The Sight Behind the Shake

Odds are, everyone has shaken someone’s hand at least once before in the past. We do it when we meet someone new, at the beginning and end of business transactions, and when we say hello to friends. Throughout the years, people have come up with a number of  variations of the traditional handshake. Many people even have specific handshakes for every person or occasion of the day. But what is the real meaning of a handshake?

The handshake can be dated back as far as 5th century BC in ancient Greece. In medieval times, a knight would extend a bare hand to another knight as a mutual sign of peace and respect. This was to demonstrate that the knight did not have a weapon in his hand and meant no harm to the other person. In times before written contracts, any aspect of life could be agreed upon by shaking hands: massive agreements on land, politics etc. The hand shake meant more than just a casual greeting. By shaking hands, men (and women) gave their word that they would adhere to all the regulations and terms of the agreement that they had previously established. The simple act of clutching another man’s hand was a binding agreement. There was no need for a written contract because the men’s honor was at stake if they broke the agreement.

In this era, we have seen the advent of the “finger-crossed” mentality. I have seen this mentality a lot with children. They will come to an agreement and then the agreement is broken and one of the children will yell, “Nuh uh! I had my fingers crossed!” This does not change when these children grow up. Many people try to find the easy way out after making an agreement.

So, why does this matter? I believe the handshake has been degraded and has become near meaningless is a very strong allegory for the direction of many people in the world today. People today believe in the “by any means necessary” mentality of living. We have lost respect for other individuals and worry more about money than we do about personal honor and accountability. This is why we are forced to sign air-tight contracts and legal documents to make sure we stay in line with the agreement. If we could return to the days where we could work respectfully with each other and where our honor means more to us than other things, we could become a much better civilization.

The Sight Behind the Shake

The Infamous Pyramid

             Possibly the most cited and referenced psychological model is that of Abraham H. Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. Any individual who takes an introductory course in psychology and even business class will more than likely hear about Maslow’s pyramid of needs. From that point on you can never outrun it. Maslow first introduced his pyramid in 1943, but further expanded on the model in Motivation and Personality, which he published in 1954. Maslow centered his motivation model off studies he performed on the lives of people such as Fredrick Douglas, Albert Einstein, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

            Maslow’s hierarchy proposes a 5-layer model of human needs. Each need must be met before the next need can be dealt with. The first four levels are physiological, safety, love/belonging, and esteem. These needs are referred to as “deficiency needs.” The pinnacle of the model is “self-actualization,” which can only be met after the other four are fully met.

            The first layer of Maslow’s pyramid is “physiological needs.” Things such as shelter, food, water, and reproduction are all put under this layer. Once these needs are met then you can move on to satisfying “safety needs.” These include personal security, health/wellbeing, and financial security. After “safety” comes “love and belonging needs.” This layer deals with emotions and relationships. This includes love, friendship/family, and intimacy. The second highest level is esteem. This layer deals with people’s desire to be accepted and valued by their peers.

            All humans desire to succeed and fulfill, or find, their purpose in life. This can also be called “self-actualization.” “Self-actualization” is the top level of Maslow’s model. It is the desire to maximize and reach their full potential. It is still debatable whether “self-actualization” is actually possible, and whether the hierarchy is accurate at all. However, it is vastly agreed upon that Maslow laid a fascinating and intriguing foundation for studying and understanding human motivation.

Why It Matters:

            Maslow’s hierarchy is possibly the most cited model in psychological, motivational, and even educational realms. Many people are skeptical of the hierarchy and question its validity because it has been stretched and modified to fit into different plans, ideas, and theories. Whether the model is valid or not, it gives a phenomenal framework from in which future psychologists can build their own theories and models. Maslow opened up the human psyche and began to explain what drives humans at the most basic and fundamental levels.

The Infamous Pyramid

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Lying is an unfortunate aspect of human life that we all engage in and suffer through. Lying can be used as a defense mechanism to protect ourselves or someone we care about from harm. Nothing can destroy trust, and ultimately relationships, like a lie. Whether it is big or small, it can be devastating to any relationship at any stage. So how do we know who to trust? How do we know if we are being lied to?

There is no one concrete answer for this. Not even a polygraph test is 100% accurate. Many people have hypothesized that things such as sweating, rapid eye movements, or fidgeting can be signs of a lie; but these are generally misnomers. These are usually brought on by extreme stress or discomfort in the situation. In poker, you try to find your opponents “tell,” a movement or sign to tell whether they are bluffing or not. An old adage states that you are not playing the cards; you are playing the man across from you. So what are people’s “tells?” Are there any signs to tell if a person is lying?

