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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

OCT 03

Fight when you can
Take flight when you must
Flow like a dream
In the
Phoenix we trust!

Table of Contents

Networks:       TBS Professional Center
       Training Kit & Book; AOL Chat
Shrink Rap:    Purposeful and Playful Workshop Exercises and Strategies
Main Essay:    The Four "P" Principles of Powerful Presentation
Reader:           Jewish Humor Sample
Heads Up:       ASAP Software Conf., NCURA Leadership Inst.

A.  Networks

1.  Link:
TBS Professional Center (TBSPC) http://www.tbsprocenter.org, a free virtual community for mental health and allied health professionals.  [I am on the Advisory Board of TBS or "The Bright Side."]

Sign up for a free or expanded listing in our Find A Therapist Directory!

TBS Professional Center (TBSPC) http://www.tbsprocenter.org, a free virtual community for mental health and allied health professionals. TBSPC creates an environment where mental-health and allied health professionals can easily interact by exploiting the vastness of the Internet. Therapists from around the world can share ideas, give & receive advice, and expand their horizons. In addition, caregivers can find support from their peers, when they, themselves, need a helping hand.

Sign up for your free or expanded listing on the TBSPC therapist directory. The directory will appear soon on The Bright Side http://www.the-bright-side.org website, the premiere online destination for anyone seeking solace, support and resources for self-help when coping with mental or emotional difficulties.

Please contact Deborah Harper, Director of TBSPC at deborah@the-bright-side.org with any questions or feedback. 

B. Offerings:

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.  Stress Doc Book:
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)

Make check payable to:  Mark Gorkin

Send check to:

Mark Gorkin
Stress Doc Enterprises
1616 18th Street, NW  #312
Washington, DC 20009-2542

3. Chat Group:
Stop by my AOL/Digital City Shrink Rap (TM) and Group Chat
DC Support Chat, Tuesdays, 9:30-11pm EST DC Support Chat. It's a dynamic, lively, at times witty and always warm, thoughtful and supportive problem-solving group. We raise questions and share our ideas, hopes and experiences with each other.

Shrink Rap:

Ego, Email & Essay

Two recent achievements have me feeling quite pleased, if not a bit proud.  Of course, I'm aware that "pride goest before a fall."  However, as we're well into the season for being colorful, I'll take my chances.  First, in preparing for a keynote program, I was motivated to design a new 2x2 matrix on the essentials of "Powerful Presentation."  (See Main Essay below.)  I'm excited by this elegantly simple model that:  a) illuminates key concepts and processes of dynamic and engaging speaking and b) may transcend public performance and have implications for powerful and "emotionally intelligent" leadership.

The second achievement involved being on the same wavelength with my audience of Legal Administrators (HR-types who have a business executive role in their law firm).  Last week's 1 ½ day retreat was held at the scenic, truly pastoral
Wye River Conference Center, 30 miles east of Annapolis, MD.  (The center is famous for a 1996 or 97 Israeli-Palestinian peace conference with Bill Clinton, Yasser Arafat and Itzhak Rabin, as well as for providing temporary shelter for Elian Hernandez, the "cause celebre" youthful Cuban defector.)

The success of my retreat facilitation is captured in the following email from the primary conference coordinator.  I'm especially excited at the variety of professional connections this coordinator envisions for ALA and the Stress Doc.

The article submitted for their post-retreat newsletter immediately follows.  This piece sheds light on why my retreat exercises often have such an inspiring and fun impact.  So thank you for allowing me to share.  Enjoy!

ALA Email

Hello, Mark.  Your contribution to our Retreat this weekend was superb.  I will prepare a testimonial letter for you on ALA stationery.

We should talk more about the best way to market your services.  Your range seems to be from counselor to exciting speaker to longer program development.  I have recommended that the Chapter create a career services benefit for members.  In that regard, we believe we will need personal coaches.  Please think about that role on a retainer basis.

