Archive for August, 2009


August 22, 2009


Sirius Satellite Radio: Bring Back “Backspin” — Old School Rap

August 22, 2009

A while back, Sirius Satellite Radio canned “Backspin,” its old-school Hip Hop station.  Sirius hasn’t been the same since.  I know they still play some of the old songs on other hip-hop channels at Sirius, but it isn’t the same.  The only justification I can think of is that Sirius wanted to unload salaries of deejays such as former rappers Kurtis Blow and Dana Dane, but they still could have had someone else play the tunes.  Secondly, maybe they came under some criticism for Gangster Rap, but Backspin played stuff from the 80s through the 90s, so there was some Gangster Rap after that that wasn’t in their playlists.  They could have easily taken out songs that had offensive lyrics.  I personally would agree with that because there were some songs by Snoop Dog, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre that I did think were unacceptable.  But for the most part, that was only a small segment of the music they played on Backspin, which in fact harkened back to a more fun style of music.

There were the songs that helped start the rap genre – “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang and “The Message” by Grand Master Flash.  I’ll never forget when I first heard “Rapper’s Delight.”  It was amazing – a totally new type of music.  I had never heard anything like it before.  Who can forget the “King of Rock” by Run DMC, which fused rap with guitars?  There were militant rappers such as Public Enemy, possibly the greatest rap group of all time, and rap artists who told stories or were educational like KRS-One/Boogie Down Productions.  Try these lyrics on for size from BDP’s “You Must Learn.”

You must learn. I believe that if you’re teaching history

Filled with straight-up facts, no mystery
Teach the student what needs to be taught
‘Cause black and white kids both take shots
When one doesn’t know about the other one’s culture
Ignorance swoops down like a vulture
‘Cause you don’t know that you ain’t just a janitor
No one told you about Benjamin Banneker

Can’t you see where KRS is coming at
With Eli Whitney, Haile Selassie
Grand Bill Woods made the walkie-talkie
Lewis Latterman improved on Edison
Charles Drew did a lot for medicine
Garrett Morgan made the traffic lights
Harriet Tubman freed the slaves at night

Ice-T’s songs were parodies and served as warnings to kids not to live certain lifestyles. There were fun songs such as Biz Markie’s “Nobody Beats the Biz,” and Kurtis Blow’s “Basketball.”  Check it out:

Bill Russell didn’t take no junk
and Darryl Dawkins got a monster dunk
Tell me, were you in the joint?
The night Wilt scored 100 points
Or when Celtics won titles back-to-back
And didn’t give nobody, no kind of slack
Or when Dr. J shook the whole damn team
With moves that came right out of a dream
Or when, Willis Reed stood so tall
Playing D with desire, it’s Basketball

They’re playing Basketball
We love that Basketball
They’re playing Basketball
We love that Basketball

How about reflective anthems like “Old School” or “Dear Mama” by Tupac?

More fun stuff like Eric B. and Rakim’s “Paid in Full” or “La Di Da Di” by Doug E. Fresh. There were artists that changed music like De La Soul, a Tribe Called Quest, and Arrested Development.  How about “911 is a Joke,” a song by Public Enemy that is funny but also chronicled the problems that ambulances had in responding to problems in poor neighborhoods?  “I’m Bad” or “Don’t Call It a Comeback” by L.L. Cool J.

The music was fun, it had the roots of Hip Hop, and Sirius should bring back Backspin.


Use Play Dates to Foster Social Skills in Children with Autism

August 22, 2009

The biggest disappointment I’ve had in working with children with autism is the fact that many of their parents are so hypocritical when it comes to play dates.

Play dates are structured play sessions between two or more children.  They are done because kids with autism have a very hard time learning the social skills that come naturally to most children.  Play dates are very beneficial because children learn skills such as taking turns, sharing, communicating both verbally and through body language, and playing sports and board games.  They learn spontaneous play, which in turn improves the ability to learn.  They learn how to think on the fly and practice imaginative play, which helps with kids who only think concretely and not abstractly.  They develop a sense of humor, which does the same thing.  In fact, spontaneous and imaginative play can help kids generalize skills across different people and environments (the inability to generalize is a huge problem in autism.  Kids may be able to learn something at a certain desk with a certain instructor, but may not be able to do the same thing elsewhere with someone else).  Play dates (along with sports, exercise, and other motor skill practice) can help make kids improve their cognitive learning.

Anyway, the problem is that many parents only want to have their children play with kids who are “higher functioning” than their own kids.  Yet they refuse to allow kids who they believe are “lower functioning” to play with their kids for fear that their kids might not learn as much or might pick up bad habits.  In short, the parents are “stuck up” about their kids.

Parents:  you are not making a major commitment for the future by trying out a play date.  Try it, and if you don’t think it’s a good fit you don’t have to continue for a long period of time, but be open-minded.  Sometimes I think you’re more autistic than your children.  You only want to do the same things over and over and refuse to try anything new.   When I see this attitude, it makes me so ready to move onto the next career, whatever that will be.

