An Antidote for Pathological People-Pleasing

John Templeton famously said, "It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice." Science backs this up. Nice people live longer, they are happier and they are less stressed. That said, being “too nice” isn’t healthy either. Those who never say no and who always give at their own expense run the risk of becoming doormats. Being too much of a people pleaser often leads to festering resentment in the pleaser and the perception that you’re insecure and needy in the people you’re trying to please. There are no benefits to feeling manipulated, depleted and disrespected. My patient, M, was convinced that the only reason people liked her was because she was so nice. She was the person who would take on extra work at the office with a smile, who would enthusiastically agree to take the garbage out, and who would “happily” drive forty-five minutes out of her way to drop off a friend. “Being nice is my currency,” she explained. If she stopped being so nice, she feared people would stop caring about her. I asked her to think about what being nice entailed. She told me that being nice meant keeping her thoughts to herself and always doing what other people wanted her to do. Essentially, nice in her mind, translated into being a pushover. I then asked her to think about what being kind entailed. She felt kindness was about staying true to her values and expressing herself with honesty and integrity. There was agency and sincerity in kindness. It felt like a choice, not a rule she had to follow. It became increasingly apparent to M that there was a difference between being nice and being kind. A few days later, a friend asked her to pick him up after a flight into JFK on a Saturday morning. In the past, she would have immediately said yes. This time, she decided to be kind to herself and declined. She told him she wanted to sleep in and suggested they have lunch later in the day so they could spend more quality time together. Saying no to him may not have been the “nice” thing to do, but it was the kind thing to do because she felt heard and it strengthened their connection. Next time you find yourself venturing into people-pleasing territory, ask yourself this simple question, “Am I being nice or am I being kind?” Choose kindness every time.

What Makes a Good Doctor?

“I don’t care if she’s nice. I just care that she’s the best.” My patient’s internist was retiring and he was eager to find a new one. Like most people, he relied on credentials and reputation to assess expertise. “Where did she go to medical school?,” he asked. “Is she on New York Magazine’s Best Doctors list?” How caring or warm she is didn’t factor into his analysis. He believed that competence, not kindness, mattered most. Research from Stanford University suggests otherwise. Volunteers in a study were pricked on their forearm with histamine which acts like a mosquito bite, causing the skin to become red and itchy. The volunteers were then briefly examined by a friendly doctor who offered a few words of encouragement or a silent type who assessed the reaction but did not offer any reassurance. The volunteers who had a warm interaction not only reported less itchiness, they also said their symptoms resolved more rapidly than those who were seen by the “strictly business” physician. If interactions don’t matter, then both sets of patients would have been expected to report similar experiences. What this study shows us is that the doctor-patient relationship matters more than you might think. Knowing your doctor cares about you can affect your experience and health outcomes. A doctor who calls you by name, who looks you in the eye, who smiles and chats, and who expresses genuine concern for your wellbeing can help you heal. A doctor who rolls his eyes at your complaints or tells you “you’re fine” when you’re not feeling fine is actually bad for your health. As one of the researchers concluded:

We often think the only parts of medical care that really matter are the “active” ingredients of medicine: the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment. But focusing only on these ingredients leaves important components of care underappreciated and underutilized. To really help people flourish, health care works better when it includes caring.

Alix Peabody

Alix Peabody founded The Alixir Company in June 2017 and launched their first product, Bev, in May 2018. Bev, a canned Rose company, was founded in part to redefine the beverage industry and speak to and about women in a positive, authentic way.

What You and Leonardo da Vinci Have in Common

I have always thought of creativity as something you are either born with or not. Without disclosing too much, I didn’t win any awards in art class. But research tells a different story. A study found that imagining you are an eccentric poet can significantly boost divergent thinking, a key indicator of creative potential.   The people in the experiment who channeled their inner Lord Byron managed to generate significantly more original ideas when asked to generate creative uses of everyday objects. Those who were instructed to imagine themselves as rigid librarians were not as successful on the divergent thinking task. Divergent thinking enables people to see problems from many perspectives and to generate novel solutions, concepts, and ideas. Leonardo da Vinci, Steve Jobs, Lin Manuel Miranda, and Ai Weiwei are all classic divergent thinkers. According to the study, with a little imagination, you can be too.    There are those who would have us believe that you must always be yourself but as this study underscores, always being yourself might be holding you back. Psychologically removing yourself from a situation and the social constraints reality imposes frees you to become the person you would like to be. Acting like someone who has the capabilities you strive for enables you to access them for yourself. Dress up as your creative hero this Halloween. Any ideas for a good Leonardo costume?