I have also been the Education Officer for the Southeast Region of ALA, Region 2 which includes the chapters from Baltimore, Maryland to Florida and westward to the Mississippi River.  New Orleans is not in Region 2, but is in Region 4.  This means that I will be able to recommend you to the Chapters in Region 2 and also to get your name on the national speakers list.  All of this requires steps, the beginning one being to list you as being a speaker for this Retreat Program.  This Retreat Program is one of the most ambitious in the Region, with the exception of the Regional Conference.  The Regional Conference is planned out a year in advance - the next Regional Conference is being held this November in New York City.  This a combined conference with Region 1.

You will also get exposure with your articles in the Newsletter.  I propose that we feature an article in the December issue which will cover the Retreat and then also publish the other articles throughout the year.  The newsletter is sent to the ALA National Board, the Regional Board and all the other Newsletter Editors in the country.  The editor of Legal Management and ALA News, both of which are publications at the national level, will also read your articles.

Another venue of exposure is to write articles for the ALA Encyclopedia which is on CD Rom and categorized by topic.  Most likely, your entries would be under Human Resources/Organizational Development.  Please let me know about your interest in this area and I can make the necessary contacts.

Please let me know if there is anything else that I can do to help you.  I believe your work has the possibility for a major contribution to our field.


Reflecting on his recent involvement with the ALA Networking Retreat, the Stress Doc briefly describes the two key interactive exercises.  He then analyzes why they are highly effective for yielding stress relief, laughs and team building synergy.

Purposeful and Playful Workshop Exercises and Strategies:
The Art of Practicing Safe Stress

At the October ALA/Capital Chapter 2003 Networking Retreat on "Adapting to Uncertainty:  Managing through It All," I had the opportunity to facilitate key aspects of my Practicing Safe Stress:  Managing Stress/Change and Building Team Morale through Humor Program.  The administrators are grappling with such issues as tightened budgets, loss of personnel, mergers and reorganization, the challenging relations with managing partners, attorneys and support staff, as well as the resulting stress reactions.  Clearly, these folks needed an opportunity for release.  And release and relax they did as two key exercises helped the group embrace sharing, venting, creative play, hearty laughing and group bonding.  I call this a 4 "C"-ing learning forum that stimulates and reinforces a sense of Confidence and Competence along with team Camaraderie and Cooperation.

More than ever, people are looking for tools, techniques and tips for getting a home and work life handle on stress and conflict and folks want to be energized and synergized:  to be part of a vital organizational process and product whereby the whole and parts truly work together and provide mutual support.  I believe the Networking Retreat is a forum par excellence for realizing these objectives; I was proud to make a contribution. 

Interactive Workshop Exercises

Let me first briefly describe two interactive workshop exercises that gradually facilitated this synergistic effect.  These exercises can be operationalized in a variety of settings -- from a handful of team members to hundreds of conference participants.  And then I will list the "how to" working principles that enable these interventions to reduce stress while facilitating high performance and team morale.

A.  Empathic Icebreaker Exercise.  To get people in an open, playful and moderately risk-taking frame of mind, psychically warm them up.  Try my "Three 'B' Stress Barometer Exercise."  Break up a larger audience into clusters of a half dozen or so.  Then, with a volunteer recorder in each group, have the individuals briefly discuss:  "How does your Brain, Body and Behavior let you know when you are under more Stress than usual?"

B.  Discussion and Drawing Exercise.  Building on the Three "B"s, the next logical question is:  "What are the sources of stress and conflict in your everyday workplace operations?"  Again, the large group is broken into smaller units (4-6 people).  However, after the discussion phase the team needs to create a group picture, logos or stress symbol that captures the diverse stress experiences of the participants as a whole.  Consider this example:  Years ago a burnt out CEO of an engineering company was running his company into the ground.  Actually, he was hardly running the company; more likely he was off flying his airplane.  Finally, he hired a Vice-president who called me for some stress and team building help.   In our workshop one of the groups drew a picture of a menacing creature, calling this big stalking dinosaur a "Troublesaurus."  All the little people in the plant are scattering in fear.  However, one person, bigger than the rest, is totally oblivious, has his back to the dinosaur with his head in the clouds while watching a plane fly by.  Helps you get the picture, doesn't it?

