The Challenges of “Imagined History” 1

Refusing to let facts get in the way of a good belief system

By Chris Simmons

I’ve long witnessed a widespread phenomenon I call “Imagined History.” Simply put, it is one’s past as we would have liked it to have been. It’s a perverse form of nostalgia in which we look back and see our actions – and those of our ancestors — as more enlightened and nobler than they actually were.

Wars provide virtually unlimited opportunities for us, collectively, to whitewash our past and re-invent ourselves. For example, Americans’ perceptions of the Revolutionary War — THE event that gave birth to the United States — are grossly distorted. I offer as evidence three fundamental truths about the war to which most present-day Americans are oblivious.

1. An estimated 70% of all colonists opposed or were neutral on the issue of independence from Great Britain. Thus, the present-day liberty of the United   States rests, in part, squarely on the shoulders of a small group of malcontent colonists.

2.  I said in part because long forgotten is the role that France, Spain, and the Netherlands filled in secretly providing supplies, ammunition, and weaponry to the revolutionaries starting in early 1776. More specifically, France provided 90% of the gunpower used by the patriots throughout the war. As a result, George Washington’s triumph at Yorktown was as much a French victory as it was “American.”

3.  The October 1781 surrender of General Cornwallis at Yorktown did NOT end the war. The conflict dragged on for two more years before finally ending with the September 1783 signing of the Treaty of Paris.

Poet Lucille Clifton was right:  “the saddest lies are the ones we tell ourselves.” History itself is neither good nor bad. Events – life-altering or mundane – occur because of the means, motives, and opportunities capitalized upon by individuals. Recasting these actions to make us feel better about ourselves or others actually has a long-term debilitating effect. When we deceive ourselves about where we’ve been, how can we really understand who we are?

Additionally, when we fail to accept the past as it actually occurred, we sabotage our ability to foresee opportunities and challenges. Having lost this “forecasting” skill, we become unable to shape our future and fall victim to our imagined histories.

Is Your “Significant Other” Losing That Lovin’ Feelin’? Reply

How to Determine if Rocky Shoals May Be Ahead

By Chris Simmons

We’ve all been there. You’re in a great relationship when you realize something has changed. He doesn’t bring you flowers like he used to do. The compliments and sweet words she once spread freely like wildflowers are now as rare as a desert rose. Everything else seems the same but things are definitely different. Is your relationship in trouble? Maybe…

Regarding her previously abundant praise, is she normally stingy with compliments for everyone or are you being singled out? If it’s the former, it could be problematic, although there are techniques to help nurture and guide positive behavior.

However, if he intentionally stopped bringing flowers or she is willfully withholding compliments, you could have a problem. I say “could” because people often withhold or deny taking an action as a passive-aggressive form of rejection. But before arriving at such a conclusion, several issues must be addressed.

  1. First, you must create a baseline of your SO’s regular behavior and mannerisms. People are creatures of habit, so your partner will display very consistent behavior patterns and a clearly defined collection of “core” mannerisms. Once you’ve created this baseline, think back to when the flowers/compliments/etc ended. A change in behavior reveals that a significant event has occurred (and not necessarily a bad incident, as positive actions can affect the baseline as well). Now determine what unique event(s) occurred during that period. There was a “triggering event(s)” that served as the catalyst for your SO to end their gracious acts. (Remember: A triggering event can be a decision by your SO, but there would still be signs preceding this event).
  2. As humans, we are predisposed to use verbal and nonverbal messaging to over-communicate everything. We build “communications clusters” around words and their supporting body language and utterances. In essence, you see and hear every message in three ways. (For more on this theme, see: Three Simple Steps to Becoming More Influential – Instantly! Recall the body language and other nonverbals used when your SO showered you with flowers or compliments. Did the entire cluster stop or simply one facet of your SO’s behavior?
  3. Were the “lost” affirmations replaced by other positive behaviors? If this is the case, your SO may have simply replaced a behavior that was uncomfortable/ unaffordable with deeds that he/she found more palatable.
  4. Examine your own behavior. Did you send signals that could have been misinterpreted? Did you start taking your SO’s acts for granted or lead him/her to feel that you saw their actions as an expectation or entitlement?

