The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™
MAY 2004, Sec. II
speaking at the ColdFusion-04 conference on Saturday June 26. Conference is
June 26 & 27 to be held at the DoubleTree Hotel in Rockville, MD. For more
info, Michael Smith, President, TeraTech Inc; 301-424-3903.
Will also be doing speaker coaching for interested speakers on Fri and Sat.
The response to last year's Practice Safe Stress Program was off the charts.
Some of the written comments:
The seminar was worth the registration fee! So far this has been the BEST
Excellent speaker. Best laugh in conference.
Excellent. Something developers should think about more.
A+++. Great job!!
Michael Smith: I am talking with
"Managing Project Conflict". Why should programmers care about projects
Mark Gorkin: Programmers need to care about managing conflict as conflict is
inevitable when you get clients, programmers and project managers together. In
fact, anywhere you have interested parties with different basic knowledge and
understandings of a project under time pressure, there will be conflict. We
argue over time and time frames, personnel needs, project costs, competing
demands/projects, and even little things, like a need for a life outside the
project! And, of course, with different understandings come varying expectations
(if not misguided assumptions)...and before you know it...
MS: BANG - a conflict!
MG: Yes, there's conflict. Let me define it. Conflict is the friction that
builds when two or more people clash over facts, short-term goals, enduring
values and the status of their relationship(s). It's also the struggle over
resources and methods for defining and achieving these contested facts, goals,
values and status positions.
MS: But what about anger? Constructive discussion is fine. It is when the client
or project manager gets angry that I don't like it.
MG: Yes. With tension, on the heels of conflict, there often is anger. And while
anger and conflict for many people have negative associations, if managed
maturely and skillfully both anger and conflict have positive problem-solving
and relationship building potential.
As the pioneering American educator and philosopher, John Dewey, noted:
"Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory. It
instigates to invention. It shocks us out of sheep-like passivity, and sets us
at noting and contriving... Conflict is the sine qua non of reflection and
MS: That sounds a good idea but how can we do conflict without getting hurt?
MG: My CFUN-04 program will help participants better understand and develop
communication skills for transforming negative anger and disruptive conflict
into productive, assertive and self-affirming energy and mutual, goal-directed
MS: Ok, I am fired up to come! But is conflict really neccessary?
MG: Clearly, conflict is vital for today's "lean and mean" times. It can be the
imaginative and interactive energy source firing purpose, passion and the
sharing of power, three key "p"s for productivity. Conversely, an "all or none"
conflict resolution style or climate means one person or group is on top and in
control; the other party is perceived to be incompetent, subordinate, dependent,
or powerless ... and/or a threat to the established order.
MS: Yes, that winner take all attitude...
MG: This "win/lose" concept of conflict is forged by an aggressive nature,
cultural socialization or from extremism in the pursuit of the Coach Lombardi
ideal: "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing." Also, unresolved
emotional hurt or humiliation breeds mistrust, which often compels this
"dominant or defeated" ideology. Yet, even long-standing or rigidly competitive
behavior, if not basic beliefs, can change dramatically with creative
intervention and good timing, i.e., "strike when the ego is hot!"
MS: So how can we programmers disarm dueling egos at work?
MG: Let me tell you the story of Murray, a salesman with a mid-sized company in
New York City. My parents' friends, Murray and Lorraine, were visiting when I
happened by. An experienced and successful salesman, Murray was fuming. The old
company president had recently retired and put his abrasive, domineering son-in-
law in charge. Murray, a classic "Type A" competitor, wasn't taking orders from
anyone, especially from "some jerk" half his age.
After listening to Murray's harangue, the young boss seemed inexperienced and
anxious. I suggested Murray tell his boss that, "I miss the old man, and while
I'm not always crazy about your leadership style, I must admit you're keeping me
sharp." Murray, of course, exploded: "Forget it. I wanna murder this kid. I'm
not doing anything that gets him one up on me!"
MS: That doesn't sound too good! What happened then? Did he get fired?
MG: Two weeks later, I again bumped into Murray. He was still quite disgruntled.
This time, Murray dismissed me with a backhanded sweep when I recalled my
strategy. Two weeks went by when Murray's wife unexpectedly called: "Mark, you
won't believe this. Murray finally did what you suggested... and it worked." Not
only had the young boss eased up on Murray, but he put Murray in charge on long-
range planning and sales. (Lorraine shared that Murray, before the overture, had
grown increasingly depressed. I can just imagine Lorraine saying, "Enough
already," and threatening Murray with eviction if he didn't do something.)
MS: Amazing! Why did the Murray gambit work?
MG: Let's analyze this conflict resolution process:
1. Need To Grieve. In order to let go temporarily of his dominance-submission
mindset, Murray had to release his rage and then, ironically, "hit bottom."
Murray was still grieving the company changes and likely displacing some anger
for the departed "old man" onto "this kid." Until one is at a loss and in
sufficient pain, new approaches are often rejected. Cumulative pressure can be
an ally; so too Lorraine's dose of reality.