My reassuring participants that this is not, "True Confessions," that is, they can share at whatever level feels comfortable, actually seems to free them up.  Images run the gamut from stalking dinosaurs, time bomb time clocks, never ending mazes, sinking ships in shark infested waters, etc.  Groups are kept on track by having up to ten-minutes (with frequent reminders) for discussion and the same for the drawing segment.

Playful and Purposeful Interventions

So what makes these exercises so successful as stress reducers and builders of team synergy?  Consider these seven strategic components:

1.  Universality. Everyone can readily participate and share their own stress smoke signals or sources of pressure in a 24/7, anytime/anywhere and lean-and-MEAN world.

2.  Acknowledgment Overcomes Anxiety, Shame or Isolation. People discover they are not alone when it comes to pressures; they can begin to let down an "I've got to always be strong" Rambo or Rambette persona.  Participants find real support when being open with folks who have been or still are walking in the same tight-fitting shoes.  Common calluses make uncommon comrades.

3.  Laugh at Our Flaws and Foibles.  Just a little exaggeration can tickle some knowing laughs from familiar yet often serious stress signals and our coping behavior:
a) Sleeping Problems:  Aren't there days when you just don't want to get out from under the covers?  Still, aren't there some folks who, at 3am, know all the best buys on E-bay or the QVC Home Shopping Channel?
b) Eating Issues:  Do you find you eat more or excessively snack when over anxious?  Then again, are you one of those folks who lose their appetite and eat less when under duress?  (Of course, we hate these people. ;-)
c) Clenched Muscles:  Does mind-body stress contribute to neck or back strain?  What about a clenched jaw or TMJ:  "Too Many Jerks"…We know that one!

4.  Mind-Body Healing.  Getting people to laugh not only releases the body's natural pain-relieving and mood enhancing chemicals such as endorphins, but also places stressful events in a lighter perspective.  Sigmund Freud, himself, saw philosophical humor as the highest defense mechanism:  "Look here!  This is all this seemingly dangerous world amounts to.  Child's play -- the very thing to jest about."

5.  Non Verbal Expression and Releasing Aggression.  While many adults are anxious when it comes to drawing, once reassured that stick figures are fine (and that I'm a graduate of the Institute for the Graphically Impaired) they forge ahead.  And by doing so, folks rediscover how emotions, especially frustration and anger can be playfully drawn out with colored markers and large flipchart paper.  Nothing like putting a tail and horns on a devil of a boss to put things in a less frightening perspective and to evoke a stress relieving laugh.

6.  Open Interaction and Creative Problem-Solving.  Perhaps the most valuable problem-solving aspect of these exercises is that no group member has "the one right answer."  Everyone's responses are valuable.  Both verbally and non-verbally one person's suggestions will readily trigger ideas and images that embellish the group product and strengthen the team process.

7.  Group Feedback and Recognition.  In both exercises, groups get a chance to share their lists and drawings.  In the final phase of the drawing exercise ("the fashion show part of the program") the groups show off their creative designs.  For audiences in the hundreds, we'll have groups display their artwork on tables or on walls and turn the hall into an art gallery.  Participants mill about and survey all the other groups' efforts.  A few designs are chosen for "show and tell."  Participants experience pride from overcoming their initial drawing confusion or anxiety.  And in both scenarios, a final benefit is the self-esteem boosting recognition each team receives from the collective for work well done. 

In conclusion, the above seven strategic tension busting, energy releasing, team building and playfully high performing practices and principles provide both an individual and collective high-octane formula for transforming workplace pressures into synergistic processes and products.  And you now have a blueprint for bringing back this robust learning experience into everyday operations and meetings, to help yourself and others…Practice Safe Stress!

Main Essay:

On the eve of a keynote program, a pedagogical conundrum challenges the Stress Doc to envision and construct a matrix related to the fundamentals of energetic and engaging public speaking.  The resultant visual-conceptual model attempts to illuminate a paradoxical approach to four essential principles and four stimulating methods of powerful presentation.



