Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Does Effort = Reward?

As I was reading my first blog/opinion piece of the day, written by William Galston - a blogger at The New Republic; I stumbled across a sentence near the end that got me thinking. The piece was about President Obama and the job market, but the portion of the sentence in the article that caught my attention was how he thinks the President should be: ”restoring the belief that there is some relation between effort and reward”[1]. When lifted from the actual context of the article I began to think of how unrealistic this idea is.

While beautiful and flowery on the outside, when I opened up the effort=reward box on a few topic points I began to realize it only works for a percentage of people from topic to topic.

Malcolm Gladwell might well refer to this percentage as ‘outliers’, a statistical measurement of phenomenon that lies outside the norm. Externally an ‘outlier’ looks like effort=reward, Gladwell claims[2]; but when studied it’s clear (and frusterating) to see that effort=reward is only part of the dream.

Effort=Reward Points. Certainly there are more categories that can be discussed but I chose these as my top four.

Education – this hardly needs to be explained. The effort=reward falls flat when you look at the employment rates among educated peoples throughout history, and while certainly education helps one get a job, it’s not necessarily the job they got educated/trained for. Many MANY of those people put effort into an education in order to receive an expected reward – a reward that sometimes goes to the bosses sons best friend. It’s all who you know. There are countless stories about losing out on a job because the employer went with someone-that-someone knows.

Employment - certainly I will leave this topic to you. Read the news – particularly the piece I read as my first blog/opinion piece of the day. That one is clearly not hard to figure out. These days just having a job can be viewed as a reward. Even ON the job, effort does not always equal reward. Some of the hardest working people are the lowest paid. How does that equal a reward?

Sports – think about all the effort that athletic children put into sports. Dedicating their young lives, in some cases, to nothing more than sports. First, all the effort in the world isn’t going to equal squat if the person has no real skills at the sport. But let’s say they do have skill – how many high schools are there in the world? How many top athletes? How many make it big because of sports? How many Canadian boys are raised breathing, eating and sleeping hockey and can actually turn that effort into the reward of being a pro player?

Relationships – does putting effort into a relationship equal reward? In a time when 40% of marriages end in divorce [3] it’s not really hard to figure out. Despite the combined effort of forming a relationship that theoretically lasts a lifetime, the reward is only temporarily tangible in nearly 50% of the cases. For a couple, reward lays heavily on both persons effort, but what about when one of them decides the efforts not worth it anymore? The person who is still exerting the effort loses the reward.

This is not to say one shouldn’t put in the effort but maybe, in some cases, lower the expectations for reward; it would make for a happier world if we were realistic. Or redefine the idea of reward, as my friend [name removed for privacy] says:
“I think it’s best to expect nothing from effort – except the lessons learned from the results, whatever they may be. These lessons then become rewards in themselves. Anything else achieved is a bonus”
People are raised to believe that the United States is the place to achieve the American Dream, certainly the ideal American Dream is where effort=reward every time. That’s the dream. You work hard enough and you’ll have the world in your hands.

So, all this from me because I don’t agree with William Galston of the New Republic that President Obama should be “restoring the belief that there is some relation between effort and reward”; certainly there is “some” but being realistic should be more important, false hope is not needed. And it’s really not his responsibility.

I’d love to hear opinions: Is expecting a relation between effort and reward realistic, or idealistic?

1. Galston, William. How Bad Is It Really for the Unemployed? My ‘Aha’ Moment. The New Republic. 25 May 2010.
2. Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers. 18 November 2008.
3. Sratling, Cassandra. Blended families can overcome daunting odds. Burlington, Vermont: Burlington Free Press. pp. 9A. 9 June 2009.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A short rant for the day:


Too big to fail you say? How about the United States government…by prioritizing big business over the people and the planet, the government is a failure.

We can live without BP. We can not live without oceans.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fat Girl

One thing I haven't talked much about is being a former fat person, other than my recent story about how I lost close to 100 pounds.

When I was losing the weight I didn't think much about how, or if, it would change me as a person, not just the exterior but the “interior me”. In over 6 years of being "the new me" I have experience a life I had only dreamed of; I'm happy, healthy, have wonderful people in my life and am just embarking on life after 30.

Today I got a reminder that as much as the weight lose has changed me, there is a part that seems to never want to go away. I'm going on the assumption that every woman has an occasional day where her morning herald is "I'm so fat!" (or variation of that idea). My fat days dredge up memories of being fat; and how seemingly easy it had been to get to that point, and how not-so-easy it had been to get to this point.

This was one such morning. I believe a status at some point in early morning made reference to me feeling like I was an "oil covered whale".

