DEALING WITH SELF-PITY IN OTHERS

How to Deal with People Feeling Sorry for Themselves

When you encounter people who are good at playing the role of professional victim, you will often notice that you routinely get seduced by them because they whine and they want an audience. When people swim around in the pity pot they often want you to feel sorry for them so they can describe the breadth of their terrible situation without any interest in solving it or doing anything about it. They simply want you to pay attention to them while they enjoy the “poor me” and describe the “delicious agony of life.” There seems to be something curiously attractive about being a victim and a martyr… apparently sacrificing yourself does get attention.  They will often say things to you like, “You couldn’t possibly understand what I have been through.”  Then you can expect them to waste your time while they describe the “poor me” in great detail and they can enjoy their victimhood and contest of who is the most oppressed person.  You will want to appear interested and likely conclude that you have enabled them to play victim while you are trying to be nice, empathetic, and appreciative of their plight.

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Practicing Reinforcement

People need to get fed. They want to know what they are doing that is good. So, regularly catch them doing something right… AND TELL THEM!

It is insane for them to finally find out how good they are at their funeral… so tell them now!

Dr. Mitchell Perry

Practicing Reinforcement:  Catching Others Doing Something Right!

PEOPLE WILL TREAT YOU THE WAY YOU TEACH THEM TO TREAT YOU.

THAT WHICH GETS REINFORCED, GETS DONE.

Think about what actually nourishes and encourages you to produce and perform well.

Usually it is mostly about others being impressed, dazzled and proud of you.  You are often driven to do well because of:
Your own self-concept
Your values, and
The regard, respect, cheering, and reinforcement you receive from others.

In company cultures, community organizations, marriages, and families (and just about any important relationship with others) there are usually 3 ways in which people find out how they are doing in the minds of others:

  1. Criticism, pejorative remarks, “constructive advice”
  2. Silence, absence of any reaction, indifference
  3. Reinforcement, encouragement, compliments, appreciation

Most of the time people receive lots of #1 and #2.  Criticism and silence, they even say with relief… “no news is good news!”  However, the price on long-term performance is huge.  The result is most of your people end up severely EMOTIONALLY MALNOURISHED.  They eventually run out of inspiration and emotional reserves to keep producing at high levels.

So, remember the following axiom:
If someone with whom you have any relationship is behaving in a way you become impressed and appreciative, and you reinforce that very behavior you like, you are likely to receive more of that behavior!

Most everyone believes that, and yet we only practice reinforcement with two populations: small children and dogs!  If it works with them, then will it work on GROWN -UPS?  Of course!

Here are some general guidelines when practicing reinforcement at work:

  1. Be specific about what they did or are doing.
  2. Share with them what value their behavior has for you.
  3. Tie in what value their behavior has for the team / organization.
  4. Make a point of practicing reinforcement at meetings.
  5. Get into the habit of reinforcing more than you criticize.
  6. Send “thank you” notes in email or preferably through snail mail.
  7. Send group voice mails or emails showing reinforcement for someone or several people.  This increases the expectation that good news can be shared and recognition is very acceptable.
  8. Relax your concern that you will be at risk to reinforcing too much.  Most likely, people will keep producing well with new expectations of receiving validation and recognition.
  9. Practice telling people what impresses you.  You will finally get comfortable with it, and they will get comfortable with receiving it.
  10. If people discount your compliment, simply repeat it again until they say “thank you.”
  11. Practice accepting compliments:  say “Thank You.”

You will notice people will be happy to tell you more and you get fed!

You are at a very low risk of reinforcing others TOO MUCH!

Remember, life is about two things:
Touching peoples’ lives and
Having your own life touched in return.

Therefore, what touches people’s lives MORE than reinforcement and appreciation?

Today’s Tickle

ABOUT GROWING OLDER…

First ~ Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.

Second ~ The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.

Third ~ Some people try to turn back their odometers. For me; I want people to know ‘why’ I look this way. I’ve traveled a long way, and some of the roads weren’t paved.

Fourth ~ When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra.

Fifth ~ You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.

Sixth ~ It’s unclear how I got over the hill without getting to the top.

Seventh ~ One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it’s such a nice change from being young.