A meta-analysis of dozens of studies shows that there are in fact some cues that can indicate a possible lie. One is the length it takes for a person to respond to a question. If it takes an inordinate amount of time for someone to answer a question and the answer is extremely vague, then they are probably lying. Also, if a person seems indifferent when posed with a tough question, then they could be “playing it cool” which ultimately could be lying. Lying is hard work. So if someone starts “thinking hard” about a question, then they may be cultivating a lie. Furthermore, if a person is being uncooperative, they could be trying to conceal something.

Unless you intend to waterlog or torture someone, you can never be 100% sure if they are telling the truth or not. Using these tips can help increase the odds of you detecting a lie. The best way to detect a lie is to follow your instincts. When presented with a situation, it seems that following your gut is a better way to uncover a lie than any other method.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

“You Won’t Like Me When I’m Angry”

The infamous line, “You won’t like me when I’m angry,” can be found in any spin-off of the Incredible Hulk. In almost all of these movies, the Hulk starts out as a innocent lab worker who’s DNA is accidentally combined with a new compound that can turn him into a great big green monster. But this transformation can only take place when his heart beat elevates beyond a certain point, or if he gets angry. This is a very typical view of anger that most people have in today’s society. Many people perceive any form of anger as a wild, negative emotion. They take the “Hulk” mentality of anger and think it turns them into a big green monster that is hell bent on destruction. Often times, this is exactly what happens. There are a number of sensible reasons why we should avoid anger. Anger can make you feel emotionally and physically unwell. It makes us impulsive, and can be self-destructive. But is this always the case? Can anger be beneficial?

Dr. Randall Feller, Psychology Department Head at Oral Robert’s University, states, “Feelings are neither good nor bad, they just are and are given to us by God to serve a purpose.” The feeling of anger is no exception. Jeremy Dean, author of PsyBlog, purposes 6 psychological benefits of getting mad.

 Anger is a Motivating Force

Anyone who has watched a cheesy sports film has heard the idea of channeling your anger. You hear people channeling their anger into a motivating force by turning it into positive energy. Anger actually is a very powerful motivating force and can help push us through obstacles to reach our goals in the face of any problems.


Angry People Are More Optimistic

This may sound really odd but angry people have something in common with happy people: they tend to be very optimistic. A study done in 2003 asked people if they worried about future terrorist attacks, like 9/11, happening again. The study found that people who were angry expected fewer attacks; whereas those who were afraid expected more attacks.  

Anger Can Benefit Relationships

When someone is wronged, anger is a natural reaction. We are told by numerous medias that we should suppress this anger and yet at the same time we are told to communicate our feelings to people. This offers a very frustrating dichotomy. Suppressing feelings can be very detrimental to relationships. Expressing anger that is justified and is aimed at resolving the problem can actually help strengthen a relationship.

Anger Provides Self-Insight

If we allow it, anger opens us to introspection. If we can notice the triggers that cause us to get angry, then we can work to change what makes us angry. 

Anger Reduces Violence

Many people associate anger with physical confrontation. But showing anger can actually reduce physical violence. The presence of anger is a clear sign that an issue needs to be resolved.


Anger as Negotiation Strategy

A study done in 2002 showed that negotiation participants made larger concessions and fewer demands of angry people in comparison to happy people. But it’s more complicated than that. The anger must be (or at least seem) justified to make you seem powerful.  

Deadly Sin or Constructive Emotional

It is important to note that anger can fulfill these six areas, but it can also be easily destructive. Happy is not always good and angry is not always bad. Even hazardous and scary emotions have their upsides, as long as they are used for the right purpose.

View original post as PsyBlog

“You Won’t Like Me When I’m Angry”

Kaizen: Why Do It Better?

What is it that makes a company go from a one man operation to a multimillion dollar FORTUNE 500 company? If someone could figure out the answer to this question, then they will become a very wealthy person very quickly. There is so much that goes into managing and working a business that one single answer is nearly impossible. However, one of the most important things that most business professionals would agree that in order for a company to thrive it must be able to continuously improve and adapt. This continuous improvement is the fundamental philosophy behind Kaizen.

The philosophy of Kaizen came from the crippled and devastated country of Japan after World War II. In the aftermath of World War II, America occupation forces brought in American experts to help rebuild Japanese industry and improving management skills. One of the experts that was brought in was W. Edwards Deming. He was instrumental in implementing the philosophy of Kaizen. “Kaizen” is a Japanese word that means “improvement.” An education program instituted in Japan in the late 1940s introduced a film named, “Improvement in Four Steps” or “Kaizen eno Yon Dankai” in Japanese. This was the first introduction of Kaizen to Japan.