What Does Your Choice of Wine Glass Say About You?

Imagine a tall skinny glass filled with water. Now watch me transfer all of the water from that glass into a short fat glass. Which glass contained more liquid—the tall skinny one or the short fat one? The answer is obvious. Both glasses had the same amount. Even though the appearance of the liquid has changed (in a wide glass, it appears to contain less), it is obvious that it is the same quantity.    Children under the age of seven see it differently. Most will tell you that the tall, skinny glass had more liquid. Why? Because their interpretation is based on appearance, not rational thinking. Adults may be better than children at understanding abstract concepts, but appearance is deceiving regardless of age. This seems certainly to be the case when it comes to pouring wine. Researchers at Cornell University and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands asked participants in the study to practice pouring wine into two kinds of glasses—short fat ones and tall skinny ones. They found that people pour 30% more wine into short fat glasses than they pour into tall skinny ones. Participants had absolutely no idea that they had poured more wine into the short fat glasses. In fact, most believed they had poured more wine into the tall skinny ones.
Even experienced bartenders were not immune to this effect—they poured 20.5% more wine into short fat glasses.
It seems that we serve wine based on how it looks in the glass. If the height of the liquid is high, we assume we have poured enough. If the height of the liquid is low, well, bottoms up. Based on the illusion, we confuse height with volume.     Given this study, I began to wonder about what wine glasses say about us. Do the glasses we use speak volumes (no pun intended)? I did a quick survey of my friends-an overwhelming majority serve wine in short fat glasses. Honey, I’m home.
Samantha Boardman

Do I Look Like A “Samantha”?

It is common knowledge that people look like their dogs (my beloved dog Panda and I bear an uncanny resemblance). Less well known is the research showing that people come to look like their names.   In a set of fascinating experiments, participants were given a photograph of a stranger’s face accompanied by a short list of names.  They were then asked to select the one they believed corresponded to the person in the photograph.  The participants were surprisingly good at this task.  In fact, they were significantly better than chance at making the correct match.  Not surprisingly, the findings were culturally specific, meaning that a French person would be pretty good at matching a French name with a French face but not so good at matching, say, a German name with the correct German face.  An "Antoine" will probably look like an "Antoine" to a French person but he or she would be stumped if asked to match "Helga" or "Hans" with the correct face.    Researchers theorize that cultural expectations associated with a name ultimately influence appearance, suggesting that because my name is Samantha, I have unconsciously conformed to what a Samantha should look like.  As one of the researchers commented, "We are subject to social structuring from the minute we are born, not only by gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, but by the simple choice others make in giving us our name."    Related research shows that we like it when people look like their names. A round face is thought to go well with a “round” name like “Bob,” “Lou,” or “George.” An angular face is thought to go well with an “angular” name like “Pete” or “Kirk.”  Intriguingly, we prefer people whose names and faces match and the opposite hold true too. We actually don’t like it when there is a mismatch-- “Kirk” is not “supposed to” have a round face. These findings have real world implications.  Researchers found that well-named political candidates (those whose faces matched their names) had an advantage in elections.   What can you do if you don’t look like your name? Consider using a middle initial. It will make you sound smarter and more appealing.

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Alix Peabody


Alix Peabody founded The Alixir Company in June 2017 and launched their first product, Bev, in May 2018. Bev, a canned Rose company, was founded in part to redefine the beverage industry and speak to and about women in a positive, authentic way.

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TWEETS

Short, insightful piece on what makes a good doctor (with the results of a cool experiment):

https://positiveprescription.com/putting-the-care-back-in-health-care/

@SamBMD

“Our findings strongly suggest that, when it comes to depression, genes are not destiny...that being physically active has the potential to neutralize the added risk of future episodes in individuals who are genetically vulnerable.” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191105113510.htm

Get thee to a park https://www.fastcompany.com/90363810/a-two-hour-dose-of-nature-each-week-could-make-you-happier-and-healthier

How else would I feast on Krackel bars? https://www.studyfinds.org/oh-the-horror-parents-steal-third-of-kids-halloween-candy/

Can you sniff your way out of stress? New study: Effects of lavender on anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis . https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0944711319303411

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