Eighth ~ One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.

Ninth ~ Being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable and relaxed.

Tenth ~ Long ago, when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today it’s called golf.

And, finally ~ If you learn to laugh at trouble, you will have something to laugh at when you’re old.

STRENGTH OF CHARACTER

Hello All:

Consider these names in the news:
Alex Rodriguez, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds,
Anthony Weiner, Mark Sanford, Elliot Spitzer,
Rod Blagojevich, Martha Stewart and Bob Filner.

What thoughts come to mind?  Admiration or disappointment?  Respect or cynicism?  Awe or let-down? Impressed or depressed?

Which is more likely, respect follows like or like follows respect?  You are popular and likely therefore to be respected?  Or are you respected and likely therefore to be liked?  Which has a longer shelf-life, being liked or being respected?

If you really think about it… RESPECT HAS A LONGER SHELF-LIFE, and you are more likely to be liked and popular after you are respected.

Like most always follows respect.  And, people will respect you MORE when you improve your own self-respect.

So strengthen your character and start with your own SELF-RESPECT.  You either dilute it or build it up.  It is up to you.

You either snatch a rationalization from the jaws of logic, or you go on the road less traveled and stick with your strong character.

At the end of the day, everything comes down to your character.

It’s Common Sense and remember, Common Sense is very Uncommon.

Dr. Mitchell Perry

Share Your Strength of Character

Every morning when you wake up and look at yourself in the mirror, what do you see?  Are you pleased or embarrassed?  Proud or ashamed?  Impressed or depressed?  Excited or bored?  Energetic or listless?  Engaged or isolated?  Powerful or weak?  How is your self-respect?

Every morning, whether you like it or not, you wake up inside your own skin.  You always wake up you, which means you are always there attending that party… so does it make any sense to you to dislike the person in the mirror?  You are unable to get away from that person,  which means you always have to live with yourself, your feelings, your choices, and your behavior.  And, just like compounded interest in a bank account, there are long-term effects to those choices and behaviors.

At the end of the day, the measure of your life
is inevitably determined by your CHARACTER and all its strengths and weaknesses.  So, what is the condition of your Character?  What are your basic governing values?  What are the basic governing principles by which you want to live?

The essential qualities for Strength of Character include:
INTEGRITY: Honesty, legitimacy, the straight stuff, the full disclosure; the willingness to be unpopular at times, by telling the truth; the absence of lying, tap-dancing, pretending, rationalizing, spinning, distracting and avoiding.
RESPONSIBILITY: Your life is completely your responsibility.  If life is going well for you, you probably made it happen.  If life is going poorly, you did that too.  And if life is a whole new level of underwhelming… you did that too.  The cards dealt to you are yours to play — good or bad.  So take your lumps and get on with it.  The energy you spend on whining, complaining, catastrophizing, awfulizing, and admiring the problems will be so much better spent on problem solving.
GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT: This part of your Strength of Character is about giving more than taking, contributing more than consuming, caring more than expecting, investing more than expensing, and forgiving more than condemning.  This part of you is faith, living in the light, deriving meaning, and hearing the quiet.  You get more than you give when you give more than you get.  (Hmmm… random acts of kindness.)
So, establish a higher standard for yourself and your life.  Commit to INTEGRITY, RESPONSIBILITY, and GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT… and then share your values and spread them around.  You are quite a role model!

Raise your bar!

Today’s Tickle

One of the Greats

Lawrence Peter Berra played major league baseball for 19 years for the New York Yankees. He played on 10 World Series Championship teams, is a MLB Hall of Famer and has some awe-inspiring stats. His name is consistently brought up as one of the best catchers in baseball history, and he was voted to the Team of the Century in 1999.

Amazing accomplishments aside, they probably aren’t how you know Lawrence . You know him as Yogi, a nickname given to him by a friend who likened his cross-legged sitting to a yogi. Yogi is famous for his fractured English, malapropisms and sometimes nonsensical quotes. He’s closing in on 88, and there seems to be no end to his fans’ love for him.

Here are 25 Yogi Berra quotes that will make you shake your head and smile.

