by Duncan MugukuThis article discusses 25 tips on how to be proactive at work. Being proactive is a desirable trait.
Bosses, colleagues and customers all like and appreciate employees who are proactive.
Your level of self-confidence, happiness and satisfaction at work increases when you are on top of things and are handling your tasks in a timely, deliberate and efficient manner.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines proactive as “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes.” It is further defined as “controlling a situation by making things happen or by preparing for possible future problems.”
Being proactive means anticipating what might happen, planning ahead, preparing in advance and acting ahead instead of simply reacting to circumstances.
Being proactive builds your personal brand and reputation at work. People can count on you for your reliability.
A proactive employee thinks ahead, acts ahead and gets ahead.
You can quickly skim all the 25 tips on the table of contents below and then click on any tip to read further details. Please enjoy reading. Thank you.
Routinely check your spam or junk folder to verify that legitimate emails did not end up there. Also use great judgement before selecting the “reply all” button.
It is a good idea to know your company’s policy for response time for emails. Strive for relevant and brief responses to emails and proofread your emails.
At a minimum respond to emails within one day, for urgent emails respond sooner.
2. Responding to phone calls quickly
Critical aspects in responding well to a telephone call include:
how soon you answer when the phone rings,
your tone of voice,
how you introduce yourself,
referring to the caller by name sparingly,
having empathy and
repeating back critical information such as names, numbers and addresses.
A challenging part for callers is when they are transferred from one person to another.
Manage this process well by letting the caller know you are transferring them to a specific person and explain why you are transferring them for example that person is a specialist who can assist them further.
Master the operations of the phone system and use its various functions seamlessly.
It is also helpful to know the roles of different people in the company and keep an internal phone book nearby.
When responding to calls from colleagues, bosses or customers, speak in a clear and upbeat voice, and be ready to offer help and resources e.g. links to websites.
Make a mental note of the key points during a phone call or you can write them down.
If you have kept someone on hold while you verify something or do quick research, reassure them from time to time that you are still on the line and working on their request.
If you tell someone that you will call them back, make it a point to do so.
3. Addressing requests and complaints swiftly
Requests and complaints can come from multiple internal and external sources such as colleagues, supervisors, vendors, suppliers, customers, shareholders etc.
Handling requests and complaints in a timely manner is vital for good customer satisfaction.
Begin by understanding what the request is, what is needed and by when. Then assess how to handle the request and what resources, if any, are needed to comply with the request.
The keys to addressing requests properly include:
being available to handle the request,
doing your homework,
following instructions well,
knowing when to refer up,
providing clear well thought out answers and
providing additional tips that might be helpful.
On the other hand, complaints are an ever present aspect of work. One of the most important things to note is the use of tone when responding to complaints, whether it is a response via email, phone or snail mail.
Responsiveness to customer complaints breeds loyalty.
Some tips to keep in mind when handling complaints include: handle everyone with respect at all times, being firm but friendly when rules cannot be broken, not over promising, being sincere and polite, being patient and controlled, listening well, being perceptive or understanding, having a positive outlook and don’t take it personally.
Other tips when responding to complaints include: owning up and apologizing when something goes wrong, providing clear instructions, checking in, offering high quality customer care and negotiating and persuading.
4. Having a to-do list
Get into the habit of writing a to-do list for the things you want to focus on each day. This is an efficient system of planning your workday.
The ideal time to write a to-do list is at the end of a workday when you review what you have done versus what you had planned to do.
Also assess additional new tasks that that have been added to your plate. Then develop a draft to-do list for the following day.
You will leave work knowing what your priorities are for the next day and when you arrive in the morning you simply review your tasks and begin working.
The best part of having a to-do list is checking off an item after you have completed it.
A to-do list gives you a big picture overview of what you are supposed to be working on.
It helps to keep you on track and reduces the risk of forgetting to do something that you were supposed to work on.
5. Prioritizing tasks
Prioritizing begins by writing a list of all the tasks which you need to do then ranking them according to importance.
Mark items as urgent vs. non urgent and work immediately on the most pressing items first.
Estimate how much time it would take to complete tasks to have an idea of how your day would look like and stay focused as you complete the tasks at hand.
Give yourself a cushion to cope with unexpected situations, surprises and last minute requests.
Break down big projects into small tasks and assign mini deadlines for each task.
6. Developing your efficiency methods
To be more proactive at work, develop simple methods that can aid in doing your work faster and more efficiently.
Simple efficiency methods to adopt include: documenting your major duties and operations for others to have during your absences; knowing your company’s policies and procedures; knowing what other units are working on to avoid duplication and waste of time and resources and collaborating with others.
Other methods consist of: developing flowcharts for critical procedures and operations; developing work plans and Gantt charts to track projects; preparing standard operating procedures; writing manuals, guidelines and handbooks and creating FAQs for commonly asked questions.
Developing how to videos and explainer videos; preparing step by step screenshot explanations to make it visually faster for others to understand processes and developing indexes, executive summaries and table of contents for documents to make them scannable or skimmable.
Properly filed and well labelled documents; factoring review periods or quality control for work done; scheduling regular status update meetings and having standardized scripts for repeatable processes such as sales calls.
Outsourcing labor intensive activities e.g. events management and using customer friendly systems such as online chats on websites to help customers and provide them with a transcript of the online chat session.
Additional efficiency methods include regularly reviewing existing processes to make changes as appropriate and identifying what is working and what is not working; designing a map of the office layout showing where different staff are located; providing good training for new staff and interns and maintaining good posture and comfortable seating.
Maintaining an organized work space, desk, email, computer folders and hard copy files to enable easy document retrieval. Being organized is good for your well-being.
Having a tidy work area and knowing where everything is, is liberating and helps boost your productivity and responsiveness.
Make an effort to regularly declutter your desk.
7. Managing your calendar
How do you keep your calendar under control?
If you don’t keep an eye on it, your calendar could get out of control leaving you running around in circles.
Utilize your calendar as a deliberate scheduling tool.
It is a good idea to have all your meetings and appointments in one calendar and look at it every day.
If you have the luxury, you can start off by booking work blocks when you intend to fully focus on projects.
Schedule times during the day for when you will look at emails and provide feedback be it simple responses or in depth answers.
Book recurring meetings and leave open slots on your calendar where others can book meetings with you.
Take into account time zone factors which can affect meeting times especially when international meetings are planned, the time differences can be significant.
Schedule time off and vacations on your calendar because burnout and fatigue affect your responsiveness. Being well rested and alert helps improve your response time.
8. Honoring your commitments
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines commitment as “an agreement or pledge to do something in the future.”
Keeping promises you have made strengthens your credibility.
One reason why commitments are missed is simply because they were forgotten.
Make it a point to note down the major commitments that you have promised others. What was the commitment specifically? When is it due?
Assess your capacity to enter into new commitments.
Estimate how long it would take, identify the steps needed to fulfill the commitment and remind yourself what the commitments are.
Work your commitments into your daily routine.
Plug your commitments into your calendar and monitor your progress as you work towards meeting the pledges.
Give an early heads up over any anticipated setbacks or delays.
9. Anticipating problems and problem solving
Think ahead and address problems before they arise to the greatest extent possible.
Ways of anticipating problems include conducting surveys to find out undercurrents, analyzing recurring or cyclical events that have been problematic in the past and zooming in on those areas prone to breakdown before they do so.
Additional methods are staying ahead of what needs to be done, envisioning the project in your mind and asking others how they have handled similar problems in the past.
Other ways of anticipating problems include reading online reviews about your company – what are the complaints and how can they be handled?
On the personal side of things, review your to-do list regularly to see if there tasks or items that you are avoiding or procrastinating.
Typically a task that is being avoided has the potential to be problematic when the deadline is looming closer and the work has not yet been done or even started. These have potential of causing problems down the road.
Waiting to do things at the last minute can become an ingrained behavior that is self-defeating.
Be proactive in finding solutions to problems. Troubleshoot problems and identify when they started, diagnose and find the underlying cause quickly.
Develop solutions, back-up plans and be comfortable making decisions.
Develop steps for either preventing problems from reoccurring or steps for handling problems when they occur again.
10. Having a routine for how you work
Having a standardized routine for your workday is beneficial. It helps to boost your productivity.
By having a routine, you will have charted a familiar path which you can keep on repeating and improving each day, while at the same time being aware of the typical turbulence that can throw you off course and what corrective action you need to engage in to get back on course.
Develop a routine for doing tasks and then keep improving your routine and performance.
A sample routine for a work day could be as follows:
Tidy up your work area in the morning.
Write your to-do list.
Prioritize your tasks.
Do hard tasks first then easy tasks.
Or do easy tasks first to build momentum then do the hard tasks.
Do one task steadily until you complete it.
Check off items done.
Respond to email requests, telephone calls, colleagues, meetings etc.
Take short breaks.
Review the work done at the end of the day.
Add new tasks and draft a plan for the next day’s work.
11. Working well with others
Having a friendly attitude goes a long way in strengthening relationships at work and how people respond to you.
Support others in their projects especially when they ask for your help and you are in a position to assist.
Endeavor to participate in brainstorming meetings to help come up with ideas to improve the company and support customers better.
Be known for submitting work on time and even for submitting work earlier than anticipated. Develop the capacity to work efficiently under pressure.
Be flexible and open minded. Listen to other people’s opinions, suggestions and viewpoints.
Practice being consistent and build the capacity to think on your feet especially when dealing with surprises.
Get along well with colleagues by being collaborative, setting a good example and sharing the credit with others.
Be compassionate, polite and kind. Have energy and enthusiasm. People will respond to your enthusiasm.
Have passion about what you are doing. Give your best efforts at all times and take pride in doing a good job.
Also have a winning mentality and think of possibilities.
Carve out time for socializing with coworkers during company events and have a sense of humor.
Look neat and presentable at all times. Treat everyone with respect regardless of their rank or titles.
Take time to deliberately and sincerely praise others for doing things well.
12. Following up
The art of following up is part of the arsenal of a proactive person. Following up and being persistent are ingredients for success in one’s career.
It takes will power to constantly follow-up especially when you don’t receive any response.
Follow up is needed in instances such as scheduling meetings or invitations, after meetings, after events, job applications and generally when you have sent someone an important email and they have not responded.
You can also follow-up when sending reminders ahead of important deadlines, events or meetings.
Additionally when thanking your customers and also when sending reminders for subscription renewals.
When following up, personalize your email and refer to any email or communication you had previously sent.
Following-up can be done through different avenues such as email, telephone, text, snail mail, meetings or social media.
One way of going the extra mile is checking in on clients a few weeks or months after you have delivered a project just to see how things are going. It is granted to make the clients or customer pleasantly surprised.
13. Not over committing yourself
Spreading yourself too thin is a recipe for dropping the ball. Being over committed affects one’s ability to be proactive.
It is necessary to have a good idea of what your current commitments are at all times to enable you assess whether you can take on additional work.
If you are unable to honor a commitment, it is best to say no and offer a polite explanation that your plate is currently full.
You can also have negotiation discussions to agree on later deadlines, revised or reduced scope of work.
14. Adapting to change
There are constant changes in the world of business. The ability to adapt to change easily affects one’s capacity to be proactive.
When confronted with change take time to analyze and understand the reason for the change, the impact of the change and how you need to adjust seamlessly moving forward.
If you are the one initiating the change, it is critical to communicate the change well to others.
Ideally involve them in every step of the change and let people understand the reason why the change is being introduced and the potential benefits.
15. Using auto-responders
Be proactive by using auto-responders appropriately.
Auto-responders that you can use to increase your efficiency include out of office email notifications and voice mail greetings and notifications.
When you are away from the office for a meeting, training, vacation etc. it is a good practice to activate your out of office email.
This should have a brief message mentioning the dates when you are unavailable, when you will be available, who is to be contacted in your absence as well as their contact details or alternatively specify when you expect to read emails.
Set up the auto responder with a specific start and end date and time. When you are back in the office double check to ensure that your auto responder is not sending emails, it can make you look disorganized.
Similarly out of office voicemail can serve the same function as out of office email notifications. Remember to deactivate this once you return to the office.
Additionally setup a standard voicemail greeting. The tone of your voicemail greeting should be friendly.
State your name, title, company, department and a brief message for callers to leave their name, contact details and a message mention you will get back to them as soon as you can.
You could also state what your normal business hours are to give callers an idea of when they can expect to reach you or hear from you.
Check your voicemail on a regular basis and respond to voicemail as soon as you can.
16. Providing timely updates
When working on a project, update your boss, your team, client and other relevant stakeholders on the progress at regular intervals and also once the activity is completed.
Complete the project on time.
If you are not able to provide updates as earlier envisioned, let your boss know in advance.
In addition let your boss hear your mistakes from you first or any potential holdups.
Good feedback is timely, actionable and specific. You should also welcome constructive feedback that is aimed at making you better, more efficient and proactive.
Remember to thank those who take time to give you feedback.
Just as it is important to receive feedback, it is equally important to give others feedback.
Give others feedback in a specific and respectful way. Think of what information and suggestions you can share to help others improve their behavior and succeed at work.
One more form of feedback is letting employees know or see the results of their work i.e. who benefits from what they do and how they benefit.
18. Managing time and meeting deadlines
Since time is a non-renewable resource, we should utilize good methods to maximize the time available. Time is limited.
Time management entails doing the most amount of productive and efficient work within the shortest time possible.
The emphasis is on efficiency and not jumping from task to task or never ending busyness.
The foundation of time management is in knowing what you want to do, why you should do it, planning how to do it and doing it in the best way possible.
A broad formula for time management is to map out the daily tasks to do, begin each day by doing the most important tasks, have a time-frame for how long to work on a task and review it after you have completed it.