I’ve heard parents say, “Johnny doesn’t want (or need) friends.  He has his brother.”  Be careful of saying, “Johnny like this but he doesn’t like that.”  So you’ve decided at this young age what he likes and doesn’t like for the rest of his life?  Why don’t you want him to have play dates?  Do you want him all for yourself?  Is it codependency?  Is it that there are so many other more important things, that you want to get those done first?  Is it because you are afraid of failure, and a child should only do something if it is 100% successful, otherwise it’s not worth trying?  Is it because you’re lazy?  Are you afraid the child might cry?  Is it because you just want to hand over big checks to therapists and then let them handle everything so you can be done with it?  Is your child better than other kids?  Whatever it is, it’s not right.

I’ve even known of a case in which a parent didn’t want his child to play with a particular child who was perceived to be lower functioning, even though his child clearly wanted to play with this child and was very distraught about it.  Try explaining that to the child.

The level of hypocrisy is amazing.  I’ve seen parents almost cry because typical children don’t want to play with their kids.  Then when their children take a leap forward, they themselves refuse to have their children play with kids who may be at a slightly lower level than them in certain areas.

Here’s an example of how a child who may have slightly higher skills in certain areas can still benefit from playing with children who may have slightly lower skills.  Child A sees that Child B gets upset easily.  Child A can learn to comfort Child B and say, “I hope you feel better.”  Then Child A can learn empathy.  Child A can also learn leadership skills.  And how about having fun?  You focus on things that both of them can do well, and maybe even more of the activities that the lower functioning child can do well.

I don’t mean to be too negative.  I even once met a parent who was neither a hypocrite about play dates, nor held her kids back from having them.  The reason I write this is that I have facilitated many play dates – over 100 – and the vast majority have worked out great, and the few parts of play dates that haven’t worked out great still help prepare kids for life’s ups and downs.

Be open to trying new things and breaking out of the structure the way things currently are.  Otherwise, you’re just going to get the same results you’ve always gotten.  Reading a social story is nice.  Participating in a social story is even better.

Note – I know the above may sound harsh.  Most of the parents I’ve met do a good job of setting up play dates for their kids, and most of them do want to see their kids have fun. I know of at least one parent for whom all I did for a year for her child was facilitate play dates, and on top of that, she had an additional playgroup.  Very impressive.

Lessons Learned from Autism Therapy

August 22, 2009

In my experience working with children with autism (see, I’ve come up with several lessons learned based on observations I’ve made over the years.  I list ten of them here, focusing on the management of home therapeutic programs.  I write this with the understanding that it is a monumental task to raise kids with autism and I usually only work with them for a maximum of 3-hour shifts at a time.  In other words, it’s easy for me to say.  Maybe I’m like the sportsradio caller who sits on the sidelines but criticizes the players.  Still, when I see the same mistakes being made over and over, I feel a responsibility to mention them.

1.  Parents refusing to have their children do play dates with other children. Some parents only want their children to do play dates with higher functioning kids, which is a little hypocritical because they won’t have them do play dates with lower functioning kids.  Also, some parents say, “Johnny doesn’t want friends.  He already has his brother.”  Or they are afraid to take a risk that something will go wrong.  Sometimes, it seems they are more autistic than the kids themselves based on their unwillingness to take risks and try something new.

2.  There is a lack of coordination between schools and home programs. The responsibility lies with the school, the home program, and the parents to ensure that there is enough coordination.  Without that, each side won’t know what the other is doing.  I’ve seen situations where the school doesn’t believe what the child has done at home.  I told a teacher, “But his father says he can do this.”  And the teacher replied, “I don’t believe him.”  (Use videotape to prove it to them!)  I’ve even seen a lack of coordination between certain aspects of the home program.  You wouldn’t hire two journalists to write an article about the same person without sharing and comparing notes, even if they were writing about different aspects of the person, and it’s even more important that everyone is on the same page in working with kids with autism.

3.  Therapists are shuffled in and out and there is a lack of continuity. In some cases, by the time a child is 10, he has been to several different schools, had several different home programs, and had turnover within each program so he has worked with more than 50 teachers and therapists.  It is not good for children to get attached to therapists and then have them taken away from them, because it teaches children that people are dispensable and interchangeable.  It’s also not good for the children psychologically to have people constantly shuffled in and out and taken away from them because they may develop problems in the future related to that.

4.  Giving too much power to the head of a home program. I observed one situation in which the head of the program wouldn’t let the family go on vacation when they wanted because the timing wasn’t right.  The parents should be the bosses. The organizations providing therapy are working for the parents – not the other way around.

5.  Not holding the head of home programs accountable enough.  It is tempting for parents to say, “I’m busy enough already,” and hand over the reins to the head of a home program and give them complete power.  However, parents need to periodically check up on the status of the program to see how much progress is being made and to make sure they agree with the strategies and subject matter being covered.  (Dads:  some of you have graduate degrees from Ivy League universities.  That’s nice.  Now could you possibly consider making some suggestions about your children’s programs? – you can’t even make any suggestions or any input about your child’s program?  Let me get this straight – you’re intimidated by someone half your age who has a couple years experience with kids?  You’d rather just hand over the money and not even know what is going on?)

6.  Making the child the King of the Household. A child has a disability, so parents feel sorry for him, letting him get away with bad behavior, and excusing him from acting appropriately.  Congratulations.  You are on your way to creating a monster who becomes the King of the Household.  You might as well start fitting the crown and the throne now.  On the bright side, everyone knows who rules the place.

