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30 December 2012

What’s something simple that can make your work dramatically more effective and error-free?


A checklist. Atul Gawande tells the story of how much of a difference checklists made in a hospital ICU:

Pronovost and his colleagues monitored what happened for a year afterward. The results were so dramatic that they weren’t sure whether to believe them: the ten-day line-infection rate went from eleven per cent to zero. So they followed patients for fifteen more months. Only two line infections occurred during the entire period. They calculated that, in this one hospital, the checklist had prevented forty-three infections and eight deaths, and saved two million dollars in costs.

Pronovost recruited some more colleagues, and they made some more checklists. One aimed to insure that nurses observe patients for pain at least once every four hours and provide timely pain medication. This reduced the likelihood of a patient’s experiencing untreated pain from forty-one per cent to three per cent. They tested a checklist for patients on mechanical ventilation, making sure that, for instance, the head of each patient’s bed was propped up at least thirty degrees so that oral secretions couldn’t go into the windpipe, and antacid medication was given to prevent stomach ulcers.  

The proportion of patients who didn’t receive the recommended care dropped from seventy per cent to four per cent; the occurrence of pneumonias fell by a quarter; and twenty-one fewer patients died than in the previous year. The researchers found that simply having the doctors and nurses in the I.C.U. make their own checklists for what they thought should be done each day improved the consistency of care to the point that, within a few weeks, the average length of patient stay in intensive care dropped by half.

Gawande has written a book on the subject, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.

17 December 2012

Darts fan booted out of final because he looked like Jesus

Bearded Nathan Grindal, 33, was enjoying the match between star champ Phil Taylor and Kim Huybrechts when some of the 4,500-strong audience spotted his likeness to the son of God.
Chants of "Jesus" quickly spread through the rowdy crowd, interrupting play at Butlins in Minehead, Somerset. 

Security was called before six bouncers escorted upset Nathan from the Cash Converters Players' Championship, being shown on ITV4. As he left a chant of 'Stand up if you love Jesus' broke out, with many of the boozed-up crowd getting to their feet. 

Nathan, a labourer, was escorted to a nearby bar where security staff bought him a pint and told him to watch the rest of the final on the telly. He saw the legendary Taylor win then found himself being asked to pose for signed photos with fans as they left the arena. 

Nathan, who emigrated from his native Australia to Oxford six years ago, said: "I didn't go to the darts dressed as Jesus – I went as me. 

"It was all very weird and distressing. I didn't break down crying but I did get emotionally distraught. They were bullying me and picking on me, saying that I was someone else. 

"It would have been okay if the security hadn't made a fuss getting me out of the arena.”
Nathan, who began growing his beard four months ago, had booked a three-day stay at Butlins earlier this month with five pals to watch the darts. 

He added: “In his post-match interview, Phil Taylor said something like 'if I ever see Jesus again, I'll crucify him myself.' Now that's just hurtful. 

"I love darts, but I'm worried about ever going to see it live again, just in case the crowd turns on me like they did last time." 

Dave Allen, spokesman for the Professional Darts Corporation, said Nathan was ejected to prevent his presence becoming a nuisance to the players. 

He said: "There was a lot of chanting of Jesus and I think to avoid it becoming too much of a distraction for the players he was taken by security to another part of the complex." 

Mr Allen added: "There is plenty of audience participation. They are encouraged to support the players within certain boundaries. 

"The fact they can buy four-pint pitchers certainly helps."

12 December 2012

What’s the secret to communicating with irrational, angry or just plain crazy people?

We all have to deal with our share of hotheads and crazies. What does research say works with them?
First off, you can’t get angry too. Because then there are two crazy people arguing. While very entertaining to onlookers, this doesn’t accomplish much.

Tell yourself they are having a bad day and that it’s not about you:

Telling yourself that an angry person is just having a bad day and that it’s not about you can help take the sting out of their ire, a new study suggests… the researchers monitored participants’ brain activity and found that reappraising another person’s anger eliminated the electrical signals associated with negative emotions when seeing angry faces.

They’re being crazy. You’ll want to shut them up or talk over them. Don’t. It’s a natural reaction but it doesn’t work.

They don’t think they’re wrong. They’ll just interpret it as a status game where you’re trying to win. Stop being so sure you’re right and listen.

But here’s the important part: just shutting up is not enough.

Listening isn’t just listening. It’s letting the other person know you’re listening.

This is “active listening.”

Keep in mind that good listening is “non-evaluative.” Don’t judge or analyze what the person is saying at first. Just focus on trying to understand their perspective.

It has three components: paraphrasing, inquiry and acknowledgment:

• Paraphrase: “It sounds as if you’re satisfied with our component overall. But if I understand correctly, you need me to assure you that we can increase production if large orders come in. You’re also concerned about our proposed per-unit price and our willingness to work with you to create an acceptable arrangement. Have I captured your main points?”
• Inquire: “You mentioned that you found our proposed price to be unacceptable. Help me understand how you came to this conclusion. Let’s also talk about how we might set up a pricing structure that you find more reasonable.”
• Acknowledge: “It sounds as if you’re quite disappointed with various elements of our proposal, so much so that you have serious concerns about whether we’ll be able to work together over the long haul.”

Active listening is the first thing FBI hostage negotiators use to de-escalate incidents and save lives.

