

That brings me back to my great discovery. Yes, I am still saying that it is my discovery, even though others have argued for brevity and conciseness long before I ever had a useful thought. Here is the discovery part of my discovery.

Whenever anyone starts to argue with whatever you have said or done, always keep it short and to the point. You will be tempted to reciprocate with a counter–argument, further explanation or justification, but there is seldom any point to the effort. Winning arguments is most always a futile hope. Instead, calmly wait until the other person has stopped pressing their argument – and they will stop sooner or later. At that point, simply say, “Thanks for sharing your perspective.” If the other person picks back up with arguing, wait and repeat.

You may not think this is one of the seventeen greatest discoveries ever, but don’t reject it until you’ve tried it.

Now you know so there you go.


A “Normal” person is the sort of person that might be designed by a committee. You know, “Each person puts in a pretty color and it comes out gray. – Alan Sherman

Labels are for filing. Labels are for clothing. Labels are not for people. – Martina Navratilova

Most people have become convinced that vanity is a bad quality to have. In fact, it may actually be a cardinal vice which makes it more than bad; it’s terrible. If one explores this negative pronouncement in more depth though, it ain’t necessarily so. For example, Lord Chesterfield said, “To this principle of vanity, which philosophers call a mean one, and which I do not, I owe a great part of the figure which I have made in life.” There you go. Chesterfield thought vanity was one of the keys to his success.

It may be that vanity is little more than one of those things that is just going around. If so, even you may have a little yourself. As Blaise Pascal suggested, “Vanity is so secure in the heart of man that everyone wants to be admired: even I who write this, and you who read this.” No less an icon than Mark Twain said, “There are no grades of vanity, there are only grades of ability in concealing it;” and there is no end to how clever people can be when concealing it. To illustrate, Louis Kronenberger suggested this strategy, “Nothing so soothes our vanity as a display of greater vanity in others; it makes us vain, in fact, of our modesty;” so if you are uncomfortable with vanity, substitute modesty about being not so vane as some people you know. Just be sure to cleverly conceal it.

François de la Rochefoucauld is another one of the folks who got it, “What makes the vanity of others insupportable is that it wounds our own.” Benjamin Franklin got it too, “Most people dislike vanity in others, whatever share they have of it themselves; but I give it fair quarter, wherever I meet with it, being persuaded that it is often productive of good to the possessor, and to others who are within his sphere of action: and therefore, in many cases, it would not be altogether absurd if a man were to thank God for his vanity among the other comforts of life.” Antonio Porchia also understood, although he did slip in “ridiculous,” probably as a minor concession to the vanity police, “Without this ridiculous vanity that takes the form of self–display, and is part of everything and everyone, we would see nothing, and nothing would exist.”

Fortunately, there is a much better approach. You can simply re–conceptualize. What folks refer to in you as vanity isn’t vanity at all. Rather, it’s merely a reflection of your positive self–perception. It’s what the psychologists call a good self–image. If someone accuses you of vanity, just smile and say:

I’m not a giant or a meek little lamb. I am me, that’s who I am. I’m taller than a cat and shorter than a tree. I’m the very best me you’ll ever see.

I like to laugh, I like to smile. I like to daydream once in a while. I’m extra special but I’m still just me. I’m the very best me I know how to be.

I always try to do my best. I’m good at a lot of things and getting better at the rest. Here’s the truth for everyone to see. It’s totally terrific being me.

I could tell you more stuff about who I am. I like spaghetti and strawberry jam. Here at last is the most spectacular part. I’m extra special because I’m so smart.

Now you know so there you go.


Psychology of Sharks and Seals

This activity enables you to look at your interpersonal style and at your style in relationship to the styles of others. You may find the activity most helpful if you first complete the activity and then read the discussion that follows. Once you have completed the discussion, return to the activity and reconsider your responses. Also, this will be a good time to consider your style in relationship to the styles of others.

Here focus is on your basic nature. It is important to get in touch with who you really are and to avoid responding in terms of how you would like to be or how you would like to be seen by others. In each of the five sets below, consider the descriptions of each personality type, get in touch with who you really are, and then circle either ‘A’ or ‘B,’ depending on which one most closely parallels your nature. It may help to think in terms of how you would respond or react during times of stress or tension. It is at these times when one’s real nature tends to come to the surface.

1–A: SHARKS Sharks are involved and decisive. They are very much into being individuals who are not part of the group and who definitely operate in their own interest. Being involved takes the form of being extremely alert, aware of what is going on, and prepared to act quickly and efficiently. Decisiveness is a major characteristic, with sharks being able to make a decision and act on it without hesitation or second guessing.

B: SEALS Seals are helpful and playful. They are definitely part of the group and social participation is a high priority for them. They like being helpful, doing things for and with others, and making things work out well for everyone. They also have an ability to be helpful in a fun way, with playfulness being one of their primary characteristics.

