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The Ten Dumbest Mistakes Smart People Make and How to Avoid Them by Arthur Freeman and Rose DeWolf

At best, cognitive therapy emphasizes helping individuals think clearly and accurately, reducing harmful emotions. Once the mind thinks better, cognitivists claim better actions, perhaps, follow.


I can think of a million worse mistakes than those offered in The Ten Dumbest Mistakes Smart People Make, but the authors suggest:


        Mind reading.


        Believing your press agent.

        Believing your critics.








Replacing these automatic thoughts with better thoughts, the authors argue, leads to better actions. Once you get flooded with harmful emotions, reasoning often stops and fighting, running or freezing often results.


Instead of assuming the worst in everyday interactions, stick to the more charitable meanings of what others say and do. Ask others what they mean. Avoid analyzing every sentence for some secret intention. If you feel intimidated or whatever, look at the situation from another perspective.


If others are hurt or bewildered by messages you send, it is probably not because of stupidity. Clear up or clean up your act or both. Subtext is for movies. A friendly or professional demeanor is more appropriate for many everyday interactions. Do not fret about insults. And for goodness sake, avoid responding to criticism by ignoring, resenting, freezing, getting hostile or discouraging yourself. Carefully pick your fights.


Keep improving yourself.


Do not assume a handful of successes means you will live happily ever after or that they make you a good person. Do not believe everything your parents say, and do not believe everything flatterers say. Avoid decisions based on popularity or flattery.


Grant yourself the respect all individuals deserve. Do not see yourself as an imposter or gargoyle dropped into a scene.


Do jobs as well as the situation demands. Avoid perfectionism. Perfectionism, they write, annoys and wastes time on meager improvements that do not outweigh costs.


Compare your actions to performance standards, not to other individuals.


The worst part of this book criticizes the word should, perhaps because the word should causes anxiety. The solution to should anxiety is to do right things, not get rid of shoulds. Getting rid of the word genocide does not change facts about genocide. The authors do not offer much help in changing behavior other than changing thoughts. Environmental reforms are missing. For practice, the authors suggest techniques--getting mad as hell and Im not gonna take it. and practicing with video cameras. Worth browsing.


J.T. Fournier, last updated July 7, 2009


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