BCSM consists of five stages: active listening, empathy, rapport, influence, and behavioral change. Progression through these stages occurs sequentially and cumulatively. Specifically, the negotiator proceeds in sequence from Stage 1 (active listening) to Stage 5 (behavioral change). However,in order to establish rapport (Stage 3) with the subject, active listening skills (Stage 1) and empathy (Stage 2) must first be demonstrated (and maintained throughout) by the negotiator. As this process continues, influence (Stage 4) and behavioral change (Stage 5) follow. The latter stage refers to the successful resolution of the crisis that can only occur when, and only when, the previous stages have been carried out successfully.

It’s not all in your words. Body language is vital.

Language is an odd thing. We hear communication experts telling us time and again about things like the “7-38-55 rule,” first posited in 1971 by UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian: 55 percent of what you convey when you speak comes from your body language, 38 percent from your tone of voice, and a paltry 7 percent from the words you choose.

You don’t want to have serious arguments via email or phone. Communicating via email makes you more likely to act like a jerk. You lie more via text message.

Steven Johnson suggests that by stripping away the emotional information in faces and intonation, email and text messaging might be simulating autism.

when you look at most electronic communication through the lens of neuroscience, it’s hard not to think that autism might be a more appropriate “poster condition” for the digital society. (The cultural critic Harvey Blume made this argument nearly a decade ago.) When we interact with other humans via communication channels that are stripped of facial expressions and gestures and laughter, we are unwittingly simulating the blank emotional radar of the mindblind.

If you can’t just listen and need to reply to a direct question, what should you say?

You have to make sure you get out of your head and see where they’re coming from if you don’t want them to just blow up again.

In Words That Work political expert Frank Luntz gives a pithy but powerful line:

It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.

You may have to deal with someone who does this on a regular basis. What’s important to remember is you need to ignore the anger and hysterics. Don’t reward them. Give positive reinforcement only when they calm down.

In Karen Pryor’s book Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training she explains the fundamentals of behavior change. And these methods are effective whether the subject is a dog, a dolphin or your neighbor, Larry.

A good strategy she uses is to positively reinforce anything and everything that is not the undesired behavior. In fact, she used this technique to get her mom to stop complaining:

The conversations were usually, and sometimes excessively concerned with my mother’s problems… I deliberately let her complaints and tears extinguish …I then reinforced anything and everything that was not a complaint… within two months the proportion of tears and distress to chat and laughter in our weekly phone calls became reversed.

(If it can stop a mom from complaining, it’s pretty powerful.)

09 December 2012

Major Scientific Study Examines Domestic Violence Among Gay Men

The American Journal of Public Health has published a detailed study of battering victimization in the male homosexual community (December 2002, Vol. 92, No. 12). The probability-based sampling of "men who have sex with men" (MSM) focused on four geographical areas (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York) and resulted in 2,881 completed telephone interviews.

Based on these responses, this first-of-its-kind study determined that the rate of battering victimization among gay men in the target group (men over 18 who had engaged in homosexual activity since age 14, or who identified as gay, homosexual, or bisexual) is "substantially higher than among heterosexual men" and also possibly higher than the rate for heterosexual women, according to the study.

The researchers report a high rate of battering within the context of intimate homosexual partnerships, with 39% of those studied reporting at least one type of battering by a partner over the last five years.
In contrast, only about 7.7% of heterosexual men of all ages report physical or sexual partner abuse during their entire lifetimes. (Lifetime rates of abuse are generally higher than those within a five-year period.)

Figures were also compared with studies on heterosexual women who had been victims of violence within marriage or while cohabiting with men, also within five-year periods. Victimization for homosexual men (22%) was also substantially higher than for heterosexual women (11.6%).

The study, conducted by researchers with the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (University of California, San Francisco), Whitman-Walker Clinic (Washington, D.C.) and Prevention Research Center, School of Social Work (University of Washington, Seattle), examines three specific types of gay male-to-gay male assault: psychological/symbolic battering (verbal threats, ridicule in front of others, forced substance abuse, destruction of property, stalking), physical battery, and sexual battery (forced sexual activity).

Demographic information collected included each respondent's age, educational level, race/ethnicity, employment status, income, sexual self-description (gay, homosexual, bisexual, etc.), HIV status, and city of residence.

The research interviews covered the most recent five years of the respondents' lives, revealing that, within that time frame, 34% of the urban males interviewed had been victims of psychological/symbolic abuse, 22% had been physically victimized, and 5.1% had experienced sexual abuse. Overall, 39.2% reported one or other type of battering, of which 18.2% reported being victimized by more than one type of battering over the five-year period.

In terms of personal statistics concerning the victims, it was found that homosexual males age 40 or younger were much more likely to be the victim of abuse by a same-sex partner than those age 60 or over. Those with graduate and professional degrees were also less likely to be the target of such violence than men with a college degree or lower.

Men infected with the AIDS virus were more at risk for psychological and physical abuse than their HIV-negative peers. HIV-infected men were also more likely to be victimized in a sexual manner.
According to the study, none of the battering outcomes appeared associated with racial or ethnic identity, income level, self-described sexual orientation, or the city of residence.

The study states that the most significant factor in male same-sex partner violence is age: a 3.8% rate for 18-29 year olds, 3.9% among those between the ages of 30 and 39, and 2.7% in the 40-49-age bracket. Men under the age of 40 were found to be six times more likely to report abuse than those 60 or older, with subjects between 40 and 50 being four times as likely.

The conclusion arrived at by the researchers, based upon these figures, is that the rate of abuse between urban homosexual men in intimate relationships "is a very serious public health problem."

The complete study may be found at

08 December 2012

5 reasons why humor is more powerful than you would ever guess:


And if you’re just looking for some stuff that might make you laugh, check out this, this or this.


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