1. “It’s like deja vu all over again.”
2. “We made too many wrong mistakes.”
3. “You can observe a lot just by watching.”
4. “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”
5. “He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.”
6. “If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.”
7. “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up some place else.”
8. Responding to a question about remarks attributed to him that he did not think were his: “I really didn’t say everything I said.”
9. “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
10. “I think Little League is wonderful. It keeps the kids out of the house.”
11. On why he no longer went to Ruggeri’s, a St. Louis restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded.”
12. “I always thought that record would stand until it was broken.”
13. “We have deep depth.”
14. “All pitchers are liars or crybabies.”
15. When giving directions to Joe Garagiola to his New Jersey home, which is accessible by two routes: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
16. “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.”
17. “Never answer anonymous letters.”
18. On being the guest of honor at an awards banquet: “Thank you for making this day necessary.”
19. “The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase.”
20. “Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.”
21. As a general comment on baseball: “90% of the game is half mental.”
22. “I don’t know (if they were men or women running naked across the field), they had bags over their heads.”
23. “It gets late early out there.”
24. Carmen Berra, Yogi’s wife asked: “Yogi, you are from St. Louis , we live in New Jersey , and you played ball in New York . If you go before I do, where would you like me to have you buried?”  Yogi’s answer: “Surprise me.”
25. “It ain’t over till it’s over…..”

EFFECTIVE LISTENING

Listening!  It’s what everyone wants in all relationships — business and personal — spouses want it most in each other, customers want it in customer service, bosses and subordinates want it from each other.

So what is going on?

Most of us spend our time rehearsing a response rather than listening to what was said… insanity!

So start learning to listen!

It’s Common Sense and remember, Common Sense is very Uncommon.     

Dr. Mitchell Perry

Effective Listening

Are you a good communicator?

Communication Facts:
Effective Communication is fundamental to successful relationships – both personal and professional
We all communicate daily in some capacity to others
Most people are poor communicators
We get little if any training in effective communication
Yogi Berra once said, “Communication is 90% listening and the other half is talking.”

To the degree to which you can improve your listening skills you will immediately become a better communicator.

Listening is all about Selective Perception.

Selective Perception means viewing the world through a set of filters (culture, background, mood, attitude, emotions, etc.).  You see what you want to see.  You hear what you want to hear.

Keep in mind there are two levels of communication:

CONTENT — The Data — The Facts
What is said:  This is the basic factual data, without
any packaging.

CONTEXT — The Intent — The Packaging
How it is said:  When we notice context signals that
are more familiar to us, we naturally feel more
comfortable and have more rapport.

People respond far more to context than content so remain aware of the signals, the tone, volume, pitch, speed, expressions, body language, etc.  We are all programmed to respond to contextual signals so be aware of the signals you are giving and receiving.  They may convey a different message than you intend.  In every conversation remain conscious of the speaker’s content and context to be sure you get the right message.

Learn to Listen!  It is critical to make sure you understand others correctly.  Effective listening generates the following results:
It reduces the margin of error on what we heard
It allows the person who was speaking to us to reduce their defenses and relax
It helps keep the interchange on track
Remember, Listening is the best way to get your point across!

Today’s Tickle

The following questions were set in last year’s GED examination.
These are genuine answers (from 16 year year olds)

Q. Name the four seasons:
A. Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar

Q. How is dew formed?
A. The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire.

Q. What guarantees may a mortgage company insist on:
A. If you are buying a house they will insist that you are well endowed

Q. In a democratic society, how important are elections?
A. Very important. Sex can only happen when a male gets an election.

Q. What are steroids?
A. Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs

Q.. What happens to your body as you age?
A. When you get old, so do your bowels and you get intercontinental.

Q. What happens to a boy when he reaches puberty?
A. He says goodbye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultery.

Q. Name a major disease associated with cigarettes
A. Premature death

Q. What is artificial insemination?
A.. When the farmer does it to the bull instead of the cow

Q. How can you delay milk turning sour?
A. Keep it in the cow.

Q. How are the main 20 parts of the body categorized (e.g. The abdomen)?
A. The body is consisted into 3 parts – the brainium, the borax and the abdominal cavity.
The brainium contains the brain, the borax contains the heart and lungs and the abdominal cavity contains the
five bowels: A, E, I,O,U.

