Tag Archives: confessions


Did you get my text? Processing biases over iMessage

The following dialogue occurred subsequent to last fall’s gradPSYCH blog post, “The Gift of They where an emerging psychologist embraced referring to his client using the plural pronoun of “they.”  

Leighna Harrison is the current Member-at-Large, Diversity Focus. James Garcia is the Chair for the APAGS Committee for the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity (CARED).  Here is Leighna’s iMessage screenshot:


Following this conversation, Leighna and James asked APAGS to post their conversation and these reflections:

From Leighna:  James and I text pretty regularly, day and night, across time zones, about anything and everything – school, work, APAGS, current events, reality TV, family, friends, romance, the list goes on. Our relationship is honest, respectful and very open. He is a colleague and a friend. When I first read The Gift of They, I knew that I was missing the point, but I didn’t know what it was. As a woman of color, who thinks a lot about questions of power and privilege, I thought whatever I was missing probably had to do with blind spots I have owing to my privilege as a cisgender individual. I decided to message James for a ‘reality check’ so to speak, in order to figure out what I was missing…

From James: My relationship with Leighna is one where we both feel respected as people with intersecting identities. We are regularly “there” for each other whenever we want to process experiences and situations where we have questions or witness inequities related to different social identities (e.g., race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic status, gender diversity among others). Our relationship has evolved into a mutual and solid base, where we feel comfortable to explore issues we may not be familiar with.

Now, back to you, dear reader:

  • What are your thoughts on having honest reflections like these?
  • Do you have a peer or trusted supervisor or mentor with whom you can reflect with?
  • Have you attempted to have these conversations with peers in your graduate program? If so, what was the outcome?

If you find you don’t have peers to have these discussions with, there are student groups you can join. One organization, Grad Students Talk, organizes periodic conference calls to discuss difficult topics in a safe space. If you know of other such student groups, please leave their info in the comments section.

Me: I'm so busy! You: Me too! Repeat ad nauseam

New Year’s Resolution: Stop Saying “I’m Busy”

Me: I'm so busy! You: Me too! Repeat ad nauseam

College, graduate school, and just about any time thereafter is remarkably eventful. We are pressed to do so many things just to stay in place. Usually quite innocently, when people ask how we are, we respond with some variation of “I’m really busy.”  When they ask us the next time, we’re are likely to repeat the same exact thing.

What is up with this glorification of being busy? Is it like talking about the weather in that it makes for a conversation filler? What if it is actually a conversation killer.

Some time ago, blogger Tyler Ward argued in this clever piece that our little over-used phrase leads nowhere good, and it doesn’t make us that special. He describes how one couple  decided to stop using the word “busy” for one entire year. The finding?

“We were forced to describe our own situations with more clarity, and without our best friend ‘busy’ to blame, we engaged with people more authentically. As we did, we noticed the general depth of conversations increase as we and those we were sharing with, were invited to communicate differently about our actual states of being.”

In his post, “Busy Isn’t Respectable Anymore” you can explore other compelling reasons to avoid communicating your busyness with the world.

Be sure to share your thoughts and reactions in the comment section. I’d love to hear reactions you get to saying or hearing “I’m really busy” – and ways to substitute the phrase with something better.

As the calendar just turned over to 2016, it’s as good of a time as any to try something new.


Dear me, future psychologist. Yours truly, Dr. Robert Sternberg

If I knew then what I know now… If I could do it again… If I could go back in time…

We’ve all had these thoughts: What we’d do differently if given the opportunity. Would we have spent our time the same way? Would we have entered/ended that relationship? Would we have studied psychology? Would we have gone to graduate school?

If you could send a letter to your 16-year-old self, what would you say? What advice would you give yourself to prepare for the future? To my fellow nerds out there: Yes, we’re talking about parallel universes and warping the space-time continuum.

Dear me, future psychologist is a new feature exclusively on our blog. We will periodically publish a letter written by a prominent psychologist to his/her 16-year-old self. We hope you enjoy these letters and glean some invaluable wisdom and guidance as you decide whether to enter graduate school in psychology, as you navigate the challenges of graduate school, and as you make decisions about your career and life.

sternbergOur first letter is from Robert J. Sternberg, PhD. Dr. Sternberg received his PhD from Stanford University in 1975 and spent most of his career as a Professor at Yale University. More recently, he served as a Dean at Tufts University, Provost at Oklahoma State University, and President at the University of Wyoming. He also is a Past President of the American Psychological Association. He is currently Professor of Human Development at Cornell University. He is best known for his research on intelligence, creativity, wisdom, thinking styles, leadership, ethics, love, and hate. He is the founder of the triarchic theory of intelligence and the triangular theory of love, as well as co-creator of the investment theory of creativity. For more info, please visit Dr. Sternberg’s Wikipedia page.



Dear Me at 16,

I am not sure whether you will receive this letter, at least in a timely fashion, but I thought I would give it a try anyway. Here are three pieces of advice I hope you will find useful, ideally, sooner rather than later.

1. You will underestimate the importance of family and friends. You soon will come to believe that, through your work, you can achieve immortality, and that the shot at immortality is the meaning of your life.  Wrong.  First, very few psychologists achieve immortality through their work—perhaps Freud, James, Skinner, Piaget, and a few more.  But most psychologists are forgotten quickly starting with the day they announce their plans to retire. You will watch many of your famous Yale colleagues retire and see that what is left to them is not their work, which is quickly forgotten, or even their friends from work, most of whom are busy advancing their careers.  Rather, what remains is their family and true friends, if they have any.  You will discover that your meaning in life is making the world a better place, and that the main way you will do that is through your family, especially your five beautiful children and their children and onward through the generations.

2. You will overestimate people’s willingness to change.  You will enter a field, intelligence research, in which many people believe that traits are relatively fixed.  You will argue, correctly, that people are far more modifiable than many intelligence theorists give them credit for.  But what you will not realize until much later is that the main problem is not people’s inability to change, but rather, their unwillingness to do so.  People, including you, will make all kinds of excuses to stay just as they are.  They cling to their weaknesses, often inventing stories to justify doing so, and for them, their stories are their reality.  Institutions are the same way:  Mediocre ones desperately cling to their mediocrity, often inventing stories about their unappreciated excellence, and excellent ones cling to what they have done before in the hope that what once made them great will continue to do so, despite the rapid pace of change in the world.  Creativity often is appreciated in word, but not in deed.  The problem for psychologists is not so much increasing people’s ability to change as increasing their willingness and courage to do so.

3. Intelligence is not the invaluable commodity you think it is.  You, like most of our society, believe in the great importance of intelligence, although at least you realize it is much broader than just IQ.  But what most is lacking in the world is not intelligence, but rather, creativity, common sense, wisdom, and high ethical standards.  So please, do your work on intelligence, but remember that what the world needs most are motivated, creative, wise, and ethical people, not just smart ones.

Hoping you get this letter soon,

Me at 64

Editor’s Note: Dear Me, Future Psychologist is inspired by the Dear Me book series by Joseph Galliano. Special thanks to David A. Meyerson, Ph.D. for curating these.