Listen, Learn, and Love - 3 Keys to Harmony

Dr. Joan's Advice

Welcome!  This is the space where Dr. Joan replies to your questions and dilemmas.  To submit your communications, please use the "Contact Us" page. 

If you are searching for a reply to a communication you submitted before September 20, 2012, please click on "News" and then click on "Reader Harmony Needs and Solutions."

Dr. Joan's Advice

Date: 12/08/2012

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: Mending Fences with Neighbors

Dear Neighbor One and Neighbor Two:

It seems the two of you rent separate apartments in the same building. An outside entry door to the building was faulty and did not lock securely. You had a dispute over whether that door had been repaired. Each of you argued your position, shouting back and forth, while other neighbors listened to you since all were sitting in the common area.

Now, I am going to feel like Dr. Seuss when I address you as “Neighbor One” and “Neighbor Two.”

Neighbor One, you took a friend with you and went to the door in question. You stepped outside and tested it, and lo and behold, it was locked from the outside. Your friendly witness let you back in. You returned to the group in the common area and apologized to Neighbor Two, saying that you had been wrong when you had been certain that the door was NOT repaired. However, you only apologized for being wrong about the door, not for what you said during the shouting march.

Neighbor Two, you are still miffed because earlier during the argument, One had accused you of being senile. You say that since you had been right all along and the door HAD been repaired, One had no right to call you “senile.” You are reluctant to accept One’s apology and forgive her for impugning your reputation.

Advice to Two: Knock on One’s door and tell her you accept her apology and you also forgive her for casting aspersions upon you. While you are at it, take her a little treat. You will make her smile.

Advice to One: When Two shows up at your door, as I’m sure she will, make it clear that you DO NOT think she is senile, that you labeled her as such while you were angry, and you apologize for your remark. Then invite her in to share the treat together.

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: Be slow to judge. Be quick to forgive.

Date: 11/29/2012

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: Teasing Hurts

Dear Sister’s Keeper:

I am proud of you for realizing, at your young age of 14, that one of your roles in your family is to protect your younger sister. However, if your sister is teased again by older kids while walking home from school, do not fight them. This time, take your sister by the arm and head up a different street, away from the bullies.

When safe at home, talk to your sister and tell her that you and she should speak to your parents again and let them know the teasing continues. You said the other kids live a few blocks from you. Perhaps your parents already spoke with the other kids’ parents. If so, did they meet in person or just talk on the phone? Ask your parents to meet face-to-face with the other parents. Perhaps all of the kids involved, including you and your sister, can be present in that meeting. Say how the teasing makes your sister and you feel.

Talk is always better than fighting. Plus you will avoid a second black eye!

Good luck and please write again.

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: One word has more power than two fists.

Date: 11/14/2012

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: Equal Pay for Equal Work

Dear Woman Wage-Earner:

You may be correct in your analysis that it is still a man’s world, but do keep in mind the old saying: hope springs eternal. With that uplifting thought in mind, let’s tackle your issue of equal pay for equal work.

How long have you been in your assigned position? Are you less experienced than your male counterparts? What was the result of your most recent employee review? Was your wage discussed? How did you hear about the rates paid to the men you work with? Did they tell you, or did you hear it from your women friends in the other department? Think about my questions. Are you confident your answers make sense to you?

If you know for a fact that your hourly wage is lower than that of your male coworkers who have the same job description as yours, and you have the same or similar experience they have, and your last review was positive, then take action.

You indicate you are in a non-union work environment so I assume you will communicate with your supervisor about your concerns. In a respectful, business-like manner, request an appointment. Prior to the meeting, write out exactly how you plan to present your case which should be brief, have only three elements, and start with your own qualifications: (1) your length and quality of service, (2) evidence of unequal pay, and (3) your request to have your wage increased to the level paid to the men in your position. During your appointment, be professional. By that I mean, sit up straight, be pleasant, keep your voice modulated, and listen carefully to your supervisor’s response.

Remember you have two goals in the meeting: increase your wage, and build a positive relationship with your supervisor. The latter goal may the key to achieving the former goal ... and keeping your job.

Good luck and please let me know your progress.

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: Honey warms the heart; vinegar purses the lips.

Date: 11/09/2012

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: A Question of Ethics

Dear Friend of the Fallen:

I am sorry to hear that your friend fell and hurt himself. There are two parts to your dilemma: First, who should pay the medical bills? Second, what can you do about the strain in your relationship with your Fallen Friend (FF)?

1. You indicate that FF has medical insurance so it is clear that bills will be paid by that authority, the amount conditional on his type of coverage. However, you say that FF has cast blame for his injury on a third party and seeks reimbursement from that party. This action brings forward an ethical issue because you think that the third party is not liable. If your analysis is correct, then it seems to me that FF is playing on both sides of the street. This is hard to do, unless he can avoid traffic when running from one side of the street to the other. Usually, the person gets mowed down by cars.

2. Now to the second part of your dilemma which is how to alleviate the strain in your relationship with FF because you disagree with his ethical choice. You must be straightforward with him. If it is difficult to tell him face-to-face that his decision to seek reimbursement from the third party is immoral, then put your analysis in a gently written personal note, not an email or a phone call. Write it once, leave it, then read it and revise it. I can tell that your goal is to preserve your friendship. So after you express your opinion, either in person or in a hand-written note, call and invite him for a quiet evening in your home, where you can both listen and talk to each other with no external stressors. If he does not live near you, then perhaps you can arrange a time for a long talk via phone.