7.  Giving up. It’s true that the early developmental years are the best for teaching children, but kids, and adults for that matter, can continue to learn throughout life.  Occasionally, parents focus so much on reducing behaviors and ensuring that kids are happy that they don’t push the kids to learn enough.  How many adults are thankful now that their parents pushed them to learn when they were younger instead of just giving into their gratifications at the time?  You wouldn’t allow your neurotypical son to say, “No! I don’t want to do math!” and get away with it, would you?

8.  Talking about the child in front of him or her. If you’re going to do this, make it positive.  Too often, parents (or teachers, therapists, or others) talk about a child in front of him as if he is not there.  “Johnny has a lot of problems learning math, and I’m afraid he will never be able to catch up.  He’s better at reading, but at math he’s hopeless.”  What if a child hears some variation of that once a week for ten years?  Also, many kids with autism have very keen hearing, so they may be taking in everything that you are saying.  We already understand that a lot of kids understand more than it appears.  Don’t have meetings about the child in front of him either because then he will get the impression that there is something wrong with him that has to be fixed.

9.  Believing your doctor is infallible. It can be dangerous to just listen to doctors without doing your own research.  The internet should be a useful tool for you to find up to date information.  Check out forums on specific topics written by parents who pool their experience rather than blindly trusting someone who sees your kid an hour and a half per year.  But instead of finding things out for themselves, as crazy as it sounds, I believe that some parents would rather do something that is accepted by the medical community that will not help their kids, rather than do something that may not necessarily be accepted that may help their kids. Author Lynn Hamilton put it this way:  “Stop seeing the doctor as the ultimate authority and to start viewing him or her as a member of their board of advisors…Ultimately, we are the ones who make the final decisions on what is best for our children.”

10.  Not putting enough attention into Emotion Coaching.  I’ve seen a few situations in which enough attention was paid to handling emotions, but the subject usually gets lost in the shuffle, which is strange because kids with autism usually are notoriously bad at identifying, understanding, and regulating emotions.  Kids should understand that it is normal to feel upset and that there are strategies they can use to calm down.  They need to understand the concept of empathy, or theory of mind.  The author and psychiatrist John Gottman says that emotional intelligence is a predictor of a child’s success later in life.  We’ve all met highly intelligent people who cannot deal successfully with other people.  I recommend Gottman’s book, “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child.”  Connected to this idea is the need to teach kids to say “please” and “thank you,” rather than ignore manners because other things are “more important.”  Otherwise, see #6 above.

11.  Parents crossing boundaries and getting too close to therapists and vice-versa.

I may sound critical and negative to some, but I’ve been fortunate to see most parents do an amazing job with their kids with autism.  I’m just pointing out patterns that I’ve seen many times that it would be nice not to repeat.  As I say on my website,, I don’t have my own children but sometimes you can benefit from hearing something from an observer.  Coaches are usually not as good as the actual players.  Do you think New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick was as good as any of the 50 football players he coaches?  It doesn’t mean he can’t coach them.  As for me, I know I have the potential to be a great father, but I won’t take anything for granted and I will be the first one in a parenting course because I don’t think you can ever learn too much.

Summary: “Raising the Emotionally Intelligent Child” by John Gottman

August 22, 2009

I think it’s critical to teach kids about emotions early and often, especially kids with autism, who usually have a hard time identifying, understanding, expressing, and handling their emotions.  So here I summarize notes from John Gottman’s book, “Raising the Emotionally Intelligent Child.”

  • Parents need to make the best use of the golden moments they have with their children, taking a purposeful and active role.
  • How parents interact with their kids when emotions run hot is key.
  • It’s good for kids to be able to regulate their emotional states.
  • Parents should offer their children empathy and help them to cope with negative feelings.
  • Good parenting is based on empathy and understanding.
  • Even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and ability determines your success and happiness.  For kids, it means controlling impulses, delaying gratification, motivating themselves, reading other people’s social cues, and coping with ups and downs.
  • You can say, “I think I know how you feel.”
    • Become aware of the child’s emotion
    • Recognize the emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching
    • Listen empathetically, validating the child’s feelings
    • Help the child find words to label the emotion he is having
  • Don’t be harsh, critical, or dismissing of your child’s emotions.
  • See things from the child’s perspective.
  • The emotion coach can tolerate spending time with a sad, angry, or fearful child.
  • Confront your child’s sadness head on.  How do you feel?  Are you kind of sad?
  • Dismissing parents think children shouldn’t be sad.  They focus on the behavior rather than the emotion.
  • Sad children don’t always understand how to comfort and calm themselves.
  • Talk to children about their feelings.
  • Listen to their frustration and tell them it’s natural to feel letdown.  Validate them.

The Age of Specialization

August 22, 2009

I’ve had several different careers since I graduated college, as many people have.  These days, it’s hard to find someone who has had the same career for 15 years (although some hiring officials seem to still be stuck in the 1950s).  One of the things that surprises me is the way people define others by what they do, and how some people think so much “in the box” that they can’t imagine someone doing any job other than what they’ve done before or what they’re doing right now.

When I was in college I was the Sports Editor of the student newspaper.  I did a little bit of broadcasting in college, but I was a better writer.  I decided to pursue broadcasting to try a new challenge, and this was the response I got:

“But you’re a writer.  What makes you think you can be on the air?”

