Parkinson’s Patients Make A Huge Difference in Seeking a Cure

Today on Big Think, I posted the blog “Parkinson’s Patients ‘Roar’ On Faster Route to a Cure.”  PD patients are having a louder voice than every before in defining PD, finding treatments and seeking a cure.  Ironically, people with PD often find their voices becoming softer.  It’s a symptom of PD.  But when it comes to increasing what we know about the disease, they are getting louder by the day.  Hope you’ll read the blog and share it with anyone with PD or with those who care about them.

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David Brooks on Suffering – Parkinson’s Awareness Month

This essay by David Brooks is well worth a read.  We all suffer at times and when we’re fortunate, we learn from that pain.  One of the best lessons I learned in life having breast cancer at age 32 and later on Parkinson’s disease is that there is, more often than not, light at the end of dark tunnels.  Sometimes it’s a matter of believing that the light is there and that can be tough.  No one wants to suffer.  But we all do at some time.  I wouldn’t want to frame Parkinson’s disease as suffering, since there is so much more to the experience.  Yet, in the spirit of Parkinson’s Awareness Month I’m posting David Brook’s article.  No matter your politics, this is a very perceptive, moving and encouraging essay.  We all need that now and again.  Thanks for this one, David.

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Complementing the Campaign to Banish the Term “Bossy”

Banning of the word “bossy” as it is often used to describe women who take charge is a goal set by Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In and a worthy one.  If nothing else, attention to the term and its use may diminish its utility.  As a management professor of persuasion, negotiation, politics and communication, I’m pleased to see someone with the visibility Sandberg has take to task words used to derail women’s leadership.  And that’s exactly what such words do.

Early in my persuasion classes, I ask my students how useful a letter from me to one of their potential employers would be were I to describe them as “stubborn.”  Of course, they say it would do more harm than good.  What if, however, I were to describe those same characteristics as “determined,” “persistent,” or “dedicated”?  Ah, yes, those are much better.  They describe the same behaviors in a positive way.  Language is like this.  Words have denotative or dictionary meanings, but also connotative meanings which are attachments we add as groups or culturally.  To change the meaning of a word, both need to be addressed.

“Bossy” is a word that has developed some very negative connotations for women.  A campaign to rid it from our workplace lexicon and elsewhere raises our awareness to its dangers.  But as is explained in Comebacks at Work, written with my co-author Chris Noblet, the important thing is to know how to respond when words like this are used against you. For example, if a colleague or boss refers to you as “bossy,” what should you say?  You could say, “Have you heard of the campaign led by Sheryl Sandberg to get rid of that term due to its sexist overtones?”  That could work in some situations.  Perhaps you’re not comfortable with it.  Perhaps it doesn’t fit your style.  In Comebacks at Work, we explore a range of options for situations like this.  If you defend yourself by saying, “I’m not bossy,” the person who may have been playing gotcha did get you right where he/she wants you to be. Instead, you could say, “I am passionate about this issue.  You should be too,” “That word demeans leadership and I doubt you meant to do that,” or “If you mean I’m being assertive on this issue, you’d be right.  It’s important.”

As Robin Lakoff, Professor of Linguistics emerita at UC Berkeley, explains, the second-wave women’s movement in the 1970s endeavored to change gender relations by changing language.  She writes that the result “is not a happy story.”    If however, you know how to respond to words that demean or discredit, then for your own self, at least, it’s possible to not only deal with “bossy” but to reduce the likelihood that it will be applied to you.

Additionally, knowing how to respond to such put-downs provides a kind of grassroots effort to supplement the one being made by Sandberg and her colleagues.  Chipping away at derogatory terms on a daily basis while highly visible people give attention to their damaging usage is a promising combination.

Posted in "Leaning in" -- Asserting yourself, Bullying, Comebacks, Gotcha!, Unwanted Repetitive Episodes | Leave a comment

Persuasion Often Relies on Habits of the Mind

That’s what my blog on Huffpo today is really about — habits of mind that we neglect to question.  We devote an insufficient amount of time educating ourselves and our children to recognize when we and they are being handed a bill of goods by a mantra-like argument that too few stop to question.  Such is the case with arguing that what’s good for employees is bad for business.  That’s what we hear whenever the subjects of raising the minimum wage and paying people for work they do instead of insisting that they work overtime for free are raised.  Those opposed argue that business will suffer.  But how much?  For how long?  In what ways?  At the sacrifice of which of our values?

There are fundamental flaws in the prevalent bad-for-business persuasive strategy used to block employee benefits and protections.  First, effective businesses are adaptable or they don’t survive.  And the supposed burdens being imposed on them to better the lives of their employees like pay for overtime, especially for people near the poverty line, are no more than what they should be doing.  If they can’t run a business without cheating people out of a reasonable living, forcing low-paid workers to do so without benefit of pay as if indentured servants, then society is better off without them.