Deadlines are important too.
Stay on top of deadlines by writing down the deadlines, breaking projects into small tasks, setting-up reminders, staying focused, eliminating distractions, monitoring progress and wherever possible completing tasks ahead of the deadline.
19. Planning ahead
Plan what you want to accomplish then take action.
Planning ahead entails knowing what you want to achieve and then structuring your activities in a systematic or sequential way around the time available.
At the end of the activity, examine what you did against your initial objectives.
Understand the big picture of your company and how your work supports the overall organizational vision. Know how the moving pieces are connected.
Know what others are working on and how you can support.
Get into a good rhythm at the beginning of the day.
Part of planning involves knowing your most productive periods during the day.
Periods when you are really energetic, focused and your engines are revving and endeavor to do your most creative and productive work around those times.
20. Improving work processes
On a regular basis iterate, improve, refine, reduce, modify, redesign and recalibrate your work processes.
Always be on the lookout for a better way of performing your work.
Some easy steps of improving work processes include: reducing steps for accomplishing daily projects without compromising the quality of the output, delegating certain tasks to others, automating tasks, using checklists, developing standard operating procedures and designing forms and templates for everyday use.
Others include preparing manuals, templates, responses to frequently asked questions, setting up reminders, avoiding scheduling back to back meetings and scheduling short meetings.
Preparing agendas for meetings and following the agenda, unsubscribing from email lists to control your inbox, checking emails at specific periods during the day rather than continuously working on email all day long and crafting standard email responses for questions you respond to over and over again.
21. Participating actively at work
Ways to participate actively at work include contributing and speaking up during meetings and giving your suggestions, opinions or recommendations, participating in brainstorming sessions, volunteering, helping out the team and going the extra mile.
Other ways include teaching others, having initiative, participating in external activities and events, conducting and reviewing customer surveys, listening to customer feedback and complaints then identify any trends and visiting customers on their premises.
22. Learning from mistakes
Even with our best intentions to work as best as we can and be highly proactive, inevitably mistakes do happen.
What should you do during these instances?
Instances where someone drops the ball include missing a deadline, forgetting to do an important task, making a major mistake, being late for an important meeting or forgetting the meeting altogether, or when you don’t have an answer during a telephone call.
Options for when you fall behind in your work: working remotely, working earlier, staying late, asking for help, renegotiating deadlines, putting up a do not disturb sign, seeking cooperation of colleagues, working weekends, temporarily saying no to new tasks and compressing time by forcing yourself to work faster.
Fight procrastination by forcing yourself to do those tasks you have been avoiding or postponing.
Also become better at estimating the time needed to complete tasks.
Take ownership when you make a mistake.
Be a student of innovation, not all strategies will work out but keep innovating and improving.
23. Building-up your skills
What are your strengths and weaknesses? What do you excel in doing? Which tasks do you enjoy doing the most? Which ones do you least enjoy?
Be on the lookout for potential slip ups in tasks that you don’t enjoy but still have to do. Focus more energy and be vigilant on these areas.
Sharpen your technology and other skills through avenues such as watching “how to” videos, free online courses, paid courses, research, following trendsetters in your industry on social media, learning from peers and investing in continuing education.
24. Communicating well
Taking time to listen attentively and taking good notes helps in how you respond to others.
Ask good questions to gain deeper understanding or to clarify instructions and assumptions.
When writing, use simple and easy to understand sentences. Avoid jargons.
Choose the correct medium to communicate depending on the situation – email, phone call, face to face, fax, snail mail, chat, text, video, social media etc.
When involved in a critical telephone call, it is a good practice to write a summary of the phone call and share it with the parties involved as reference notes for what was discussed.
Similarly during meetings it is helpful to take down the key points and circulate your meeting notes with the participants to ensure that you are all on the same page.
A challenging scenario that arises from time to time is the ability to know when to switch from endless back and forth emails to resolving an issue via a phone call or face to face meeting.
It pays off to know at what point you need to simply pick up the phone and discuss further.
25. Handling interruptions at work
Interruptions are unavoidable parts of the work processes.
Think through a typical week, what kind of interruptions do you get at work? It could be a flurry of emails, telephone calls, colleagues chatting with you or an emergency deadline or project.
It could also be distractions such email or text message notifications, cell phone, browsing the Internet or social media and checking email constantly.
How you respond to interruptions when you are busy has an impact on your work output. The impact could be negative or positive depending on the situation.
For example if the issue arising is a sudden deadline that needs your attention or assistance, your swift response is paramount.
If a colleague needs your input you can let them know you are pressed for time but can spare a few minutes to listen to and address their issue.
If they need a more comprehensive response you could request them to either send you an email or you can have a meeting later on.
If it is colleagues passing by your desk just to chit chat then this can eat up your time and cause you to fall back on your work schedule.
At the same time it is important to nurture work relationships with colleagues and not brush them off when they want to talk to you.
Work place friendships are important in boosting job satisfaction, morale and productivity.
You could try one of two approaches, firstly let your colleague know that you can’t chat now because you are working on a project but you will pass by their desk later or secondly you can later on mutually plan a group lunch together at convenient times just to catch up.
What is the next step after being proactive? Taking initiative is the next logical step after being proactive.
Being proactive means thinking ahead, planning ahead and acting ahead.
Whereas taking initiative means going the extra mile or going above and beyond your normal responsibilities to make things happen.
When Columbia University law professor Alexandra Carter teaches people to negotiate, she shows them a picture of a kayak navigating a series of sea caves. It seems an unlikely metaphor, but the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of negotiate is “to successfully travel along or over.”
She loves the metaphor because to get anywhere in a kayak, you need the right information and must steer, which comes by paddling with a steady rhythm. Outside forces can also carry you away. “Everything you see, hear and feel helps you to steer with accuracy toward your goal,” she writes in her recent book Ask for More.
Translate the kayak to your career, and she says the first lesson is that you don’t wait for a contract to come due with a client or the end of the year to negotiate salary with your boss. Instead, you are continuously piloting those relationships in every conversation you have. Also, you need the right information to steer you toward your goal, which comes by asking questions.
The core of her approach are 10 questions, the first five to ask of yourself and the next five of the other party. Those first five, which she calls “the mirror,” are:
What’s the problem I want to solve? Negotiations, after all, are about steering. Most people figure the fun part of negotiations is figuring out the answer, but the juicy part is defining your problem.
What do I need? People often prepare for negotiations by thinking about their worst case, bottom line for a deal. But she says research shows those who instead focus on identifying their goals get more from negotiations, especially if their aspirations are optimistic, specific and justifiable.
What do I feel? Feelings are facts. They are real and must be dealt with in any negotiation.
How have I handled this successfully in the past? Considering a past success boosts confidence and helps you to return to the successful mindset from that previous time, allowing you to access your inner wisdom and generate helpful ideas.
What’s the first step? There may be many issues on the table in the negotiation. Which one should you start with? Make sure you are likely to have success with it, so you can build momentum.
Now shift your eyes from the mirror to “the window” and ask these five questions to work with the other party:
Tell me … ? Cast a wide net by asking that person to share their view of the goal or problem that brought you together, any important details relating to it, their feelings and concerns, and anything else they feel like adding. “No question unlocks trust, creativity, understanding and mind-blowing solutions like ‘Tell me,’” she says. Sometimes the issue is not what you thought.
What do you need? This can be a game-changer, helping to dig underneath the other person’s demands and figure out what is driving them.
What are your concerns? This not only gives you information that you can use in the discussions but also makes the other person feel heard. If concerns are left unsaid, the negotiation will likely end unresolved.
How have you handled this successfully in the past? Again you travel back in time, but this time encouraging the other person to remember ways in which they have handled similar challenges successfully. “It triggers our memory bank of experiences to allow us to expand our pie of potential options for our current situation,” she says.
What’s the first step? You don’t have to accept what they say, but by asking you increase the chance some option they offer fits with your needs.
So get in your figurative kayak, armed with questions rather than paddles, and move ahead.
If you unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it? It’s unlikely your reaction was the same as renowned fashion designer Phillip Lim: “I just sit still and do nothing. … This is the ultimate luxury.”
With the future so uncertain, London Business School professor Herminia Ibarra recommends in Harvard Business Review conjuring up a diverse portfolio of options rather than sticking single-mindedly to one: “Today, more than ever, the path to your next career will be circuitous.”
The hardest thing of getting things done is doing one thing at a time, says career coach Dan Rockwell. The second hardest part of getting things done is choosing the right task.
Consultant John Linkner says you can sell better if you fill in the blanks on these three statements: After working with me, customers will have no more _____. After working with me, customers will have a good deal more _____. After working with me customers will have less _____.
To quickly open the Explorer window in Windows 10 hit Win+E on the keyboard.
Finding a new job in the field you’ve worked in for years can be a challenge. Switching to a new career track can be plenty daunting, but there’s hope so long as you properly prepare to impress potential employers.
“It is entirely possible to pivot and move into a job or career that you love,” Katie Fogarty, a communications and career coach and founder of The Reboot Group, tells Inverse. “I see people do it all the time. If you’re lit up about moving into a new arena, you should go for it.”
If you’re thinking of entering a new field, here’s what you should do, according to Fogarty and Sean Koppelman, a career coach and president at The Talent Magnet.
1. Do a career audit
The first step in any job search is to conduct an audit on yourself.
“Conduct a personal SWOT analysis — take inventory of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats,” Koppelman said. “Understand clearly your core competencies and what you really enjoy doing. Find what skills you have — communication, analysis, etc. — and identify the ones that are transferable to the new role.”
A way to do this is list out your accomplishments, then brainstorm a second column to figure out a prospective employers’ needs, Fogarty said. Then compare these lists and see how your existing skill set can satisfy those needs.
It may end up being that to get the job you really want, you have to go back to school or obtain a certification, Fogarty said. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for a career 180.
2. Find meaningful work
Some people may know exactly where they want to end up, but if you only have a foggy idea of the career you want, the audit process should make it clearer.
“Through the inventory process, look at what this move will do to provide opportunities that you’re not getting in your current role,” Koppelman said. “Find the responsibilities and tasks that provide more personal and professional enjoyment. Find those things that you really enjoy that you don’t have the opportunity to do. That’s how to find a good fit.”
3. Check for side doors
One of Fogarty’s clients was a news anchor with 20 years of experience who found herself wanting to move into corporate communications. Along with auditing her career and finding her transferable skills, she had also been conducting communication workshops with businesses to develop connections.
“If you’re looking to open a door, you can look for a small way in,” Fogarty said.
One way to do that is to do work for free to build a portfolio. Fogarty had pivoted from communications to career coaching by initially offering her services gratis.
Koppelman suggested another way to get closer toward your ideal job: “Look for a job that gets you closer to the job you want.”
4. Become an expert
When you’re entering a new field, much of your current resume becomes moot. This is why it’s important to learn everything you can about your industry of choice.
“Read, watch, and listen to content specific to that industry. Become a subject matter expert and explain how what you’ve done in your career can help them,” Koppelman said. “Being a storyteller is important. If you have passion and enthusiasm, it can overcome a lack of experience during an in-person interview.”
5. Make the pitch
Your resume, cover letter, and online profiles should tell the story of why you’re the best person for the job.
“People hire to solve challenges, such as winning more customers or growing their business,” Fogarty said. “Anyone trying to convince someone to hire them should understand what their challenges are and through language show they’re the right person to solve them. With a LinkedIn profile, don’t talk about your past history, show how your work will make a difference to that company. ‘Why you’ gets you hired.”
Also, remember that networking remains important.
“Especially during these times, your network is your net worth,” Koppelman said. “Platforms such as LinkedIn don’t get used the proper way until people are in a desperate need. This is the time to leverage your network.”
Workplace bullying refers to any repeated, intentional behavior directed at an employee that is intended to degrade, humiliate, embarrass, or otherwise undermine their performance. It can come from colleagues, supervisors, or management, and is a real problem for workers at all levels. It’s no joke. By learning to recognize and address workplace bullying behavior, you can help to create a healthier, more productive environment for yourself and your colleagues. Keep reading after the jump to learn more.
Part One of Four:
Understanding Workplace BullyingEdit
Learn what a bully is and what a bully does. Just like their immature little brothers and sisters on the schoolyard, workplace bullies use same tools of intimidation and manipulation to bring you down. Learning to recognize their behavior is the first step in putting a stop to it and getting back to work in a comfortable environment.
A bully gains enjoyment from tormenting others. You might not always get along with everyone at work, but that doesn’t mean you’ve got a bully on your hands any more than you’re a bully yourself. Distinguish between the two by recognizing this trait–does this person seem to make special effort in messing with you, tripping you up, or bringing you down? Do they seem to enjoy it? If the answer is yes, this might suggest a bully.
Bullies often have deep-seated psychological issues related to control. Know that your bullying has less to do with your performance and your personality and more to do with the bully’s insecurities.
Recognize bullying behaviors. Watch for the sure signs of a bully that signify more than a simple misunderstanding or personal disagreement. Workplace bullying might include:
Shouting, whether in private, in front of colleagues, or in front of customers
Belittling or disrespectful comments
Excessive monitoring, criticizing, or nitpicking someone’s work
Deliberately overloading someone with work
Undermining someone’s work by setting them up to fail
Purposefully withholding information needed to perform a job efficiently
Actively excluding someone from normal workplace/staff room conversations and making someone feel unwelcome
Pay attention to signs outside of work that suggest you’re a victim of bullying. You might be suffering from bullying if you suffer at home in the following ways:
You have trouble sleeping or struggle with nausea and vomiting because you’re scared to go to work
Your family gets frustrated because of how much you talk and obsess about work problems
You spend days off worrying about going back to work
Your doctor notices health problems like blood pressure and other stress concerns
You feel guilty about having provoked your workplace troubles
Don’t ignore the feeling that you’re being bullied. If you feel singled out unfairly, or as if you’re picked on a disproportionate amount, it can be tempting to come up with excuses. “Everyone gets treated this way,” or “I deserve it” are common guilt trips that bullies help to lay on you. Don’t fall into a trap of self-loathing if you feel you’re being bullied. Form a plan to stop the bullying and reclaim your workplace.