Then, after five years doing radio jobs such as deejaying, sports broadcasting, traffic reporting, and assorted behind the scenes work, I decided to change careers.  Then I saw an advertisement for a job opening for a Technical Writer.  I thought to myself, “Whatever that is, I can do it.”

This was their response:  “You have a lot of experience in radio, but what makes you think you can work in Information Technology?” (I did have a B.A. in Journalism and was working on my M.B.A. at the time).

I ended up working for nine years as an IT project planner, a Technical Writer, and a Policy Analyst.

Then I decided to quit my job and work with kids with autism.

This was the response:  “You have a lot of experience in government work, but what makes you think you can provide therapy to kids with autism?”

I’ve done this now for nearly three years full-time and five years part-time, and I started volunteering for kids with autism 10 years ago.  In the meantime, I got a Graduate Certificate in Autism from Johns Hopkins.

This perception – the inability or unwillingness to grasp that people can do anything other than their very specific, specialized careers – even seems to hold true for my current career of working with kids who have autism.

Because I call myself “Coach Mike” ( wasn’t available), and I’m one of the few autism therapists who teaches sports and exercise, people perceive me as a sports guy.  Now that’s great, but I know that I can teach kids math, reading, and other cognitive skills as well or better than 90% of the autism therapists out there.  Just because I teach sports and exercise skills and facilitate play dates in addition to teaching children academics doesn’t mean I’m less effective at teaching cognitive skills than someone who only teaches academics.

I’ve seen well-intentioned parents hire one person for schoolwork, another person for sports, and another person for play dates.  The philosophy isn’t much different than that of the average working stiff.  More hours means more productivity.  Everybody does his or her specialty.  Forget the fact that you want to make the hours more efficient.  The people in stovepipe offices don’t communicate with one another.  It’s often considered a badge of honor to work 60 hours a week.

Same with kids.  They need X hours of therapy, but, forget about coordination and communication.  The child will be able to do math with one person, sports with another, and music with another.  Does this lead to generalization (the ability to transfer skills learned across different environments with different individuals)?

I’ve been in situations in which a child’s greatest need was math.  I got an A in college calculus, 740 on the GRE, 720 on the math SAT, and a near-perfect score on the math portion of the PRAXIS exam, which is used to certify teachers.  I have a proven track record of success teaching math to kids with autism, and I relate to the kids well.  But because I call myself “Coach Mike,” I must be just a sports guy.

First, I was just a writer so I couldn’t be on the air.  Then I was just on the air so I couldn’t write.  Then I worked with numbers so I wasn’t creative.  Then I worked in IT so I couldn’t work with kids.  Then I worked with kids so I couldn’t get a “real” job.

The point is that people often define people by what they do.  Maybe there are some people who are so specialized that they’ve had the same job for their whole career and couldn’t do anything else, but hopefully most people understand that it’s not a bad thing to be versatile, adaptable and flexible.  Being able to transition in and out of various types of careers, as well as subtypes within those careers, is actually a good thing.  It’s a little shocking to think that there are many “senior” decision makers (who probably have too many “senior” moments) who would rather have someone with an overly specialized background (i.e. someone who has done the same type of job for 20 years) than someone with a proven track record of success and the potential to transfer skills across different disciplines and relate them to one another.

I can’t stand to have someone sitting in an office who has done the same thing for 30 years, telling me, “Well, you don’t have the background we’re looking for.”  It’d be like an NFL general manager saying, we’re only going to acquire players in free agency who were first round draft choices ten years ago, while overlooking the actual performance of the players since the draft.

You see this in the government.  They hire people the way colleges accepted students 40 years ago – strictly looking at the background or accomplishments of the person.  After students weren’t able to succeed in the real world, colleges wised up and decided that students needed more than a good G.P.A. to succeed in life.  Then they started taking into consideration the extracurricular activities students were involved in.  Then they made sure that those activities were legit, and that applicants did meaningful things within those activities.  Having a broad range of interests should be an advantage in life, not a disadvantage.

I’m convinced that most government offices would rather hire someone who has a particular background, even if that person has not been particularly successful in that field, than someone who has proven to be successful in multiple disciplines.  I call the first group of people the donut eaters.  The high point of their week is the staff meeting, a non-sensical, time-wasting practice during which not much gets done except people get to hear their voices.

I can’t even fathom the possibility that my skills wouldn’t transfer to another area.  Meanwhile, many people can’t visualize anything other than someone doing what they are currently doing or have done in the past.

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins has said that the amount of unpredictability in life is proportional to the amount of happiness you experience.  In other words, doing the same activities all the time becomes boring, while trying new things, even if you have to take some risks and get outside of your comfort zone, leads to greater fulfillment.  Except for the donut eaters.

Relationship Notes from Gottman, Hendrix, Gray, and Kasl

August 22, 2009

I’m writing below notes I’ve made from a bunch of different books about relationships for married and unmarried couples.  A few years ago, I got really into the subject as I went to couples counseling with my girlfriend at the time.  As I look at the notes, I guess I got a little obsessed about it.  I underlined the best parts of the books and then typed out those parts.  It is possible that, like Rodney Dangerfield said in “Back to School,” “The guy who underlined those books could have been an idiot.”