2. Play Up Or Open Up. Did Murray play up to the new boss! While initially
feeling humiliated, I say Murray took the high road. First, he did express
genuine frustration with the changing-of-the-company-guard. And, while Murray
fell more wounded than "sharp," by cutting the "win/lost" cord the real
challenge and opportunity was unleashed: transforming Murray from cider salesman
to company statesman.
3. Position Vs. Interest. Initially, these ego-driven men were trapped in their
self-defeating power positions. Each was depriving not just the other, but
themselves. Clearly, this inexperienced boss needed an ally with historical
perspective and the big picture.
It was in his interest to rely on Murray. It was also in Murray's interest to
provide mixed feedback that could be received as a begrudging (hence more
believable) compliment. Recognition helped defuse youthful anxiety and
aggression. And, Murray's initiative was certainly paid back with "interest."
Finally, while Murray would not admit it, I'm sure he enjoyed the role of mentor
-- a one-up position.
MS: But did Murray have to change who he is?
MG: No need to worry about this process fundamentally changing Murray. When I
saw him again, and mentioned hearing that things were better at work, Murray
didn't give an inch. His only reply: "Yeah, the jerk's finally off my back!"
MS: Sounds like managing conflict can really help people!
MG: Yes. While often frustrating, the tension and struggle inherent in conflict
sows its own seed for innovative resolution and growth. Are you ready to reap
the creative pass in the impasse?
MS: Yes, and I guess I will be coming to your session!
Howard County, MD HR Society. Breakfast meeting, May 20. More info:
Todd Allen; 410-772-4129
2. Association of Wedding Planners. Dinner speaker at The Willow Tree
Inn in Gaithersburg, MD, May 25. For more info: Susan Guildersleeve;
3. Maryland Assn of Election Officials. Keynote for 200 at Baltimore
Marriott Hunt Valley Inn, June 7. More info: Sara Harris, 240-777-8522
4. Legal Administrator SuperConference. Upcoming Dynamic Teaming and
Practice Safe Stress Keynote in LA on June 17 & 18 for Estrin Professional
Careers. More info: 888-803-8807
Subj: I Love My Job! (The Lost Dr. Seuss Poem)
I love my job, I love the pay!
I love it more and more each day.
I love my boss, (s)he is the best!
I love his/her boss and all the rest.
I love my office and its location, I hate to have to go on vacation.
I think my job is really swell, there's nothing else I love so well.
I love to work among my peers, I love their leers, and jeers, and sneers.
I love my computer and its software;
I hug it often though it won't care. I love each program and every file.
I'd love them more if they worked a while.
I'm happy to be here. I am. I am.
I'm the happiest slave of the Firm, I am.
I love this work, I love these chores.
I love the meetings with deadly bores.
I love my job -- I'll say it again -- I even love those friendly men.
Those friendly men who've come today,
In clean white coats to take me away!!!!!
Subj: 25 SIGNS THAT YOU'VE GROWN UP
1. Your houseplants are alive, and you can't smoke any of them.
2. Having sex in a twin bed is out of the question.
3. You keep more food than beer in the fridge.
4. 6:00 AM is when you get up, not when you go to bed.
5. You hear your favorite song on an elevator.
6. You watch the Weather Channel.
7. Your friends marry and divorce instead of hook up and break up.
8. You go from 130 days of vacation time to 14.
9. Jeans and a sweater no longer qualify as "dressed up."
10. You're the one calling the police because those damn kids next door won't
turn down the stereo.
11. Older relatives feel comfortable telling sex jokes around you.
12. You don't know what time Taco Bell closes anymore.
13. Your car insurance goes down and your car payments go up.
14. You feed your dog Science Diet instead of McDonald's leftovers.
15. Sleeping on the couch makes your back hurt.
16. You no longer take naps from noon to 6 PM.
17. Dinner and a movie is the whole date instead of the beginning of one.
18. Eating a basket of chicken wings at 3 AM would severely upset, rather than
settle your stomach.
19. You go to the drug store for ibuprofen and antacid, not condoms and
20. A $4.00 bottle of wine is no longer "pretty good stuff."
21. You actually eat breakfast food at breakfast time.
22. "I just can't drink the way I used to," replaces, "I'm never going to drink
that much again."
23. 90% of the time you spend in front of a computer is for real work.
24. You drink at home to save money before going to a bar.
25. You read this entire list looking desperately for just one sign that doesn't
apply to you...and can't find a single one to save your sorryoldass...
1. Training/Marketing Kit:
Want to strengthen your ability to lead or market a stress workshop or any kind
of speaking/training program? Consider the Stress Doc Training/Marketing Kit,
which includes both "how to" manual, 20-minute highlights video, and articles,
as well as the opportunity for phone coaching. For more info:
Training/Marketing Kit http://stressdoc.com/kitbook.htm or email.
2. "R & R" (Rap & Relaxation) CD:
(a) Relaxation-Visualization CD (10-minutes); with three Shrink Raps™ and two of
the Stress Doc's classic articles: "The Four Stags of Burnout" and "The Stress
Doc's 'Top Ten' Stress Tips." (Total time: 55-minutes.)