I realize, in retrospect and with rationality, that this was far overstated; but with as much news coverage that I have been following regarding the oil in the Gulf of Mexico, all I could think of was large oily whales...

Anyway. Some days it feels like losing 100 pounds hasn't influenced my judgement of my own body in a positive manner, if anything it has made me a harsher critic. I don't mean to say I still hate my body. I don't. Overall, I love my body - there are parts of it I am not fond of, and on occasion the number of those parts increases and the fondness decreases. So today I kicked myself if the tush and forced myself to the gym, a past time that had recently lost favour over other activities - like anything NOT going to the gym. On these days all it takes is a trip to the gym to make me think about my accomplishments in maintaining my weight.

I think an important part of keeping ones weight off for the long term is to remember. Remember how terrible it felt for you to be fat. Remember how much more unhappy you were with life. Remember all the work you put into losing the weight and how hard it was.

Now that I have lost the weight, and have maintained it for over 6 years, I finally realize why healthy woman are so knowledgeable on health and nutrition issues. They have to be. A person has to keep the information fresh in the mind. I call it 'being on a diet all the time'. And I don't mean a diet-diet, like the traditional idea of diet; I mean the kind of diet that involves paying attention to food, and the things you put into your body. I'm talking about knowing the general amount of calories in the things you put in your mouth on a daily basis; and understanding and implementing, moderation. I believe, in weight loss, knowledge is power.

But today I realized, even with all the power, a woman is still a woman, and a former fat girl is still a fat girl ibside. It's a part of me I'll have to embrace and keep an eye on in order to enjoy lifetime weight loss maintenance.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Why we should not drill in the AWNR

We just won’t be happy until we use it all, or at least that is the way it seems. Those who argue for drilling in the AWNR won’t be happy until the entire world is a developed concrete jungle, containing no “icky” wildlife. Dwight R. Lee is one of those people. Lee does not seem to approach wildlife with an idea of equality, but instead values human life over anything else. At the same time he justifies the loss of lives in Middle Eastern countries to protect oil that is not ours, so ultimately it appears he values comfort, convince and money over life in general

Lee does not show consideration when it comes to sacrificing animal habitat and animal lives for the pursue of oil. He feels that “there is nothing wrong with making such sacrifices” when it comes to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, because “sacrificing a little more environmental ‘integrity’ [is] worth more than the necessary sacrifice”. Why must it always be the environment that is sacrificing something? People in the United States should sacrifice a day or two of driving, sacrifice by not buying that $30, 000+, gas guzzling heap of metal and steel, sacrifice by taking the extra seconds a day to recycle something. Instead of changing our lifestyles we choose to destroy something else and use lame excuses to validate it. WE choose to destroy our own habitat.

I don’t agree with drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife refuge, there isn’t enough oil there to make us happy. According to Lovins & Lovins there is “enough to run 2% of American cars and light trucks”, and that’s not even counting the ever famous gas guzzling SUVs. I don’t think that seems worth it.I don’t think it’s all worth the chance at one day having to standing back and saying “gee, we really shouldn’t have done that ‘cause now look how f*!^ed up the environment is.”

We have killed Mother Nature enough, at the rate we are going she hasn’t got long, the least we can do is make her comfortable by not raping her of her resources and adding her into our considerations.

Show Me the Funding: Where is the Nonprofit Funding Going?

 “Show Me The Funding” Abstract
This paper covers the many financial threats to the third sector and offers explanations for the decline in nonprofit funding, including budgetary cutbacks, decreasing charitable donations, and economic crisis. Solutions to these problems, such as mergers and belt tightening, are explored. Examples of specific cases of nonprofits in jeopardy are provided. Fundamental statistics on fundraising are provided in some cases.

Show Me the Funding:
Where is the Nonprofit Funding is Going?

One of the biggest challenges facing nonprofit organizations today is funding. An increase in the number of nonprofit organizations, changes in governmental funding and decreases in private donations coupled with an increase in “donor-directed money” (Davis, 13 September 2004) and a rise in overhead costs, are resulting in nonprofit organizations struggling to make ends meet. Other factors in their funding decline include scrutiny from the public and government, and declines in foundation and charitable giving. With the ever growing importance in our society of third sector organizations, it leads one to wonder: what is happening to nonprofit funding and what is the solution? Some recent research shows that mergers, budget tightening and basic acceptance of new changes in giving may be part of the answer.