Getting to the truth isn’t easy. It requires careful and consistent attention to your SO as well as a time investment. That said, your SO will tell you EVERYTHING they want, need, and desire. All you need to do is listen to their words and utterances as you watch their body language and behavior. Relationships are living things. Just as a distressed plant shows signs that it’s endangered, so do we. Read the signals all around you. Maybe your relationship isn’t dying – perhaps it just needs a bigger pot, more water, or direct sunlight.

Moved Around, Ripped Out, Messed Up: Has This International Life Damaged My Children? 1

by Melissa Dalton-Bradford

This year it hit me broadside.

Standing in my entryway, eagerly opening up holiday greeting cards from around the world, I held a family Christmas collage from a friend in my hands. There they were: the crowds of folks gathered for one child’s wedding; a smiling circle cheering another child’s academic achievement; lines of friends there for another child’s community concert. I skimmed the lines about neighbors and friends who rushed in when there was a crisis, and wiped my forehead, now pumping hot blood, astonished by my gut reaction.

Pain. Pain for my children.

Story continues here:

RESEARCH REPORT: How Song Selection Can Be a Driving Distraction 1

Listening to Certain Types of Music Can Increase Driver Errors

By Ann Lukits, Wall Street Journal

Fumbling with the buttons to find a good song while driving has been linked to increased risk of crashes, but is listening to that song risky? It depends on the music, says a report to be published in the October issue of Accident Analysis & Prevention. The study found teenage drivers who played their own music had significantly more traffic violations compared with background music designed by the researchers to minimize driving distractions, or no music.

Researchers at Ben-GurionUniversity in Israel recruited 85 drivers about 18 years old; just over half were male. The subjects were each assigned to drive six challenging road trips that were about 40 minutes long, accompanied by an experienced driving instructor. Music was played on four trips, two with selections from the drivers’ playlists, mostly fast-paced vocals, and two with background music, which was a blend of easy listening, soft rock and light jazz in instrumental and vocal arrangements designed to increase driver safety. No music was played on two trips. Subjects rated their mood after each trip and in-car data recorders analyzed driver behavior and errors.

All 85 subjects committed at least three errors in one or more of the six trips; 27 received a verbal warning and 17 required steering or braking by an instructor to prevent an accident. When the music was their own, 98% made errors; without the music, 92% made errors; and while listening to the safe-driving music, 77% made errors. Speeding, following too closely, inappropriate lane use, one-handed driving and weaving were the common violations.

The male subjects were more aggressive drivers and made more serious errors than female subjects. The teens played their own music at a very loud volume but significantly decreased the sound level when listening to the safe-driving music, researchers said. Mood ratings were highest on trips with driver-preferred music.

Caveat: The participants were unfamiliar with the vehicles and instructors and their performance likely represents their most lawful driving behavior, researchers said.

Source: Background music as a risk factor for distraction among young-novice drivers

Strike A Powerful Pose: Posture Can Determine Who’s a Hero, Who’s a Wimp 1

By Sue Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal

Video:  How the ‘Power Pose’ Could Change Your Career

Can how you stand or sit affect your success?

New research shows posture has a bigger impact on body and mind than previously believed. Striking a powerful, expansive pose actually changes a person’s hormones and behavior, just as if he or she had real power.

Merely practicing a “power pose” for a few minutes in private—such as standing tall and leaning slightly forward with hands at one’s side, or leaning forward over a desk with hands planted firmly on its surface—led to higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in study participants. These physiological changes are linked to better performance and more confident, assertive behavior, recent studies show.

Marketing executive Katy Keim used to step back from listeners during presentations or conversations, resting her weight on her back foot with her hands clasped in front of her, twirling her ring. She was often surprised when people asked if she was nervous, says Ms. Keim, chief marketing officer of San Francisco-based Lithium, a firm that builds online communities for clients’ brands. After she began working with a coach to improve her skills and saw herself on video, she realized her posture “was slightly standoffish” and didn’t look strong, she says.