Another flaw in the reasoning is that those who criticize such demeaning and unethical practices are anti-business.  That’s ridiculous.  We’re all in one business or another.  The issue is not one of being pro-business or anti-business but one of expecting businesses to make their profits without abusing others.  I’ve worked with business leaders for years and the excellent ones don’t need to resort to such practices in order to achieve their goals.  It’s not anti-business to be pro-employee.  It’s actually just the opposite.

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Crying at Work — The Topic That Keeps Coming Back

When you’ve been around for a while, especially studying communication and leadership, you know that the topic of crying at work isn’t about to go away any time soon.  It’s a form of emotional expression that worries women in particular because we know that leadership is generally associated with strength.  Many natural emotions, however, are associated with weakness.  Yet, emotionless leadership is an oxymoron.  If you don’t truly care about who and what you’re leading, enough to occasionally become emotional, then you’re likely not an effective leader.

In response to the question posed on the Linkedin Wholehearted Leadership site, I posted the following.  It’s short, but to the point.  An occasional cry is not the end of the world. There are other things we repeatedly do at work that can be more costly.  A few of them are mentioned here.  You’re welcome to stop by the “Categories” section in the right column of this site to locate discussions about others.

Emotional expression is natural, but there is a time and a place for everything and crying is no exception. If it happens rarely, hopefully with one colleague in the room who won’t interpret your expression as weakness, then it’s no worse than occasionally expressing most other emotions. Caution is important, though. Some people will interpret crying as weakness. The same can be said for letting people interrupt you on a regular basis, always letting public put-downs pass, never sharing your accomplishments because you think it’s bragging, taking on worthless projects, and a host of other ways we communicate that can be turned into signs of lacking leadership potential — especially for women. John Boehner, U.S. Speaker of the House, cries regularly. He is still Speaker. Betty Friedan, who changed so many women’s lives with her words, determination, and leadership of the modern woman’s movement, cried in my office one day. I thought more of her, not less. It happens. Sometimes for the better — physically, mentally and emotionally. Just watch who you let use it against you. If you must cry, do so alone or with someone you trust. 

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Connecticut Post Introduces Shadow Campus

Bridgeport (Born) Academic Makes Mystery Writer Debut

Bridgeport native and former Stratford High School teacher Kathleen Kelley Reardon has made her debut as a novelist with “Shadow Campus” (Blue Mustang Press, $14.95), about the mystery surrounding the attempted suicide of a young professor on the eve of attaining tenure.

The woman’s estranged brother travels from New England to Los Angeles for a reunion that leads to the reexaming of the childhood event that caused their split.

The book’s family is from Bridgeport and the brother character is a builder living in Ridgefield.

Reardon left Stratford High to earn her Ph.D, teach at the University of Connecticut and then at the University of Southern California. At the moment, she is on a leave from USC and living in Rhode Island.

Reardon has published 10 nonfiction books on communication, negotiation and politics. She is also a regular blogger for Huffington Post.

Reardon’s books have included, “They Don’t Get It, Do They? Communication in the Workplace — Closing the Gap Between Men and Women” and “Comebacks at Work: Using Conversation to Master Confrontation.”

In an email last week, Reardon told me that she thinks of her novel as the “House of Cards” of academia.

“… Laura Stepp, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author of `Unhooked,’ wrote to tell me she was `hooked from the beginning.’ Forbes called it a `masterful debut mystery’ and Christiane Amanpour is reading it,” the writer noted.

Reardon said she enjoyed writing “Shadow Campus” so much that she is working on two mystery sequels.; Twitter: @joesview

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Click on “Artwork” Above to See Sampling of Recent Art

Oil inspired by the work of Richard Schmid

Oil inspired by a Cape Cod lecture by Richard Schmid

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Navigating This Blog (Also a few thoughts on insult vs. offense)

Thought I’d remind anyone coming by for the first time that categories of blog types are listed in the right column of this page.  If you’re looking for more on communication or suggestions specific to women, for example, you can click on relevant categories.  Thanks for stopping by.

Also, I’m posting here a response to a question about conflict from Linkedin.  It’s about the first step to take in just about any potential conflict situation and is an excerpt from The Secret Handshake:

Separating offense from insult is critical early on. People easily offend and are offended by others, especially under pressure. If you slip into a “give-as-good-as-you-get” posture each time someone accidentally offends you, life becomes like old Dodge City on a bad day. Offense is accidental, insult is purposeful. Until you know which one you’re dealing with, it’s premature to respond in kind. Why not check to see which of these occurred? “Did I hear you right?” or “I may have taken that in a way you hadn’t intended” can be helpful. This approach is a strategy of “giving people the opportunity to do the right thing.” If they didn’t mean to insult you, they have a chance to let you know.