Unlike schoolyard bullies, who tend to pick on victims they identify as alone or weak, workplace bullies typically pick on employees they consider threatening to their career. If your presence makes someone else look bad enough they feel the need to take you down, take it as a twisted compliment. You’re good at what you do. You know this. Don’t let them confuse you.
Tell the bully to stop. This is, of course, more difficult than it sounds, but you can keep a few simple gestures and statements in mind to bring out when you’re feeling bullied.
Put your hands up, creating a barrier between you and your bully, like a policeman using the stop signal with his hand.
Say something short that communicates your frustration, like: “Please stop and let me work” or “Stop talking please.” This will help you to stand up to the behavior and give you ammunition for your report if the behavior continues.
Never escalate the bullying. Shouting counter insults or yelling back might end up getting you in trouble or making the situation worse. Use a calm, collected tone of voice, and tell the person to stop as if you were talking to a dog chewing on a slipper.
Keep a record of all bullying events. Record the name of your tormentor and the method of bullying. Record specific times, dates, locations, and the names of any witnesses to the events. Provide and gather as much information as you can. Collecting documentation is the most important and concrete way to get the bullying to stop when you take the issue to your superiors or a legal team.
Even if you’re not sure you’re being bullied, journaling about your feelings in a diary can help you to get your feelings out and figure out for yourself what you’re struggling with. As a result of writing down your feelings and your frustrations, you might decide you don’t have a bully, or that you definitely do and you need to take action.
Get witnesses. Consult with your fellow co-workers any time you feel bullied and make sure they’ll back you up by corroborating your evidence. Have them write it down for future reference. Pick someone who works at the same time you do, or who has a desk near yours.
If bullying tends to happen at particular times or in particular locations, have your witness linger in the area if you suspect you’re going to be tormented by your bully. Bring partners into a meeting with a superior who you feel bullies you. You’ll have backup in case things get ugly and you’ll have evidence for later.
If you’re being bullied, there’s a good chance others are too. Team up and help each other deal with a common enemy.
Keep calm and wait a while. Make sure that you’ve collected your evidence and that you’re calm and professional. Running to your boss in the throes of emotional turmoil can make you seem whiny, or like you’re overreacting, when there’s a bigger issue at hand. If you’re calm, you’ll be more articulate, present a better case for yourself, and stand a better chance of changing your workplace for the better.
Wait overnight between a bullying situation and reporting things to your boss. If you’re bullied in the mean time, or if you have to wait a while before talking to your boss, do your best to avoid your bully. Remain calm and continue on your way. If you expect bullying might happen, you’ll be prepared when it does.
Set up a meeting with your supervisor or HR representative. Bring your written evidence, your witnesses, and present your case as calmly as you can. Practice what you’re going to say before you get in there and have to say it. Keep your complaint short and sweet, and fill out any documentation paperwork provided for you by your superiors.
Don’t suggest a course of action unless your boss requests it. In other words, it’s inappropriate to talk to your boss and say, “Bruce needs to get fired because he bullies me.” Lay out your case as strongly as possible and with as much incriminating evidence as you can, say, “I’m frustrated with this behavior and I’ve run out of options, so I thought you needed to know.” Let your superiors come to their own conclusions about a course of action.
If your superior is the one bullying you, contact HR or contact your supervisor’s superiors. It’s not the army and there is no “chain of command.” Talk to someone who can make a difference.
Follow up. If the bullying continues and it still hasn’t been sorted out and nothing is being done to stop it, you have the right to take it further and go higher up, by talking to higher management, personnel and even HR (Human Resources). Continue until your complaint is taken seriously and the situation is remedied to allow you to work in a welcoming environment.
It would be helpful to come up with a variety of alternatives to help make the situation better for you. If your boss’s supervisor is unwilling to fire your boss but acknowledges that bullying has occurred, are you willing to transfer? Are you willing to work from home? What would make the situation “right” by you? Give some alternatives serious thought in case you need to present a case for yourself.
If you present evidence and nothing changes or the situation becomes worse, consult a lawyer and consider legal action. Provide them with documentation and seek legal action.
Make getting better a priority. You won’t be any good as a worker and you won’t be happy as a person if you don’t take the time to recover from your experience with bullying. Take some time off and ignore work for a while.
If you’ve presented a good case for yourself, you should be a good candidate for a paid vacation. Jump on this opportunity.
Engage in meaningful and fulfilling activities outside of work. It’s called work, not super-happy-fun-time, for a reason. Any job, even one at a healthy workplace that you enjoy, can get to you after a while and leave you in need of a vacation that rejuvenates your work ethic and your spirit. If you’ve been bullied and want to start feeling better, you might:
Talk to your doctor or psychiatrist. You might be in need of more substantial care than you can provide by yourself. Therapy or medication might be in order if you’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the grip of a workplace bully.
Change jobs. It may be that, even if the bully has been dealt with, you might be more comfortable seeking new opportunities elsewhere. Treat this whole experience as an opportunity rather than a setback. If you were unhappy at your place of work, maybe developing skills in a new profession, moving to a different climate, or just transferring to a new branch might provide you with a fresh outlook on life and work.
Part Four of Four:
Preventing Bullying as an EmployerEdit
Implement a zero-tolerance bullying policy at your business. Any health and wellness policy needs to involve anti-bullying protocols. Make sure this is covered and supported by the management and is taken seriously at all levels of the business.
Pair this with an open door policy and hold frequent orientation meetings regarding workplace bullying, making sure employees at all levels are on the look out for this behavior.
Address bullying behaviors immediately. It’s easy to sit back and hope for the best, thinking that your employees will be able to work it out among themselves. It won’t. Don’t let a problem fester among your employees if you want a productive, healthy, and effective work environment.
Investigate all complaints seriously and fully. Even if complaints seem to come from overly sensitive employees and turn out to be the result of simple misunderstandings, they’re worthy of your attention.
Eliminate competition. Often bullying evolves from a sense of competition in the workplace, leading employees who feel threatened by the skills of other employees to attempt to bring them down or sabotage their efforts by engaging in psychological warfare. It’s a dangerous and problematic workplace dynamic to let fester.
Workplace competition is based on the belief that employees want to be the best and will work harder when rewarded for successes. While it’s true that competition in some business models can increase productivity, it also increases the turnover of employees and can create a hostile and unwelcoming environment.
Encourage management and staff interaction. The more involved your workforce is at all levels with itself, the less likely the lowest-level workers are to take matters into their own hands. Think of it as Lord of the Flies–don’t let the parents be absent from the island, and the kids will be ok.
You should always consult with human resources first. If you do not have an HR department, you could seek legal advice from a lawyer who specializes in workplace cases.
Is it harassment if a co-worker is degrading me to other co-workers?
Yes, it is harassment if the degradation is affecting the quality of projects you get and the treatment you receive at the workplace, more so if it is taking place every day and affecting your mental and physical health. If you have evidence of harassment, take it to HR and work with them to find a solution.
How do I combat systematic bullying by a management team against employees?
If there is an HR department at your company, complain to them. If there are higher-ups above the management team, express your concerns to them as well. If multiple employees come forward together instead of just one person, all the better, If you have any evidence you can present, that’s helpful. If none of this helps, then there is likely a level of corruption and/or complacency in your workplace that you won’t be able to overcome, and it might be best to work on finding yourself a different job.
Can writing “nitpicking comments” be classified as bullying?
Not really, no, but it depends on the nature of the comments. Keep a record of every comment that you feel could be classified as bullying. In the event that you ever want to address the issue with your supervisors, you’ll have clear records of the comments.
If you are part of a union, see your union representative. If not, and you are in a state in the union that is labelled ‘At Will Employment’, use caution before deciding how to fight an unfair suspension. The owner of a smaller company will probably value knowing that you would rather be at the office. A larger firm is a little more tricky. Using the proper means of ‘chain of command’ would be to your benefit. Stay professional, and start a letter-writing campaign. Carbon copy all of the proper supervisors or managers. Include the home office, if there is one. Let them know you see their point, but feel unfairly singled out, perhaps. Also, remind them that you would rather be working!
What if the supervisor is bullied by the staff employee and undermining all work relationships of the supervisor? Why is it assumed the supervisor is the bully?
Tom De Backer
Because bullying is associated with a position of power, whether real or perceived. Bullying among equals is rare, as is bullying where a more powerful person is the victim. Regardless of their roles, if a subordinate and a supervisor for some reason both perceive the subordinate to be more powerful, then sure, bullying can occur in that direction as well. The article deals primarily with how to handle it though, and this relationship is just an example.
A bullied person can feel very lonely as well, and the effects can last for a long time, even for life.
Do not retaliate – It can throw things out of hand and you could end up being blamed instead of the bully.
A bully may interrogate the victim with lots of ‘police interview’ or ‘cross examination style’ questions. Interrogation can make a victim be afraid to open up and it can make them feel like the bad one instead of the bully/harasser and it can make them feel anxious, defensive and more alone.
Beware malicious gossip and unkind remarks that are dressed up as jokes or banter. If it hurts your feelings, it hurts your feelings.
Keep a diary of all the bullying events and keep evidence such as emails and work instructions to back up your claims.
For nasty comments said to you – the best thing to do is to say nothing and walk away, or just use one-word replies to show that you are not interested in the bully’s/bullies nonsense.
Carry on being yourself and carry on feeling good about yourself. Don’t believe the rubbish they say and don’t let them stop you being you.
Don’t believe bullying myths such as “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” and others e.g. “Big girls/boys don’t cry.” Words do hurt and cut to the very core, and being bullied can reduce a person to tears and sadness.
Don’t ever take what a bully says personally; doing so will only damage your self esteem.
Think about the reaction. If it escalates, make sure you have a witness for any future action you might take. Most of all you are putting this person on immediate notice that you will not be treated this way and will not under any circumstances accept such behavior.
This article was co-authored by our trained team of editors and researchers who validated it for accuracy and comprehensiveness. Together, they cited information from 18 references. wikiHow’s Content Management Team carefully monitors the work from our editorial staff to ensure that each article meets our high standards.
Most people look forward to returning to work after a disability leave. It’s a chance to reconnect with co-workers, re-engage with work, and get back to old routines. But the transition back to work can also be difficult. You may be returning with new priorities in your life or new restrictions on what you can do. Whatever your situation, there are ways to help smooth your return.
Find out what to expect when you return
Returning from a disability leave is a big change in your life. In addition to the adjustments in your daily routine, you may not be returning to work exactly as you left. Your job or your capacity for work may be different now. As you prepare for your return, it will help to gather as much information as possible.
Talk to your doctor about what to expect as you are recovering. Be clear about what you are currently able to do, and how that impacts your work. If your job requires lifting, will you be able to do this work? If you need to stand or sit for hours, you may need a break at regular intervals.
If you will need accommodations in the workplace, talk with your leave coordinator. The person responsible for managing your leave may be in human resources, a case manager outside the company, or your union representative. Together, review your current abilities and job description. Identify changes that will allow you to return safely to productive work. You may be able to return to full-time work, but need a schedule change to accommodate ongoing medical treatments. You may need a different chair, computer screen, or a wrist rest at your desk. Or, you may need to be temporarily reassigned to a job that requires no travel.
Talk with your manager about what you expect, and about what is expected of you. Even if there are no tangible accommodations to your work environment or schedule, it may take you a while to get “up to speed.” Be clear about what you will need to feel confident about your work. Together, plan how much work you will be able to do when you first return.
Talk to others who have experienced a similar injury or illness and who have returned to work. Ask them about their experience. What can they tell you about the first few days of work? Ask which supports proved helpful to them over time.
Finalize your arrangements for personal and family needs
As your return date approaches, do what you can to prepare yourself and your family for the transition back to work. Your return will be smoother if you have had a chance to address your personal and family needs.
Firm up any medical arrangements you need to make before your return. Schedule appointments for physical therapy or other medical treatments. Make transportation arrangements. Refill prescriptions that are running low.
If you need child care, finalize plans now. You may need to start up child care again or adjust existing care to your new work schedule. Plan back-up child care as well. A trial run of the new arrangement during your last week of leave will help you and your child adjust to the new transition.
Establish routines at home for the beginning and end of the day. It may help to have a checklist to follow, both for you and for other family members who share in household responsibilities. Think, too, about what you can do the night before, and what needs to get done in the morning.
Take care of errands and household tasks. Before you return, you might prepare and freeze several meals. Do you need a haircut? Are there bills to be paid? Any tasks you can complete in your final days on leave will help make things easier at home as you make the transition back to work.
Work with your company’s leave coordinator to make any special arrangements for your return
As you approach the end of your leave, your leave coordinator can help with the timing of your return. Finalize plans to assist in your transition back to work, as well.
Identify any physical or emotional limitations that affect your work. Are you taking medication that affects your ability to perform certain tasks at work? Will you be able to handle the walk from the parking lot to your company’s building? Be clear about what you can do and what you aren’t yet able to do.
Think about any special schedule requirements you may have. Will you need to leave work for medical appointments? You may need to take time out from work for physical therapy exercises. Find out if you can return to work on a reduced schedule until you are fully recovered.
Plan to evaluate your changing abilities as you recover. In time, most people who return from a disability leave are able to work at full capacity. Plan to make adjustments to your schedule or other accommodations as needed.