2–A: LIONS Lions are assertive and positive. They loudly make their presence known and are immediately recognized and are always attended to. Their assertiveness serves them well in terms of furthering their point of view, their ideas, and their view of the situation and how it should be. They are also positive, expect to succeed, assume that others will respond to their needs and interest, and take the attitude that they never lose but only sometimes need a little more time to win.

B: LAMBS Lambs are loyal and gentle. A lamb is the type who says she will do anything for you and really means it. A lamb’s loyalty causes her to go the last mile for anyone to whom the lamb is loyal. They are also recognizable by their gentleness, ability to go with the flow, and the certain knowledge that they will never become aggressive, abrasive, or menacing.

3– A: BEARS Bears are spontaneous and relaxed. Their spontaneity results in their being a lot of fun, easy to be around much of the time, and always ready to be part of the action and usually responsible for spontaneously initiating the action. Bears also appear to be quite relaxed, laid back, and always in control. They do have a tendency to go into hibernation if things get a little out of their control or are not quite the way they want them to be and also have a tendency to get a little carried away with what are sometimes bone–crushing bear hugs when they want to press their point, with those ‘hugs’ coming up fairly spontaneously and a little unpredictably.

B: BEAVERS Beavers are very responsible and open. They do what is expected, always follow through with their commitments, and are intent on taking care of the piece of the world that has been assigned to them. This responsibility combines with openness to make them very accepting, very up front and sharing, and willing to work with anyone under almost any circumstances. Their sense of responsibility does get a little rigid sometimes in terms of doing things the way they are supposed to be done whether that is exactly what the situation calls for or not. Their openness may occasionally be seen as gullibility and does have the tendency to make them vulnerable to those who are less scrupulous. Nonetheless, they do what they do very well, especially if it is not of concern that they seem to have virtually no capacity to do other than what they do.

4–A: TIGERS Tigers are energetic and attractive. They are real go–getters who enjoy taking on a challenge to which they can bring nearly boundless energy. They are also extremely attractive in terms of others being attracted to them. Their attractiveness draws a crowd to them quickly; and they have the good fortune of having the energy to deal with all of the attention. They are great at getting things started but sometimes may lack a little in the follow through or persistence department. It has also been pointed out that tigers are sexy which is not surprising since they are obviously attractive and do have the energy to ‘stay out all night and cat around:’ a good pastime for a tiger.

B: TURTLES Turtles are dependable and patient. They can be counted on in the short run and in the long run. This includes sticking to the path, persevering under difficult circumstances, and an ability to endure the gusty winds and bumpy roads inherent in the journey. Their patience really is a virtue of the first order, giving them the ability to wait until it all blows over or things clear up. They do have a tendency to crawl into their shells when the going gets tough or stress gets high; but they are well protected within the shell and will always be there when the time comes to start again. They have also been seen as extremely thorough and able to do a job, especially if it doesn’t matter how long it takes.

5–A: BUZZARDS Buzzards are flexible and supportive. They have the long view, the broad perspective, and are very good about cleaning up the messes of others. They are what has been described as troubleshooters and problem finders, although their problem solving is sometimes excessive and may seem like overkill. They are also supportive, since they do not need a goal and mission of their own. They can get involved sometimes without even being asked and will support which ever cause or side they happen to be on at the time. Nonetheless, it is important to emphasize the buzzard’s ability to adjust to almost any difficult or complex situation, his ability to find problems where there may not have been any that were obvious to any one else, and his willingness to work toward whatever end seems most appropriate and expedient at the time.

B: BEES Bees are consistent and accepting. Their constancy allows them to do the things they do in a regular and predictable way. They are easy to be around since their styles are so recognizable and definable. They are also accepting and seem not to mind changes in situations or circumstances, the ups and downs experienced by others with whom they associate, and the fact that the world is not always as others think it should always be. These positive qualities are only somewhat diminished by the bee’s tendency to ‘stick it to you’ when you might least expect it because the bee is so sweet and honey like that it is hard to get upset or annoyed with her, although things do get a little sticky from time to time.

(Note) It is really a jungle out there and is also important to understand the animals and to understand the animal group to which you belong. There is also the socialized civilized side of things, though. This is where consideration and tolerance come in. They are not of the nature of individuals but need to be learned over time and carefully cultivated. Using a 5–point scale with 5 representing very high, 4 representing high, 3 representing medium, 2 representing low, and 1 representing very low, how would you rate yourself in terms of being considerate with others in your family? Using the same rating scale, how would you rate yourself in terms of being tolerant with other people in your family? Can you give three examples of your being considerate and three of your being tolerant to support your rating?


