Wednesday, June 27, 2012

When "He's Just Not That Into You" Backfires

The popular self-help book He's Just Not That Into You: The No Excuses Truth To Understanding Guys is intended to empower women to stop waiting around for disinterested guys. The basic premise is that if a guy is interested, he will make it clear (e.g., ask you out, call you, propose to you, etc), and if he doesn't make it clear, then he's just not interested. There are certainly times when women and men alike need to be snapped out of wishful thinking and move on, but for some people and in some situations, this tough love approach may backfire. Here’s why.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Is He Worth it? Six Questions to Ask When Sacrificing in Relationships

This is the second in a three-part post on sacrifice in relationships. In Part I, I talked about the pros and cons of sacrificing for the ones we love. Today, in part II, I suggest some questions you should ask yourself when deciding whether or not to make a major sacrifice. Part III will focus on sacrificing for the right reasons.

What questions should you ask?
We must all face situations in our close relationships that require us to make a sacrifice. Perhaps, your spouse receives a big promotion, and it requires that you quit your job and move across the country. Or your boyfriend wants you to miss an important work event to attend his family reunion. Maybe you and your wife get jobs in different cities and must decide who has to make the long commute. For me, it was deciding whether to apply to graduate programs in areas that weren't near where my husband (then boyfriend) was working. When faced with these situations, what information do you use to decide whether or not to make the sacrifice? In addition to consulting the pros and cons list, there are also important questions you should be asking yourself. Below, I suggest six questions that might help when deciding whether or not making a sacrifice is right for you.

How committed are you? Is this the person you plan to spend forever with, or just a fling? In order for a big sacrifice to be worth it, you should make sure that you are invested in the relationship and confident about your future together. Nothing is certain, of course, but knowing that your sacrifice is enabling you to build a life with the person you plan to be with may make it the right choice.

Would your partner do the same for you? Sacrifice is two-sided. In any situation where you are considering making a sacrifice, your partner is doing the same. While you are deciding whether or not to move across country to let your spouse take his promotion, your spouse must decide whether or not to sacrifice his promotion in order to allow you to keep your job. So as you debate whether or not to make a sacrifice, it is important to question whether your partner is going through the same thought process. Has your partner shown his or her commitment by being willing to sacrifice for you in the past or expressed his willingness to sacrifice in the future? In the current situation, are you working together to figure out what is best, or does your partner simply expect you to change your life to accommodate his?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Don't be a sheep...or a donkey or an elephant

As election season approaches, many of us are deciding how to vote on policies that will influence our country and communities. How do we make these important choices? What sources do we turn to when deciding how to vote? We certainly can and do seek out objective information, listen to educated opinions, and consult our own values. However, it might surprise you to learn that what other people think makes the largest impact on our own policy attitudes.

People are surprisingly susceptible to the influence of others and the voting booth is no exception. In fact, one classic paper in political psychology (Cohen, 2003) shows that what other Democrats or Republicans think influences our opinions much more than the actual content of a policy. The paper has a few important lessons we should all keep in mind as we begin to formulate our opinions about candidates and policies.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Pros and Cons of Sacrificing for the Ones We Love

This is the first in a three-part post on sacrifice in relationships. Today, in Part I, I talk about the pros and cons of sacrificing for the ones we love. In part II, I’ll suggest some questions you should ask yourself when deciding whether or not to make a major sacrifice. Part III will focus on sacrificing for the right reasons.

Would you make the move?
Your spouse comes home from work and excitedly tells you that he just was offered a promotion – in another state. Do you quit your job and move away from your family to an unknown city so that he can pursue his career ambitions? Should you?

Close relationships require sacrifice. In fact, many people include sacrificing in the very definition of what it means to truly love another person. Sometimes that sacrifice can be life changing, such as deciding to move to a different state in order to be with your partner, other times it might be something small and seemingly mundane such as seeing your partner’s pick of an action movie instead of the comedy you would have chosen. Although sacrifice may be inevitable, when the time comes to do it, it’s not always an easy choice. For me, I find myself weighing my need to be true to myself and authentic in my relationship (why should I be the one giving up what I want?) against my desire to be a good relationship partner and do what it takes to make my relationship work (if this is important to him, I should be supportive). Research on sacrifice in close relationships highlights some of the pros and cons of sacrificing something for the ones we love.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday Fun: The Self-Esteem Playlist

We make playlists for everything from exercise to studying to lulling ourselves to sleep, so why not make one for self-esteem? Here are some musical gems to help you give yourself whatever type of love you need.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Importance of Being Agreeable

Consider, for a moment, two very different people:

Neville is a friendly, warm person who tends to cooperate with and trust others. He generally expects the best of people, and tends to be generous and helpful towards others. He tries to be modest about himself.

Draco, on the other hand, is an aloof, rude person who tends to be competitive and suspicious of others. He’s cynical about people – he doesn’t expect them to return favors, so he’s not that likely to be helpful. He thinks modesty is overrated.

How would personality psychology say these two differ? Well, they’re at opposite ends of the spectrum of “agreeableness” – if you feel more similar to Neville, you’re probably high in agreeableness, and if Draco hits closer to home, you’re probably relatively disagreeable. Agreeableness captures how interpersonally warm, trusting, modest, altruistic, cooperative, straightforward, sympathetic, and easygoing you are, and is one of the building blocks of personality.

So what does being agreeable mean for your work life and parenting styles? How about your health outcomes and environmental behavior? Let’s see what the literature has to say.

Monday, June 4, 2012

This is NOT advice about the academic job search

Last week I read Tal Yarkoni's excellent blog post on the things he learned during a failed academic job search last year (available here). Reading that piece brought me back to my own memories of the two job searches I've attempted (one successful). I remember the anxiety a lot, the feeling that there may not actually be a job out there for you (this is a common concern). Then there is also the feeling that you may not, in fact, be as awesome as you thought you were. It's classic self-discrepancy theory as the ideal you (I'm a good researcher) comes into contact with the actual you (I'm not getting a job), and you are predictably left with a sense of dejection/depression (Higgins, 1999).

Now that I have a job as an assistant professor at the University of Illinois (!!!!), many more people have been coming to me for academic career advice, and the lion's share of these career questions have to do with the academic job search. Questions like: How many jobs did you apply for? What did your research statement look like? What was the interview like? Were people hostile during the job talk? These are all great questions, and I think that when most people ask them they are looking for advice from me.

Let me be the first to disappoint you in that regard: I have no advice for successfully navigating the academic job market. Sure, I was successful in my second attempt at finding an academic job, but I couldn't tell you why that happened, or whether what I did would work for anyone but me in my unique circumstances. So, this is NOT an advice column. Instead, my hope is to shed some light on what the academic job search was like for me. In the immortal words of one G. I. Joe, "Knowing is half the battle."