A problem that can arise in nonprofits that may affect public giving is the occurrence of presenting negative images. This does not refer to an individual organization’s image, rather that of the entire sector which can all be harmed, if only temporarily, by one organization’s carelessness. It seems that the public has a difficult time separating nonprofit organizations and would rather lump them together in one big group; so when one nonprofit organizations gets pegged for a wrongdoing, such as a discrepancy in spending or some other type of scandalous activity, the public turns their eyes to all other organizations. With this distrust, less public funding becomes available overall. This threat is becoming augmented, according to David Siebert, administrative vice president at The Alford Group, a nonprofit consulting firm in Seattle, due to the increase in “federal scrutiny of nonprofits, an ongoing IRS investigation of charities’ governance practices” (Tice, October 1, 2004). Recent investigations of the salaries and possible unrecorded compensation, such as gifts and perks not accounted for of top executives in some nonprofits (Schwinn, 2004), may contribute to negativity on the sector’s image.

Though it appears that overall funding is on the decline, many groups are reporting menial increases in funding as compared to previous years. A survey in 2003 by the Association of the Fundraising Professionals found that 60% of U.S and 75% of Canadian charities had an increase or unchanged level of funding in 2002 as compared to the previous year, though the U.S average sat at just 1.4% and the Canadian charities increased at 8% (Wolverton, 2003). Explanations for low increases in charitable giving included at the time, but was not limited to, the impending war on Iraq or a decrease in new donorship and rising competition for dwindling funds.

Cuts in government budgets, including both state and county, are being implemented and are also having a profound impact on nonprofits. In response to its $4.5 billion deficit, the Minnesota Legislature enacted a new budget in 2003 which is taking money out of the bank books of the nonprofits due primarily to the Legislature’s decision to not raise taxes (Scheck, 8 November 2004).

As an increased amount of funds are being used to fix budget deficits in the government and states’ budgets and unemployment is reaching staggering heights, we will likely see an increase in the loss of programs and services provided by the nonprofit sector. This funding loss has many worried due to the increase in services needed during layoffs and government cutbacks (Lewis, February 9, 2003). This loss of jobs by people in the third sector who often times make little money, will potentially be a great strain on the economy. Many people who were working in this industry will now have to rely on programs that no longer have enough staff or funding to carry on their duties. It seems to be a double-edged sword.
Because of state budget cutbacks, nonprofits in Minnesota have been forced to lay off employees. Lutheran Social Services has laid off 58 employees, forcing them to close programs such as a safe house in St. Paul; the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits has laid off 468 people. Services such as those in the chemical dependency and mental health services are also feeling the cuts (Scheck 8 November 2004).

Another leak in the nonprofit funding faucet is caused by a decrease in donations by individual in the form of charitable giving, which is effected by many factors including the health of the economy. Recent studies show that one of the difficulties in fundraising lies in the public’s apprehension regarding the stability of the economy, according to David Siebert of the Alford Group (Tice, October 1, 2004). Audrey R. Alvarado, with the National Council of Nonprofits, states “…uncertainty in the economy and high unemployment rates do not put people in a giving mood” (Lewis, 2003). With the high unemployment rates, the “ballooning state-budget deficits” (Lewis, February 9, 2003) and the war in Iraq, many nonprofits will be worrying about the availability of funding for the next couple of years.

Due to this year’s election, some democrat based charities saw money that donors had earmarked for them in previous years was now being given to politically directed organizations. As one donor reported to the Coral Reef Alliance, “My first priority this year is to elect anyone other than Bush”. Unfortunately while democrat based organizations are feeling the cut, republican groups are feeling little to no change, and in some cases donations have increased (Schwinn 2004).

A growing trend towards donor-directed money or designated gift giving in which donations are allocated for specific programs or organizations, is having a profound effect on the pocketbooks of some organizations in the third sector. According to the Andrea Muirragui Davis in a 2004 article for the Indianapolis Business Journal, this problem is nothing new and it has affected the third sector, all over the country for years. It seems that Davis is not the only one who thinks so. In Washington State “nonprofit experts believe that too many [organizations] are chasing too few available dollars” (Tice, October 1, 2004).

For United Way in Central Indiana, the influx of designated gift giving has been growing dramatically, sometimes causing a fluxion between 20 to 50 percent. In 2003, 20% of their 36.6 million in funding had to be set aside for specific agencies because of designated gift giving, which means less funding for operating costs (Davis, September 13, 2004). With less funding for operations, new budget tightening tactics have to be made or an increase in fundraising practices has to be instilled.