In addition to standing straighter, with her hands at her side, the 5-foot-1 executive began getting up from the table when speaking at meetings. “When I’m sitting at a table of men, I feel petite. Standing up is a dynamic change for me,” she says, sending a message: “I want to command your attention. I want you to get off your BlackBerrys and smartphones and listen to what I have to say.” During a three-hour meeting last week where she made a presentation, she says, she noticed no one picked up a smartphone.

Striking a powerful pose can reduce symptoms of stress, says Dana Carney, an assistant professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. Subjects in a recent study she headed were guided for five minutes into either high-power poses or low-power postures, slumping or leaning back with arms or ankles crossed. They then delivered a videotaped speech before critical evaluators dressed in white lab coats and holding clipboards. Those who had practiced a power pose before the speech showed lower cortisol and fewer outward signs of stress, such as anxious smiles or biting a lip.

Assuming an expansive body position can also increase testosterone, which tends to boost confidence and aggressive behavior, according to another study co-authored by Dr. Carney. Subjects who struck power poses for two minutes had higher testosterone levels later and were more likely to take a gamble when given the chance. Some 86% of high-power posers risked losing $2 they were given in return for a 50-50 chance of doubling it, compared with 60% of low-power posers who took the bet, according to the 2010 study, published in the journal Psychological Science.

Power posing is also linked to improved performance. In another study published last year, led by Amy J.C. Cuddy, an associate professor of business administration at HarvardBusinessSchool, participants who struck power poses for several minutes before beginning a mock job interview received better reviews and were more likely to be chosen for hire—even though the evaluators had never seen them in the poses.

Other research links power posing before a college-entrance exam to improved scores, Dr. Carney says.

Researchers are studying why the effects of the power pose linger after a person returns to a normal, relaxed stance. One theory: It may prompt lingering changes in voice pitch or facial expression.

Most speakers aren’t aware of the signals they send through body language, says Kelly Decker, president of Decker Communications, a San Francisco coaching, training and consulting firm. “We pick up habits, such as walking into a meeting and sitting down with our shoulders slumped, and we don’t even think about it.”

Steven Murray says seeing himself on video last year when he was working with Decker coaches helped him realize that “you’re broadcasting nonverbal information to listeners from the moment you step up to the podium.” Mr. Murray, president of Direct Energy Residential, an energy company based in Houston, says he learned to adjust his posture, leaning slightly forward rather than standing straight upright in the authoritative stance he formerly used as a military officer. “Leaning forward really engages people” and helps get his message across, he says.

Hunching over a smartphone before a meeting or presentation may be self-defeating, because it forces the user into a low-power pose, according to a recent study led by Maarten Bos, then a postdoctoral research fellow at HarvardBusinessSchool. Participants were assigned to complete several tasks on one of four gadgets—a hand-held device, a tablet, a laptop or a desktop. Then, the researcher tested subjects’ willingness to interrupt another person, a power-related behavior. He left each subject alone in the room with instructions to come get him if he didn’t return in five minutes. Subjects who worked on the hand-held device waited significantly longer before interrupting him, compared with those on desktops, and some didn’t come out at all, suggesting their low-power posture sparked feelings of powerlessness.

Breaking old body-language habits takes practice, sometimes years. Pamela Lentz used to wave her hands while speaking on her job as a principal at a management-consulting firm, making some co-workers “think I was too emotional or too passionate,” says Ms. Lentz, a Leesburg, Va., management consultant. She also tended to fold her arms across her chest while listening, drawing criticism that she lacked presence. “It looks as if you are withdrawing from the conversation,” she says. Her body language was holding her back in her career, colleagues told her.

She worked with executive coach Tim Allard on changing her posture and movements. “We wanted her to project calmness and confidence,” says Mr. Allard, co-owner of Odyssey Inc., a Charlottesville, Va., executive and business consulting firm. He videotaped her and, with Ms. Lentz’s permission, asked her subordinates for feedback.

Ms. Lentz began leaning forward and placing her hands firmly on the table when speaking. She also put an elastic band around her wrist and snapped it now and then when her hands were hidden under a table or desk, to remind her to keep them still when she began speaking.

Gradually, as she practiced the new habits, says Ms. Lentz, “I felt more in control, and I was having more impact in the discussions.” She was soon promoted to partner.