Good luck, and please let me know how you and FF are doing.

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: He who plays fair shines light into dark corners.

Date: 10/22/2012

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: Mother-in-Law Cartoon

Dear Mother-in-Law in Mammoth:

So the cartoon you saw in the paper pictured a sneaky, angry looking mother-in-law. She was pointing her finger at her son-in-law and accusing him of driving a wedge between herself and her daughter, according to the caption, and the huge chunk of wedge held in the hand of the poor son-in-law.

I am concerned that the paper printed such a cartoon. For what purpose? Probably to make a caricature of mothers-in-law. Someone said that we tend to argue, not with things as they really are, but with things as we imagine them to be. Basically, a cartoon shows a dilemma as we imagine it to be, not as it really is.

So, if you are thinking that you, as a mother-in-law, could behave in a similar fashion as the cartoonish woman, forget it. From reading your email, my guess is that you have your head on straight and you love your family, all of it. Carry on.

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: Arms spread wide can circle the earth.

Date: 10/07/2012

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: High School Friendships

Dear Timid Teen:

Thanks for sending in your problem. Your brain power shows through in your writing. I hope my pointers will help you. Here they are:

1. You are not alone. A lot of high school students feel shy around their peers. While you are in the library, where you say you go to “look busy” and where you don’t have to talk to anyone, look around and observe others in the room. Is there someone who might need a friend? Could you be the person to reach out to a lonely kid? A smile does wonders to start a conversation.

2. Just because others have been asked to join the “service club” and you have not been invited, it does not mean they are better than you are. Take an objective view. Find out the qualifications for membership in the club. Since it is a school organization, the principal’s office will have a list of requirements for membership. Go to the office with a smile and ask to see the list. If you are interested in qualifying, set about fulfilling the requirements. If you are not interested in wearing the official club hat around the halls, then cast your concern about the club aside and set your own goals for the rest of this year. Take aim on making friends both inside and outside of the service club.

I have given you two specific assignments. Please write again and tell me about your progress in acting on them. You have what it takes to develop harmonious relationships with friends.

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: Friendship grows in the light of a smile.

Date: 10/04/2012

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: Gossip Hurts

Dear Rumor Victim:

If I understand your situation, you recently moved into a condominium complex and started going to the church parish which serves your neighborhood. You met a woman who lives in your complex and goes to the same parish and you thought the two of you were becoming friends. Alas, you discovered over time that she has it in for you. You feel degraded because she spreads rumors about you which you say are not true. Apparently, one of the rumors is that you have a terrible temper, but you hide it well.

Now, forgive me, but I must ask: Did you happen to have a temper tantrum and was your anger directed at her? If yes, then try apologizing. If no, then go about your business, do good deeds, and demonstrate to others that you are cool-headed and that you speak with a civil tongue. People will respect you, accept you, and love you for who you really are. Even Ms. Rumor-Spreader may come around.

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: Speak only the truth

Date: 09/30/2012

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: Trust Your Son

Dear Worried Mom:

Take heart, my friend. You must trust your son’s judgment. He has all the brains and courage he needs to get through his challenging times. How do I know? Because you reared him and I can determine from what you write that you, yourself, are smart and brave.

You worry that you’ve said too much and your son has retreated. I know he lives some distance from you, but are you still speaking on the phone or via email, etc.? If not, I advise you to rectify the situation immediately. Don’t wait for him to contact you. Instead, reach out and let him know that you love and care about him, no matter what the outcome of his circumstances may be.

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: Love is a bridge over troubled waters.

Date: 09/27/2012

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: He Tweets His Love

Dear Tweeter:

Here are some statistics that may surprise you, or maybe not. In 2012, people are sending 340 MILLION tweets daily while ONE BILLION of us are members of Facebook, to say nothing of what is going on with the other social media. That tells me that we are spending a lot of time communicating electronically and less time in face-to-face contact.

What’s wrong with that, you ask? Plenty. In your case, you think that the girl you like is not responding frequently enough to your tweets. Does she live in your community? Well, dear boy, pick up the phone and invite her to take a walk. Then have an old fashioned give-and-take talk. Good news: You are not limited to 140 characters of speech so you can have a good discussion, AND look into each other’s eyes while the words come out of your mouths.

Let me know if your relationship begins to flourish!

Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: Eye contact benefits understanding.

Date: 09/25/2012

By: Dr. Joan

Subject: Delayed Phone Call

Dear Beside Myself:

Your buddy finally returned your call, but he was a long time doing it. Why do you think this happened?

I suspect he was afraid to call you after the argument. He had good reason to be cautious because you admit you blew up at him when he finally called. How did you feel after you exploded with him over the phone? Did the problem between you get solved, or did it get more complicated?

I don't know what the argument was about, and it does not matter. What matters is how you react when you disagree with someone and/or when someone disappoints you.

Listen carefully. You only have control over one person: YOU. My advice is to get a grip. When you learn to treat people with respect and common courtesy, many of your problems will melt away, and people will want to call you.

Dr. Joan's Harmony Key: Speak with a quiet tongue.

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