Foundation giving has also been on a downslide as the stock market continues to deteriorate. Research has shown that the value of grants declined in 2002 by some 20.9% as “assets of 9 of the top 10 largest foundations […showed a …] combined loss of $10.3 billion (Wolverton, March 6, 2003). Key service areas, health and human services, are getting hit the hardest by the drain in foundation giving. As foundation assets begin to disperse, they tend to react in much the same way as a nonprofit organization does by instilling “cost-cutting measures [such as] staff reductions, hiring freezes, travel moratoriums” and a decrease in granting (Wolverton, 6 March 2003).

Another enemy of the nonprofit sector is increase in overhead costs, costs such as increases in utilities and benefits. One recent problem is the raising price of employee benefits such as health care costs. According to Rachel Emma Silverman, health care costs are one attraction for job seekers in the nonprofit sector, as it is widely known that the nonprofit sector does not pay well (October 6, 2004).

There seem to be some solutions to the funding problems for nonprofits. When organizations face budget cuts due to loss or lack of sufficient funding, they have to develop strategies to ease them through the squeeze. Often times this includes an elimination of services and programs that do not exactly meet their mission goals, a cut in staffing, or a decrease in employee wages and benefits.

Many organizations appear to be implementing the aforementioned procedure; a group out of Washington called OMB Watch who monitors spending by the government reports that earning by employees in the chartable sector was at a 6 year low in 2003, coupled with a decrease in worker compensation (Jensen, 2004). Sometimes drastic measures have to be taken and the organization is forced to close or merge with another existing organization, which can also result in job losses.
According to an October 1st article in the Pudget Sound Business Journal, there has been an increase in mergers due to funding losses; for example, in November of 2004, the YWCA of Seattle-King County took over operations of the Seattle Emergency Housing Service due to decreased funding through the King County United Way and a lack of government funding. Of course, a merger does not guarantee success in keeping things together. Sometimes taking on the debts of two groups can have an adverse effect, resulting in the closure of the organization. Take, for example, the closing of the Trust for Jewish Philanthropy, founded in 2000 by the merger of three organizations, the United Jewish Appeal; the Council of Jewish Federations and the United Israel Appeal. Officials state that a key reason was due to budget constraints (Lipman, January 23, 2003).

Though donor directed giving seems initially like a raw deal to nonprofit organizations, they should be accepting this type of gift giving. According to the director of field operations for the Washington D.C. - based National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Kevin Ronnie, this type of giving is great because “choice creates a much bigger marketplace for philanthropy…without options, some people walk away from giving” (Davis, September 13, 2004). The downside to donor directed giving is if there are not enough people who feel compelled to give to a certain program, then that program’s existence is in jeopardy.

One way to ease the impact of diminished funding is to seek out new opportunities by increasing fundraising. There are some fundamental problems with this tactic, which include increased time spent seeking the funds which will increase financial output when having to pay someone for the extra time or having to hire a new person to complete the task. So, though an option, increased fundraising may not be at the top on the list.

A final solution to the funding crisis seems to be to hold on for clearer skies. There are reports that donations will soon be on the rise for some organizations, now that the elections are over. A survey by the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that corporations may be headed towards an increase in donations, due in part to the hypothetical [my emphasis] improvement of the economy (Wilhelm, August 5, 2004).

With state and government spending headed in the toilet and as tightening of the belt for middle class families across the country is becoming the norm, nonprofit organizations are going to have to be increasingly creative in all aspects of their fundraising and budgeting. While the whole situation seems to be darkened with doom and gloom, hopefully the third sector crisis is headed towards an upswing. Time will tell what the future holds for nonprofits; if unemployment regulates itself and the war in Iraq concludes, then there may be a glimmer of hope. In the meantime, nonprofit organizations should explore all opportunities and learn to be more resourceful by exploring new avenues of funding and budgeting options.

---- Works Cited ----

Davis, A. M. “Designated Gift-Giving Frustrates United Way”. Indianapolis Business Journal. 25. A1. 13 September 2004. 8 November 2004.

Jensen, B. “Hiring Stalls at Nonprofit Groups, Study Finds”. The Chronicle of Philanthropy. 16 Issue 22. 2004. 8 November 2004.

Lewis, Nicole. “Clouds on the Horizon.” The Chronicle of Philanthropy. 1 Issue 8. 6 February 2003. 8 November 2004. .

Lipman, Harvey. “Key Jewish Group Shuts Unit, Citing ‘Budgetary Constraints’”. The Chronicle of Philanthropy. 15 Issue 17. 23 January 2003. 16 November 2004.

Scheck, T. “Nonprofits Struggling with State and County Budget Cuts”. Minnesota Public Radio News Online. 5 October 2003. 8 November 2004.

Schwinn, E. “Charities’ Election Defections”. The Chronicle of Philanthropy. 16 Issue19. 2004. 8 November 2004.

