I love my kids. I really do. But when they left for college, leaving me with an empty nest, I didn't cry, mope or lament the silence in our house. I cheered.
It's not that I don't miss them, because I do -- sort of. I'm still in awe that I now walk into rooms that are exactly the way I left them. I'm happy they're starting another chapter in their lives, adventures I hope will be fun and fruitful. They know they can call on me to help them when needed, and I know I can track them down via text, email and/or video chat (yay technology!) when I need to reassure myself that all is well.
I see their departure as a new adventure for me and my husband, one in which we're readjusting to being a couple, with a whole lot less laundry to do. I probably should be worried that I'm not suffering even a twinge of empty nest syndrome, except that I'm too busy doing other stuff, like clearing out the junk drawer and working, finally, on my great American novel. But I know that not everyone feels the way I do. So I asked other moms and dads how they're dealing with their empty nests -- and if they're crying or cheering.
I’m as skeptical of self-help advice as anyone, which is one reason I’m a huge fan of Brené Brown. While some may call Brown’s books self-help, her work is grounded in 10 years of research. So when she says that vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage, and that it’s the key to living wholeheartedly, I listen.
I got the chance to do that in person at Inc’s leadership conference in San Diego last week. Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, began by telling the audience about how, once her TEDx talk became suddenly popular, she started getting trolled online. I won’t repeat the terrible things written about her, but the experience drove her to eight straight hours of Downton Abbey, followed by some Googling about Theodore Roosevelt (she was wondering about the U.S. presidency during the Downton years). All of that led to a new way to look at criticism.
Here’s the Roosevelt quote that proved so influential:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly."
“That is who I want to be,” said Brown. “I want to be the courageous person. I want to be the person in the arena who is showing up.” She also realized that, “If you live your life in the arena, you are going to get your ass kicked. You can choose comfort or you can choose courage, but you cannot have both. Because courage and comfort do not co-exist.”
It's rare for any negotiation to be completely straightforward. But when you ask about the salary range for that new job, or how much time that volunteer work will take, how do you evaluate the answer? How do you know if someone is flat-out lying to you, if they're being coy, or if they're being honest? How can tell if, in the end, you're going to get what you want?
Using a twist on the ultimatum game, which is commonly used in psychological research, Lyn M. Van Swol and Michael Braun, of the University of Wisconsin, and Deepak Malhotra, of Harvard Business School, provide some answers to these questions. Their work was recently published in the journal Discourse Processes.
In the experiment, the participants were split into pairs, with one person in each pair given either $30 or $5. That person, called the allocator, then had to decide how much money to share with his or her partner. The allocator didn’t have to divulge how much money he or she was given. But if the partner refused the offer, the allocator would get nothing while the partner would get a quarter of the total (either $7.50 or $1.25).
About 70 percent of the allocators told their partners how much they'd been given, and then offered to split the money evenly. The remainder either lied or, in an effort to get a lowball offer taken seriously, wouldn't say how much they'd been given.
What set the liars apart?
Liars talked more. Each pair got up to two minutes in which to negotiate. On average, liars used about 70 words during that time. Honest people used just 42.
Liars used more swear words. In fact, they used five times more swear words than people who were telling the truth. The researchers say that's because the liars were busy keeping their story straight and couldn't also regulate their behavior at the same time. They might also have been getting defensive, and were verbally lashing out at their partners.
Liars used more third-person pronouns. Dramatically more. A liar was more likely to say, "They gave me $20" than "I got $20." The researchers say this is an attempt, on the part of liars, to distance themselves from the lie.
People who were trying to hide the truth, without actually lying, seemed to be trying to speak as little as possible. They used fewer words and shorter sentences.
It's possible for the partners in these scenarios to disrupt this dynamic. People who were telling the truth, but were paired with someone who was suspicious, ended up talking just as much as the liars and cursed more than the other truth-tellers, too.
For anyone on the "partner" side of the table, it's probably best to try to start with an open mind, and then try to notice if the other person seems to be running on at the mouth, cursing a lot, or avoiding responsibility. If so, you might want to ask yourself: Even if this negotiation appears to end well, do I really want to be in business with this person? --Kimberly Weisul
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When my kids were little, I always had balloons and a pack of crayons in my purse. I carried a separate bag with kids' gear -- wipes, extra clothes, juice boxes, Cheerios, a book -- but the balloons and crayons stayed around even as the kiddie pack was left behind. You'd be surprised how often I found myself blowing up balloons just for fun, and turning to the crayons during interviews when my pen ran out of ink.
Now that the kids are grown, the balloons and crayons are gone. But I've replaced them with a weird, but seemingly essential, assortment of other stuff. And I'm not talking the standard gear -- wallet, keys, smartphone. I upended my bag to take inventory, and asked the One Thing New community for examples of items you never leave home without, either.
There’s a famous scene in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Mr. Darcy’s aunt, the imperious Lady Catherine de Bourgh, tries -- and fails, spectacularly -- to browbeat the heroine, Elizabeth Bennett, into promising not to marry Mr. Darcy. For Austen fans, Elizabeth’s refusal to make such a promise is just more evidence how smart, strong and sassy a heroine she is.
For UCLA political science professor Michael Chwe, it’s an example of something else altogether: strategic game theory, or the study of how people optimize choice when interacting with others. In his new book, Jane Austen: Game Theorist, Chwe aims to show that Austen, in fact, was one of the earliest game strategists.
In the case of Pride and Prejudice, Chwe says Lady Catherine’s fatal flaw lies in her failure to recognize that Elizabeth’s refusal will actually spur Mr. Darcy, who still pines for Elizabeth, into action. As Darcy tells Elizabeth after the fact: “It taught me to hope as I had scarcely ever allowed myself to hope before. I knew enough of your disposition to be certain that, had you been absolutely, irrevocably decided against me, you would have acknowledged it to Lady Catherine, frankly and openly." Chwe says this example of Lady Catherine’s “cluelessness” shows how she is ultimately outsmarted as Elizabeth and Darcy marry.
I asked Chwe how Austen’s strategic thinking is applicable today and to share his favorite example of what he calls “strategic manipulations” -- examples of how her heroines outsmart others -- in her work.