Q. What is the fibula?
A. A small lie.

Q. What does ‘varicose’ mean?
A. Nearby.

Q. What is the most common form of birth control?
A. Most people prevent contraception by wearing a condominium.

Q. Give the meaning of the term ‘Caesarean section’
A. The caesarean section is a district in Rome.

Q. What is a seizure?
A. A Roman Emperor.

Q. What is a terminal illness?
A. When you are sick at the airport.

Q. What does the word ‘benign’ mean?
A. Benign is what you will be after you be eight.

Q. What is a turbine?
A. Something an Arab or Shreik wears on his head.

ENGAGING “THE PULL”

Hello,

Remember, when it comes to persuading others, there is a BIG difference between what is supposed to work and WHAT DOES. Use “The Pull” and LET THEM HAVE YOUR WAY.

Dr. Mitchell Perry  

 The Art of Ultimate Persuasion:
Engaging “The Pull”

When you are in a conversation with someone who is speaking, do you find yourself just waiting for him or her to stop talking so you can start?  And, while you are waiting are you rehearsing your beautifully prepared gospel according to you?

How often are you trying to force-feed others with your opinions?  Are you telling more than listening?  Does it often seem frustrating that people resist your advice and refuse to change?

You know your intentions are good, and your advice is great!  What gives?  What is wrong with these people?

Well, remember what Stephen Covey says in his
7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Seek first to understand, then be understood.”  The message here is that you are much more likely to get others to change when they conclude it makes sense to do so.  If you first understand them, they will be less resistant to your ideas and suggestions when you make them.

If you want others to change, you must ask first, and be prepared to listen.
1.   Ask first what is important to them, what’s on their mind, how do they feel, what’s going on, etc.
2.   Then listen.  Understand, empathize, learn, and appreciate their position.
3.   Then steer them to better conclusions.

It’s remarkable how much more receptive others will be toward your position when they have been heard first and understood.

So the message here is this:  When you are interested in persuading others and the issues are important to you, FIRST ASK QUESTIONS AND LISTEN.  When you do this, people will be less resistant to change and more likely to adjust their position and follow your suggestions.

When you “Pull” (instead of “push”) you “LET THEM HAVE YOUR WAY.”


Today’s Tickle

Murphy’s Lesser Known Laws
Light travels faster than sound. That is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
He who laughs last, thinks slowest.
Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
Those who live by the sword get shot by those who use more powerful weapons.
The 50-50-90 Rule:  Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there’s a 90% probability you’ll get it wrong.
If you lined up all the cars in the world end-to-end, someone would be stupid enough to try to pass them, five or six at a time, on a hill, in the fog.
The things that come to those who wait will be the things left by those who got there first.
Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will sit in boat all day drinking beer.
Flashlight: a case for holding dead batteries.
The shin bone is a device for finding furniture in a dark room.
A fine tax is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.
When you go into court, you are putting yourself in the hands of people who lacked enough intelligence to get out of jury duty.   

Love and Marriage

When you get married, you marry the “courtship behavior.”  It’s insane to stop the very behavior you marry!

So, restore the courtship behavior and you strengthen your union together.

Dr. Mitchell Perry

    Love and Marriage

Regardless of how happy and fulfilling your marriage or relationship is, inevitably you will encounter difficulties and disappointments along the way.  Often times it is either because you have become emotionally malnourished, your relationship needs a tune-up, or perhaps the magic has faded.  To rebuild a relationship that has gotten lost over the years, you need a clear, compelling picture of the relationship you want.  Then you both must commit to creating and maintaining that partnership. 

A relationship lives in words and action, much like a play.  If your relationship has become its own version of a bad play, then to make a better play (relationship), you need to write and practice good scripts. 

One way that you can create good marriage scripts is by figuring out what you and your partner want out of the relationship.  In essence, it is time to “rewrite the screenplay.” 

