Tag Archives: relationships

Personal Pronouns as Relationship and Company Indicators

The per­son­al pro­nouns used by couples dur­ing “con­flict­ive mar­it­al inter­ac­tions” are reli­able indic­at­ors of rela­tion­ship qual­ity and mar­it­al sat­is­fac­tion, accord­ing to a study track­ing 154 couples over 23 years. The study showed that We-words’ (our, we, etc.) were indic­at­ive of a more pos­it­ive rela­tion­ship than ‘Me- and You-words’ (I, you, etc.) (doi).

Using We-ness lan­guage implies a shared iden­ti­fic­a­tion between spouses, even when the con­ver­sa­tion is focused on an area of con­flict. Con­sist­ent with this, We-ness was asso­ci­ated with more pos­it­ive and less neg­at­ive emo­tion beha­vi­ors and with lower car­di­ovas­cu­lar arous­al. In con­trast, Sep­ar­ate­ness lan­guage implies a great­er sense of inde­pend­ence and dis­tance in the rela­tion­ship. Com­pared with We-ness, Sep­ar­ate­ness was asso­ci­ated with a very dif­fer­ent set of mar­it­al qual­it­ies includ­ing more neg­at­ive emo­tion­al beha­vi­or and great­er mar­it­al dis­sat­is­fac­tion.

Sim­il­arly, the per­son­al pro­nouns used by CEOs in their annu­al share­hold­er let­ters provide a use­ful way of pre­dict­ing future com­pany performance. No doubt gleaned from the Ritten­house Rank­ings Candor Sur­vey, this is from Geoff Colv­in’s book, Tal­ent is Over­rated:

Laura Ritten­house, an unusu­al type of fin­an­cial ana­lyst, counts the num­ber of times the word “I” occurs in annu­al let­ters to share­hold­ers from cor­por­ate CEOs, con­tend­ing that this and oth­er evid­ence in the let­ters helps pre­dict com­pany per­form­ance (basic find­ing: Ego­ma­ni­acs are bad news).

via Bark­ing Up the Wrong Tree (1 2)

Strangers and Friends: A Shared History and Less Graciousness

Ryan Hol­i­day asks a very good ques­tion: why do we extend patience and tol­er­ance to strangers, while sim­ul­tan­eously treat­ing those closest to us less gra­ciously?

It’s an inter­est­ing ques­tion with some equally inter­est­ing pos­sible answers (is it a sub­con­scious and inef­fi­cient way of attempt­ing to ease our daily lives by telling those we spend the most time with how we want to be treated?). I like the con­clus­ory piece of advice: we should give every­one “the gra­cious­ness of meet­ing them fresh each time”.

Some weirdo says some­thing to you in the gro­cery store and you smile and nod your head, “Yup!” Just to avoid a scene right? You have a meet­ing with a sales rep and indulge the friendly but point­less chitchat even though you hate it. But a friend mis­pro­nounces a word and we leap to cor­rect them. Your girl­friend tells a bor­ing story and you’ve got to say some­thing about it, you’ve got to get short with her. What kind of bull­shit is this? We give the bene­fit of cour­tesy to every­body but the people who earned it.

Think of how much patience we have for total strangers and acquaint­ances. But what a short fuse we have for the actu­al people in our life. In the course of our every­day lives, our pri­or­it­ies are so very back­wards. We do our best to impress people we’ll nev­er see again and take for gran­ted people we see all the time. We’re respect­ful in our busi­ness lives, cas­u­al and care­less in our per­son­al. We pun­ish close­ness with cri­ti­cism, reward unfa­mili­ar­ity with polite­ness.

This is a great example of why I read Ryan’s work: he’s adept at point­ing out the every­day hypo­cris­ies that we rarely notice.

The Source of Happiness

When, after twenty years of mar­riage, Laura Mun­son’s hus­band told her “I don’t love you any­more. I’m not sure I ever did.”, she chose to not believe him. Not because it did­n’t hurt or that she was­n’t tak­ing it per­son­ally, but because this was­n’t about her – it was about unmet expect­a­tions.

In yet anoth­er touch­ing Mod­ern Love column (is there any oth­er type?), Mun­son tells an enthralling story of mar­it­al and famili­al dis­quiet, but also man­ages to cut to the core of hap­pi­ness: that the source is not to be found through extern­al val­id­a­tion.

I’d finally man­aged to exile the voices in my head that told me my per­son­al hap­pi­ness was only as good as my out­ward suc­cess, rooted in things that were often out­side my con­trol. I’d seen the insan­ity of that equa­tion and decided to take respons­ib­il­ity for my own hap­pi­ness. And I mean all of it.

My hus­band had­n’t yet come to this under­stand­ing with him­self. He had enjoyed many years of hard work, and its rewards had sup­por­ted our fam­ily of four all along. But his new endeavor had­n’t been going so well, and his abil­ity to be the bread­win­ner was in rap­id decline. He’d been miser­able about this, felt use­less, was los­ing him­self emo­tion­ally and let­ting him­self go phys­ic­ally. And now he wanted out of our mar­riage; to be done with our fam­ily. […]

I saw what had been miss­ing: pride. He’d lost pride in him­self. Maybe that’s what hap­pens when our egos take a hit in mid­life and we real­ize we’re not as young and golden any­more.