The Four “P” Principles of Powerful Presentation:

A Paradoxical Model


Anticipatory anxiety was building in preparation for a luncheon keynote on “Dynamic and Engaging Presentations.”  I could no longer block out a sense of dissatisfaction with using my “Four Faces of Anger” model to illustrate the value of a visual matrix as a teaching tool.  While the “Four Faces” has been very effective for anger workshops (email stressdoc@aol.com for the 2x2 matrix and article), this speaking program deserved its own potent graphic.  My concern was not trivial.  An “elegantly simple” visual model helps audience members better envision, differentiate and get their minds around a key learning concept.  And the psychological concepts that I like to play with tend to be abstract or multi-faceted and are often hard to pin down.


Out of this gnawing discontent a possible pass in the impasse struggled to consciousness.  Contemplating the basic dynamics of my substance and style as a speaker, two contrasting psychological and communicational processes emerged:

(a) thinking and feeling

(b) being serious and humorous.

(I knew my muddled Myers-Briggs Type Indicator score would be useful one day.)


As a presenter, I like to express and integrate these seemingly oppositional qualities.  Or I may fairly rapidly ebb and flow between the ends of these spectrums.  As a high energy, if not somewhat hypomanic speaker, I’m definitely a couple of standard deviations from the average.  I definitely like keeping audiences on the edge of their seats…wondering what comes next.  (Okay, speaking of polarities, deviations and rapid cycling, maybe this attraction to opposites and paradox is influenced by some of my own mostly moderate bipolar tendencies.)


Anyway, a couple of 3am mental eruptions and subsequent positioning and repositioning of terms finally yields the following visual-conceptual paradigm based on The Four “P” Principles of Powerful Presentation.  And the model takes a paradoxical perspective, that is, the application and the integration of the aforementioned oppositional processes.


Basic Dimensions


Here are the two basic dimension of the model:  “Mode” and “Motivational Method.”  Let me operationalize these categories:



A.  Mode


Mode reflects the psychological and/or information processing set of the speaker


(1)  Cognitive – thinking or analytic mode

(2)  Affective – feeling or emotional mode




B.  Motivational Method


Let me draw on Webster’s 3rd International Dictionary to define or explain this and other model terminology:


Motivational refers to stimulating the emotion, desire or appetite operating on the will of a person and moving him or her to act.  (Sometimes special devices or subconscious forces influence a person’s awareness, aspirations and action plans.)


Method is the more specific technique or approach for realizing the broad motivational expressions and effects (the soon to be illustrated Four “P”s) featured in this “on becoming a powerful presenter” model.


The two motivational states are:


(1)  Gravitas – a capacity for conveying a sense of seriousness, importance, depth and heartfelt, if not soulful, meaning

(2)  Comedia – a capacity for dealing with the light or amusing or with the serious and profound in a light, familiar or satirical manner


Structure of the Model


With dimensions and explications in place, here is the skeletal structure of this paradoxical model:


                                                                      Motivational Method


Mode                                                 Gravitas                                Comedia




Box 1


Box 2




Box 3


Box 4


Now let’s capture categorically the interaction of “Mode” and “Motivational Method,” that is, provide labels for the “Four ‘P’ Principles” and their respective operational “Methods.”

 Box 1.  Cognitive – Gravitas

(a) Principal  = Purposeful
(b) Approach = Understanding

 Box 2.  Cognitive – Comedia 

(a) Principal  = Provocative
(b) Approach = Wit

 Box 3.  Affective – Gravitas 

(a) Principal  = Passionate
(b) Approach = Spirit

 Box 4.  Affective – Comedia 

(a) Principal  = Playful
(b) Approach = Humor


Structure and Content of the Model

 And here is the 2x2 matrix in its visual and conceptual glory:


The Four “P” Principles of Powerful Presentation:

A Paradoxical Model


                                                                      Motivational Method


Mode                                                 Gravitas                                Comedia






















Four “P” Principals and Methods of Powerful Presentation

 The paired words inside the boxes are familiar, yet some of their meanings or associations may prove “out of the box” – surprising and, hopefully, enlightening.  Grappling with and gleaning the conceptual and applied essence of these terms will surely expand your potency and your possibilities as a presenter.