Plan your return with your manager
Hopefully, you have been in touch with your manager throughout your leave, and have found ways to stay current about what’s going on at work. As your return date approaches, you’ll need to touch base more often with your manager.
Demonstrate commitment and talk about special concerns. Show your commitment to the company and your work group by initiating a conversation with your manager about your return.
Let your manager know as early as you can about any schedule adjustments or other accommodations you may need. Your company’s leave coordinator can help you make those arrangements with your manager.
The details of your medical situation can be kept confidential. Only your company’s leave coordinator or human resources department needs to know about your medical condition. If you choose to keep your condition confidential, you should decide what to say to your manager about your absence. Think, too, about what you would like your manager to say to others at work.
Some employees do find it helpful to share information about their situation with their manager, as a way of setting expectations. You might photocopy an article, for example or a few pages from a book about your condition. A piece written by an expert may explain what you are going through and help your manager understand the realities of your situation.
Talk about job responsibilities and your work schedule. Discuss with your manager how the work you are responsible for will get done. Talk about which tasks you can take on right now, and which, because of your medical condition, you may not be able to manage until later.
If you can’t take on all of your former responsibilities right away, you might offer to gradually increase your workload.
Talk about your schedule and whether some flexibility might help in the transition back to work. If flexibility is necessary for a medical reason, your leave coordinator can help you work out the details with your manager.
As you have these discussions, try to see things from your manager’s point of view. Your manager must balance the needs of everyone in the department and see that the work gets done. You are the person closest to the work, and you can play an important role in helping your manager come up with business alternatives and staffing solutions. Work with your manager to find “win/win” solutions that meet everyone’s needs.
Follow up with regular meetings. Once you are back at work, continue to meet regularly with your manager. It will give you both a chance to re-evaluate your workload, to see how you are managing, and to determine whether the business’s needs are being met. Regular meetings with your manager will also help you feel like a normal part of the work group, rather than an “outsider” with an unusual schedule or special condition.
Use your meetings to honestly assess your workload, to be sure you aren’t trying to take on too much too quickly.
As you make progress toward recovery, you and your manager can adjust your responsibilities to reflect your improving capabilities.
When co-workers feel overworked. If you sense that co-worker resentment is affecting your work and the work of your team, talk with your manager about the problem.
You may be able to defuse this tension by helping co-workers understand what you are going through. Perhaps just explaining your struggles will help. Be sure, too, to express your appreciation for their continuing support.
It may be that you need your manager’s help. Your manager might discuss work assignments with your co-workers, making it clear that what they perceive, as “special treatment” is the company’s normal response to accommodate an employee with a disability. They may one day need the same flexibility.
When co-workers want to keep your work. You may have to deal with a co-worker who is reluctant to give up an interesting task assigned while you were on leave. Your manager is responsible for dealing with these conflicts, but you can help.
If a subordinate has taken on temporary responsibilities during your absence, that person may worry that your return will mean a “demotion” to a more limited role. You might see if your manager could use your return as an opportunity to expand that employee’s role. Perhaps the employee can keep some or all of the responsibility taken on during your leave.
Once you and your manager have decided which tasks you are resuming and which are being reassigned, suggest that your manager set up a meeting with your department or work group. Use the meeting to communicate the plan for managing these tasks and responsibilities.
Your spouse. Your home routines are likely to have changed as a result of your injury or illness. You and your spouse may need to talk about your changing responsibilities. Rather than letting resentment build up, talk about ways you might share tasks at home more fairly.
Getting the facts out in the open will help you both come up with solutions. If one of you feels an undue burden from cleaning or preparing dinner every night, you might decide to buy take-out food a couple of nights each week, cut back on your housecleaning for a while, or share the chores differently.
Friends and family can help you get the rest, exercise, and emotional support you need. You can help by making your needs known. If you wait for those around you to offer their help, you may be setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment.
Co-workers might help run errands for you, or provide transportation to work.
Talk with co-workers
Co-workers, too, need to know what to expect from you as you return, and how your work will fit in with theirs. If you are returning at less than full capacity, your manager will play a key role in explaining how tasks will get done. You may either want to speak with co-workers yourself about your limitations and work capacity, or help your manager in explaining this to them.
Ideally, you want the people around you to understand what you can and cannot do, both when you first come back and later on, as your abilities change. Whether or not you share details of your condition with co-workers, it is important for them to know your current capabilities.
Get the help and support you need
The more help and support you get, the easier the transition back to work will be. Look for and accept help from whatever sources are available to you.
Remember, too, that the people around you who have been giving support may need rest and support themselves. Make sure the people who help you have time to “recharge.”
Your company may also offer training programs for employees in your situation. It may sponsor, be able to help to organize, or refer you to support groups of people with similar conditions. Check with your employer’s human resources department to review what is available.
Returning from a disability leave can be an enormous transition. With the help of your doctor, your leave coordinator, and your manager, you can set up a plan for a smooth and successful return to work.
Why hiring an employee with a mental illness can actually benefit employers
I know how hard it can be to find work. So when I am afforded an opportunity, I am exceptionally committed
By Emily Plunkett, for CBC NewsPosted: Jan 31, 2018 4:00 AM ETLast Updated: Jan 31, 2018 4:00 AM ET
In Canada, anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of people with severe mental illnesses find themselves unemployed. (Shutterstock)
Sarnia-born Emily Plunkett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Gatineau.
It’s a gamble every time I decide to be open about my mental health: will I hear the typical “this might not work out” that I always fear will lead to my dismissal? Or will my employer actually accept it and try to work with me to find solutions?
I have a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder and depression, which can obviously pose some challenges in a working environment. I have held positions in customer service call centres and retail sales. Each of these positions come with their own sets of challenges requiring some level of accommodation, usually with scheduling around weekly doctor appointments and a designated spot for prolonged panic attacks.
But unless I am told by a doctor that I need medical leave, I don’t need to be off work or without a job — especially since my doctors and I recognize that the act of working is therapeutic and empowering.
I know many employers have reservations about hiring someone with a mental illness. They fear late starts, prolonged absences, erratic behaviour and so forth. And these fears are perceptible to employees, which explains why, according to the Centre For Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), 39 per cent of Ontario workers would not tell their managers if they were experiencing a mental health problem or crisis.
But there is a case to be made that hiring people with mental illness could actually be to the benefit of the employer. For me at least, my struggle with depression means I can be extraordinarily creative in coming up with solutions to problems. I am also compassionate with customers and co-workers alike who might be having bad days. I often use a broad understanding of my own struggle to empathize during tense situations, and I draw on a variety of skills learned through therapy to remain relatively calm while working through problems.
And because I know how challenging it can be for those with mental illness to find jobs, I am that much more committed to my work when I am afforded an opportunity. In Canada, anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of people with severe mental illnesses find themselves unemployed, meaning that the minority who do find work probably consider themselves very fortunate. Indeed, these people may become the most loyal and hardworking employees an employer can welcome to their team.
That said, the above doesn’t always apply if the issue of mental health is never really acknowledged or discussed in the workplace. Indeed, in my experience, not having an open conversation about mental illness can actually make things worse, and in some cases, just the thought of being let go under circumstances relating to my symptoms can lead to panic attacks and other undesirable effects.
In contrast, managers who have offered help and understanding to effectively manage my symptoms saw major successes in my performance as an employee. Granted, I have been in situations where employers dismissed my concerns or made me feel scared when my “secret” became known, and while I did still stay with those jobs, it was a challenge. It’s to everyone’s benefit to discuss these issues openly and constructively, and to resist the urge to shy away from challenges. Those willing and able to work while living with mental illness certainly do not avoid these struggles.
By Linda Hatch, PhDIf you have ever tried to relate to a serious narcissist you will realize that there is something different about it. Because narcissists are deeply insecure they need to constantly establish their power and worth. They are not like hypnotists they literally are hypnotists. It’s how they relate. The normal feelings you get with someone you like, feeling like you have “good chemistry” or feeling like you “hit it off” bear no resemblance to falling under the spell of a true narcissist.
How they hypnotize
Narcissists have one main technique for putting you into a trance: they take over. They draw you into listening to them as they talk about themselves or about some other thing as it relates to them.
Narcissists are good at being the center of attention, and since this often makes them interesting, clever, quick and witty they will be able to command your full attention. They pull you into their orbit by getting you to focus on them. You start to feel pleasantly passive and entertained.
In this state you are lulled into giving up all subjectivity. You find yourself agreeing with them, taking their lead. You want them to like you.
The result is that unlike compulsive seducers, narcissists don’t try to make you feel loved. They make you feel that life is good because you are their best and biggest fan.
You have given up your independent will and become their audience. You are hypnotized.
Because hypnotism has great powers to persuade, you may end up wanting to prolong the feeling of being in the narcissist’s orbit. You will be persuaded to feel that you want to befriend them, that you want to be like them, and want to help them. You want this because….well you just do.
If you relate regularly to such a person you will enter into their world on their terms. You will end interpreting things in terms of what they would say or do.
But life in this world is a one way street. You are the audience and they are the star. In their world what matters is “looking marvelous” and never feeling that anyone is superior to you. The charm of their world makes everything else ordinary.
Breaking the spell
Breaking the spell is hard. You care a great deal about what the narcissist thinks of you. And since you have given up your independent sense of self around them you feel like it would be very hard to decide to look at things critically. If you work for such a person you have an even greater need to maintain the status quo.
If you are a child growing up with narcissistic parents this process of breaking the spell is virtually impossible.
Here are some things to focus on that will help you identify your trance state and in so doing, change it.
If you have just met a narcissist and fallen under their spell you may leave the encounter feeling excited about getting closer to them. But after you have been away from them for a while the trance state weakens. Soon you may notice that your liking for them was out of proportion. Your sense of self will gradually be restored as you get further away. This is a chance to use your critical faculties to understand what has happened.
You can never be in the spotlight when you are around a narcissist. Even when they appear to be focused on you it is really about them. But sometimes we all need to take center stage in a conversation or at a in a meeting. If you try, it will always feel awkward, like it somehow doesn’t come off right. You will begin to feel thwarted and frustrated. You may even feel some self criticism or despondency. Listen to this feeling.
If you are in a relationship with a narcissist you will sooner or later begin to feel that you are never getting listened to and that there is never any real connection or easy exchange of ideas. One way you may notice this is that you will have to go outside your relationship to have a real conversation. When you call that other friend you can begin to see that your real relationship is with that friend, not with the narcissist. You have broken the spell.
This six-part documentary series features job-seekers determined to show that having a physical disability or neurological condition shouldn’t make them unemployable. Each episode features two individuals from the Greater Toronto Area or Montreal who want nothing more than to find steady employment. Each is living with vision loss or a neurological condition such as Tourette’s, Asperger’s or Down syndrome, or ADHD. It isn’t always easy but each job seeker is determined to find their passion.
What is your first impression when you hear the term Borderline personality disorder (BPD)? For many people, the term is fraught with stigma and negative connotations as a result of years of unhealthy representations and lack of research. But with the advent of continuing research, new clinical findings, and an increase in psycho-education about the disorder, things are looking up in terms of understanding BPD better.
With more knowledge and understanding of how behaviors, attitudes, and perceptions work in the lives of those with BPD, you will be better able to control your own emotions, cope, and utilize your boundaries.
This article will explore ways that families and friends can learn to cope with a loved one how displays BPD traits.
BPD is a very complex disorder for many diagnosed with it. The symptoms, the chaos, the abusive tendencies, the rage, the fear of trusting others, the feelings of abandonment, and the self-harm or suicidal thoughts all take families by surprise. Sadly, many sufferers struggle to explain their symptoms to others who may believe they are being manipulative, oppositional, problematic, or difficult on purpose. In fact, research suggests that BPD creates a kind of “mis-perception” of self and others. BPD can be likened to a foggy lens that you may attempt to look out of. You seem “images” of things but cannot see the complete picture. Individuals with BPD often see only half of the picture through a foggy, emotionally-driven lens. That’s why proper management of emotions and thoughts as well as anger can seem impossible. You may also notice that the individual, when escalated, recalls a completely different story of an argument than you remember it to be.
It is important that I highlight that BPD, under great distress, can result in paranoia and some delusional forms of thinking. It is possible that someone who has the disorder begins to “recall” details that never happened at all. It is sad for me to say that because of this the disorder maintains its strong stigma and many people maintain an aversion to any sign of this BPD trait.
Gender and Borderline Personality
BPD affects a great deal of our population but research is still somewhat lacking on the subject. There is very little research about specific populations suffering from BPD such as adolescents and males. Men tend to be a group that BPD research is slowly beginning to study. Even in my local area there are limited opportunities for men with BPD-traits to be studied in clinical trials or teaching university studies. The majority population continues to be females. But after NFL player Brandon Marshall opened up about his diagnosis, researchers began to discuss male BPD more often. Still, however, we have limited videos, articles, research studies, etc. on the topic.
Thankfully, programs at Mclean Hospital (and similar places) offer research, studies, and education on both genders. it is important that we understand the different characteristics of BPD in females and males. Symptoms can look very different. Emotion dysregulation can also look different based on gender. For example, men with BPD often exhibit physically aggressive behaviors, become substance abusers, get into a lot of legal troubles, and engage in high risk behaviors such as driving a car really fast, threatening a violent suicide, or engaging in pushing legal or moral limits. Bipolar disorder can be a misdiagnosis for many males with BPD. Diagnosis for males is often difficult and most are diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder, substance abuse disorder, or referred to anger management classes or drug and alcohol services.
Women tend to suffer more with the interpersonal and relational aspects of the illness and tend to struggle more with feelings of abandonment and loss. Although both genders struggle with many of the same symptoms, males struggle in a very different way.