When life’s knocked us around. And our child­hood myths reveal them­selves to be just that. The truth feels like the biggest suck­er-punch of them all: it’s not a spouse or land or a job or money that brings us hap­pi­ness. Those achieve­ments, those rela­tion­ships, can enhance our hap­pi­ness, yes, but hap­pi­ness has to start from with­in. Rely­ing on any oth­er equa­tion can be leth­al.

My hus­band had become lost in the myth.

Health Effects of Marriage

There are wide-ran­ging health bene­fits to be gained from being hap­pily mar­ried, the research sug­gests, but just how extens­ive this effect is (and its intric­a­cies) is hugely sur­pris­ing.

In Tara Park­er-Pope’s com­pre­hens­ive look at the physiolo­gic­al effects of mar­riage, we are told how just by get­ting couples to dis­cuss a mar­it­al dis­agree­ment their heal­ing of wounds can be delayed by days; that those in unhappy rela­tion­ships have weakened immune sys­tems; and most sur­pris­ingly that when women were sub­jec­ted to mild elec­tric shocks (to sim­u­late stress) hold­ing the hand of their hus­bands “res­ul­ted in a calm­ing of the brain regions asso­ci­ated with pain sim­il­ar to the effect brought about by use of a pain-reliev­ing drug”.

[Stud­ies] have shown that mar­ried people are less likely to get pneu­mo­nia, have sur­gery, devel­op can­cer or have heart attacks. A group of Swedish research­ers has found that being mar­ried or cohab­it­ing at mid­life is asso­ci­ated with a lower risk for demen­tia. A study of two dozen causes of death in the Neth­er­lands found that in vir­tu­ally every cat­egory, ran­ging from viol­ent deaths like hom­icide and car acci­dents to cer­tain forms of can­cer, the unmar­ried were at far high­er risk than the mar­ried.

What if you get divorced or are wid­owed? Remar­riage won’t help and you will suf­fer “a decline in phys­ic­al health from which [you will] nev­er fully recov­er”. In these cases even the singletons fared bet­ter (tra­di­tion­ally con­sidered to be worse-off due to hav­ing few­er resources and less emo­tion­al and logist­ic­al sup­port).

How dif­fer­ent styles of con­flict (and con­flict res­ol­u­tion) affected the sexes dif­fer­ently was fas­cin­at­ing, too:

The women in his study who were at highest risk for signs of heart dis­ease were those whose mar­it­al battles lacked any signs of warmth, not even a stray term of endear­ment dur­ing a hos­tile dis­cus­sion […] or a minor pat on the back or squeeze of the hand, all of which can sig­nal affec­tion in the midst of anger. “Most of the lit­er­at­ure assumes that it’s how bad the argu­ments get that drives the effect, but it’s actu­ally the lack of affec­tion that does it […] It was­n’t how much nasty talk there was. It was the lack of warmth that pre­dicted risk.”

For men, on the oth­er hand, hos­tile and neg­at­ive mar­it­al battles seemed to have no effect on heart risk. Men were at risk […] when their mar­it­al spats turned into battles for con­trol. It did­n’t mat­ter wheth­er it was the hus­band or wife who was try­ing to gain con­trol of the mat­ter; it was merely any appear­ance of con­trolling lan­guage that put men on the path of heart dis­ease.

In both cases, the emo­tion­al tone of a mar­it­al fight turned out to be just as pre­dict­ive of poor heart health as wheth­er the indi­vidu­al smoked or had high cho­les­ter­ol. […] The solu­tion, Smith noted, isn’t to stop fight­ing. It’s to fight more thought­fully.

via Mind Hacks

Friendship Differences by Gender

This slowly absorb­ing art­icle on the dif­fer­ences between male and female friend­ships seems to have been com­piled with an obser­v­ant eye… but then I am the same sex as the author.

Research­ers say women’s friend­ships are face to face: They talk, cry togeth­er, share secrets. Men’s friend­ships are side by side: We play golf. We go to foot­ball games. […]

Stud­ies show that in their late 20s and 30s, women have a harder time stay­ing in touch with old friends. Those are the years when they’re busy start­ing careers and rais­ing chil­dren, so they don’t have time to gath­er for reunions. Money is tight­er, too. But around age 40, women start recon­nect­ing. Before the 1990s, research­ers assumed this was because they had more time for friend­ship in their 40s, as their chil­dren became self-suf­fi­cient. But now research­ers con­sider this middle-aged focus on friend­ship to be a life stage; as women plan the next chapter of their lives, they turn to friends for guid­ance and empathy.

Men, mean­while, tend to build friend­ships until about age 30, but there’s often a fal­loff after that. Among the reas­ons: Their friend­ships are more apt to be hurt by geo­graph­ic­al moves and dif­fer­ences in career tra­ject­or­ies. Recent stud­ies, how­ever, are now find­ing that men in their late 40s are turn­ing to what Dr. Grief calls “rus­ted” friends—longtime pals they knew when they were young­er. The Inter­net is mak­ing it easi­er for them to make con­tact with one anoth­er.

That’s not to say men don’t have these intim­ate, shar­ing rela­tion­ships:

But again, it’s a mis­take to judge men’s inter­ac­tions by assum­ing we need to be like women. Research shows that men often open up about emo­tion­al issues to wives, moth­ers, sis­ters and pla­ton­ic female friends. That’s partly because they assume male friends will be of little help. It may also be due to fears of seem­ing effem­in­ate or gay. But it’s also an indic­a­tion that men com­part­ment­al­ize their needs; they’d rather turn to male friends to moment­ar­ily escape from their prob­lems. The new buzzword is “bromance.”

via @vaughanbell