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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

MAY 2004, Sec. II

Heads Up:

1.  CFUN04. 
Will be 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 session.
Excellent speaker.  Best laugh in conference.
Excellent.  Something developers should think about more.
A+++.  Great job!!


Michael Smith: I am talking with Mark Gorkin about his CFUN-04 talk "Managing Project Conflict". Why should programmers care about projects conflict?

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 ingenuity."

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 resolution.

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!

Other May/JuneSpeaking Program:

  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; 703-823-4488

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)
From:  cbezemer24@hotmail.com

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!!!!!

From:  MDodick

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 pregnancy tests.

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.)

Price:  $15


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)

Published:  2004
Pages:  372

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

Ebook:  $15

Make check to:  Mark Gorkin

Send check to:

Mark Gorkin
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.

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)
E-Book:  $15


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:

Mark Gorkin
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 members.)

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 stressdoc@aol.com or call 202-232-8662.

(c)  Mark Gorkin  2004

Shrink Rap Productions