Adolescents and borderline personality
In my experience of treating many teens who cannot (at this time) be diagnosed with BPD, both my male and female adolescent clients suffered with BPD traits that interfered with a great deal of their lives. Not only did they struggle with social relationships, honesty, and fear of being abandoned by friends and peers in school, but they also displayed behaviors that were very self-defeating. For example, adolescents with BPD may engage in back-biting, ostracizing peers, jealous or competitive behaviors, stealing and lying, substance use and abuse, or display an array of complicated relational patterns. It is true that most teens struggle with relationships as they are attempting to develop a more stable view of themselves. But most teens with BPD struggle with this process and may complicated every ounce of their interactions with other people.
Because today’s teens (as a result of a reluctance from the field of psychology to diagnose adolescents with personality disorders) “cannot” be diagnosed with BPD, many acquire a “primary” diagnosis of depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. This so-called primary diagnosis is then “treated” as the main problem when in fact the main problem is BPD. If this doesn’t make sense to you, join the club.
The earlier we can treat the symptoms, the better the prognosis.
Families and Borderline Personality
Many families struggle with the symptoms of BPD and have trouble understanding why their loved one’s emotional responses are disproportionate to the actual situation. Families also question why outbursts of anger and emotional intensity are triggered by minor things. Trying to understand the “why” can take years, even after families develop a working knowledge of the diagnosis. “Things don’t make sense” is a common statement I hear when seeing a family who has an adolescent or adult child with undiagnosed BPD-traits. The main issue for someone diagnosed with BPD is regulating emotions, comprehension of reality, and logical reasoning when emotions get out of control. Some of my client’s families have reported that their 34 year old has unreasonable outbursts like a toddler, even in public. The ability to recognize what is going on inside of the BPD sufferer is very, very difficult at times. I’ve seen many of my families speak to the sufferer as if they are talking to a child who is tantruming. I have also seen families try to reason or use logi with the sufferer only to later find out that their loved one misinterpreted their statements. The sufferer’s ability to see the bigger picture is an uphill climb. The sufferer’s ability to hear love, compassion, and concern is also clouded by intense emotions.
As a therapist who has taken on both adolescents and adults meeting criteria for borderline personality, I would like to share with you what I have shared in my office with families about the disorder. If you are dealing with someone who may have (or has been diagnosed with) BPD,you will want to be sure that you do these 7 things:
Don’t react emotionally to irrational statements or behaviors: When your loved one is in a tornado where everyone’s statements feel like personal attacks, it’s best to keep your distance and allow your loved one to let off steam. Anything you say during this time will be misconstrued and confused or used against you. Statements such as “you don’t want me,” “you don’t love me,” or “I hate you” are all statements that come from someone who is emotionally out of control and almost seeking validation, through the argument or confrontation, for their internal feelings. If you react negatively, you validate their feelings and risk losing the person. You don’t want to lose them, you want to reach them. Silence is a positive tool during this time when used appropriately. Also, don’t be afraid to invalidate their feelings by challenging their inaccurate statements. If the person says “you don’t love me,” it’s okay to say, “where is the proof for this? Can you give me an example of this?” 10 times out of 10, they won’t be able to give you an example. I’ve had clients say “you are on my parents side” and I’ve used this statement and I’ve seen it trigger introspection and awareness.
Be mindful of the intense emotional, behavioral, and cognitive dysregulation: In other words, don’t forget that the person struggles with intense episodes of emotion that almost mimics a whirlwind or tornado. The significant dysregulation can be severe and appear as if it is disrupting any progress, logical reasoning, or healing that appeared to be taking place. It’s best if families remind themselves that the illness is powerful and can be triggered at any time by anything, but that this doesn’t always mean that there isn’t progress being made. There will most certainly be ups and downs with this diagnosis. There are periods of calm and periods of chaos. You want to be sure not to become overly positive or overly pessimistic either. You want to remain balanced in your view of the illness. You want to remember that many people with BPD are capable people, but struggle with emotional, cognitive, and behavioral dysregulation. This might never go away.
Don’t reinforce or encourage abusive behaviors: We all have a tendency to want to help those we love or care about when they are feeling emotionally out of control. We want to calm their fears and become the rescuer. When a sufferer with BPD becomes emotionally out of control due to feeling like a need is not being met, their behavior can feel manipulative and controlling if not abusive. Most people run to the rescue of the sufferer in hopes of stopping the storm before it gets started or reducing the intensity of the person’s rage. But this is like giving a baby a pacifier to calm them temporarily. For example, imagine your 16 year old daughter erupting in rage after you tell her she cannot go to a party with college age peers. She begins to scream, curse, and cry, calling you every name in the book. She might also try to triangulate you by calling her father and asking for his input. To calm the storm and gain control, you compromise by letting her know she can go but must take her brother with her. She agrees and stops berating you. You feel relieved but also manipulated. The next time a party occurs the same thing happens but you decide not to give in this time out of guilt for how you reacted in the past. Your daughter not only sneaks out but comes back home drunk. When I sat down with this mother in a family session some years ago, I explained that she had reinforced negative behavior that would now be difficult to undo. Don’t fall into this trap.
Stay calm and regulate yourself: It’s really easy to fall into the emotional chaos of your loved one when they are out of control. It’s easy to feel just as emotional as they feel. I have called this vicarious emotional reaction. You are vicariously experiencing the other person’s emotions and react in the same level of intensity if not worse than the sufferer. You want to be mindful of your own emotions and constantly check in with yourself to see where you are. I do this with my teen BPD clients who are very emotional at times. I have to ask myself “where are you now?” “Are you getting angry?” “Are you calm?” If I am not calm, I have to take a pause and start over. The only way you can co-regulate the sufferer (help the sufferer control themselves) is by controlling yourself.
Don’t be afraid to call someone for help: BPD symptoms can get so out of control that the police has to be called or neighbors end up calling the police. If arguments or disagreements are getting out of control, don’t be afraid to initiate a call to the police (as a last resort of course) or suggest a 302 or 201 (voluntary commitment to a hospital). This is one of the most difficult decisions for families to make. Calling the police increases the risk that your loved one will act out and be charged with disorderly conduct, taken to the hospital on a 302, or become even more enraged by you for suggesting a 201. For many of my client’s, I suggest calling a crisis line first or someone in the family or close to the family that can gain some control. A fresh perspective can be helpful.
Don’t feel guilty for feeling confused about the illness: BPD is an enigma for many families and friends including researchers and therapists. Understanding it can take years of experience and study. I’ve seen my fair share of parents who struggle with their lack of knowledge and even after reading almost everything they can on BPD, they still feel guilty for not knowing something. It is impossible to learn about every single aspect of BPD. The most important things for you to remember are the basics: what the disorder is, what it looks like, and remembering that there are treatments that can help. Don’t burden yourself with unnecessary information or guilt for not knowing. Learn and keep learning.
Learn how to use a chain-analysis and share with your loved one: A chain analysis is basically a technique for looking at triggers, responses to triggers, and consequences of the responses. For example, the situation with the daughter who wanted to go to a party with her college age peers had a beginning, middle, and end to it. If the mother were to do a chain analysis, she would see that the daughter wanted to go to the party and mom said no (beginning), she became enraged when she couldn’t go (middle), and attempted to manipulate the situation by triangulating her parents and ultimately getting her way (consequence). A chain analysis can help you look at the situation objectively (or fairly) and help your loved one see themselves better. I encourage you to use this technique when your loved one begins to berate you, guilt-trip you, or say you are not fair. A chain-analysis promotes open communication and honesty. It also helps you help your loved one identify when their behaviors lead to negative consequences. Sneaking out of the house and going to a party against mothers wishes (beginning), led to her engaging in negative behaviors with peers too old for her (middle), and getting drunk which could result in legal charges, rape, or other troubles (consequences).
There are many ways to manage and help someone with BPD symptoms. Next week we will discuss some of those ways. Nothing is more powerful than knowledge. Understanding the illness can lead to greater ways of coping with it.
This is part of a series examining the mental health experience in Canada’s workplaces.Take part in ourshort survey (tgam.ca/mentalhealthsurvey) and add your voice to this important conversation. This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell’s Employee Recommended Workplace Award, which honours companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first.Winners for 2017 will be announced at a conference in late spring. Sign up to receive an e-mail about registration for 2018 at www.employeerecommended.com.
If you were worried about your mental health at work and felt it was impacting your effectiveness, what would you do?
Some people will read this question and think that if they did – or do – have a concern about their mental health they would not feel comfortable talking to their employer out of fear of being judged.
This is rooted in the term stigma and is a normal reaction. Stepping back from this question, every employee is paid a salary to do a job at an agreed-upon level of productivity. When someone knows they are not producing what they believe they’re capable of, this can be frustrating and add another layer of stress and regret.
Having a game plan can help you feel confident if you need to have a conversation with your manager about a mental health issue.
Before you talk to your employer about your concern, it’s important to understand that in Canada, telling an employer about a health condition is called disclosure. You don’t need to explain the cause, only what your limits are and what you need for support.
You can help your employer to help you by being prepared and knowing what you need in order to be successful. If you have a mental health issue or addiction, you are protected under The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You can’t get in trouble or be prejudiced against if you ask your employer for support, but your employer doesn’t need to create a job for you nor pay you if you can’t do any work. See the article on workplace accommodations in this series for more details.
Preparing what you will say to your employer and how you will ask for support or an accommodation will help you clearly frame your needs and request. Don’t assume that every employer and manager is trained and knows what to do. You can help them help you by being prepared.
Review the full checklist at mentalhealthworks.ca. Below is a brief overview of things to consider as you prepare to talk to your employer about your situation and needs:
· Decide how you will describe your mental health issue.
· Provide your employer with resources and basic information on your mental health issue.
· Be clear about how your mental health is impacting your work and what you need to do your job effectively.
· Inform your employer of your strengths and your commitment.
· Let your employer know how to give you feedback on their concerns.
It’s not uncommon for small- and medium-sized employers to not have the internal resources or managers who have been trained to support employees with mental health issues. You can organize some resources at online websites such as Workplace Strategies for Mental Health to help your manager understand their role in supporting you.
We each own our mental health, but we don’t always need to do things by ourselves. It’s perfectly fine and expected that a person with a mental health issue will – and is encouraged to – ask for support from their employer when needed. Most mental illnesses are treatable and asking for help is a first step toward taking control of your work situation. The goal is to help you return to your full potential, or as close to it as possible.
Before you have the conversation with your employer, be crystal clear on the following so you know what systems you can tap into to support your recovery:
· Review your employer’s respectful workplace, harassment, bullying and mental health policies. Find out to whom an employee reports their concerns.
· Find out if managers were trained in how to support employees with mental health issues in the workplace. This will help you understand the degree of readiness for your talk with your manager.
· Understand how your company’s employee and family assistance program (EFAP) works. Ask your human resources person or the EFAP representative what your program includes with respect to resources, apps, online tools, articles, videos, programs and treatment options. Be clear on how many sessions are included and if there are any additional programs to support depression, addictions or trauma.
· Explore your benefits program to find out how much money you may have available each year for additional psychological services or professional counselling, and what professional mental health resources are approved for the insurance in your area.
Discover what internal programs are being offered by your employer that support employee mental health, such as mindfulness, meditation, coping skills, communications, caregiving, grief support and peer support. Understand how the programs work and are accessed.
Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto.
Janice MacInnis is the Manager of Organizational Health at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons.
As important as it is to learn how to deal with different kinds of people, truly toxic people will never be worth your time and energy—and they take a lot of each. Toxic people create unnecessary complexity, strife, and, worst of all, stress.
“People inspire you, or they drain you—pick them wisely.” – Hans F. Hansen
Recent research from Friedrich Schiller University in Germany shows just how serious toxic people are. They found that exposure to stimuli that cause strong negative emotions—the same kind of exposure you get when dealing with toxic people—caused subjects’ brains to have a massive stress response. Whether it’s negativity, cruelty, the victim syndrome, or just plain craziness, toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs.
Studies have long shown that stress can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain. Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus, an important brain area responsible for reasoning and memory. Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to brain cells, and months of stress can permanently destroy them. Toxic people don’t just make you miserable—they’re really hard on your brain.
The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. One of their greatest gifts is the ability to identify toxic people and keep them at bay.
It’s often said that you’re the product of the five people you spend the most time with. If you allow even one of those five people to be toxic, you’ll soon find out how capable he or she is of holding you back.
You can’t hope to distance yourself from toxic people until you first know who they are. The trick is to separate those who are annoying or simply difficult from those who are truly toxic. What follows are ten types of toxic drainers that you should stay away from at all costs so that you don’t become one yourself.
How to Protect Yourself Once You Spot ’Em
Toxic people drive you crazy because their behavior is so irrational. Make no mistake about it—their behavior truly goes against reason, so why do you allow yourself to respond to them emotionally and get sucked into the mix?
The more irrational and off-base someone is, the easier it should be for you to remove yourself from their traps. Quit trying to beat them at their own game. Distance yourself from them emotionally, and approach your interactions with them like they’re a science project (or you’re their shrink if you prefer that analogy). You don’t need to respond to the emotional chaos—only the facts.
Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognize when it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to regroup and choose the best way forward. This is fine, and you shouldn’t be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so.
Most people feel as though because they work or live with someone, they have no way to control the chaos. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Once you’ve identified a toxic person, you’ll begin to find their behavior more predictable and easier to understand. This will equip you to think rationally about when and where you have to put up with them and when and where you don’t. You can establish boundaries, but you’ll have to do so consciously and proactively. If you let things happen naturally, you’re bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. If you set boundaries and decide when and where you’ll engage a difficult person, you can control much of the chaos. The only trick is to stick to your guns and keep boundaries in place when the person tries to cross them, which they will.