(There’s another good line from that movie that I like.  Rodney asks his professor out for a date.  She says, “I can’t tomorrow, I have class.”  He replies, “Ok, why don’t you go out with me when you have no class.”  But enough about a guy who gets more respect than I do…)

Anyway, about the notes from the books, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being as prepared as possible.  It’s fun to wing it sometimes, but you can’t hurt yourself with preparation.  I believe in having a great marriage, not an average one or a good one.  Anyway, I have the notes, so I thought I’d put them onto my blog in case anyone is interested in reading the Cliff Notes versions of these books.

I include Martin Seligman’s “Authentic Happiness,” even though it isn’t specifically a book for couples.  Another book, “Raising the Emotionally Intelligent Child,” by John Gottman, is under the Disabilities, Autism section of my blog.  I am a Gottman disciple.  I think that his books on relationships are great.  So here we go.

Martin Seligman, “Authentic Happiness”

  • Authentic happiness comes from using your best strengths in work, love, play, and parenting.  Meaningful life adds using these strengths to forward knowledge, power, or goodness
  • Take particular care with the endings of relationships because that’s in large part how they’re remembered.
  • Doing kind and fun actions create a lot more satisfaction than doing things that are only fun.
  • Happy people remember more of the good events than the bad.
  • Happy people spend the least amount of time alone and most time socializing.
  • If you do not allow yourself to express an emotion it will squeeze its way out, usually as an undesirable symptom.
  • People often unravel as they ventilate in traditional talk therapy.  Cognitive therapy techniques, however, get people to change their thinking about the present and future.  Dwelling on anger produces more anger.
  • Change your thoughts by rewriting your past – forgiving, forgetting bad memories.
  • Good things and high accomplishments have surprisingly little power to raise happiness.
  • Once a person is just barely comfortable, added money adds little or no happiness.
  • All emotions about the past are driven by thinking and interpretation.
  • Dwelling on anger produces more anger.

  • Savoring the awareness of pleasure.
    • Sharing with others
    • Memory-building (photos)
    • Congratulation
    • Sharpening perceptions
    • Absorption
  • Gratifying activities
    • Challenging and require skill
    • We concentrate
    • There are clear goals
    • We get immediate feedback
    • We have deep, effortless involvement
    • There is a sense of control
    • Sense of self vanishes
    • Time stops
  • People often choose pleasure over gratification
  • 6 universal virtues
  1. Wisdom and knowledge
  2. Courage
  3. Love and humility
  4. Justice
  5. Temperance
  6. Spirituality and transcendence
  • You have to let yourself receive love in addition to giving it.
  • While real income has risen 16%, happiness has decreased 30%
  • Flow – positive emotion about the present without thinking about the future or the past.

Gottman’s harbingers of divorce as quoted by Seligman:

  • Harsh startup in a disagreement
  • Criticism rather than complaints
  • Displays of contempt
  • Hair-trigger defensiveness
  • Lack of validation (particularly stonewalling)
  • Negative body language
  • Positive signs
    • Partings – before you leave, find out one thing that your spouse will do that day
    • Reunions – at the end of the day, have a low-stress reunion conversation
    • Affection – physical intimacy
    • At least one weekly date
    • Express admiration and appreciation at least once a day.
  • When you have a hot button issue, mention it.   Use the gavel.
  • Raising children – Make sure they know what they are being punished for.
  • The good life consists in deriving happiness by using your signature strengths every day.  The meaningful life adds one more component:  using these same strengths to forward knowledge, power, or goodness.

John Gottman, “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail”

  • Do you have affection for each other even during conflicts?
  • Couples who initially had complaints about each other were among the most stable as the years went on.
  • Research shows that marital satisfaction is linked to spouses’ physiological responses to one another.
  • You must have at least five times as many positive as negative moments together.
  • Validating – letting each other know your emotions are valid.  Repeating back what the other said.  “So you’re saying….is that right?”
  • Pick your battles carefully.  “What do you suggest?”
  • You can “agree to disagree.”
  • Show interest.
  • Be appreciative.
  • Be empathetic.
  • Be accepting.
  • Joke around.

Four Horsemen


  • Attacking someone’s personality or character.  i.e., saying “always” or “never.”  However, complaining about a specific event is healthy.


  • The intention to insult and psychologically abuse your spouse.  Name calling, mockery, sneering, curling your upper lip.


  • Believing you are not to blame.  Making excuses.  Cross-complaining.  Yes butting.  Defending yourself.


  • Withdrawing during an argument – a very powerful act.  One spouse withdraws more, escalating the other’s demands.
  • The above four horsemen often fall into two categories of thoughts – innocent victimhood or righteous indignation.
  • Flooding – fight or flight.
  • Use conciliatory gestures – “Please let me finish.” “We’re getting off the topic.”  “That hurt my feelings.”
  • How to improve your relationship:
    • Calm yourself during flooding.  Don’t continue the discussion until you’ve calmed down.
    • Speak and listen non-defensively.  By dwelling on what is wrong, you miss out on what is right.  Recall specific happy memories.
    • Validate each other – “Go ahead, I’m listening,” “I can see why you’d feel that way,” “It makes sense that you’d feel that way,” or even “yeah.” Go far out of your way to validate.
    • Overlearn these principles.  Practice often.  Even when you don’t feel like it.
    • Set a limit of 15 minutes for disagreements.  Pick one major issue.
    • Sex – talk about what is good.
    • Since politeness vanishes early, make an extra effort to treat your spouse nicely.
  • Happiest couples accentuate the strengths and the bright side, downplay faults, elevate shortcomings into strengths.  If the good things about your relationship are considered the norm while the bad parts are fleeting and situational, that’s good.
  • Happiest couples are those who understand limitations.
  • Go out of your way to validate.  Especially during hot-button issues – use gavel.
  • Use “I” as much as possible rather than “you.”
  • Nothing foretells a marriage’s future as accurately as how a couple retells their past.  A negative spin on your past is a very bad sign.  Telling how you met.  Remembering details are good.  It’s best if you glorify your past struggles.  You can make an effort by changing the negatives to positives.
  • Mismatches in marital style aren’t good.

