Category Archives: Assertiveness

Saying Sorry Pays Well

The problem will alot of the self help literature is that much of it is unproven guesswork.

That’s why I thirst for real data and evidence on self help topics.

One area of big importance to self help is apologizing. However I have never found anything in my medical or psychiatry or psychology background that said anything about this vital human skill. Wonder why?

Anyway, it fascinated me when a market research study came to this conclusion.

“People earning over $100,000 a year are almost twice as likely to apologize after an argument or mistake as those earning $25,000 or less”.

For the full story from Fortune writer Anne Fisher click here.

-Dr Martin Russell

What Should You Change?

“I know what I SHOULD do, but I don’t!”

Listening to people’s words is really fascinating.

If you ever hear “I should…”, then here is the conclusion you can make – they won’t.

“Should” automatically implies that they aren’t going to do it. If they were going to do it they would use some other phrase like “I will…” or “when I…”.

“Should” = won’t happen.

Now before you get defensive, and say “Yes, but…” let me add one piece.

There is a REALLY good reason that you won’t do it, and that is that most of the things that you think you “should” do, you really shouldn’t.

Let me give you 2 examples.

First, think about a time when you didn’t stand up for yourself and you thought “I should have really given them a mouthful!”

Well, no you shouldn’t have.

This “should” comes up as an over-reaction to the initial under-reaction. I’ve had people tell me what they “should” have done, and it included things that would have landed them in police custody. It was a really good thing that they didn’t act upon that “should”.

This might seem too obvious an example of when “should” is wrong, but check for a moment. How many other times have you said “I should do X”, when X is really an overreaction to the original situation?

Second, doing the things you “know you should”, because someone else said so.

If someone tells you what to do, even if they are parents, teachers, friends or doctors, they are not always right. Sometimes in fact they are completely wrong. They can be absolutely, completely sure of something, and still be wrong. Certainly is not truth.

You might try what they suggest and find that it doesn’t work for you, but you might still be left with this sense that you “should” be doing what they say.

This “should” is not a signal to keep stubbornly trying to do something. It is a signal to reassess the original statement, maybe add some qualifiers, or even throw the whole idea away completely.

Either way, when you hear yourself say “should”, realize this means you won’t, and you might be better off anyway.

These two self-reflections alone may help you get rid of a whole lot of “should”s in your life, and a whole lot of guilt as well.

-Dr Martin Russell

James Brausch . com

  • Update: 20 October 2007:

James Brausch has an open question time on his blog, and I thought this would be an appropriate place to ask this guy a self-help question…

James, you may feel you aren’t talking from experience since your two are so young, but what is your Life Management 101 advice for raising children?

Update Sept 14 2007: There are more developments on James’ blog here.

My reply below still stands pretty much as is. I like an earlier remark from James’ blog: “mass incompetence (or evil… the result is the same)” and I agree. If someone sticks a knife into you it’s the same blood whether they aimed for you or just tripped.

It’s looking less likely that CDBaby will be up to the tasks below, but never count them out. As a counselor I’m well used to the phrase “the darkest hour comes before the dawn”, or in alcoholic terminology “hitting rock bottom.”


I’ve recently been recommending James Brausch’s CD, and an interested twist has come up.

James was trying to win a competition for the most CDs sold in August through a company called CDBaby. He now says they have acted in ways that have hobbled his sales efforts and maybe stopped him from winning.

He’s put a post on his blog:

Is The CD Baby Contest Rigged?

There he gives details about some of the circumstances that makes him think CDBaby has been dodgy, and he is asking for suggestions as to what he should do. Should he sue, bring in the Federal Trade Commission authorities to review the legality of the competition, or what?

Interesting situation.

What do YOU do when you think someone has done you wrong?

What principles do you apply?

Well let me describe the principles James uses, because I think they are a good standard to begin with.

Just over a decade ago now James was homeless and penniless from drug addiction. He ended up using the 12 Step program made famous through Alcoholics Anonymous.

He is now a living example of the final step…

STEP 12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs (my emphasis.)

Here are the relevant principles from the 12 Steps that James would apply to CDBaby…

STEP 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

James is saying CDBaby has done wrong. He will want them to assess his criticisms and their performance in full.

STEP 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

James says harm has been done to himself, to those who run his business, and to people who were unable to purchase his CD and get the bonuses he was offering at the time.

STEP 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

James outlines some of his claims for damages on his blog. The reparation follows from this.

Making amends isn’t meant to be complicated.

Damage -> Amends

Not winning CDBaby contest -> Declare James the winner.

The reputation of James Brausch and employees -> Clear up these questions publicly and with an apology.

Potential buyers who missed out on James’ CD and/or bonuses -> A second-chance offer could be negotiated with James, or something offered by CDBaby directly.

Curious buyers who might have bought the “top-selling” CD -> This could be done by some publicity that brings more buyers eg special winner announcement, Top Seller Of The Month page.

Ultimately this comes to the big question…

Will James sue CDBaby?

Well my guess is that James will do whatever is needed to make sure that he gets CDBaby to do the above Steps. Suing is a possible, but very much later stage. His latest move has been to put his issues with CDBaby publicly on his blog.

There are always two sides to a situation like this.

CDBaby and staff will have their own take on what has gone on. Some of their side of it is coming out already.

With more information I assume James will assess his, and his staff’s, role in this too. He will not only take a moral inventory of his performance, he will move beyond the 12 Steps and apply the business process of Kaizen, or “continuous improvement”.

What this means is that he will review the procedures in his business that led to this situation. He will then make changes to attempt to avoid such problems in future.

For example he may explore alternate options for selling CDs so that he is not reliant on just one company, or he may change his communications with companies before entering such competitions.

In my opinion, there are a number of ways that this situation can end up being very beneficial for James and for CDBaby. But all of them grow from these beginnings of 12 Steps and Kaizen.

However, you may be left thinking, so what!

What does a stand-off between a millionaire internet business blogger and a multi-million dollar independent CD company have to do with me and my day-to-day troubles?

Well, lots potentially.

But that’s for Part 2…

-Dr Martin W. Russell