What is Kaizen? Kaizen is Japanese for “improvement.” It deals with the continuous improvement of processes in management, manufacturing, engineering, and has been applied to areas like life-coaching and psychotherapy. It is important to note that Kaizen requires the cooperation of the entire organization. Everyone from the CEOs to the assembly line workers must be involved. Once all factions are involved, they can proceed through the process of Kaizen. There are five main elements of Kaizen:

  1. Teamwork

  2. Personal Discipline

  3. Improved Morale

  4. Quality Circles

  5. Suggestions for improvement.

So, Kaizen was effective in helping a decimated country after a devastating war. But why is it important in 20th century life? American businessman James Cash Penney once stated, “Change is vital, improvement is the logical form of change.” This is precisely the point of Kaizen. Life, in all dimensions, is not stagnant or linear. Our physical world and philosophies are constantly evolving, if a business does not adjust to these changes then it destined to fail. We must continually adapt to our change world, but just adapting is not good enough. We must improve our methods, ideologies, and even our business plans to truly keep up with a changing world.

Without improvement, so much of our world would be dramatically different. Without the desire to improve on previous creations and ideologies we not have inventions like automobiles, computers, immunizations, or even the simple things which we take for granted electricity and running water. It is the desire to innovate and improve that make the world better. Living to continuously improve oneself and others is the driving force behind Kaizen.

Kaizen: Why Do It Better?

True Grit (Part 2)

In part one of my serious on Grit, we discussed the first part of Dr. Angela Duckworth’s theory: endurance. While endurance is necessary and important, there is another aspect of the “grit” construct that is equally, if not more, important. Having this trait will not only give you grit, but it will also help you in almost any realm of life. This unique and powerful attribute is perseverance.

Many people from all over the world have preached perseverance. But how many of them are teaching it right? And, more importantly, how many of us actually have perseverance? While there is no definite answer to what true perseverance is, Dr. Duckworth tries to put it into perspective. The first thing someone needs to persevere is the cognitive ability to set a goal, and to stay with that goal until you see it complete. This goes back to what I previously mentioned about not changing tasks or abandoning a goal because of mere changeability. This is not to say that goals can not be altered or better defined. In certain situations, you must change some aspect of your goal because of the nature of man and the world. The world turns and life changes. So you may have to alter a very small part of your goal to make it more realistic or better suited for your current situation, but the overall goal is always the same.

The second aspect of perseverance is tenacity. In my previous post I described the definition of grit to be tenacious perseverance. This second part of perseverance is where that tenacity comes into play. Tenacity is an adjective to describe somebody that is holding fast, persistent, or stubborn. All of these are what you need to persevere. You must not abandon tasks in the face of obstacles. Think about what life would be like if people did not have tenacity, we would have missed out on so many things. Take Donald Trump for example. He went bankrupt numerous times due to numerous failed business ventures before he figured it out and became successful. One of the best examples I have found dealing with and overcoming obstacles is Ludwig Van Beethoven.  Beethoven went deaf near the middle of his life, which in the 18th century meant his late 20s early 30s. Yet, despite his handicap, he continued to produce world-class and beautiful music. He showed tenacious perseverance through an obstacle.

Another key concept to perseverance, according to Dr. Duckworth, is the 10 Year Rule. This rule states that in order for someone to become truly world-class in any area they study or work in will generally take at least ten years.  This can be seen very clearly in the life of Mozart. It took him at least 10 years of mediocre composition before people began to recognize his works as masterpieces. Unfortunately, a very small amount of people ever reach this level of world-class peak performance.

The idea of grit and having tenacious perseverance is something we should all aspire to have. My coach, who is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, tells my training partners and me a simple phrase that motivates us and encapsulates the idea of Grit beautifully. He says, “A black belt is merely a white belt who never quit.” People who are fickle and change projects on a consistent basis are doomed to be extremely cultured and mediocre at many different things, rather than being great at a very few things. And those who get so frustrated at obstacles that they quit immediately are doomed to live an unfulfilled life of unfulfilled dreams. Grit is presented to teach people that their goals are reachable if they are tenacious and persistent. Part of realizing your potential and having grit is finding the industry that best suites your strengths and passions and pouring your heart and soul into it.

True Grit (Part 2)

True Grit (Part 1)

What is it that makes a person successful? Is it that they came from money and had everything handed to them? Is it because they are extremely smart and did well in school? Or is it because they poured their heart and soul into a task or a dream until it was accomplished? The latter of the three seems to be a much better reason. We have been told since childhood to never give up and to always fight for what we are passionate about. But how many of us actually do it? How often do we show our “true grit” and pour every ounce of ourselves into a project or a dream? This unique trait of tenacious perseverance, or grit, may well define our success.