John Gottman, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”

  • Emotional intelligence is a predictor of a child’s success later in life.
  • Most happy couples do not do active listening when they’re upset. (different than Hendrix)
  • There’s a lot of affection and laughter as they hash this out.
  • The key to a happy marriage is finding someone with whom you mesh.
  • Happy spouses do not keep tabs on whether a good deed is payback.
  • No one style of resolving conflict is best – as long as both people have the same style.
  • Most affairs are about seeking friendship, support, understanding, respect, caring, and concern – feeling loved and appreciated.
  • The determining factor for both men and women in whether they feel satisfied with sex, romance, and passion is the quality of their friendship.
  • Keys to a successful marriage

–      Expressing little things day in and day out

–      Talk on the phone during the day.  Ask about things like doctor’s appointments.

–      Example – he’s not religious, but he goes to church each Sunday with her because it’s important to her.

–      They positively beam when discussing the life they plan to build.

  • Most marital arguments cannot be resolved. No sense in fighting over differences.

Predictors of Divorce

1. Harsh startup. 96% of the time you can predict the outcome of a conversation by its beginning.

2. Four Horsemen

Criticism instead of complaints.

Contempt (conveys disgust)

–      Sarcasm

–      Cynicism

–      Name-calling

–      Eye-rolling

–      Sneering

–      Mockery

–      Hostile humor

–      Belligerence contains a threat or provocation.


–      Blaming your spouse


3. Flooding – you feel severe emotional distress when dealing with your spouse.  Your body perceives the situation as dangerous.  Fight or flight.

4.  Body Language – The more flooding, the harder it is to respond to repair.

5.  Failed Repair Attempts – The failure of repair attempts is an accurate marker for an unhappy future.  You can even be high on the four horsemen and still have a good marriage if there are repair attempts.

Quality of the friendship is key.

6. Bad Memories

  • Couples who have a negative view of their spouse often rewrite the past.
  • In a happy marriage, couples tend to look back on their early days fondly.  They glorify the struggles they’ve been through.
  • When you find the past difficult to remember – bad sign.


  • Lack of knowledge about each other is bad.  You need to know what the other person likes, dislikes, fears and loves.
  • Emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s world.  They remember the major events in each other’s history, and they keep updating their information as the facts and feelings of their spouse’s world change.
  • Know each other’s deepest longings, beliefs, and fears.
  • Getting to know each other shouldn’t be a chore.
  • At least once a week just go out and talk.
  • Talk about your triumphs and strivings, the difficult events you’ve gone through
  • Fondness and admiration are two of the most important elements in a marriage.  They are antidotes for contempt.
  • How you view your past.  If you put a positive spin on your history, that’s good.
  • Lots of chit chat means you are connecting.
  • There is deep drama in the little moments.  It’s important to turn toward each other every day.  Just remember you shouldn’t take your every day interactions for granted.
  • Asking each other about your day helps relieve stress from other areas that can spill over.  Talk about what is on your mind outside your marriage.
  • You have to let her know that you fully empathize with her problem.
  • Ask her to point out instances in which you are being controlling.
  • You don’t have to resolve all your conflicts.  You can agree to disagree.
  • Share with each other the personal dreams of your life.
    • Make sure your startup is soft and not harsh
    • Look for signs of flooding
    • Be more tolerant of each other’s perfections

John Gottman, “The Relationship Cure”

  • People headed for divorce disregarded their spouse’s bids for connection most of the time.
  • Happily married people engaged each other as many as 100 times in 10 minutes.
  • Humor and affection during a conflict is invaluable.
  • The probability that a person will attempt to re-bid once an initial bid has been rejected is close to zero.
  • Heart to heart exchanges are great.
  • Playfulness is great for relationships.
  • When you look for negativity you find it.
  • Being familiar with the details of each other’s lives can help you to have happier, more stable relationships.
  • The first three minutes of a conversation predict the rest.
  • Say “I” instead of “you.”
  • Don’t dismiss other people’s emotions.
  • 55% of people rely on facial expressions and other body language; 38% rely on tone of voice and pace of speech; only 7% rely on the spoken word.
  • 70% of marital conflicts never go away.  So, how you handle conflicts is huge, and what you disagree on early, you will probably still disagree on late.
  • Digging into each other’s hidden agendas provides a great opportunity for intimacy.
  • Talk about your life dreams.
  • Make list of absolute must haves, then another list of more flexible requirements.