Box 1.  Cognitive – Gravitas

 (a) Purposeful.  A powerful speaker achieves purpose for himself and for his audience by establishing educational, emotional and entertainment “outlines,” “objectives” and “outcomes.”  Of course, some presenters are compelled to share their life changing vision, a vision or mission statement that, alas, may be more like a sense of purpose on steroids.  (Remember, there’s a fine line between vision and hallucination.)

 In addition, the savviest speakers create a learning and sharing structure and process that evolves through time and experience.  In fact, if responsive to audience feedback, a dynamic presenter’s instructional and interactional plan may be significantly modified, sometimes even in the middle of a program.  Intention and flexibility (may I coin the oxymoron-like “flexible intentionality?”) are requisites of a purposeful and powerful mind set and design-delivery state.

 (b) Understanding.  According to Webster’s, “understanding” is the comprehensive process and achievement of perceiving and conceiving, that is, the power of comprehending, analyzing, distinguishing and judging.  A presenter conveys understanding when he or she goes beyond delivering data or facts.  Information now yields ideas that “make experience intelligible.”  And often the speaker’s personal experience is the richest source for such intimate understanding.

 A speaker also helps the participant appreciate the value of bridging theory and practice and he provides the tools for such bridge-building.  In similar fashion, the presenter shows how individual experience or a seemingly unrelated event (the part) relates to concepts, categories and systems (the whole).  This newfound breadth and depth enhances a person’s capacity for discrimination, for drawing logical inferences and/or analogical comparisons, and for exploring innovative applications.

 Hopefully, this Powerful Presentation Model reflects and begins to transfer such concept-application and parts-whole “understanding.”


Box 2.  Cognitive – Comedia

 (a) Provocative.  What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you read the word “provocative?”  Is it someone who is sensually enticing or, perhaps, someone who is intentionally irritating?  Reasonable responses, but let’s look at the half full side of this semantic equation.  Did you know that “provocative” is derived from the French word provocare – “to call forth”?  Certainly a powerful presenter wants to stimulate desired thoughts, motives and actions.  He or she wants to “arouse curiosity or anticipation” or to generate “discussion or controversy” amongst the audience members.  The provocative presenter challenges people to expand their perceptions, to make surprising connections, to “think outside the box” and to “move beyond one’s comfort zone.”  Which brings us to a vital and provocative technique and talent.

 (b) Wit.  Let me reassure you it’s not necessary to be an Oscar Wilde-like wit or wordsmith evoking gales of laughter from an audience.  Wit relates more to seeing and creating cognitive possibilities and conceptual pairings.  More specifically, wit is “the quick apprehension and apt expression of the connection of analogous properties seemingly unlike.”  Wit relates unexpected ideas or integrates the seemingly contradictory.  A common example of wit is the label “passive aggressive.”  While a paradoxical notion, most of us are all too familiar with such vexing creatures.  Or consider the comparative punch line from one of my “Shrink Raps” ™ (a contradictory witticism in its own right):

 The boss makes demands yet gives little control
So you pray on chocolate and wish life were dull
But office desk’s a mess, often skipping meals
Inside your car looks like a pocketbook on wheels!

 Linking the messy insides of a car and a pocketbook is a witty comparison.  As Mark Twain, the esteemed man of letters, ingeniously observed:

Wit is the sudden marriage of ideas which before their union were not perceived to have any relation.

Of course, a sharp wit can appear intellectually cold and may be perceived as arrogant or painfully cutting.  So the challenge will be to temper just enough that edge; to dip into the “half full” dimensions of “provocative.”