- - - . “Big Nonprofit Salaries Face Government Scrutiny”. The Chronicle of Philanthropy. 16 Issue 18. 2004. 8 November 2004.

Silverman, R.E. “Health Care Costs Are Taking Toll On Nonprofits”. The Wall Street Journal. D.13. 6 October 2004. 8 November 2004.
Tice, C. “Merger Spree”. Pudget Sound Business Journal. 25 Issue 22; 1. 1 October 2004. 8 November 2004.

Wilhelm, Ian. “Big Business Doing More for Charity”. The Chronicle of Philanthropy. 16 Issue 20. 5 August 2004. 16 November 2004.

Wolverton, B. “No More Wiggle Room”. The Chronicle of Philanthropy. 15 Issue 10. 6 March 2003. 8 November 2004.

- - - . (2003, April 3). “Talk of War, Economic Woes Heard at Annual Meeting of Fund Raisers”. The Chronicle of Philanthropy. 15 Issue 12. 3 April 2004. 8 November 2004.

Miscommunication and Freedom: The Connection

At the root of all communication lies the individual. It is through each individual that communication styles emerge, and it is through understanding oneself that each person can improve their communication styles. Through psychological freedom, or the freedom contained within oneself and free-will, we can begin to know ourselves. Freedom enables us to express ourselves, and in communication with others freedom to express ourselves is imperative. For what is communication if not the expression of our ideas and thoughts? Professor Mortimer J. Adler (2000), states that “psychological freedom is the fundamental freedom underlying both social and moral freedom” (p. 164). Freedom, whether people realize it or not, has profound effects on communication. Taking steps in understanding the various concepts of freedom in relation to the world around you can improve communication styles. Adler (2000) also stated that “the essence of freedom requires us to understand two terms: self and other” (p. 167), these two terms, according to Ronald C. Arnett, comprise Martin Buber’s concept of narrow ridge communication. According to Buber (1986), “narrow ridge is a communication style that genuinely takes into account both self and other” (p. 36), “which must become part of one’s decision-making process” (p. 35). Narrow ridge communication is essential in all relationships in society today.

In observing conflicts in the human community, we must consider that a portion of the problem, if not the entire problem, lies in miscommunication. Problems in communication can be associated with the lack of freedom a person feels morally, socially and psychologically, due to barriers imposed upon them, such as stereotyping and prejudice. By being prejudice or stereotypical, a person’s individual identity is ripped away from them. Generalizing people, in essence, conveys to a person that “this” is the only way they will be accepted, “this” is the only way they should feel; therefore the way we think they are is the only way they should be. Generalization demeans people and thereby denies them their social freedom.

When I visited my grandmother last year, she mentioned that there were a lot of families from a certain cultural background moving into the area. My grandmother began telling me about how “they” have drinking problems and are causing problems in the community. She lives in a very small town in which my uncle is a law officer. The information she receives about these people come from my uncle, whose primary exposure to anyone happens to be in negative circumstances related to the law. The more I thought about it, the more I had a problem with what she said. I began to imagine the difficulties in making friends and communicating with others for those who didn’t have drinking problems, but were being generalized in their community.

Many have said that freedom lies in knowledge. Categorizing people into preconceived generalities and stereotypes is a show of ignorance. “We must not believe the many, who say that only free people ought to be educated, but we should rather believe the philosophers who say that only the educated are free” (Epictetus -Wisdom Quotes). In Arnett’s summary of “Buber’s narration about educated people” Arnett (1986) states that [an] educated person [is one] one who knows the rules, regulations, and tradition, but can violate them when necessary” (p. 126). It is not unreasonable to believe that educated people are more free, but you can only attain freedom if you understand the world surrounding you. By having compassion for differences, we can respect each other for our individual differences and thereby give people social freedom.

Social freedom or freedom that is experienced in social roles and action between members of a society has an impact on the community. Social freedom can simply be described as freedom to be who you are as an individual in society. People who claim there is no freedom don’t realize that it exists only by granting freedom and equal rights to others. By being free, we understand that there are moral limitations to that freedom.

As Arnett (1986) states, “there is no set formula for a guarantee of an individual’s freedom within a community. Freedom is more complex than just being able to do whatever one wants in community” (p. 111). One person’s freedom should not, in return, restrict the freedom of another, or as Thomas Jefferson once said, “no man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another” (Wisdom Quotes).

In history, miscommunication has arisen in instances where a group’s freedom has been restricted or extinguished. These problems arise due to one group of people adopting an ethnocentric attitude that is to say that “they feel their group’s way is the best and only way” (Schwarzwalter, April 20,2004, Lecture). An example of this is the current debate concerning marriage and the gay community. Members of this community are asking that they have equal rights, legally, in marriage unions as does the straight community. In a country that is supposed to have a separation of church and state, it is wrong that the only true element keeping them from their freedom is based on the traditions of religious communities.