Start by having the following dialogue with your partner:

  1. What do you want me to know about you? What do you want/need from me?  (Attention, time, listening, etc.)
  2. Here’s what I want you to know about me.  Here’s what I need from you.   
  3. How would you say our normal conversations work?
  4. What is our predictable screenplay?  
  5. What are the road blocks to improving our marriage?  (Self pity, score keeping, name calling, guilt trips, etc.)
  6. What are we going to do differently going forward?

Be sure to find out what your partner wants, and then give your partner what your partner wants.  YOU MAKE THE FIRST MOVE!

Remember what your woman wants, and give it to her, because you did during courtship!  Here is most likely what she wants:

  1. Listen to me and then listen some more (and look interested).
  2. Pay attention to me and BE with me… because “I am who I’m with.”
  3. Empathize and quit giving me advice (unless I ask for it). 
  4. Hold me, cherish me, show me I’m the one!  I must be the dominant source of your happiness.

Remember what your man wants, and give it to him, because you did during courtship!  Here is most likely what he wants:

  1. Look good, lose the weight, and dress up, because how you look is critical to me.
  2. Pay attention to me and DO with me… because “I am what I do.”
  3. Sexual gymnastics (complete with howling at the moon!)
  4. Treat me like a king!  I must be a big deal in your eyes.

Take these steps with your partner and see what happens.  Re-scripting your relationship can only lead to a better understanding of yourself… and your partner.

Then pay the freight, take initiative, practice new habits and restore the courtship.

And, remember reinforce more than you criticize… 5 times more!
 

Balancing Your Life

So you are in midlife and you notice life goes by so fast!
What’s the point? What really matters anyway?
Answer: Touching people’s lives and getting your life touched.

Dr. Mitchell Perry

Balancing Your Life

Most people want to be happy and successful. Ask yourself what that would mean to you. When you think of being quite happy what images come to mind? In addition, what does being very successful look like? Furthermore, what’s the point?

HAPPINESS IS CLOSENESS. When you think about experiences in life in which you were really happy, there were probably people in your memory and you were happy in large part because you felt CLOSE to those people. The closer you feel to people you care about, the happier you are. So, one objective in life is to establish, build, and maintain some quality and nourishing CLOSENESS in your relationships. Closeness is usually found and developed in your personal life.

SUCCESS IS ACHIEVEMENT. When you think of times in your life when you felt quite successful, you probably thought of things you achieved. Creating a goal and achieving it builds a solid sense of identity, strength, and autonomy. Continually achieving goals builds confidence and purpose which develops the self and creates independence. So, another objective in life is to continually realize success by realizing ACHIEVEMENTS. Success is usually found in your professional life.

CREATING BALANCE. Some form of balance between both dimensions of personal and professional life is essential for optimum success and happiness. People who are highly professionally successful (always achieving) but always personally unhappy (estranged, isolated, unconnected from people) are unbalanced on the success side. They often end up driven and angry. They must start creating valuable CLOSENESS to fix it.

Likewise, people who are personally very happy (close with significant people) yet very professionally unsuccessful (unable / unwilling to achieve anything) are unbalanced on the happiness side. They usually end up dependent, clingy, and fearful. They must begin to ACHIEVE things to fix it.

DEVELOP MEANING. Fulfillment in life comes when there is clear and evident meaning to your existence. Write down your basic governing values. Contribute something to society as part of paying the rent for your time here. Commit to something larger than yourself and watch the development of grace. Life is really about touching lives and getting your life touched as a result.

Develop closeness, commit to achieving, and life becomes balanced.

Then contribute to society in some way with your time, resources, and grace. Meaning emerges and so does fulfillment.

 Today’s Tickle
 These are classified ads which were actually placed in U.K. newspapers:

 FREE PUPPIES 1/2 Cocker Spaniel, 1/2 sneaky neighbor’s dog. ________________________________________________ 
 FREE PUPPIES Mother is a Kennel Club registered German Shepherd. 
 Father is a Super Dog, able to leap tall fences in a single bound. _____________________________________________________________ 
JOINING NUDIST COLONY! Must sell washer and dryer £100. _____________________________________________________________ 
WEDDING DRESS FOR SALE . Worn once by mistake. Call Stephanie. ___________________________________________________________ 
 And the WINNER is… 
FOR SALE BY OWNER. Complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica, 45 volumes. 
 Excellent condition, £200 or best offer. 
 No longer needed, got married, wife knows everything.