Box 3.  Affective – Gravitas

 (a) Passionate.  Passion!  What does it evoke?  Intensity, heat, steaminess…the “s”-word:  sex?  We in Washington, DC know the “s”-word for passion…It is “senator.”  (Or it was until Bill Clinton ruined my joke.)  Actually, if you have a good dictionary the “s”-word for “passion” is neither sex nor senator, it’s “suffering,” as in the Passion Play.  This relates to the sufferings of Jesus or, more generically, to the sufferings of a martyr.  (Imagine all this time I never knew my Jewish mother was such a passionate woman!)

 So what’s the connection between “suffering,” “passion” and being a powerful presenter?  For me it’s fundamental (but beware a passion that has any motivational speaker or leader becoming a self-righteous, “I know the one truth” fundamentalist).  As a speaker I must acknowledge, if not savor, my pitfalls and pain; I must speak from the heart not just the head.  Also, while honoring and acknowledging humility, I must overcome self-consciousness.  A self-effacing ego should not hinder sharing some hard-earned wisdom gleaned from life’s arduous yet adventurous journey.

 All this is fuel for my energy output – heat and fire.  Yet, ultimately, my frights, flaws and fantasies can be converted into lightness and illumination…and to affirmation.  Audiences respect and often see as courageous a speaker who can get real.  And perhaps most important there is also self-acceptance.  As the psychiatrist Ernst Kris noted:  What was once feared and is now mastered is laughed at.  And as the Stress Doc inverted:  What was once feared and is now laughed at is no longer a master!  Talk about aphorisms for accepting imperfection, overcoming performance anxiety and becoming a passionate speaker.

 So harness and share your spirit and passion and embark on a journey of self-definition along the lifelong, unpredictable yet richly rewarding path of presentational mastery.  My unconventional, process as much as goal-oriented mantra:  I don’t know where I’m going…I just think I know how to get there!

 (b) Spirit.  The word “spirit” is truly multi-faceted.  For the entrepreneur it conveys a sense of “enterprise” – initiative, aggressiveness, drive and adventurousness – or of “pluck” – nettle, backbone, grit, toughness and gameness (Roget’s International Thesaurus).  Certainly all are desirable qualities for powerful presentation.  However, I want to explore this protean term with greater semantic, if not spiritual, depth and breadth.

 Actually, my exploration will make a homonym-like shift from breadth to “breath.”  You see, the first definition of “spirit” is “the breath of life:  the animating or vital principle giving life to physical organisms.”  And the word “animating” is also revelatory.  Its derivation, “anima,” is the expression of an individual’s true inner self reflecting archetypal (that is universal and collective unconscious) ideals of cross cultural conduct in contrast to one’s more surface persona.

 And if we delve deeper, into the realm of the supernatural, even here we find semantic support in the guise of a captivating ethereal source.  Now “spirit” represents that “other worldly” being held to enter into and possess a person (and I’ll add a group).  And surely, a dynamic speaker wants to get under the skin, and inside the individual and collective audience mind; he or she wants to capture their hearts and minds if not “kill” them.  (The latter expression, of course, is associated with stand-up comedians.)

 Until researching terms for this article, I had overlooked the intimate connection between “spirit” and “inspiration”:  The inspire in inspiration literally means to breathe life into.  Clearly, a dynamic speaker wants to infuse and touch, to awaken and enliven, to transport and to help self-actualize the spirit of the other.  When communicating spirit to spirit some might claim we are connecting to “the vital principle in man and woman coming as a gift from God” (once again an “other worldly” transcendent source).  According to Webster’s, we are engaging “the inward personality structure, (the) dynamic drive and creative response” of the individual to the demands encountered on the pathway of becoming.

 So sing out from the stage.  Let inspired expression be the medium for releasing your passion and for helping others realize their fervent and fertile desires.  Be the food for thought and the fuel for the heart, while nurturing and energizing those spirits within and without.