The religious right believes that heterosexual marriage should be the only construct of marriage recognized by the laws of the United States. Denying gays this right based on an ethnocentric view is in breech of the constitution, which grants equality to all and does not restrict those rights based on race, age, sex, or sexual orientation. In fact, if President George W. Bush get his way and the constitution is amended, this will mark the first time in the history of the constitution in which a freedom was restricted from a specific group of people.

Granting freedom should not be based on the ethnocentrism of one group of people. Ethnocentrism, according to Jessica Stowell, “leads to rejection of richness and knowledge of another group of people, which impedes communication by excluding other point of views” (Schwarzwalter, April 20, 2004, Lecture). Ethnocentrism breeds polarized communication. Polarized Communication, according to Arnett (1986), is “the inability to believe or seriously consider one’s own view as wrong and the others opinion as truth [and is] the major problem within our human community” (p. 15). By excluding people’s ideas, we are taking away their freedom. In order to overcome problems such as these, we must heed the advice of Jessica Stowell, who says that for communication barriers to be overcome, openness, tolerance and acceptance must be exercised.

It is those brave enough to step out and exercise their freedom, those not afraid of challenging and shifting the paradigms of a community, who will make the differences in our world. By definition, a paradigm is a set of rules and regulations dictating the process of how we do things, (Schwarzwalter, February 17, 2004, Lecture). This action must take place in order for there to be a balance of freedom and openness in communication styles. Arnett (1986) tells that Buber recognized the “need for courage on the part of the solitary person [because without it] a totalitarian collective, not a community, is nourished” (p. 83). Those who are not afraid of the shifting of paradigms are those courageous enough to adopt the narrow ridges of communication. According to Arnett (1986) “…we need to be open to events and people in order for new combinations of ideas and actions to emerge” (p. 121).

It all sounds easy, but Gladwell spoke of social pressures and their effects on decision making. Gladwell (2000) claims that
when people are asked to consider evidence or make decisions in a group, they come to very different conclusions than when they are asked the same questions by themselves. Once we’re part of a group we’re all susceptible to peer pressure and social norms and any other kinds of influences (p. 171).
Peer pressure becomes a problem in human relations because “many […] are prevented from acting by fear of the consequence” (Adler, 2000, p. 168). An equally dangerous outcome is marginalization, in which the voice of an individual “is limited by placing that person on the outskirts of the group […] [and] is excluded from the decision-making center of the group” (Arnett, 1986, p. 23). Fear of marginalization and other consequences, such as being ostracized, rejected and ridiculed, therefore extinguishes the freedom in communication.

In my own life, I can honestly say that peer pressure used to hold a lot of power, especially peer pressure related to wanting to “belong.” I thought I had never been exposed to what I had always thought peer pressure was. Those old commercials where a friend offers a joint, and then attempts to verbally persuade the other person to “join in,” are the most obvious forms of what people consider to be peer pressure. I think the feeling of wanting to belong to a group is stronger, and in most adolescence experiences, goes beyond words. Nobody offered me my first cigarette, I chose to smoke because, I thought a certain person would like me more. As an adult, I realize that we should surround ourselves with friends who accept us as we are, people who do not pressure us and with whom we can have the freedom to share our thoughts and feelings and in doing so, experience positive communication styles.

Some may claim that true freedom exists only in the confines of our minds because that is the only place you have complete control. I tend to agree with this statement. In my mind, I can think anything I want, I can do anything I want, the power of imagination is endless. It is only by releasing my thoughts, feelings and/or desires to others that freedom is at a risk. Until someone tells me I cannot do, say, write or feel one thing or another, I am completely free to experience those feelings at will It is by “playing a non-judgmental role with others in order to promote their self-actualization,” (Arnett, 1986, p.69) that freedom is granted and communication can become open. Self-actualization, roughly defined by Arnett (1986) is “full use and exploitation of talents, capabilities, potentialities, etc.” (p. 69). In order to promote self-actualization, one must posses it themselves, because it is the self-actualized person that is free.

One might argue that if you do have an outlet from which to safely share your feelings beyond yourself, then there really is no freedom. Unless the right to be you is granted, it is indeed lack of freedom. It is through an understanding of psychological freedom, the freedom within one’s self, that self actualization is given birth and in turn, by embracing your own self-actualization you can be free to “grant” others the same right. You cannot give something you do not have.