“The difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism is the presence of a personal attack and impossible standards. These so-called “critics” often don’t want to help you improve, they just want to nitpick, pull you down and scapegoat you in any way they can. Abusive narcissists and sociopaths employ a logical fallacy known as “moving the goalposts” in order to ensure that they have every reason to be perpetually dissatisfied with you. This is when, even after you’ve provided all the evidence in the world to validate your argument or taken an action to meet their request, they set up another expectation of you or demand more proof.” Read the rest of the article here.
SUMMARY (repeated from Introduction) Listen first and acknowledge what you hear, even if you don’t agree with it, before expressing your experience or point of view . In order to get more of your conversation partner’s attention in tense situations, pay attention first: listen and give a brief restatement of what you have heard (especially feelings) before you express your own needs or position. The kind of listening recommended here separates acknowledging from approving or agreeing . Acknowledging another person’s thoughts and feelings does not have to mean that youapprove of or agree with that person’s actions or way of experiencing, or that you will do whatever someone asks.
By listening and then repeating back in your own words the essence and feeling of what you have just heard, from the speaker’s point of view, you allow the speaker to feel the satisfaction of being understood, (a major human need). Listening responsively is always worthwhile as a way of letting people know that you care about them. Our conversation partners do not automatically know how well we have understood them, and they may not be very good at asking for confirmation. When a conversation is tense or difficult it is even more important to listen first and acknowledge what you hear . Otherwise, your chances of being heard by the other person may be very poor.
Listening to others helps others to listen. In learning to better coordinate our life activities with the life activities of others, we would do well to resist two very popular (but terrible) models of communication: arguing a case in court and debating. In courts and debates, each side tries to make its own points and listens to the other side only to tear down the other side’s points. Since the debaters and attorneys rarely have to reach agreement or get anything done together, it doesn’t seem to matter how much ill will their conversational style generates. But most of us are in a very different situation . We probably spend most of our lives trying to arrange agreement and cooperative action, so we need to be concerned about engaging people, not defeating them. In business (and in family life, too) the person we defeat today will probably be the person whose cooperation we need tomorrow!
As Marshall Rosenberg reported in his book, Nonviolent Communication , “studies in labor-management negotiations demonstrate that the time required to reach conflict resolution is cut in half when each negotiator agrees, before responding, to repeat what the previous speaker had said.” (my emphasis)
When people are upset about something and want to talk about it their capacity to listen is greatly diminished. Trying to get your point across to a person who is trying to express a strong feeling will usually cause the other person to try even harder to get that emotion recognized. On the other hand, once people feel that their messages and feelings have been heard, they start to relax and they have more attention available for listening. For example, in a hospital a nurse might say, after listening to a patient: “I hear that you are very uncomfortable right now, Susan, and you would really like to get out of that bed and move around. But your doctor says your bones won’t heal unless you stay put for another week.” The patient in this example is much more likely to listen to the nurse than if the nurse simply said: “I’m really sorry, Susan, but you have to stay in bed. Your doctor says your bones won’t heal unless you stay put for another week.” What is missing in this second version is any acknowledgment of the patient’s present experience.
The power of simple acknowledging. The practice of responsive listening described here separates acknowledging the thoughts and feelings that a person expresses from approving, agreeing, advising, or persuading. Acknowledging another person’s thoughts and feelings…
…still leaves you the option of agreeing or disagreeing with that person’s point of view, actions or way of experiencing.
…still leaves you with the option of saying yes or no to a request.
…still leaves you with the option of saying more about the matter being discussed.
One recurring problem in conflict situations is that many people don’tseparate acknowledging from agreeing. They are joined together in people’s minds, somewhat like a two-boxes-of-soap “package deal” in a supermarket. The effect of this is, let us say, that John feels that any acknowledgment of Fred’s experience implies agreement and approval, therefore John will not acknowledge any of Fred’s experience. Fred tries harder to be heard and John tries harder not to hear. Of course, this is a recipe for stalemate (if not disaster).
People want both: to be understood and acknowledged on the one hand, and to be approved and agreed with, on the other. With practice, you can learn to respond first with a simple acknowledgment. As you do this, you may find that, figuratively speaking, you can give your conversation partners half of what they want, even if you can’t give them all of what they want. In many conflict situations that will be a giant step forward. Your conversation partners will also be more likely to acknowledge your position and experience, even if they don’t sympathize with you. This mutual acknowledgment can create an emotional atmosphere in which it is easier to work toward agreement or more gracefully accommodate disagreements. Here are three examples of acknowledgments that do not imply agreement:
Counselor to a drug abuse client: “I hear that you are feeling terrible right now and that you really want some drugs. And I want you to know that I’m still concerned this stuff you’re taking is going to kill you.”
Mother to seven-year-old: “I know that you want some more cake and ice cream, Jimmy, because it tastes so good, but you’ve already had three pieces and I’m really worried that you’ll get an upset tummy. That’s why I don’t want you to have any more.”
Union representative to company owner’s representative: “I understand from your presentation that you see XYZ Company as short of cash, threatened by foreign competition, and not in a position to agree to any wage increases. Now I would like us to explore contract arrangements that would allow my union members to get a wage increase and XYZ Company to advance its organizational goals.”
In each case a person’s listening to and acknowledgment of his or her conversation partner’s experience or position increases the chance that the conversation partner will be willing to listen in turn. The examples given above are all a bit long and include a declaration of the listener’s position or decision. In many conversations you may simply want to reassure your conversation partner with a word or two that you have heard and understood whatever they are experiencing. For example, saying, “You sound really happy [or sad] about that,” etc.
As you listen to the important people in your life, give very brief summaries of the experiences they are talking about and name the want or feeling that appears to be at the heart of the experience. For example:
“So you were really happy about that…”
“So you drove all the way over there and they didn’t have the part they promised you on the phone. What a let-down…
“Sounds like you wanted a big change in that situation…”
“Wow. Your dog got run over. You must be feeling really terrible…”
The point here is to empathize, not to advise. If you added to that last statement, “That total SLOB!!! You should sue that person who ran over your dog. People need to pay for their mistakes, etc.”, you would be taking over the conversation and also leading the person away from her or his feelings and toward your own.
Other suggestions about listening more responsively:
As a general rule, do not just repeat another person’s exact words.Summarize their experience in your own words . But in cases where people actually scream or shout something, sometimes you may want to repeat a few of their exact words in a quiet tone of voice to let them know that you have heard it just as they said it.
If the emotion is unclear, make a tentative guess, as in “So it sounds like maybe you were a little unhappy about all that…” The speaker will usually correct your guess if it needs correcting.
Listening is an art and there are very few fixed rules. Pay attention to whether the person speaking accepts your summary by saying things such as “yeah!”, “you got it,” “that’s right,” and similar responses.
If you can identify with what the other person is experiencing, then in your tone of voice (as you summarize what another person is going through), express a little of the feeling that your conversation partner is expressing. (Emotionally flat summaries feel strange and distant.)
Such compassionate listening is a powerful resource for navigating through life, and it also makes significant demands on us as listeners. We may need to learn how to hold our own ground while we restate someone else’s position. That takes practice. We also have to be able to listen to people’s criticisms or complaints without becoming disoriented or totally losing our sense of self worth. That requires cultivating a deeper sense of self worth, which is no small project. In spite of these difficulties, the results of compassion-ate, responsive listening have been so rewarding in my life that I have found it to be worth all the effort required.
Real life examples. Here are two brief, true stories about listening. The first is about listening going well and the second is about the heavy price people sometimes pay for not listening in an empathic way.
John Gottman describes his discovery that listening really works: “I remember the day I first discovered how Emotion Coaching [the author’s approach to empathic listening] might work with my own daughter, Moriah. She was two at the time and we were on a cross-country flight home after visiting with relatives. Bored, tired, and cranky, Moriah asked me for Zebra, her favorite stuffed animal and comfort object. Unfortunately, we had absentmindedly packed the well-worn critter in a suitcase that was checked at the baggage counter.
“I’m sorry, honey, but we can’t get Zebra right now. He’s in the big suitcase in another part of the airplane,” I explained.”I want Zebra,” she whined pitifully.
“I know, sweetheart. But Zebra isn’t here. He’s in the baggage compartment under-neath the plane and Daddy can’t get him until we get off the plane. I’m sorry.”
“I want Zebra! I want Zebra!” she moaned again. Then she started to cry, twisting in her safety seat and reaching futilely toward a bag on the floor where she’d seen me go for snacks.
“I know you want Zebra,” I said, feeling my blood pressure rise. “But he’s not in that bag. He’s not here and I can’t do anything about it. Look, why don’t we read about Ernie,” I said, fumbling for one of her favorite picture books.
“Not Ernie!” she wailed, angry now. “I want Zebra. I want him NOW!”
By now, I was getting “do something” looks from the passengers, from the airline attendants, from my wife, seated across the aisle. I looked at Moriah’s face, red with anger, and imagined how frustrated she must feel. After all, wasn’t I the guy who could whip up a peanut butter sandwich on demand? Make huge purple dinosaurs appear with the flip of a TV switch? Why was I withholding her favorite toy from her? Didn’t I understand how much she wanted it?
I felt bad. Then it dawned on me: I couldn’t get Zebra, but I could offer her the next best thing — a father’s comfort. “You wish you had Zebra now,” I said to her. “Yeah,” she said sadly.
“And you’re angry because we can’t get him for you.”
“You wish you could have Zebra right now,” I repeated, as she stared at me, looking rather curious, almost surprised. “Yeah,” she muttered. “I want him now.”
“You’re tired now, and smelling Zebra and cuddling with him would feel real good. I wish we had Zebra here so you could hold him. Even better, I wish we could get out of these seats and find a big, soft bed full of all your animals and pillows where we could just lie down.” “Yeah,” she agreed.
“We can’t get Zebra because he’s in another part of the airplane,” I said. “That makes you feel frustrated.” “Yeah,” she said with a sigh.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, watching the tension leave her face. She rested her head against the back of her safety seat. She continued to complain softly a few more times, but she was growing calmer. Within a few minutes, she was asleep.
Although Moriah was just two years old, she clearly knew what she wanted — her Zebra. Once she began to realize that getting it wasn’t possible, she wasn’t interested in my excuses, my arguments, or my diversions. My validation, however, was another matter. Finding out that I understood how she felt seemed to make her feel better. For me, it was a memorable testament to the power of empathy.”
Sam Keen describes a friend’s lament about the consequences of not listening deeply: “Long ago and far away, I expected love to be light and easy and without failure.
“Before we moved in together, we negotiated a prenuptial agreement. Neither of us had been married before, and we were both involved in our separate careers. So our agreement not to have children suited us both. Until… on the night she announced that her period was late and she was probably pregnant, we both treated the matter as an embarrassing accident with which we would have to deal. Why us? Why now? Without much discussion, we assumed we would do the rational thing — get an abortion. As the time approached, she began to play with hypothetical alternatives, to ask in a plaintive voice with half misty eyes: `Maybe we should keep the baby. Maybe we could get a live-in helper, and it wouldn’t interrupt our lives too much. Maybe I could even quit my job and be a full-time mother for a few years.` ”
“Maybe . . .“ To each maybe I answered: “Be realistic. Neither of us is willing to make the sacrifices to raise a child.“ She allowed herself to be convinced, silenced the voice of her irrational hopes and dreams, and terminated the pregnancy.
“It has been many years now since our `decision,` and we are still together and busy with our careers and our relationship. Still no children, even though we have recently been trying to get pregnant. I can’t help noticing that she suffers from spells of regret and guilt, and a certain mood of sadness settles over her. At times I know she longs for her missing child and imagines what he or she would be doing now. I reassure her that we did the right thing. But when I see her lingering guilt and pain and her worry that she missed her one chance to become a mother, I feel that I failed an important test of love. Because my mind had been closed to anything that would interrupt my plans for the future, I had listened to her without deep empathy or compassion. I’m no longer sure we made the right decision. I am sure that in refusing to enter into her agony, to share the pain of her ambivalence, I betrayed her.”
“I have asked for and, I think, received forgiveness, but there remains a scar that was caused by my insensitivity and self-absorption.”
[ Workbook editor’s note: I have not included this real life excerpt to make a point for or against abortion. The lesson I draw from this story is thatwhatever decision this couple made, they would have been able to live with that decision better if the husband had listened in a way that acknowledged all his wife’s feelings rather than listening only to argue her out of her feelings. What lesson do you draw from this story? ]
First exercise for Challenge 1: Active Listening. Find a practice partner. Take turns telling events from your lives. As you listen to your practice partner, sum up your practice partner’s overall experience and feelings in brief responses during the telling:
Your notes on this exercise:
Second exercise for Challenge 1: Learning from the past with the tools of the present. Think of one or more conversations in your life that went badly. Imagine how the conversations might have gone better with more responsive listening. Write down your alternative version of the conversation.
Suggestions for reading on the topic of listening.
The Power of Listening – An Ancient Practice for Our Future: Leon Berg
Free Article: Tell Me More an essay by Brenda Ueland, explores the transformative power of listening to friends and familiy members:
“I want to write about the great and powerful thing that listening is. And how we forget it. And how we don’t listen to our children, or those we love. And least of all — which is so important too — to those we do not love. But we should. Because listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. Think how the friends that really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius as though it did us good, like ultraviolet rays.”
Free Article: Positive Deviant is a magazine article about the transformative power of deep listening, as it occurred in a program to reduce child malnutrition in Vietnam. It is one of the clearest examples I have ever read of what is now called “appreciative inquiry,” which advocates that helpers pay disciplined and systematic attention to the strengths, capacities and past successes of those people they wish to help.