Box 4.  Affective – Comedia 

(a) Playful.  I never realized how many common expressions begin with or involve the word “play.”  Nor could I imagine how the variety of expressions with their different connotations speaks to the skills and strategies of the versatile presenter.  Consider these examples:  “play upon” (words or another’s emotions), “play a role” or “role-play,” “play it by ear” (by truly listening to one’s audience, for example), “play the fool” and “play a trick on.”  (Based on my experience, being “mischievous” or a tad “devilish” – two of Roget’s synonyms for “playful” – can be very engaging qualities.)  Certainly, a dynamic presenter wants to give “full play” to his emotions – whether play involves range, liberty, license or freedom (within “PG” or, perhaps on occasion, “R”-rated limits).  And even the phenomenon of the “play of light and shadow” can be an analogy for the rapid movement or sudden ebbs and flows within and between our two basic dimensions – “thinking-feeling” or “gravitas-comedia.”  (And I also freely mix lecture, exercise and group discussion.)

 One other duality worth noting is the contrast of “play” and “work.”  While the former can be strenuous, for example, playing a competitive sport, true play always retains the objective of “amusement, diversion or enjoyment.”

(b) Humor.  Can you think of a more universally accepted, if not admired, way of being “playful” or “playing around” than through humor?  I mean, why do all those personal ads invariably ask for a person who “can make me laugh” or who has a good sense of humor?  Anyway, “humor” is “the recognition and expression of the incongruities and peculiarities in a situation or conduct.”  A capacity for humor often reveals an ability to appreciate and comically convey life’s absurdities, to poke gentle fun at others and also, especially, to laugh at our own flaws and foibles.  Such acceptance through knowing laughter is the essence of healing humor.  And there is a definite method to mirthful madness:  People are more open to a serious message when gift-wrapped with humor!

 In contrast to the more clever and verbal aspects of wit, being humorous often has a wildly or subtly outrageous non-verbal component.  Consider these well-known comedians or comic teams:

(a) the studied or exaggerated gestures and protestations of Jack Benny,
(b) the slapstick of Laurel and Hardy or Abbot and Costello,
(c) the wild antics of Robin Williams or Jerry Lewis,
(d) the nebbish-like and neurotic angst of Woody Allen or Gilda Radner, and

(e) the poignant absurdity of Charlie Chaplin, both in his “Little Tramp” mannerisms and persona and in his vivid and visual depictions of mechanical or megalomaniacal absurdities, e.g., a Hitler character bouncing off his head a huge inflated globe of the world.

 In fact, the powerful use of non-verbal behaviors has some of these artists on the edge of being “provocatively playful.”  (Can there be such a thing as “wordless witticisms?)  Still, I like to distinguish wit from humor with a vivid visual:  Imagine blowing up a balloon.  Humor is letting the air out and watching the balloon spin and sputter crazily about the room.  More keen and concise than humor, wit involves sticking a pin into the balloon.  As Shakespeare noted:  Brevity is the soul of wit.

 Humor-Human Connection 

While I have tried to argue the playful, universal and critical value of humor, not all would agree with this position.  I’m reminded of a syndicated Pogo cartoon.  Pogo and his somewhat cynical catfish friend Porky are lazily boating down an unspoiled, scenic river.  Porky is crediting God for a job well done…except for one thing.  Porky exclaims, “It is jes too bad he didn’t knock off a day earlier when he was ahead.”

 Trying to dissuade the catfish of his misanthropic attitude, Pogo claims, “If it weren’t for human beans life wouldn’t have as many laughs.”

 Porky’s instant reply:  “It wouldn’t need as many.”

 Being all too human – whether as speaker or student – we need the laughs.  And the aforementioned comic genius, Charlie Chaplin, provides one powerful explanation:

 The paradoxical thing in making comedy the tragic is precisely what arouses the funny.  We have to laugh due to our helplessness in the face of natural forces and (in order) not to go crazy.

 And speaking of powerful forces and the forces of powerful speaking…seek the higher power of humor:  May the Farce Be with You!