Write to Sue Shellenbarger at

Lie-Detection Made Easy: Using a Single Comment to Get the Truth 1

By Chris Simmons

You will be lied to today, most likely several times. Wouldn’t it be nice to protect yourself against the pervasiveness of everyday deceptions?

You can, with a maneuver known as the squeeze play. This technique uses a single sentence to force your suspected liar into making an unforeseen, split-second decision. The tactic does come with a price, however, as your response to the other person’s lie is itself a lie.

As an overly protective father with two lovely daughters, I may have been guilty of using this practice once or twice over the years. Imagine, if you will, a new beau takes my oldest daughter to the nearby theater. I great them at the door as they return home much later than expected. Before he can say anything, I welcome them back by saying “I figured you’d be late since Route 7 was closed because of a bad accident.”

So begins the squeeze play. I know there wasn’t an accident on the nearby highway. However, it can be a dangerous road, making my statement plausible. Now her prospective suitor has a life-changing decision to make. He can choose wisely and deny seeing my mythical accident before explaining why they are late. Or he can choose poorly and claim it took them forever to find an alternate way home because the accident tied up traffic for miles in all directions.

The squeeze play works in virtually any scenario simply by changing the false data introduced. If the other party correctly notes that your comment is incorrect, you can deftly extract yourself with a simple “I must have misunderstood (misheard, etc)…”

Conversely, if he/she opts to lie, you’ll see two distinct responses. First, they will hesitate deciding how to answer. Secondly, they will either “buy-in” to your false fact or try to change the topic. Regardless of their choice, you always walk away knowing the truth.

Three Simple Steps to Becoming More Influential – Instantly! Reply

By Chris Simmons

Think Strategically

Be more successful in getting everything you want by remembering that all communication is theater and every personal interaction a distinct performance. While this may sound like an overstatement, step back and think about it for a second. In one manner or another, all encounters have a set, costumes, sound effects, lighting, acting, and dialogue. While some performances may be more “bare bones” than others, increased audience engagement and recall occurs by integrating as many senses as possible into a performance (i.e., sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell).

Understand The Redundancies in Spoken Communication

While it may seem counterintuitive, the pathway to influence comes not from speaking, but from listening and observing. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “No one ever learned a damn thing while they were running their mouth.” Or more to the point, as Steven Covey so famously said “”First seek to understand, then be understood.”

As humans, we are born to over-communicate. In fact, every time we speak, we broadcast our message in three distinct manners. Our words provide the verbal content, while non-verbal communication provides both auditory and visual cues. More importantly, non-verbals generally convey 60-93% of the intent and meaning of a spoken message. Non-verbals consist of utterances and body language. Utterances are the speed, pitch, tone, and volume of what is said, as well as any non-words that may be included (a sigh of exasperation, for example). Body language consists of both intentional and involuntary gestures and physical responses.

Take These Three Steps to Increased Influence

  1. Listen to the words.  Understand that every word has meaning, as does its placement within a sentence or paragraph. Generally, the initial word(s) in a sentence convey the bulk of the message. For example, to say “Tomorrow, I need to head back to school,” emphasizes the timing of the event. In contrast, “I need to head back to school tomorrow,” emphasizes the focus on the speaker.
  2. Watch the body language. Do not assume that all gestures mean the same thing. Observe others long enough to create a “baseline” of their normal mannerisms. Any subsequent anomaly displayed by their body warrants attention. For example, imagine a meeting during which a colleague offers to partner with you on a project. Then, after making the offer, he/she proceeds to lean back and interlace their fingers behind their head. This would generally be an anomaly due to the disconnect between a seemingly genuine offer and a gesture that is a classic sign of perceived superiority.
  3. Take note of the utterances. The manner of delivery is everything. The words “I love you” can be said in every fashion from soft and romantic to mockingly and dishonest.

Ideally, the three communicative streams compliment and reinforce one another. Their purpose is to ensure a message is clearly received and understood. In doing so, they provide a behavioral  “cluster” which paints a much more precise image of the speaker’s intent, areas of interest, and sincerity. Conversely, when the verbal and non-verbal worlds collide, always trust the latter. The body hates deception and will always provide a physical response to reveal the truth.