Dr. Angela Duckworth is a psychologist who mainly studies achievement. She is the founder of the “true grit” mentality. She stated that when most people think of a successful person, they automatically think of an extremely intelligent person. But can intelligence really predict success? In fact, Dr. Duckworth believes that intelligence plays a very small role in being successful and showing grit. Intelligence is an uncertain determinant because we do not know if intelligence is inherited or something that is learned throughout life. Our intelligence deals more with our creative capacity and multifaceted talents. The best way to find success is to find the industries that unlock our talents so that they can shine bright.

Catherine Cox did research about intelligence and success as well. One study she did during her graduate program at Stanford was a study of the biographies of  300 geniuses. She was trying to isolate traits that could be an indicator of success. In her study she came up with two common traits that the 300 shared:

  1. The tendency not to abandon tasks for mere changeability.

  2. The tendency not to abandon tasks in the face of obstacles.

From these two findings is where the basis of the two pillars of “true grit” stem from.

The first pillar of grit is a sustained passion. This passion is the driving force behind everything a person will do to reach their ultimate goal. This passion starts at the beginning and continues even after the goal is reached. Yet, few people have this type of passion for anything. They get so distracted and frustrated or just simply bored with their goal that they get distracted by the novelty of other things and forget about their original goal. This intense, burning passion is not to be confused with talent. There are many people that are extremely talented in certain things. But that natural talent can only take a person so far. Studies by Dr. Duckworth, and others, have shown that as talent increases; grit decreases.

A study done by Dr. Duckworth at Westpoint Military Academy shows this idea of sustained passion. The first summer at Westpoint is called “Beast Barracks.” During this time you are given a battery of physical, intelligence, and psychological tests. Dr. Duckworth was able to put her “grit” scale into one of the test the cadets were administered and had staggering results. She found that despite all the physical and intellectual talent a cadet had, the key factor that determined whether they would stay through the whole summer was grit. The higher their grit score, the more likely the cadet was to last through the summer.

In my next essay I am going to be taking on the second part of Dr. Duckworth’s “true grit” philosophy. The next step to having “grit” is keep your passion. To not lose your passion because of the obstacles that life throws your way. It is this tenacity and perseverance that helps you reach your goals.

True Grit (Part 1)

Rogerian Therapy

In the 1940s and 1950s a radical and revolutionary new philosophy in the field of counseling psychology came out. This new philosophy was so radical because it was so different from the various kinds of therapy that came before it. It did not focus on sexual impulses and drives as Freudian psychology did. Nor did it place an exaggerated emphasis on human physiology and action as behavioral psychology did. It was so different because it focused primarily on the patients themselves and how they perceived the world. This radical new philosophy is called Rogerian Therapy after its creator Carl Rogers.

Rogerian therapy is also known by many other names such as client centered therapy, Rogerian Psychotherapy, and person centered therapy. No matter what it is called it emphasizes one thing: the client/person. Carl Rogers was a humanist and believed in the overall good nature of mankind. He believed that a client could change or improve without being taught anything specific from himself or any therapist. Although, in order for this process to take place a therapist must show empathy, congruence, and unconditional positive regard. It is the therapist obligation to create an environment that promotes growth by showing understanding (empathy), being completely upfront and genuine with the client at any time (congruence), and creating a positive relationship with the client (positive regard). Creating a relationship was perhaps the most important of these tasks. The therapist must demonstrate that he cares for his client and accepts the patient and his flaws under any circumstance.

A session with Rogers, or a Rogerian therapist, would have been very different from sessions with psychologists in most of the existing fields of the day. Carl Rogers was one of the first psychologists to record his sessions with patients. Rogers would rarely talk during a session. Rogerian therapy is also known as “Talk Therapy” because of how much the clients talk. Rogers would typically only talk to reinforce a statement that the client made or to pose a question based on the things that the client had said. Rogers would not try to delve into the clients unconscious as Freud would have done; Rogers would have tried to get a glance into the clients perceived world. He would try to ascertain how the client perceived the world around him. Rogers would not refute any statement the client made, nor would he point out the flaws of the client. Rogers would carefully structure questions in a way that would re-word the clients thoughts to force the client to think and answer the question himself. By doing this, Rogers made it possible for clients to find the answers to their own problems rather than getting answers from the therapist or an outside source.

Of course, like any theory, Rogerian Therapy is not perfect and can not effectively treat all mental illnesses. With severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, Rogerian Therapy yielded little help or improvement. However, through Rogers belief that the most important part of a therapy session is the client and his systematic study of people gave Rogers great insight and allowed him to help a multitude of people. Rogers was able to do so by allowing clients to find their own way and derive the answers to their problems.

Rogerian Therapy