The “Four ‘P’ Principles of Powerful Presentation” have been outlined as a 2x2 matrix or “Paradoxical Model.”  While perhaps an ideal model, for me, the concepts and their application have been evolving over the course of more than two decades.  This performance schema is battle-tested!  My head and heart-felt belief is that when a presenter blends the “cognitive and effective” as well as the “gravitas and comedia” then, to invert “the bard,” an interactive stage can become a world defined and designed, transformed and transferred by both speaker and audience.  (Email stressdoc@aol.com for articles on integrating interactivity in your programs.)  In fact, such interactive potential has me pondering whether this model goes beyond dynamic speaking.  Might it also be a template for being an engaging and powerful leader?

 So don’t miss the chance to explore and practice this “Purposeful-Provocative-Passionate-Playful” dance.  Steps to help us all become more “Powerful” and to…Practice Safe Stress!

Reader Submissions:

Subj:  Memorial Stone
From:  MDodick

A woman's husband dies. He had $20,000 to his name. After everything is done at the funeral home and cemetery, she tells her closest friend that there is no money left. The friend says, "How can that be? You told me he had $20,000 a few days before he died. How could you be broke?"

The widow says, "Well, the funeral cost me $6,500. And of course, I had to make the obligatory donation for the church and the organist and all. That was $500 and I spent another $500 for the wake, food and drinks, you know. The rest went for the memorial stone."

The friend says, "$12,500 for the memorial stone? My God, how big was it?"

The widow says, "Three carats."

Subj:  Jewish Mothers
From:  MDodick

"After all that money your father and I spent on braces, that's the biggest smile you can give us?"

"I don't care what you've discovered, you still could have written!"

"Can't you paint on walls like other children? Do you have any idea how hard it is to get that stuff off the ceiling?"

"All right, if you aren't hiding your report card inside your jacket, take your hand out of there and show me."

"Again with the stovepipe hat? Can't you just wear a baseball cap like the other kids

"But it's your senior picture. Couldn't you do something about your hair? Styling gel, mousse, something, ANYTHING...?"
"The next time I catch you throwing money across the
Potomac, you can kiss your allowance good-bye!"

"That's a nice story. Now tell me where you've really been for the last forty years."

"Of course I'm proud that you invented the electric ight bulb. Now turn it off and get to bed!"

Jewish Mother's Answering Machine

If you want chicken soup, press 1;
If you want matzoh balls with the soup, press 2;
If you want varnishkas, dial 3;
If you want knishes press 4;
If you want to know how am I feeling, you are calling the wrong number since nobody ever asks me how I am feeling.

Last Wishes

A woman in
Brooklyn decided to prepare her will and make her final requests. She told her rabbi she had two final requests.  First, she  wanted to be cremated, and second, she wanted her ashes scattered all over the shopping mall. "Why the shopping mall?" asked the rabbi. "Then I'll be sure my daughters visit me twice a week."

No Pressure!

A man is laying on the operating table, about to be operated on by his son, the surgeon. The father says, "Son, think of it this way... If anything  happens to me, your mother is coming to live with you."


     A visitor to
Israel attended a recital and concert at the Moscovitz Auditorium.  He was quite impressed with the architecture and the acoustics. He inquired of the tour guide, "Is this magnificent auditorium named after Chaim Moscovitz, the famous Talmudic
   "No," replied the guide. "It is named after Sam Moscovitz, the writer."
   "Never heard of him.  What did he write?"
   "A check", replied the guide.


A husband looking through the paper came upon a study that said women use more words than men. Excited to prove to his wife his long-held contention that women in general, and his wife in particular, talked too much, he showed her the study results, which stated: "Men use about 15,000 words per day, but women use 30,000."

His wife thought awhile, then finally she said to her husband, "That's because we have to repeat everything we say."
The husband said, "What?"

Heads Up:

1)  Keynote Speaker for ASAP Software Conference in Orlando, FL on Oct 21; 400 expected

2) Dyanmic Speaking and Listening Skills workshop for Natl. Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) at their Leadership Institute, Washington DC on Nov 2

Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, an international/Celebrity Cruise Lines speaker, training consultant, psychotherapist, syndicated writer, and author of the upcoming, 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  2003
Shrink Rap Productions