SEPTEMBER 2012

ARE YOU A PERFECTIONIST?  

Perhaps you have a need to line-up your food boxes according to size, or arrange your closet by color, fabric, and space between the hangers, or alphabetize your cans of soup?  Wait a minute… if you are now thinking, “That’s a great idea!”  OMG… keep reading!

Do you obsess about your looks, house, or work?  Do you truly think that your standards of perfection help keep you striving? Do you ever notice you seem to be always anxious and/or cranky?  

It’s time to re-evaluate your perfection obsession – let’s add some common sense!  

Dr. Mitchell Perry

The Perfection Obsession:  A Set-Up for a Let Down

Many people have standards, values, and guiding principles by which they live.  For these individuals, standards and values are helpful guidelines for living; on the other hand, sometimes these standards become too rigid and strict.  In some cases, the standard expectations of excellence are so high that the individual becomes obsessed with having to be perfect.  This is called the “Perfection Obsession.”

I have encountered countless people, both personally and professionally, who are obsessed with being perfect.  In moderation, striving for excellence is a terrific basic governing value.  Yet, many of us take “having to be perfect” to the extreme, and later develop psychological, physiological, and interpersonal disorders which often result in emotional prison.

I often find multi-dimensional origins to the perfection obsession.  When suffering from perfection obsession, people frequently cultivate an unshakable irrational belief system in addition to rigid behavior patterns.  Dr. Albert Ellis presents the perfection obsession as another one of his eleven irrational ideas that contributes strongly to mental illness and emotional disorders.  He describes this irrational obsession as “the idea that one must be thorough, competent and achieving in all possible respects, and if perchance this is not achieved, there is something terribly wrong.”  As you can see, when we become firmly entrenched in this kind of thinking, we become anxious, irritated, depressed, or hostile if we’re exposed as being imperfect.

Sometimes people who are afflicted with perfection obsession have grown up in a double-bind family environment.  A double-bind family environment is a “damned if you do/damned if you don’t,” or “Catch 22” situation.  For example, suppose a child is continually told the following two conflicting messages by his parents or other authority figures:
“You’ll never amount to anything unless you achieve.”
“Whatever you achieve will never be good enough.”
If this sounds familiar, you have three options:

To keep achieving in hopes of reaching perfection some day, or
To become so miserable and defeated that it leads to severe depression.
Go crazy – (dip into the prozac).
Most people with the perfection obsession choose the first option.  The perfection obsession can manifest itself in a variety of ways.  Some of the behavior patterns are familiar — those of a workaholic, a narcissist, a compulsive cleaner, a neat nick, over-achiever, and an ultimate authority on every subject.

Workaholics constantly work to the point of masochism.  Most are working to compensate for intense feelings of inadequacy; in this case, a fear of being less than perfect.  By committing their time and energy to work and by excluding other people, they feel safer – that is to say, it is less likely that other people will discover they are in fact imperfect.

Other people can become “perfect” narcissists – obsessed with their appearance, making sure they look perfectly neat, coifed, clean, groomed, pressed, smoothed, sprayed, made-up, tanned, physically shaped, and coordinated.  The risk here is that “perfect” people might avoid potentially fun or educational activities that would expose them as being imperfect.  As a result, the “perfect” person may seldom relax for fear of having an imperfect physical image.  This narcissistic condition has become greatly amplified in the past two decades.  An example is the movie “Perfect” which portrays a woman’s obsession with exercise to create the flawless body.  Another example is the addiction with plastic surgery – as a result of a distorted view of your physical self, often referred to as body dysformia.

Many people are concerned about cleanliness and orderliness at home and work.  The neat-nick, however, is obsessed with cleanliness and orderliness. This person will spend hours cleaning every nook and cranny in the kitchen, will work for days making the office files letter perfect, or will devote the entire weekend to scrubbing the back porch and driveway.  The compulsive neat-nick’s behavior ensures the maintenance of control.  The neat nick fears losing control because that would mean revealing personal imperfections.