Charlotte Kasl, “If the Buddha Dated”

  • Never try to control another person.
  • Don’t put someone on a pedestal, and don’t set them below you.
  • Confront everything inside that kindles fear or anxiety.  Walk right into your fears, sit down, talk to them, until they become our friends.  You can’t release what you won’t grasp or feel.
  • Live in the moment and appreciate what is life. 
  • Don’t grasp for security or predictability.
  • Emphasis on service, silence, and simplicity.
  • Never abandon yourself by compromising your integrity or discounting your intuition.
  • Gamble everything for love (Rumi).  This means you.  Don’t wait any longer.  Dive in the ocean.
  • Don’t live an isolated life.
  • Be honest about your faults and mistakes.
  • Clear out clutter. 
  • Resolving old hurts and expressing our gratitude releases tension and allows our energy to flow freely.
  • Four tips:
    • Stay tuned into the level of connection
    • Notice the flow of give and take
    • Trust yourself and your instincts
    • Have fun and remember it’s all a passing show
  • As you attune to a higher vibration you will more quickly see when there is potential.
  • If you make a commitment, you take this person exactly as they are.  You agree to the whole package the way it is.
  • The happiest people are the ones dedicated to helping relieve suffering.

Charlotte Kasl, “If the Buddha Married”

  • One step toward experiencing loving – follow your heart and give yourself fully to what you feel called to do.
  • Accept impermanence.
  • Speak simply and clearly from the heart.
  • Don’t hold back. Hiding anger sets off explosions.  Stockpiling anger is one of the most harmful things we can do to ourselves and others.
  • Counterfeit conflicts stem from hardwired nervous system responses to previous experiences.  When we yell at our spouse for being late, it might be a displaced scream at a parent who was unreliable.
  • Anything that reminds us of a childhood experience can cause “flooding.”  Ask yourself, “What are we really arguing about?”
  • Voice your appreciation.
  • There shouldn’t be the threat of someone leaving.

Neil Clark Warren, “Finding the Love of Your Life”

  • Your choice of whom to marry is more crucial than everything else you will do to make your marriage succeed.
  • Spend hours talking about the nitty-gritty aspects of life.
  • Intimacy – sharing deepest thoughts, feelings, dreams, fears, and joys.

John Gray, “Mars and Venus in Love”

  • Voice your appreciation.
  • You let go of your frustrations by talking about them.
  • Sit down and ask how your day went.  Little things mean a lot.  For a woman to talk about her day helps her figure out what’s bothering her.  Don’t try to fix her problems, just listen.
  • Do the little things – taking out the trash, dishes, etc.
  • Write love letters to each other.
  • It’s not good when you have nothing to report from your day.
  • You need to be best friends as well.

Phil McGraw, “Relationship Rescue”

  • Research shows that 70% of couples who attend counseling are worse or no better after one year.
  • Set aside time each day to work on things.
  • Applying logic to relationships doesn’t always work.
  • Don’t let arguments get too personal. 
  • You can agree to disagree. 
  • You have to achieve emotional closure at the end of an argument.  Don’t gunny sack your emotions. 
  • Good sex isn’t everything, but without it you have no chance.
  • Instead of waiting for your spouse to change, you can and will serve yourself much better by looking at yourself instead of your spouse. 
  • You are not a child anymore.  You have the chance to choose what you think, feel and do.  You cannot use events as excuses. 
  • Competition, score keeping is bad.
  • Bad signs: 

–      You make concessions in a negotiating fashion rather than offering them as a gift of support. 

–      You don’t do things to support your partner without making sure that she knows it, including why it created an imposition on you. 

–      You’re a fault finder, telling your partner what she should do.

–      You think everything has to be done your way.  You feel justified in everything you do.

–      Being self-righteous – same as keeping yourself from looking at your faults.

–      You purposely attach your spouse’s vulnerable areas.

–      You seem to thrive on the role of the victim. 

–      Being passive-aggressive, being a controller underhandedly.

–      You keep in the memory bank the problems with your spouse.

–      You interpret many statements and actions of your spouse negatively, based on little or no evidence. 

–      You put the relationship on the line with every problem, with ultimatums.

–      You use threats to manipulate your spouse. 

  • The spirit and attitude with which you do things is at least as important as your actual actions. 
  • You should not be afraid of adopting new thoughts and behaviors.
  • You need to face your fears.  Monsters live in the dark.
  • You need to let her know that you will be a safe, loving place for her to fall onto.
  • Spend a lot of time focusing on things to admire instead of criticize.
  • Better to be happy than right.  The harder you fight to win, the bigger you lose.
  • Make your needs known, and discover the needs of your spouse.
  • You must really know your spouse from the inside out.
  • Make it your goal to understand more about your spouse than you’ve ever known.
  • Take a quiz about your spouse (p. 171).