(See more on “choice points” and “unwanted repetitive episodes in the category list to the right)


P.S. If you love mystery-thrillers or you know someone who does, check out Shadow Campus at the top right of this page or here.  Forbes called it a “masterful debut mystery” and Laura Stepp, Pulitizer-prize winning journalist and author of Unhooked, wrote to say she was “hooked from the beginning.”  Enjoy!

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In Journalism, There is Such a Thing as an Accurate Story

The blog below was posted today on Huffington Post.  While there are terrific programs on PBS, according to the Baltimore Sun, the size of NewHour’s audience was down from 2.5 million in 2005  to 1.5 million in October of 2013.  I wrote this blog to point out what has happened recently to undermine the quality of programming NewsHour is capable of offering.  PBS, after all, is supposed to provide more in-depth, quality coverage of newsworthy events than we get on the nightly network news.  They do so often and provide programs like “Moyers & Company.”  As a way of helping stem the tide of slippage from quality programming with credible sources, I wrote the following:


In Journalism, The is Such a Thing as an Accurate Story

Perhaps PBS is doing the best it can with only 12 percent of its revenue coming fromfederal funding, but I expected better — in some important respects — from its new team on NewsHour.

As a result of interference by billionaires and what appears to be a strategy for pleasing as many people as possible, “balance” has become a frequent substitute for accuracy. As any regular viewer of NewsHour can attest, the favored approach is to present “both sides” of a story without telling us the real story.

There is the general absence of attention to significant expertise in subject matters being covered. Titles of guests are usually excluded. They are referred to by their first and last names, repeatedly and awkwardly, throughout interviews. Decades of work that one guest has invested to become an expert in a given field are ignored so another view (often from a politically based “institute”) won’t be diminished.

One of the very few stations where there is any hope of learning what really happened in the “news” on a given day now hosts a myriad of mind-numbing point-and-counterpoint techniques that suggest balanced reportage while rarely providing viewers any information to determine which of the opinions or reports presented is more credible.

PBS journalists used to research, investigate and report. Some still do. That’s what has set them apart from lightweight network news shows. Their Supreme Court coverage is high level. Shields and Brooks present opinions in thoughtful, informative ways, reminding us that subjectivity when presented as such is not without merit. Margaret Warner is thorough and provides educated insight into disparate views — without ending her reports with a shallow and convoluted summary indicating how both sides of the issue consist of well-meaning people who are doing equally good things.

Don’t get me wrong; balance is not without its merits. Some point-and-counterpoint is fine. Balance is not, however, the same as objectivity or accuracy — although it makes a nice, easy, inexpensive stand-in for what might otherwise be a real, difficult, comparatively expensive attempt to report what is actually going on.

As if these bad habits weren’t enough, flaccid phrases add insult to injury. “Some people say…” “It’s been said…” “People think…” “One study says…” are common on network news. These and others should be banned from PBS — and from any self-respecting televised or radio news show. Who are “some people”? Why should we care what “some people” say? How do we know whether what “some people” say is the real “buzz” or merely a poor excuse for actually researching a topic? It’s an abominable habit that insults audiences and contributes to the dumbing down of America. Pay some more investigative journalists and let’s get to the bottom of things.

If PBS were to become more serious about accuracy, Sesame Street characters could regularly ask, “Who are the ‘some people’ who supposedly said that?” and “Which people by name think that?” Kermit or Elmo would be great at this. It would go a long way toward preventing another entire generation from growing up failing to question the veracity of what they’re being told.

A lot more reporters asking similar, probing questions might begin to return lost but much-needed integrity to electronic journalism and more honesty to our homes. We might actually go to bed some nights knowing what really happened that day rather than having our minds full of drivel “some people” were invited to waste everyone’s time telling us.

Kathleen also blogs about persuasion and politics at work here. Her latest book and debut novel is the mystery-thriller Shadow Campus.


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Shadow Campus: The “House of Cards” of Academia

Forbes described it as a “masterful debut mystery.”  Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author of Unhooked, wrote she was “hooked from the beginning.”  Christiane Amanpour singled it out as one of the few fiction books she plans to find time to read.  An “addictive novel” and a “page-turner” are two of the other phrases often used to describe this debut novel.  ”Couldn’t put it down” is how so many have responded.  To put the story into perspective, Shadow Campus is the “House of Cards” of Academia where what you hardly believe could happen actually does.  Its characters play out good against evil with the depths of the latter being greater than any college students venturing on campus for an education could possibly conceive.  If you haven’t read it yet, now may be the time.

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