Still other people can become obsessed with perfection in their thinking, dialogue, and knowledge.  Have you ever dealt with someone who has an opinion and an answer for everything?  These people like to be the ultimate authority.  They will oftentimes read voraciously and store vast amounts of knowledge and will likely get quite anxious if the answer fails to immediately come to mind or if memory fails for even a moment.  Professional people, in particular, can become obsessed with perfection in their chosen field.  The idea of saying “I don’t know” is unthinkable.  Instead there is a recorded message playing internally that says, “unless I am a perfect, flawless professional, other people will lose respect for me.”  An additional problem that arises from this erroneous thinking is that other people begin to expect perfection from professionals who promote infallibility.  This leads to a tough bind.  I wonder if there would be less medical malpractice litigation if some physicians were less obsessed with projecting perfection, and if the public could allow them to be fallible and human?

The difficult part of being obsessed with perfection is the continual anxiety about making mistakes and exposing humanness, fallibility and imperfection.  The obsessive person thinks, “if I make a mistake, I will lose respect,” and “if I’m imperfect, I’m vulnerable and out of control.”  Notice how often we tell ourselves those lines?  This belief system states that anything less than perfect would be received with disapproval in other people’s eyes – an extension of the childhood double-bind scenario.

IN REALITY, THE CONTRARY IS TRUE.  We actually like people less for their perfections because perfection tends to scare and intimidate us.  If we encounter someone who appears perfect, we are immediately reminded of our own imperfections, which can make us feel uncomfortable and inadequate.  In addition, we find it difficult to identify with someone who is perfect.  We are able to relax only when we encounter someone who, while having high standards, also lets his or her imperfections and “human qualities” show through.  The more human a person is, the more we are able to feel comfortable and identify with this person.

Take a look at Oprah Winfrey, she is fabulously successful, loved and admired by millions of people — and she has always been willing to expose her failings and soft underbelly.  Do you suppose she is so admired because she is willing to be imperfect?

The perfection obsession is oriented toward reactive thinking and is motivated by the potential consequences of failing to do something.  “Perfect” people are unable to relax because they are always making an effort to be perfect – reacting to the fear of the potential consequence of appearing imperfect, flawed, and out of control.  This constant reactive obsession results in anxiety, dogmatism, and lowered creative potential and performance.  If we are unable to relax, we are denying ourselves the opportunity to grow; therefore, learning and progress are halted.

What can you do?

Ask yourself this question:  “What is the worst that can happen if I am less than perfect?”  Really consider this question because chances are, the answer is hardly fatal.
Practice saying, “I don’t know” when in fact you find yourself without an answer.  People will be quite accepting of your limitations.
Consider leaving the house (or a small portion of it) messy for one day.  It is interesting to see that your house, friends, and you too, will survive, and as a result, the obsession decreases.
List all of your standards on paper and consider the standards that are unreasonable.  Then, rewrite and adjust them to more reasonable standards.  The anxiety automatically diminishes.
Now ask yourself:

What am I noticing about myself and my perfection obsession?
What are my options to alter these behaviors?
What am I learning about these options?
What will I now do differently?

Hello:

People are shoulding on themselves and each other all the time!  The ongoing result is pushback and misery.

Dr. Mitchell Perry

“Shoulding on Yourself and Others”

Have you ever noticed how often people will talk to us about a problem, and we begin to tell them what they “should” do about it? Even after hearing our sage advice, irrespective of how practical, logical, and sensible it might be, they dig in their heels and resist what you claim they “should” do.

We also do this to ourselves. Have you noticed yourself saying, “I should do this” or “I really should avoid doing that,” and then you steadfastly resist whatever it is you’re telling yourself to do? Have you ever noticed how miserable people feel whenever they compulsively keep doing whatever it is they think they should do, rather than what they want to do?  It seems there are so many things they should do, say, think, feel, quit, start, etc., that they seldom get around to enjoying anything.

If all of this sounds familiar, you are an unknowing participant in the “should bind.”  What you may have failed to consider is that whenever you deal with a “should,” you have immediately created an obstacle to any progress or success.  A “should” is a put-down, designed to point out how stupid the person is who receives it.