3. Stress Doc Books:
a) Hot: The Paperback Version is "live":
Practicing Safe Stress: Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout, &
Depression; Stress Doc Enterprises/FirstBooks Library (now AuthorHouse)
Paper: $20 plus 3.85 for priority shipping in Metro DC area;
$5 in US; $7 in Canada and Mexico; price to be determined for other
international shipping destinations
Make check to: Mark Gorkin
Send check to:
Stress Doc Enterprises
1616 18th Street, NW #312
Washington, DC 20009
More info: 202-232-8662
Ready for Credit Card order:
The Stress Doc's Store Front
Practice Safe Stress tackles the "Toxic-Traumatic Trio" -- stress, burnout,
and depression. Learn practical and playful, inspiring and insightful
strategies for transforming these toxins into life-affirming energy, creative
focus, and goal-achievement. Bringing a personal, professional, and
organizational perspective, the book is alive with imaginative language and
memorable "how to" ideas for:
§ Understanding the "Four Stages of Burnout," the "Erosive Spiral"
§ Rebuilding your fire and developing "Natural SPEED"
§ Achieving liberation through "Emancipation Procrastination"
§ Reducing conflict as a healing or motivational "psychohumorist" ™
There are satirical essays on "lean-and-MEAN" managers and on mismanaged
downsizings. Learn to "laugh in the face of layoffs" and ponder the possibility
of "Van Gogh, Prozac, and Creativity." The Stress Doc also shares his his own
trials, errors, and triumphs in battling the "Toxic Trio."
Safe Stress provides many discrete "Top Ten" lists and "strategic tips" essays
useful as educational/informational handouts. To quote the Internet Newsroom:
Your Guide to the World of Electronic Factgathering: "The most outstanding
feature…is his 'psychohumor' essays. Always witty, thought-provoking, and
helpful." With this easy-to-follow, fast-paced, and fun health and wellness
guide, you'll return often to Practice Safe Stress.
b) The Four Faces of
Anger: Model and Method
Transforming Anger, Rage and Conflict Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior
The "Four Faces of Anger" presents an elegantly simple yet intellectually
powerful model that will challenge your beliefs about anger -- both regarding
its range of emotion and its potential for positive communication. The book is
a dynamic blend of popular psychohumor articles, essays, case examples and short
vignettes, as well as Stress Doc Q & As and even "Shrink Rap" ™ lyrics. You
will gain ideas and tools, skills and techniques for personal control, playful
intervention and conflict mastery. Learn to:
Ř Identify self-defeating styles of anger and violence-prone personalities
Ř Transform hostility and rage into assertion and passion
Ř Confront directly or disarm outrageously critics and (passive) aggressors
Ř Bust the guilt not burst a gut
Ř Prevent emails from becoming e-missiles
And finally, his years as a multimedia psychotherapist and as a Stress and
Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service yield a survival and
spiritual mantra at the heart of the "Four Faces of Anger":
Seek the higher power of Stress Doc humor…May the Farce Be With You!
Published: 2004; Pages: 114
Paperback: $20 (includes shipping and handling)
c) Hard Copy Book -- Truly on the Cutting Edge
From Stress Brakes and Shrink Rap to Safe Stress and Cool Moon Cats:
The Wit and Wisdom of the Stress Doc, Stress Doc Enterprises, 1995
A 90 page compilation of my former syndicated radio essays, pioneering songs in
the field of psychologically humorous rap music -- "Shrink Rap" Productions - a
creative visualization poem and other humorous lyrics/poems. "Stress Brake"
radio essays are short (300 words), fast-paced and witty, covering such topics
as stress, burnout, anger and conflict resolution, time management, creativity,
men's and women's issues, romantic relationships, codependency, etc. (They make
excellent fillers for newsletters.)
Price: $20 (which covers priority postage and handling)
To purchase books and/or tape, make check payable to: Mark Gorkin
Send check to:
Stress Doc Enterprises
1616 18th Street, NW #312
Washington, DC 20009-2542
Questions? Call 202-232-8662
4. Chat Group:
Stop by my AOL/Digital City Shrink Rap (TM) and Group Chat
DC Debate Tuesdays, 9:30-11pm EST DC Support Chat (Alas, only for AOL
Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, an international/Celebrity Cruise
Lines speaker, training consultant, psychotherapist, syndicated writer, author
of Practice Safe Stress: Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout &
Depression. Mark, recently interviewed by BBC Radio, has a multi-award-winning,
USA Today Online "HotSite" --
www.stressdoc.com -- cited as workplace resource in a National Public Radio
feature. As AOL's "Online Psychohumorist," ™ Mark runs his weekly Shrink Rap
and Group Chat. Email for his monthly newsletter recently showcased on List-a-Day.com.
For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs, email email@example.com
or call 202-232-8662.
(c) Mark Gorkin 2004
Shrink Rap Productions