You’ve got questions — we’ve got answers! Psychotherapist Meme Rhee addresses your most pressing dilemmas, including long distance relationships and Facebook love etiquette. (Got a conundrum? Email us at Editor@Audreymagazine.com)
I’m in a long-distance relationship with someone from across the world. Recently, I’ve been so busy that I don’t really have the time to think about him or have the motivation to call him. Is it possible to be too busy that you temporarily put him aside or are those signs that I’m losing feelings for him? — Fading Away
Psychotherapist Meme Rhee answers: Healthy relationships require the attention and effort of each individual. In an ideal partnership, that exchange is balanced. However, to achieve a level of emotional congruency and patience with your partner is not easy, and it’s particularly difficult when you are geographically challenged. It is possible that you are too busy to think about him, and it’s also possible that it’s too painful to think about him and by “putting him aside” you’ve found a way to manage your feelings without feeling too inconvenienced by them. Because, let’s face it, who wants to pine for someone on the other side of the world?
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Got a conundrum of your own? Email us at Editor@audreymagazine.com, subject line “Ask Audrey.”
I find difficulty in building and maintaining professional/social relationships. Although I have a job and attend networking mixers and different events, it’s always been a struggle to successfully communicate with people and develop lasting relationships. Is there a way go further than “It was nice meeting you,” or does it have more to do with the person and situation? — Confuzzled
Psychotherapist Meme Rhee answers: Building and maintaining professional and social relationships demands consistent work and discipline, but to approach the professional and social domain identically may not be the most efficient use of your time. Certainly, friendships do form out of professional relationships and vice versa, but being appropriate and clear about your goal at a function can help you tremendously.
In building professional relationships, it may be useful to identify professions that complement your own. For example, if you are a real estate agent, network with interior decorators and designers, or if you are a nutritionist, network with personal trainers and therapists. Targeting very specifically the types of people with whom you can generate cross-referrals can be a more efficient use of your networking time. Communicating to professionals how a relationship can be mutually beneficial and referring to them certainly keeps you in the radar when they might need to refer to you. I have observed many newbies go into networking functions coming across as very needy and asking for referrals. You would benefit greatly by going into a function with some confidence in what you can provide for them. The best professional networkers dedicate a few hours every week specifically to make contact with other professionals. For example, Fridays can be the day you invite someone you met at a function to have coffee. The one-on-one meeting may be the glue that turns a brief acquaintance into a lasting relationship. Aim for a balanced conversation in which each person has approximately equal speaking time. If you find yourself doing these things and still feeling unsuccessful, you may have to examine the type of people toward whom you are gravitating.
In building social relationships, it’s important to be curious and it’s important to be yourself. Those who struggle with social anxiety tend to focus too much on how they will be perceived by others and forget to tap into something that is natural in each of us: the capacity to be curious and interested. In social situations, that means, ask questions! One of the best opening questions to ask is, “Where are you from?” This can lead to a whole discussion about hometowns, immigration experience, family, etc. To be yourself means that you have opinions and ideas and you can express them in a way that comfortably gives the other person an idea of who you are without excessively needing their approval. If you find yourself feeling awkward consistently in either situation, I would recommend therapy which, in my experience, can be the most efficient way to address social anxieties, or help you identify possible blind spots in how you might be coming across.
Q. I’m feeling burned out at work, even though I used to love what I do. I still enjoy it, but I’m feeling my creativity sapped with financial limitations, lack of resources, lack of encouragement. Is it time to get out or is there a way to rejuvenate my passion for my work? — Charred and Confused
Psychotherapist Meme Rhee answers: Your question has identified the three things that you think you need in order to fuel your creativity: money, resources, support. While these are incredibly important, they aren’t necessarily prerequisites for creativity which can thrive on very little. You can look at the success and talents of many artistic individuals who knew just how to feed their passion despite their financial constraints and the obstacles and rejections they faced.
I highly recommend that you return to a learning environment (like an extension class at a university) that can stimulate your thinking and reorient your approach to your work. Creativity needs the right food, and an environment that deepens your relationship to your craft invariably opens your mind and your possibilities.
Q. I Googled “selfish adults” to see if some people I’ve diagnosed as sociopaths would ever evolve into Good Samaritans. However, an article by Berkeley researchers couldn’t have come to me at a better time. The researchers add a twist to Darwinism by claiming that “survival of the fittest” is actually “survival of the kindest.” Do you believe that compassion is what will advance humans to the next level at the workplace? And if so, how do I achieve “kindness” without getting stepped on or passed over at work? — Bamboozled
Psychotherapist Meme Rhee answers: The original use of the term “survival of the fittest” implies “fit enough for reproduction.” In popular culture, however, “survival of the fittest” has become erroneously associated with the Gordon Gekkos of the world who will throw you under the bus with very little compunction.
Is survival of the fittest mutually exclusive of survival of the kindest? I think not. Great leaders are not interested in merely surviving, but rather in fostering an environment in which many can thrive, sustaining the inspiration of many demands collaboration and teamwork and a reasonable sense of fairness in dispensing compensation and rewards.
I would also make the distinction between compassion and “achieving kindness.” One can feel compassion that hopefully would inspire acts of kindness, but kindness as an “achievement,” or for the sake of advancement eventually backfires and exposes a very smarmy, opportunistic schmuck. Aspiring toward an advancement to which you feel entitled has less to do with kindness than it does awareness, empathy, honesty and confidence. Being aware of, and honest about your own strengths and shortcomings can help you be empathic to the limitations and shortcomings of others and empathy goes a long way in creating a responsible and trusting environment, rather than one that fosters blame and paranoia.
If you find yourself struggling with getting stepped on, or passed over at work, I would try to understand where your own personal boundaries fail you. That is, are you working above and beyond the call of duty with no explicit reward on the other end? Or under leaders who rule with intimidation and very little inspiration? In the right environment, gaining the respect of your colleagues and bosses demands at least two things: self-respect and clarity. Be specific about what you want and if what is demanded of you is reasonable and commensurate to the rewards of your role; identify the necessary skills to thrive in the desired position; be rigorously honest with yourself about your level of competence, and your capacity to identify and improve your shortcomings; be judicious about a timeline within which you can achieve your goals; and finally, vocalize your intention to the right people.
Have a dilemma in work, love, family, relationships — anything, really — that’s got you stumped? Email Editor@Audreymagazine.com with “Ask Audrey” on the subject line. We’ll get our experts on it right away! (And you’ll be entered to win a really cool sample closet gift bag!)