“You’re Not Pretty Enough” — Cheating Husband’s Cruel Words Inspires Campaign for Change Reply

Cheating Husband’s Cruel Words Inspires Campaign for Change

Jennifer Tress’ marriage and life was forever changed when her ex-husband muttered the four ugly words, “You’re not pretty enough,” as his reason for cheating on her.

Now she is on a crusade to help women build their self-esteem with her empowering book entitled, “You’re Not Pretty Enough,” as she tackles issues most women, and even some men, deal with on a daily basis of not liking what they see on the other side of the mirror.

“Those words really pierce a woman’s heart,” Tress told ABC News. “The pretty thing is more of an entry into the self-esteem issues, because it’s the easiest and laziest way that we assess ourselves.”

She’s bringing multimedia sessions, or what she calls “salons,” to 100 college campuses around the country, where students come to discuss everything from insecurities to self acceptance.

Tress asks them to take a pledge: Give yourself a valued mantra and help spread the word about tips and tools we can all use to develop a healthy self-image when it comes to beauty norms.

Victoria Rocha, 26, says before attending Tress’ sessions she made a lot of poor, and sometimes detrimental, decisions.

“Ultimately, I didn’t boost my self-esteem and it took the time and energy to work on myself,” said Rocha.

Tress’ movement also solicits people to ” Create your own video to contribute to the conversation and help someone else realize they’re not alone.”

Some of the confessions heard in her online movement’s videos include, “You’d be pretty with longer hair,” “There was taunting, there was bullying,” and “There were times when I didn’t feel good in my own skin.”

Experts say this is a real social issue.

“We are far more worried about our own appearances than other people are,” explained Art Markman, a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology.

Thanks to the never-ending and very permanent forms of social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, today’s generation has way too many platforms to feel less than pretty.

“While I do think people are more worried about these issues, they are things that they can overcome,” said Markman. “You have to focus on your strengths.”

Today, Tress is remarried to a man who not only thinks she is pretty enough, but is also playing an active role in her crusade.

The 7 Warning Signs That Someone is Trying to Manipulate You Reply

By Chris Simmons

Any attempt to manipulate another individual is directed not against one’s logical/rationale persona, but rather their emotional side. An objective, sterile appeal is inherently doomed because it provides no reason for “buy-in” or commitment. As a result, your adversary (for lack of a better word) must appeal to your emotions in order to gain advantage over you.

The individual seeking to exploit you will almost always target one or more of several emotional themes. The seven “hooks” of manipulation are:

  1. Ego:  “Everyone knows you are the most talented programmer in this company. That’s why you should talk to the boss about all the problems in the new software. She’ll listen to you.”
  2. Love:  “Who told you I was out with John last week?  If you loved me, you wouldn’t say that. I would never betray you or do anything to hurt you. I thought we shared something special.”
  3. Likability:  “Don’t start having second thoughts now. We need you to stay the course. Everyone is counting on you. Don’t back out on us. Everyone will be so disappointed”
  4. Curiosity“Come on, do it. You only live once! Haven’t you always wanted to be a cliff diver? It will be a rush. You’ll never get another chance to do this. Just do it!!!”
  5. Intimidation“What’s your problem? It’s not that big a decision. Stop being a jellyfish and show some backbone!”
  6. Guilt:  “Seriously?  You think I broke my old phone on purpose so you’d have to get me a new one? I’m hurt that you would even think that.”
  7. Fear“The family that was here this morning really loves this place and they made a verbal offer at full asking price. If you’re serious about this gorgeous home, I need a really good written offer today or it will be gone.”

By recognizing a manipulator’s feelings-based appeal and the “hot buttons” he/she will push, you can avoid being their puppet.  Their high-pressure tactics are designed to disrupt your thought process, that is, the integration of relevant facts with self-interest and your associated emotional needs and wants. To defeat their abusive maneuver, remain calm, remove their emotive red herring from consideration, and allow yourself the time to make a reasoned, well-informed decision.

Dr. Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability Reply

Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.

Dr Brown is author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. Her other bestselling books include The Gifts of Imperfection, and I Thought It Was Just Me.