[from the editor] Forms of compassionate listening have been practiced among Quakers and Buddhists for centuries, and among psychotherapists for decades. The late Gene Knudsen Hoffman (1919 – 2010) was both a Quaker peace activist and a pastoral counselor, and in my view she achieved two great things over the course of her life. First, she took the practice of compassionate listening out of the quiet environs of the Quaker meeting house, out from behind the closed doors of therapy session, and on to the stage of the world’s greatest conflicts. Her many trips to Russia and the Middle East have made her a legend in the peacemaking community. Second, she popularized compassionate listening in a generous way that invites and encourages other people to take up this practice, develop it and apply it in new areas. This small book is an expression of that generosity. Available for free around the world as an e-book, it includes both her lesson plans for Compassionate Listening Workshops and reports from Leah Green and Cynthia Monroe, two of her co-pioneers and creative colleagues.
Books: The following books can be found around the world, new and used, via the links below provided by the Global Find-A-Book service of Human Development Books, the publsher of this Seven Challenges Workbook. Click on the book titles below to bring up a Global Find-A-Book page for each title.
Listening is an essential skill worth every effort to learn and to master. Listening takes us out of our tendency toward self-absorption and self-protection. It opens us to the world around us and to the persons who matter most to us. When we listen, we learn, we grow, and we are nourished.
Why do we often feel cut off when speaking to the people closest to us? What is it that keeps so many of us from really listening? Practicing psychotherapists, Donoghue and Siegel answer these questions and more in this thoughtful, witty, and helpful look at the reasons why people don’t listen. Filled with vivid examples that clearly demonstrate easy-to-learn listening techniques, Are You Really Listening? is a guide to the secrets and joys of listening and being listened to. [From the publisher, Sorin Books] List price new, appx. $16. ISBN: 1893732886.
What do family members, coworkers, and friends want most but seldom get? Your undivided attention. Poor listening can be a cause of divorce, depression, customer dissatisfaction, low grades, and other ills. This Zen-based, practical guide will help you build relationships, sharpen concentration, create loyal clients, strengthen negotiating skills, hear what others miss, and get them to hear.[From the publisher, Quest Books] List price new, appx. $16. ISBN: 0835608263.
In this thoughtful anthology, eighteen contemporary spiritual teachers explore the transformative effects, and the difficulties, of skillful listening and suggest ways in which becoming a ‘listening warrior’ — someone who listens mindfully with focused attention — can improve relationships. Free of religious dogma and self-help clichés, the essays are inspiring, intelligent and accessible. [from the back cover] List price new, appx $17. ISBN: 0861713559.
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A good listener will listen not only to what is being said, but also to what is left unsaid or only partially said. Effective listening involves observing body language and noticing inconsistencies between verbal and non-verbal messages.
For example, if someone tells you that they are happy with their life but through gritted teeth or with tears filling their eyes, you should consider that the verbal and non-verbal messages are in conflict, they maybe don’t mean what they say.
1. Stop Talking
“If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” Mark Twain.
Don’t talk, listen. When somebody else is talking listen to what they are saying, do not interrupt, talk over them or finish their sentences for them. Stop, just listen. When the other person has finished talking you may need to clarify to ensure you have received their message accurately.
2. Prepare Yourself to Listen
Relax. Focus on the speaker. Put other things out of mind. The human mind is easily distracted by other thoughts – what’s for lunch, what time do I need to leave to catch my train, is it going to rain – try to put other thoughts out of mind and concentrate on the messages that are being communicated.
3. Put the Speaker at Ease
Help the speaker to feel free to speak. Remember their needs and concerns. Nod or use other gestures or words to encourage them to continue. Maintain eye contact but don’t stare – show you are listening and understanding what is being said.
4. Remove Distractions
Focus on what is being said: don’t doodle, shuffle papers, look out the window, pick your fingernails or similar. Avoid unnecessary interruptions. These behaviours disrupt the listening process and send messages to the speaker that you are bored or distracted.
Try to understand the other person’s point of view. Look at issues from their perspective. Let go of preconceived ideas. By having an open mind we can more fully empathise with the speaker. If the speaker says something that you disagree with then wait and construct an argument to counter what is said but keep an open mind to the views and opinions of others.
A pause, even a long pause, does not necessarily mean that the speaker has finished. Be patient and let the speaker continue in their own time, sometimes it takes time to formulate what to say and how to say it. Never interrupt or finish a sentence for someone.
7. Avoid Personal Prejudice
Try to be impartial. Don’t become irritated and don’t let the person’s habits or mannerisms distract you from what they are really saying. Everybody has a different way of speaking – some people are for example more nervous or shy than others, some have regional accents or make excessive arm movements, some people like to pace whilst talking – others like to sit still. Focus on what is being said and try to ignore styles of delivery.
8. Listen to the Tone
Volume and tone both add to what someone is saying. A good speaker will use both volume and tone to their advantage to keep an audience attentive; everybody will use pitch, tone and volume of voice in certain situations – let these help you to understand the emphasis of what is being said.
You need to get the whole picture, not just isolated bits and pieces. Maybe one of the most difficult aspects of listening is the ability to link together pieces of information to reveal the ideas of others. With proper concentration, letting go of distractions, and focus this becomes easier.
10. Wait and Watch for Non-Verbal Communication
Gestures, facial expressions, and eye-movements can all be important. We don’t just listen with our ears but also with our eyes – watch and pick up the additional information being transmitted via non-verbal communication.
If you’ve had time away from work, or have been long term unemployed due to mental or emotional health problems, you’re not alone. Almost 50% of long-term absences from work are due to mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
People who have had a mental health problem and been out of work often worry about going back. Common concerns include facing discrimination or bullying, and going back too soon and feeling unwell again.
According to a recent report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists on mental health and work, “…many people with mental health problems fear that, no matter how good a recovery they have made, their symptoms will be made worse by going back to work.”
However, although work can cause stress to some people in some situations, recent research shows that for most people:
Work is beneficial to health and wellbeing.
Not being in work is detrimental to health and wellbeing.
Re-employment after a period of being out of work leads to an improvement in health and wellbeing.
The benefits of being in work can include:
a greater sense of identity and purpose
an opportunity to build new friendships
an improved financial situation and security
a feeling that you’re playing an active part in society
Going back to work after a period of ill health is usually a positive experience. This applies to people who have had severe mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder, as well as people coping with more common issues such as anxiety.
Returning to your job after taking sick leave
You don’t have to be 100% better or well to do your job, or at least some of it, and the benefits of returning to work generally outweigh the downsides.
If you already have a job that is still open for you, talk to your GP about going back to work. They can give you advice as part of your fit note. The fit note includes space for your GP to give you general advice about the impact of your illness, and to suggest ways in which your employer could support your return to work.
You may then like to arrange a meeting with your employer and/or your occupational health advisor. You can discuss anything that concerns you about returning to work, including your GP’s recommendations, and ask for some adjustments to make the transition back into work easier. Under the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) and the Equality Act (2010), your employer has a legal duty to make “reasonable adjustments” to your work. Depending on your particular circumstances, you might like to ask about:
Flexible hours, for instance you might like to return part-time, or start later in the day if you’re sleepy from medication in the mornings.
Support from a colleague, in the short or long term.
A place you can go to for a break when needed.
Access to Work
The Government provides support to help people with mental health problems continue to work, or find a new job.
You can find out more about the Access to Work scheme on the GOV.UK website. An Access to Work grant helps pay for practical support so that you can continue to do your job.
Looking for a new job
If you’re unemployed and want to get back into work, staff at your local Job Centre, your GP or your mental health worker can all give you advice about getting back into work.
If you have ongoing mental health issues, you can speak to the Disability Employment Advisor at your local Job Centre. They can tell you about the opportunities that are available to help people with mental health problems get back to work.
There are a number of different issues to consider and research when you’re thinking about getting back to work, including:
where you would like to work
what kind of work you’d like to do
what type of support you may need
your current financial situation, including any benefits you’re receiving related to your health
Full-time paid employment is not the only option available to you. There are a number of possibilities that may suit you, such as part-time work, or volunteering.
Volunteering is a popular way of getting back into working life. Helping other people in need is great for your self-esteem and can help take your mind off your own concerns. Plus, volunteer work can improve your chances of getting a paid job when you’re ready, and until then you can continue to claim your benefits. Find out more about how to volunteer.
Your rights and the law
Some people worry that when they apply for a job, they’ll be discriminated against if they admit that they have, or have had, mental or emotional health problems.
However, new provisions in the Equality Act 2010 make it illegal for employers to ask health or health-related questions before making a conditional offer of employment. Furthermore, it is illegal under the Equalities Act to discriminate against any kind of disability, including mental health issues.
Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott have completed a DVD training that includes 6 1/2 hours filmed at a live training and requires about 5 1/2 hours of homework to practice the skills in order to receive a certificate as a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator. At the end of this training, you will be ready to lead parenting classes and/or improve your skills as a parent educator regardless of the setting in which you work. Click Here for More Details and Sample Video Clips.
When parents ask, “How do I motivate my teen?” they usually mean, “How do I get my teen to do what I want? How do I get her to have some balance in her life? How do I get him off the computer, get outside, or do just about anything except sitting around doing nothing?” Read More
Eighteen Ways to Avoid Power Struggles By Jane Nelsen
Power struggles create distance and hostility instead of closeness and trust. Distance and hostility create resentment, resistance, rebellion (or compliance with lowered self-esteem). Closeness and trust create a safe learning environment. You have a positive influence only in an atmosphere of closeness and trust where there is no fear of blame, shame or pain.” Read More
How to Divorce & Not Wreck the Kids takes viewers inside one of life’s most devastating transitions as three Canadian couples, determined to keep the needs of their children first, work through their separations on camera.
The “divorce from hell” stories grab headlines: couples who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars destroying each other and, incidentally, their children. But in this country, there is another reality. Grassroots Canadians are at the heart of a quiet revolution – couples working on “good” divorces, which acknowledge that the end of a marriage isn’t the end of a family. Because research says: separating parents who co-operate can raise children who are as emotionally healthy as kids from intact families.
Lionel and Sally with children Rhys and and Gareth
As filming begins, the split between Sally and Lionel is still fresh and raw. And cooperating will be a challenge for Sally since she didn’t want the marriage to end. Sally and Lionel were married for 17 years and are parents to three boys, from 11 to 4 years old. They agree to a new and controversial process called Collaborative Divorce, because they believe it will help them focus on what’s best for their children. If only anger and bitterness don’t derail the process.
Roland and Carolye were married for 13 years and have two kids. They transitioned out of their marriage into something of a friendship — but that friendship will be tested as Roland seeks 50-50 custody of their children. Carolye and Roland will try to hammer out an agreement without professional help, using a do-it-yourself divorce kit.
Mike and Melissa with their twins.
After five years of marriage and three-year-old twins, Mike and Melissa split shortly after Christmas, the busiest time in the divorce world. They’re each passionate about being there for all the important moments in the children’s lives, even though it’s uncomfortable being in the same room together. When they reach an impasse in their separation negotiations, Mike and Melissa turn to a mediator to break the deadlock.
Three courageous Canadian couples invite you to witness the end of their marriages…as they struggle to overcome their anger and fear and stay focused on How to Divorce & Not Wreck the Kids.
How to Divorce & Not Wreck the Kids is produced by Bountiful Films Inc. in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Take a journey every Thursday night as DOC ZONE explores the major stories of our time. Around the corner, around the world, our cameras bring viewers a sweeping panoramic view of what matters most to Canadians.
The Current interview a couple trying colloborative divorce and the director of How To Divorce and Not Wreck The Kids. Listen to the interview online.
Facts about Divorce in Canada
According to lawyers in Canada and the U.S., January is the busiest month in the divorce business. And in Britain, January 8th is actually called “D Day” because that’s the day when most divorces are initiated.
In Canada, one in two unions fails, most before the 14-year mark.
Only 5 percent of couples actually sit down and tell their children they are separating, and what it will mean to them.
Women initiate approximately two-thirds of separations and divorces.
Joint Custody, when there are two loving and interested parents, works best for children.
Problems Divorced Kids Face
More problems with authority figures, their peers and their parents.
Two times more likely to develop psychological problems like anxiety, depression and self-esteem issues.
More marijuana and alcohol use, compared to married family children.
Lack of parental monitoring.
Divorced kids drop out of school two to three times the rate of married family children.
Find out what a collaborative divorce participation agreement looks like. This is the document couples and their lawyers sign which sets the tone for collaborating, not litigating.
On the night that Sally and Lionel decided they were going to separate, they sat down together and drafted this statement, which became their guide for their own behavior as they worked through their separation. It’s a very good example for other parents.
Writer/Director/Producer:Maureen Palmer has spent the last eight years in the world of independent documentaries and factual entertainment, after two decades in news and current affairs at CBC Radio and Television. As an independent filmmaker she has produced several documentaries alongside How to Divorce & Not Wreck the Kids producer Helen Slinger for their Vancouver-based company,Bountiful Films including – Leaving Bountiful, Polygamy’s Lost Boys and the Bully’s Mark. Maureen has worked as a story editor, story producer, and series producer for a wide variety of North American broadcasters, including — Making It Big for the Life Network, Glutton For Punishment for the Food Network and The Week the Women Went for CBC. Her work has won several awards, from Bronze and Silver at the New York Festivals, a Jack Webster Award, the B’nai B’rith League of Human Rights Award for Best Documentary, and the Canadian Association of Journalists Award for Best Documentary.