“Freedom is […] the chance to formulate the available choices, to argue over them --- and then, the opportunity to choose” (C. Wright Mills - Wisdom Quotes). Choosing an opportunity or an attitude is an exercise in the fundamental of freedom that every person is entitled to. The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre says that if you let circumstances dictate your action, then you are suppressing your freedom. When one suppresses their freedom, they choose not to take responsibility for their action, which has a profound effect on the environment surrounding a person. If we refused to take responsibility, we would be liable to do anything. When we take responsibility, “freedom then becomes an act of the person changing events, while simultaneously being willing to be changed by them” (Arnett, 1986, p. 122). Decision making, the fact that we can choose ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is proof of free will. Arnett (1986) says that “[free] will[…]is the transaction of the call of the situation and our response to it” (p. 122) “and the call is nothing if not responded to by the individual” (p. 121). It is in that simple response that freedom arises. One can see the desire to refuse freedom because if you feel you have responded to the wrong choice, you are less likely to take responsibility, but when the decision turns out to be favorable, we are more inclined to believe we were responsible. It is a very basic principle of psychology called locus of control wherein a person believes his or her fate is dependent on either internal or external forces. The healthier version of this is the external locus of control in which we are willing to take responsibility for our actions.

Rollo May (1986) says that “will is the capacity to organize one’s self so that movement in a certain direction or towards a certain goal may take place” (p. 119). “Will,” according to Arnett (1986), is a “constructive rule that govern[s] […] behavior” (p. 121). You must consciously chose to exercise your free-will while mutually considering the effects of your actions on those around you in order to accomplish that which you desire. We must heed caution because feeling a lack of freedom will lead to compulsiveness decision making, having negative consequences on the individual and the environment surrounding them.

Sartre (1966) believes “human reality perpetually tries to refuse to recognize its freedom” (p. 37), and Buber (1986) says that “life lived in freedom is personal responsibility or pathetic farce…as we ‘become free’ this leaning on something is more and more denied us, and our responsibility must become personal and solitary” (p. 115). In analyzing these two statements, I have come to believe that people who refuse to recognize the existence of freedom simply do not want to own up to their responsibilities. Sartre (1966) said that men are “responsible for [their] very desire of fleeing responsibility” (p. 97). Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand and therein lies the problem. By giving into the notion that there is no such thing as freedom or free will “we admit that circumstances decide for [us]” and in doing so “suppress all freedom” (Sartre, 1966, p. 41).

By understanding that “the absence of freedom consists in being subject to the power of the other” (Adler, 2000, p. 167), the other being a coercer, an authority figure, say a parent, a wife or a law officer, we can begin to understand processes in maintaining our freedom. Tannen comments:
being on the lookout for threats to independence makes sense in the framework of an agnostic world, where life is a series of contests and that test a mans skill and force him to struggle against others who are trying to bend his will to theirs. If a man experiences life as a fight for freedom, he is naturally inclined to resist attempts to control him and determine his behavior (Tannen, 1990, p. 152)
There can be no doubt that resisting authority can have negative consequences, such as arrest and fines.

Arnett (1986) claims that “even in civil disobedience and protest, one does not have total freedom. In exercising freedom against the tradition, we are limited even within a dissenting group” (p. 114). I do not agree with this statement, I believe that in understanding ourselves we can fight tradition if we are compelled to. It is our inherent right because “everything can be taken from a man but […] the last of the human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude on any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way” (Victor Frankl - Wisdom Quotes). “Personal responsibility is a response grounded in training and tradition that bends, alters, or changes the acceptable laws that govern the general situation in order to meet the specific requirements of the moment” (Arnett, 1986, p. 89), and this is the attitude each individual should approach when faced with a circumstance in which they must make a decision.

We may conclude that the danger to losing our freedom lies in the hands of the authority but we may be wrong, we just need the appropriate authority. According to Mortimer Adler (2000), “we need authority, an authority we willingly submit to rather than a force we are compelled to accept, if we are going to remain free” (p. 39). Without authority, there would be social chaos, we must know when to submit to authority and when to take our freedom, or as stated earlier by Buber (1986), we must “know the rules, regulations, and tradition, […and…] violate them when necessary” (p. 126).

According to James Baldwin “freedom is not something that anybody can be given. Freedom is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be” (Wisdom Quotes). Sartre’s philosophy coincides with that of Baldwin, Sartre claimed that if you say you are free, then you are free and if you claim not to be free, then you are not free. The decision is yours and within the constructs of the narrow ridge community you are free.
The danger in relation to authority, or leaders and freedom, is extrapolation about ‘group - think,’ in which a group adopts a mind-set or a particular view…not only might the leaders manifest autocratic dispositions towards new ideas, but if enough members of a community assume such a stance it can become the style of a community” (Arnett, 2000, p. 102).
To combat group-think philosophies we need to practice shifting of paradigms and understand that “dissent is essential if we are to keep a democratic institution strong […] every organization needs a questioner who does not permit the organization to run too smoothly” (Arnett, 1986, p. 100).