If this activity is compared to the interpersonal style type activity, it will be seen that the sharks, lions, bears, tigers, and buzzards reflect the same elements or characteristics as were attributed to dictators and levitators. Further, seals, lambs, beavers, turtles, and bees reflect the same elements or characteristics as were attributed to facilitators and gravitators. This activity may, then, be understood in relationship to and as an extension of the earlier, interpersonal style type activity.

Ordinarily, individuals participating in the activity will tend to identify with group A: sharks–lions–bears–tigers–buzzards and with group B: seals–lambs–beavers–turtles–bees. The fact is that their day–to–day functioning may actually reflect this mixed and blended pattern. The tendency is, though, for them to move nearly exclusively toward the A group or the B group during times of stress, tension, conflict, confusion, or ambiguity. The tendency is to move into their comfort zones.

Group A individuals tend, by nature, to be more aggressive and individualistic, while members of group B tend to be more passive and socially oriented. Although individuals sometimes have difficulty recognizing this comfort zone tendency, others members of the family usually have no difficulty assigning each family member to one of the two groups.

Once the consultant has facilitated the client’s identifying the group in which she best fits, education begins to focus on the effect of socialization on his natural style and on the client’s ability to recognize and modify the style during times of stress, confusion, or interpersonal ambiguity. The activity becomes a measure of the extent to which the client is experiencing stress insofar as she will tend to go to the extremes within group A or the extremes within group B, moving in a direction consistent with her natural tendency. Understanding and recognizing this tendency is, then, the first step in developing more socialized, more effective style during times of stress.

Group A individuals learn to recognize their typical stress reactions in terms of the characteristics designating their group. They will find themselves becoming more intensely focused on and preoccupied with the situations and individuals with whom they are interacting. Their involvement becomes very intense and tends to exclude other interests and activities. At times, this may take on an almost obsessive quality. They also develop an increased need to be decisive, make something happen, and take charge of both the situation and of other people in the situation.

This group A tendency compounds in terms of being more forceful and assertive sometimes edging on aggressiveness. The individual’s level of spontaneity shifts to what is easily perceived by others as insensitivity and a lack of concern for their feelings and thoughts. The intense control experienced by the individual is intended to convey an attitude of relaxed positiveness and confidence. The underlying tension and anxiety, however, come through and are easily seen by others as the primary state of the individual. Group A people under extreme stress take on a driven quality with their normally energetic and attractive approach becoming overwhelming and, to some extent, overbearing. The usual responses they get from others to their flexibility and supportiveness are quickly replaced by a reciprocal anxiety and quality of apprehension. The group A person has become, from the point of view of others, unpredictable and potentially dangerous in socioemotional terms. Along with experiencing extreme stress, she becomes a stress carrier, quickly transferring her stress and tension to others.

Group B individuals in times of extreme stress begin to manifest that natural helpfulness becomes a need to do things for others and to be all things to all people. Their nervousness and apprehension are managed through seeming to take little seriously and seeming as if they think everyone wants to play and not really deal with the serious issues or concerns. In this sense, their attitude is sometimes perceived by others as somewhat childish and inappropriate.

Type B individuals also begin to find their security in being loyal to others without rational appraisal of the goals and direction inherent in this unquestioning loyalty. Their normal gentleness becomes passivity and increases their vulnerability. This is compounded by their openness that becomes excessive in the direction of self–disclosure and an absence of self–protection. Their sense of responsibility intensifies and increases to the point of becoming a self–imposed burden with compounds with an increased need to be seen as dependable which may result in their pushing themselves past the point of responsible participation. What is usually a very desirable quality of patience becomes an inability to act, developing a quality of socioemotional immobilization.

The result of these tendencies is a high level of ambiguity and uncertainty that results in increased anxiety and tension as a result of a perceived inability to consistently play their parts in the group. At this point, their usually appealing, accepting approach to others moves into the realm of fatalism and powerlessness and a sense of being defeated and unappreciated.

Whether extreme stress moves one toward the group A adaptation of the sharks or the group B adaptation of the seals, the effect is counterproductive for the individual. This is true whether the tendency is mild or more toward the extreme. In either event, the individual needs to move toward a socialized, interpersonal adaptation. With the support and coaching of the consultant, both the sharks and the seals learn to develop early awareness of and recognition of stress reactions and adaptational patterns in themselves. Once this recognition has occurred and has been accompanied by education directed to understanding the reaction pattern, consultation focuses in terms of more effective self–management and interpersonal participation.

Sharks will find that their stress levels reduce as they become more helpful and playful, loyalty–oriented and gentle, sensitive to their interpersonal responsibilities and more open with others, conscious of being there for others and being a dependable participant, developing a longer perspective with increased patience and more socioemotional consistency, and simply being more accepting of others, who they are, and what their needs and interests are. Sharks best manage stress reactions by emulating the strengths of the seals, with the seals achieving the same end through emulating the strengths of the sharks.