Maureen Palmer & Divorce: Raised in Sudbury, Maureen has lived in Toronto, Edmonton and now Vancouver. She has been divorced for more than a decade. For most of that decade, Maureen flew every 2nd week or so from Vancouver to Edmonton to spend a long weekend in the basement of her old matrimonial home, where she could do the “mom” thing for her two daughters. Ex-husband, journalist Graham Thomson, made many jokes about having the “ex-wife in the basement,” but the reality was: this unorthodox relationship allowed their children to grow up with both parents in their lives as much as possible. Maureen admits to stumbling, making mistakes and acting like an adolescent at times, but her daughters Erin, 27, and Heather, 22, think mistakes were few and far between. They actually suggested this documentary, when they thanked her and their father for allowing them to grow up in a home free of conflict.
Writer/Producer: Helen Slinger is a master storyteller whose work spans three decades. Recent documentary writer/director credits include the Bully’s Mark, Embracing Bob’s Killer, and Leaving Bountiful. Helen’s written a legion of documentaries for other directors, and is a highly-respected story editor and script doctor. Various projects have won Gemini nominations, Finalist New York festivals, Platinum Award Worldfest Houston, Jury Award Yorkton Short Film & Video Festival, selection Montreal World Film Festival, selection Vancouver International Film Festival, selection Girlfest Hawaii, a Gracie Allen (Foundation of American Women In Radio & TV), RTNDA (Radio & Television News Directors) awards, and several Columbus International Film & Television Awards including the Edgar Dale Award for excellence in non-fiction screenwriting .
Helen Slinger & Divorce: Raised in Saskatoon, Helen Slinger has lived in Toronto, Victoria BC and now North Vancouver. She’s been happily divorced for more than 20 years and is the mother of one bio-daughter from that marriage. Since the divorce, Helen and her daughter’s dad have celebrated together every Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthday (hers, his, their daughter’s and his son’s from an earlier marriage). Knowing her not to be a saint, Helen’s friends initially thought she was nuts. At the time, this was not a fashionable way to divorce … and, to be clear, the divorce was not all lovey-dovey amicable. So this small c collaborative divorce was an active choice to go against the tide. Today Helen’s daughter and step-son express gratitude for the family that remained after the marriage ended and Helen feels very proud of herself and of her daughter’s dad. Tucked in with the old greetings cards around the house is a Mother’s Day card from her then 14-year-old daughter in which she lists the things she appreciates about Mom. High up on the list: “the way you get along with my dad”.
Producer: Sue Ridout chose the life of an independent producer after twenty award-winning years in network news and current affairs at both CTV and CBC Television. During her tenure as the Executive Producer of News & Current Affairs for CBC Television in Vancouver, her team won more than 100 awards. Now Sue produces and directs documentaries for broadcasters including CBC, CTV, History Channel and Knowledge Network. She has produced two other documentaries for CBC’s Doc Zone series: Embracing Bob’s Killer, about a woman who forgives the man who killed her husband; and Desperately Seeking Doctors, about the lack of family physicians in Canada. Sue uses her considerable management skills to coordinate business affairs on documentaries for other companies, like Bountiful Films.
One type of emotional abuse that warrants a section of its own is witnessing family violence. Due to the ever-increasing statistics of family violence, I’ve treated this topic separately. You’ll find it below underterrorizing.
Types of emotional abuse #1: Rejecting
Putting down a child or youth’s worth or putting down their needs.
» constant criticism » name-calling » telling child he/she is ugly » yelling or swearing at the child » frequent belittling-use of labels such as “stupid”, “idiot” » constant demeaning jokes » verbal humiliation » constant teasing about child’s body type and/or weight » expressing regret the child wasn’t born the opposite sex » refusing hugs and loving gestures » physical abandonment » excluding child from family activities » treating an adolescent like she/he is a child » expelling child from family » not allowing youth to make own reasonable choices
Types of emotional abuse #2: Isolating
Keeping a child away from family and friends.
» leaving child in room unattended for long periods » keeping child away from family » not allowing child to have friends » not permitting child interaction with other children » keeping child away from other caregiver if separated » rewarding child for withdrawing from social contact » ensuring child looks and acts differently than peers » isolating child in closet » insisting on excessive studying and/or chores » preventing youth participating in activities outside the home » punishing youth for engaging in normal social experiences
FACT: Isolated emotional child abuse has had the lowest rate of substantiation of any of the types of emotional abuse (Kairys, 20022).
Types of emotional abuse #3: Ignoring
Failing to give any response to or interact with a child or youth at all.
» no response to infant’s spontaneous social behaviours » not accepting the child as an offspring » denying required health care » denying required dental care » failure to engage child in day to day activities » failure to protect child » not paying attention to significant events in child’s life » lack of attention to schooling, etc. » refusing to discuss youth’s activities and interests » planning activities/vacations without adolescent
Types of emotional abuse #4: Corrupting
Encouraging a child or youth to do things that are illegal or harmful to themselves.
» rewarding child for bullying and harassing behaviour » teaching racism and ethnic biases » encouraging violence in sporting activities » inappropriate reinforcement of sexual activity » rewarding child for lying and stealing » rewarding child for substance abuse and sexual activity » supplying child with drugs, alcohol and other illegal substances » promoting illegal activities such as selling drugs » teaching and promoting prostitution
Types of emotional abuse #5: Exploiting
Giving a child or youth responsibilities that are far greater than a child/youth that age can handle. It is also using a child for profit.
» infants expected not to cry » anger when infant fails to meet a developmental stage » child expected to be ‘caregiver’ to the parent » young child expected to take care of younger siblings » blaming child or youth for misbehaviour of siblings » unreasonable responsibilities for jobs around the house » expecting youth to support family financially » encouraging participation in pornography » sexually abusing child or youth » requiring child or youth to participate in sexual exploitation
Types of emotional abuse #6: Terrorizing
Causing a child or youth to be terrified by the constant use of threats and/or intimidating behaviour. This includes witnessing, which is when a child or youth observes violence, hears violence, or knows that violence is taking place in the home.
» with infants and children, excessive teasing » yelling and scaring » unpredictable and extreme responses to child’s behaviour » extreme verbal threats » raging, alternating with periods of artificial warmth » threatening abandonment » beating family members in front of or in ear range of child » threatening to destroy a favourite object » threatening to harm a beloved pet » forcing child to watch inhumane acts against animals » inconsistent demands on the child » displaying inconsistent emotions » changing the ‘rules of the game’ » threatening that the child is adopted and doesn’t belong » ridiculing youth in public » threats to reveal intensely embarrassing traits to peers » threatening to kick adolescent out of the house
FACT: Children and youth who witness family violence experience all sixtypes of emotional abuse.
FACT: A 1995 telephone survey identifying types of emotional abuse suggested that by the time a child was 2 years old, 90% of families had used one or more forms of psychological aggression in the previous 12 months (Straus, 20003).
Many people including parents, members of the law enforcement community and journalists, think that infants and young children who witness violence are too young to know what happened. They don’t take it in. “They won’t remember.” In fact, infants and young children can be overwhelmed by their exposure to violence, especially–as it is likely to be the case with very young children–when both victims and perpetrators are well known and emotionally important to the child and the violence occurs in or near the child’s own home.
At University of Vermont, above, staff role play with students with mental health issues to prepare them to negotiate with professors.
Earlier this semester, college senior Leah Nelson emailed one of her instructors to ask for extra time to complete a paper. “I have been going through a rough patch lately and am making the decision to take care of myself this week,” Ms. Nelson wrote. Her mental health, she continued, would “take priority over everything else.”
Ms. Nelson, a 21-year-old student at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, struggles with depression. Her symptoms often flare when exams and papers pile up. She says the timing of a suicide attempt in March of 2010, when she took an overdose of Tylenol, was influenced by the pressure of the three exams and paper due she had that week.
As mental health problems become less stigmatizing, more college students are comfortable asking their professors for test extensions and excused absences due to bouts of depression and panic attacks. Andrea Petersen has details on Lunch Break.
Ms. Nelson is one of a growing number of college students asking for wiggle room with their academic workloads due to mental health issues.
In some cases, students make direct pleas to professors. In others, students work through their university’s disability office to receive official academic “accommodations.” These can include extra time for exams, the opportunity to take tests in a quiet room, or flexibility with class attendance and assignment deadlines.
Schools are required to extend “reasonable accommodations” for students with documented disabilities—including psychological ones—to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
A student group devoted to reducing stigma around mental illness is on 325 campuses. A backpack, pictured, reads ‘1,100 students die by suicide each year.’
The Other College Application Process
To qualify for academic accommodations, most schools require students with mental health issues to go through a fairly extensive application process. It generally includes:
•A recent evaluation from a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker.
•A disorder included in the DSM-IV, the primary handbook for diagnosing mental illnesses.
•A professional assessment of how the disorder affects the student academically and why specific accommodations are needed.
•There is often a deadline for applying: Some schools require applications at the beginning of the semester. Some require students to apply a certain number of days before the accommodations are necessary, say, two weeks before an exam where they’ll need more time.
But there’s hand-wringing among university administrators and faculty about how to support college students with mental health issues while making sure young adults progress academically. One of the goals of college, after all, is to prepare students for the working world. And not every boss may be OK with a blown deadline for a critical client report, no matter the reason. Professors also want to make sure they’re being fair to all students.
“There’s the danger that we take too much care and when they hit the real world that same kind of support isn’t there,” says David Cozzens, dean of students and associate vice president of student affairs at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.
Some formal accommodations, like additional test time, are fairly standard across universities and apply to students with physical and learning disabilities, too. But, schools diverge widely on formal accommodations for flexibility with assignment deadlines, class attendance and participation. Some schools leave it up to individual instructors. Others intervene more directly on students’ behalf.
Schools say they are seeing a rise in the number of students registering with their disability offices due to psychological problems. At Pace University in New York, the number of requests for accommodations from students with disabilities related to psychological disorders tripled in the last three years.
Leah Nelson, right, a University of Connecticut student, walks on campus with friend Kylie Angell. Ms. Nelson struggles with depression and works with professors to manage her workload.
At the University of Texas at Austin, 33% of the 1,687 students that registered with the disability services office during the spring 2011 semester listed psychological problems as their “primary” concern. In the spring of 2008, only 23% out of 1,175 did. (The increase was due, in part, to a procedural change that routed more students to the disability office.)
Colleges say they’re seeing more students on campus with psychiatric illnesses. About 11.6% of college students were diagnosed or treated for anxiety in the last year, and 10.7% were diagnosed or treated for depression, according to a survey of more than 100,000 students at 129 schools conducted by the American College Health Association. Many mental illnesses, particularly depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, emerge during late adolescence.
Psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety can have serious academic consequences because they affect concentration, sleep and cognitive processing, say mental health professionals.
The health center at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., recently stopped issuing notes students gave to professors to be excused from class.
It’s unclear why the incidence of psychiatric disorders appears to be rising among college students. Better medications and treatments are likely making it possible for more young adults with even serious mental illnesses to attend college. Many schools have launched programs to identify students with psychological problems and get them into counseling. Student-advocacy groups like Active Minds Inc., an organization with chapters on 325 campuses, are trying to reduce the stigma around having a mental illness.
Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has developed an extensive suicide-prevention program and a comprehensive disability services office. But it is pulling back on how involved it gets in student-faculty negotiations not covered by the office.
Over the last several years, the counseling center has stopped issuing dated “verification of visit” notes. Too many students were making appointments just to get the notes to provide proof of why they missed class or failed to turn in an assignment, says Greg Eells, director of counseling and psychological services. (The school’s health center stopped giving notes for medical appointments, too.)
“It was just not a good use of the university’s resources,” says Mr. Eells. But professors pushed back. “The faculty wants us to be a detective to see if the student is telling the truth. That’s not our job,” he says.
If students complain of psychological problems, some faculty members will send them to the disability services office to avoid having to determine what’s a serious issue versus what’s a gloomy day. Then, “the instructor isn’t having to make decisions on something they’re not equipped to assess,” says Steven Barrett, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Wyoming.
In the fall of 2010, Amy Goodnough, now a senior at the University of Vermont, started experiencing severe insomnia and excess energy. Some mornings, she couldn’t get out of bed. Eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Ms. Goodnough withdrew from one class, took an incomplete in another and appealed directly to other professors to turn in some assignments late. “It was difficult to know day to day what my energy would be like,” Ms. Goodnough, 21, says. “I kind of crawled through the end of the semester.”
Before the spring term, she registered with the university’s disability services office and received letters to take to her professors stating that she be allowed “limited” flexibility with attendance and deadlines. Without those accommodations, “I don’t think I could have stayed in school,” that semester, she says. Now getting effective treatment, Ms. Goodnough has not needed the flexibility this term and has a 3.9 grade-point average.
Schools say they can’t require faculty to adjust deadlines or attendance policies. And in some courses, like science labs and speech classes, participation is critical, but schools can push instructors to compromise with students.
Students with mental illnesses “don’t know when the symptoms will happen, when they might be incapacitated,” says Laurel Cameron, the director of ACCESS, the University of Vermont’s disability services office. Even with a letter giving a student flexibility with deadlines and attendance, students are required to negotiate with each instructor at the beginning of the semester. They need to devise a plan, for example, of when to notify faculty of an absence and a timetable for making up work.
To help students prepare for those discussions, Ms. Cameron says she and her staff will role-play with students, taking on the tone of a skeptical professor.
Kim Larrabee, a faculty member at UConn and the instructor Ms. Nelson emailed for an extension, says she has a “sense of intuition of sincerity,” when students approach her for flexibility with academic work. And she considers how committed the student has been so far to the course. She gave Ms. Nelson an extra 10 days to finish her paper.
“I think your decision to take care of your needs shows maturity and commitment,” Ms. Larrabee wrote in an email replying to Ms. Nelson’s request. Ms. Nelson got an A on the paper.