Harville Hendrix, “Getting the Love You Want” (non-Imago related stuff)

  • The old brain has no sense of linear time.  Today, tomorrow, and yesterday do not exist; everything that was, still is.  That’s why feelings sometimes seem alarmingly out of proportion to the events that triggered them.
  • During intimacy, you aren’t judging each other, or interpreting what your spouse is saying, or being self-absorbed.
  • Don’t use global words like “always” or “never.”
  • As romantic love fades, the power struggle begins.  Couples begin to
    • Stir up each other’s repressed behaviors and feelings.
    • Reinjure each other’s childhood wounds.
    • Project their own negative traits onto each other.
  • You have to take responsibility for communicating your needs and desires to your spouse.
  • Become more intentional in your interactions.
  • Issues take a while to come to the surface.  So that is why counseling takes a while.
  • You need to throw in a curve once in a while.
  • Isolaters unwittingly recreate the struggle of their childhood by marrying fusers, who have an unsatisfied need for intimacy.
  • You have to understand the reasons behind behaviors to grow.
  • Complaints about your spouse are often descriptions of parts of yourself.
  • Most of your spouse’s criticisms of you have some basis in reality.
  • There is tremendous satisfaction in just being heard.
  • Call once a day just to chat.
  • Any suggestion of an obligation or expectation will reduce the exercise to a bargain.
  • One spouse’s greatest desire is often matched by the other spouse’s greatest resistance.
  • When you make someone else happy, a part of the unconscious mind interprets the caring behavior as self-directed.  Love of the self is achieved through love of the other.
  • Define what you want, ask, and reciprocate.
  • Adaptations that serve useful purposes in childhood drain the life from marriage.
  • The person who unleashes the anger feels equally assaulted, because on a deep level the old brain perceives all action as inner-directed.
  • The more one attacks, the more one retreats, the more one retreats, the more the other feels abandoned.
  • In times of stress, you retreat to old patterns.
  • Instead of fighting, ask for what you want.
  • What you are doing for your spouse is what you are doing for yourself.
  • Love keeps no record of wrongs.
  • People who perceived their spouses to be superior to them felt guilty and insecure.  People who perceived their spouses to be inferior to them reported feelings of anger.  When people perceived themselves to be equals, their relationships were relatively conflict-free and stable.

Scrap Howard 100 News from the Howard Stern show

August 22, 2009

Howard 100 News.  The concept just doesn’t work for me, and neither do the reporters.  I’d rather have more of the show, and Robin already does enough news.  As for news about the show, most of it is incredibly dull – they make stories out of nothing.  All four of the reporters are boring.  Lisa G has a whiny voice and she never says anything about her personal life.  Ralph Howard is really old and his style doesn’t fit the show.  I’m pretty sure Howard has him on for nostalgia – I think he had an earlier connection to the show.  Shuli is so boring in his style.  He has this monotone delivery that isn’t funny at all.  The questions he asks as well as his interviewees are decidedly minor league.  Who cares what J.D. thinks about anything?  Finally, Steve Langford.  He’s mildly interesting at times but the jingle is old, his overly exaggerated deep voice, alliteration, and pit bull style just aren’t very funny.  You could get rid of the entire Howard 100 News team or at least two of the four, and do other stuff instead of killing time.

Howard Stern: Bring back the Creativity

August 22, 2009

One of my favorite parts of the Howard Stern show has always been the prank calls they play – from the old Captain Janks calls to the current ones by Sal and Richard.  A year or two ago, their calls were amazing.  They can be incredibly creative.  The best was when Richard called a woman using two voices simultaneously.  The problem is that two years ago, the stuff Howard was rejecting because it wasn’t quite good enough to make the air was still very funny.  Now many of the bits that make the air just aren’t that funny, and there aren’t very many of them.  It used to be that there were some funny bits on the “Jack and Rod” show done by Sal and Richard that Howard wouldn’t play at first but would occasionally say, “These were the ones that didn’t make the air.”  Now, the ones that do make the air aren’t even as good as those from two years ago that didn’t.

Local Sports should be Local

August 9, 2009

I have a problem with the order of the sports stories on Channel 4 tonight, read by Dari Noka.  He buried the DC United-Real Madrid soccer game near the bottom.  Real Madrid is one of the most famous teams in the world, the game was local, and 72,000 fans attended.  Then the final story was the Legg Mason Tennis Championship, also in DC, which featuring two of the top six players in the world. The last two items were local, so they should not have been behind an NFL preseason game and a minor golf tournament.

Here’s the rundown of how it went:

  1. Nationals win 8th in a row
  2. Tidbit about Redskin Carlos Rodgers’ injury
  3. NFL Hall of Fame Game
  4. Tiger Woods wins some golf tournament
  5. DC United – Real Madrid soccer game
  6. Juan Martin Del Potro beats Andy Roddick in tiebreaker in 3rd set of finals of Legg Mason tennis tournament in DC

Here’s how it should have gone:

  1. Nationals win 8th in a row
  2. DC United – Real Madrid soccer game
  3. Juan Martin Del Potro beats Andy Roddick in tiebreaker in 3rd set of finals of Legg Mason tennis tournament in DC
  4. Tidbit about Redskin Carlos Rodgers’ injury
  5. NFL Hall of Fame Game
  6. Tiger Woods wins some golf tournament

Maybe I should get a life but maybe local sports should be taken more seriously, like back in the day when we had Glenn Brenner, George Michael, and Frank Herzog, not to mention Bernie Smilovitz and Steve Buckhantz, plus good weekend anchors like James Brown.

Ok, I just realized the NFL preseason game was on channel 4 (NBC).  That makes it more understandable, but it doesn’t make it right.  It reminds me of when I worked at Mutual Radio years ago – a minor golf tournament would get a report a minute and 20 seconds long, because it was sponsored, more than twice as much time as was devoted to a Super Bowl report.