Suppose you have a friend who is overweight and out of shape.  For a long time, you have been watching your friend overeat without exercising.  You are now concerned about his physical condition because these eating habits are jeopardizing his good health and longevity.  So, you say, with admirable intentions:  “John, you should lose weight.  You should diet and exercise because you know your current weight is unhealthy for you.”  Notice how your friend handles these remarks!  He appears affronted and upset and simply refuses to heed them regardless of their validity.  Why?  What you have really told him is that he is stupid – if he was smart, he would have already lost the weight!  The “should” was, in reality, a put-down that resulted in a typical resistant stance.

You “Should” on yourself too!  You may notice too that whenever you tell yourself you should diet and exercise, you are reluctant to do what you “should” do.  List all of your own “shoulds.”  They may be overwhelmingly abundant and sound something like this:
 
I should lose weight.  I should stop smoking.  I should exercise. I should spend more time with my kids.  I should finish my degree.  I should call my mother.  I should be more patient.  I should listen.  I shouldn’t feel guilty.  I shouldn’t worry. I shouldn’t take things so personally.

Perhaps your list appears endless.  Notice whenever you should on yourself out loud, you begin to feel badly, defensive, resentful and resistant?  There is a complete absence of motivation.

Sometimes, as parents, we tell our children what they “should” and “shouldn’t” do, feel and behave.  Though our intentions are honorable and we have the utmost concern for their welfare, we become confused when often our children meet our advice with resistance.  Why is that?  In actuality, we have put them down rather than helped them out.  For instance, suppose your daughter is too frightened to swim and you say:  You shouldn’t feel afraid.  You have really told your child that her feelings are stupid and invalid.  She will still feel afraid but now she also feels inferior and stupid because her fear has been undermined.

More closely examined, the “shoulds” are purely guilt producers.  The feeling generated by any “should” remark is initially guilt but this is quickly turned to resentment then resistance.  I have seldom known anyone who really liked being dealt “shoulds” on a regular basis.

An even more self-defeating “should” is placed in the past tense, namely, “I should have done this, or You should have remembered…”  To constantly berate yourself over what you should or shouldn’t have done is unbelievably destructive.  Why?  Because it is impossible to alter the past!  It has already happened and is past the point of change.  To continually beat yourself about it is reactive and destructive.  Progress and improvement are impossible leaving room only for guilt and self-hate.

What is a solution to “Shoulding” on yourself and others?  

I heartily encourage you delete all “shoulds” from your vocabulary and substitute them with “mights” and “wants.”  Remember that the first thing people will do when they feel forced is resist.  The “shoulds” are a form of force.  People resist vehemently.  Removing the “shoulds” from your dialogue will provide less force, thereby resulting in less unnecessary resistance.  There are three ways to rephrase the overused “should” in your daily conversations.  Each has a different level of intensity.  They are:

      “You might… “
      “I urge / encourage / suggest / recommend you consider… “
      “I want you to… ”  

Notice if you say to your overweight friend, “John, you might want to lose weight,” “I would encourage you to consider losing weight,” or “I want you to lose weight.”  He will feel much less resistant to your suggestion and more motivated to start losing weight because essentially he still has the option to refuse your advice without losing face or feeling stupid.  You, of course, select one of the three options depending on your style, the closeness of the relationship, and the desired level of impact.

Removing ourselves from the tyranny of the “shoulding” on ourselves by substituting the “wants” and “mights” is a beneficial change.  If you say to yourself, “I should lose weight,” it is likely you will feel badly that you have yet to do it.  On the other hand, if you say, “I want to lose weight,” it is more likely you will diet because your resistance is down, and your levels of guilt and bad feelings are diminished.

Remember, ultimately you are only going to do what you want to do.  You will be impressed with how much more you can get done with less resistance when you concentrate on changing those “shoulds” to “wants.”  I encourage you to take your list of “shoulds” and change them to “wants.”  Then read them aloud and notice how you feel different immediately!

In summary, the “shoulds” create resistance, when either self-imposed, or levied on others.  Wipe out all the “shoulds” and consider the “mights” when speaking with others, and use the “wants” when speaking to yourself.  You will be quite surprised with the positive results.