When evaluating communication patterns and freedom in intimate relationships, Deborah Tannen’s philosophy on understanding the differences between the sexes can lead to better communication. Tannen (1990) claims that “desire for freedom and independence becomes more of an issue for many men in relationships” (p. 40), and this can be confirmed by men’s consistent statements regarding feelings of being “smothered” or “confined” in relationships. In fact, men whose freedom feels more restricted are increasingly likely to have affairs. This can be confirmed by the mere fact that miscommunication in relationships is causing increased divorce and infidelity rates throughout our communities. When “men focus on their freedom from others’ control” (Tannen, 1990, p. 42), which is a natural reaction, the woman in their life becomes the control that they focus on fleeing from.

My significant other and I had fought for months with each other, and we could not figure out what lay at the root of our problems. After much exploration, we realized that there were things that we were keeping from each other. These things were nothing big, just general feelings that we felt we could not share. The turning point came when one of us opened up and shared our feelings. Our relationship began to take on a whole new form. Now there is nothing we cannot share because we know we have the freedom to be open with each other.

This is not to say that freedom of openness will not occasionally come with some repercussions, but open communication should be worth the risk and not come with a fear of consequences for being honest. Without mutual freedom to be open with each other, relationships cannot be happy or healthy. In a relationship, “…seeing a pattern against which to evaluate individual differences provides a starting point to develop not only self-understanding but also flexibility” (Tannen, 1990, p. 294). A relationship that does not meet these requirements is dangerous not only to the people involved, but also to society. Lack of freedom at home leaks into communication styles with others in the human community because one comes to the public already feeling they are not free.

The best road to take lies in the basis of friendship; in friendships there is rarely anything that you feel you have to hide from the other person. Acceptance, tolerance and understanding, all foundations of love, are the most important things in overcoming miscommunication in relationships with everyone.

Arnett (1986) says that “if one comes [to the communication table] with a closed mind, no new possibilities or freedom will be discovered - for freedom involves the discovery of new possibilities whether they be practical or attitudinal” (p. 123). Equally important to understand is that “freedom is contingent on our attitudinal approach to the world” (116). Just like it is the small things in life that really make life worth it, “[a] person [must] realize that freedom can be discovered in everyday activit[ies]” (p. 116), and through this realization we can be truly free and open in communication. Gladwell (2000) has the best idea in bringing about change, he says:
If you want to bring about a fundamental change in peoples beliefs and behaviors, a change in that would persist and serve as an example to others, you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs could be practiced and expressed and nurtured (pg. 173).
Freedom binds us together as a community and begins “in the heart of relationship, […] which connects us and is the essence of human life” (Arnett, 1986, p. 123 - 125). Peyton Conway March said that there are “three things we crave most in life -- happiness, freedom and peace of mind -- [and they] are always attainable by giving them to someone else” (Wisdom Quotes). People have philosophized for hundreds and thousands of years about what it means to be free. We may never understand it to its full extent; all we can hope to do it understand it as best as possible and be open to others in all aspects of communication.

The major questions I am left with lie in the loopholes of freedom that revolve around the varying individual perceptions of what freedom is. Why does freedom have such an obvious impact on communication? How do we actually overcome these preconceived ideas and shift our paradigms? How do we get other people to realize their freedom? It proves to be a different method for each person, there is no easy way to teach a person what freedom means or how to improve communication without them being open to the idea. What does freedom really mean and represent?

---- Works Cited ----
Adler, M (2000). How to Think About : The Great Ideas From the Great Books of Western Civilization. Chicago and LaSalle: Open Court Publishing Company.

Arnett, R. (1986). Communication and Community: Implications of Martin Buber’s Dialogue. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press.

Gladwell, M (2000). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make A Big DifferenceBoston, New York, London: Little, Brown and Company. National Constitution Center. The Constitution of the United States. Philadelphia, PA.

Sartre, J (1966). Of Human Freedom. New York: Philosophical Library Inc.

Schwarzwalter, L. Speech Instructor. (Class Lecture, 2004, February 17; 2004, April 20)

Tannen, D. (1990). You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men In Conversation. New York: Ballantine Books.

Wisdom Quotes. Retrieved April 13, 2004, from the World Wide Web: