Coaching Toward Happiness - September 2007


It’s “Back to School” time in many places and one of the benefits of adulthood is appreciating the thrill of a rare learning opportunity. This fall, MentorCoach is poised to reward your love of learning like never before with a few groundbreaking courses…and some other back to school surprises!


In This Issue:

  1. TIME SENSITIVE -- September 5th Interview with Shelly Gable, Ph.D
  2. TIME SENSITIVE -- September 7th Interview Q & A with Catherine Fitzgerald, and details on her cutting-edge new course
  3. September 28th interview with Bill George, Former CEO, Medtronic
  4. Upcoming MentorCoach Classes

Ben's Note:  Chris Peterson Needs Your Help


Dear CTH Colleagues,   

As you know, Chris Peterson, Ph.D., is a legendary psychologist and one of the leading figures in positive psychology worldwide.  He is also a brilliant teacher.    


Imagine sitting across the coffee table from Chris talking to him alone for an hour.


What are the most important questions you would ask him about applying Positive Psychology to your work and your life?


What if you could help him design his next course, tailored to your needs?


What if you could *tell* him how you now use positive psychology in your work?  You have a whole hour and Chris is a great listener.


And wouldn't it be great to know worldwide how our most creative fellow coaches are actually using positive psychology as well?


Imagine no more, the time has come!



Expect the Survey in the next 7  days:



Chris and I will send you a short, qualitative, open-ended survey in the next 7 days, asking you to design the world's first user-generated, applied, advanced positive psychology program. 


Keep an eye on your e-mail box. When you receive your survey, send it in right away and stay tuned for all sorts of "Positive" rewards coming your way.


Simply for filling out the survey, you'll receive a special one hour, very personal interview with Chris (taped live on 8/24/07.)


It covers everything from scrabble, to Chris' GRE scores, to how, exactly, he masters a new field.  Lots of laughter and one of the coolest conversations I've ever had.  It will be your gift for taking a few minutes to fill out this short survey.





1. Interview with Shelly Gable, Ph.D


On Wednesday, September 5th, join me for a live question-and-answer interview with Shelly Gable, Ph.D. (Note: The interview will be available online to those who register here).  Shelly is a recent recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government upon outstanding scientists and engineers “who, early in their careers, show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of knowledge.”


Before I tell you more about Shelly, here's your invitation to the interview:


Subject: Live Interview with Shelly Gable, Ph.D

Topic: Updates on her pioneering research on the Positive Psychology of love and marriage.

Date: Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Teleconference Bridge1-212-461-5849 Pin 8880#


    *  12:00 pm – 1:20 pm Eastern (NY time)
    *  9:00 am – 10:20 am Pacific (LA time)

    *  4:00 pm - 5:20 pm GMT/UTC

    *  5:00 pm - 6:20 British Summer Time (London time)

    *  2:00 pm - 3:20 am EST (Sydney time)


Shelly was a guest lecturer in several different Authentic Happiness Coaching Programs.  The real-world significance of her work struck me when, every time she talked about her research, I along with the pod leaders (small group leaders in Marty’s AHC Program) would rave about how valuable her ideas had been for them in the six months since her last appearance.




Shelly and Me:

Ben Dean, Ph.D.


SUMMARY: Shelly Gable's research teaches us a simple, yet powerful way to nurture relationships: active-constructive responding.  Yet even though it makes intuitive sense, it's all too easy for me to sabotage.  Here's how I've learned to handle my own lapses.


Perhaps you’ve heard the now-famous quote, “Will you be there for me when things go right?”


This powerful question stems from Dr. Gable’s research into the positive psychology of love and marriage.  She does not focus on troubled marriages. She studies how to make good marriages great.   She been interested in how one partner responds to the other’s good news. 


It sounds absurdly simple but it’s not: your response to good news affects your relationships.  More specifically, the way you respond when someone in your life (loved one, acquaintance, friend, even a colleague) shares a positive event shapes the quality of your relationship with that person.


According to Shelly, how you respond to another person’s good fortune can be divided into these four categories: 

Active/Constructive: enthusiastically, showing genuine concern about the good event

Passive/Constructive: silently supportive, displaying subdued happiness

Active/Destructive: critically, pointing out negative aspects and possibilities

Passive/Destructive: indifferently, failing to show any interest

For example, a close friend calls to tell you she’s been asked to teach a course at the University of Chicago.  You can respond:

“Wow, congratulations!!  You’ve so earned this!  You’ll be great!”  (Active/Constructive)

“That’s nice.”  (Passive/Constructive)

“But that’s in a really bad neighborhood?”  Or much worse, “Honey, I’m sorry, but you’re not going to be able to handle it.” (Active/Destructive)

“Did you hear who got voted off American Idol last night?”  (Passive/Destructive)

To read Marty (Seligman’s) discussion of this construct, click here


As he writes in the article, Shelly calls the first category "Capitalizing," amplifying the pleasure of the good situation and contributing to an upward spiral of positive emotion.


Capitalizing turns out to be a key to strong relationships.


Even though we understand its importance, many of us find it’s very easy not to remember to capitalize with our children or spouses when we’re distracted.  And it is particularly likely to happen with colleagues. 


Since I learned about her work, I’ve realized that I often unknowingly fail to respond in an active constructive manner. 


Here’s what I do to get back on track when I realize I’ve gotten derailed.  


Notice the Cues

When you’re interacting with someone, pay attention to the energy in their voice, the speed and richness of their speech, the way their eyes look: all signals for whether or not you’re responding in an active/constructive manner.  A rise in energy almost inevitably follows when I respond actively and constructively.  When I respond with a passive constructive or a negative, the other person’s voice loses energy.

Create Opportunities to Practice 

Practice active/constructive responding by starting conversations with invitations like, “What’s new & exciting?”  This invites them to tell you their good news.  And it then gives you practice in responding.

Balance Safety vs. Savoring

When you want to support someone, but you’re legitimately concerned there may be a dangerous side to their good news, show your support first: let them savor the good for a while --- and tell them your concerns later.  For example, Susan tells me about a wonderful opportunity she’s just received but I know that she may be missing a dangerous possibility.  My first response is still, “What great news!  You deserve this.  Tell me about it.”

Avoid The Hero Trap

I notice that sometimes I find myself offering unsolicited advice or trying to come up with things they haven’t thought about before.  This is a particular trap I can fall into.  When I ask myself why, I discover it is almost always for my benefit more than theirs. 

There is one friend whom I’ve supported for 20 years.  When she tells me great news, I sometimes start to throw in my advice, and her voice’s loss in energy alerts me.  I think I do it because I do not want to lose my privileged place as a key supporter.  My advice says, “I’m still here.  I can still help you.”  In other words, it’s become about me, not her.  And I quickly try to fix the situation.

Put Them First

If their triumph involves a conflict with an opposing person, don’t show empathy for the other person.  (Possibly save it for later.)  By definition, this is not affirming for them and will kill their energy every time. 

Avoid Subtle Put Downs

Notice the difference between “I can see how this could be exciting for you,” and legitimately being excited about it.  Not participating in the excitement is a subtle way of sabotage when you’re feeling threatened.  I once had a friend who would respond to my good news with an “I can see this matters a lot to you.”  Arrgh.

In general, by paying attention to cues, you can tell when you’re being a deflator (me first) instead of a supporter (relationship first).


Active/constructive responding seems obvious, yet it is so worth paying attention to: I promise you, this is a simple change that will pay big dividends.


Want to hear a perfect example? 


In the movie Yours, Mine, and Ours Helen North (Rene Russo) and Frank Beardsley (Dennis Quaid) fall in love (many complications with kids and differing outlooks shortly follow).  Then they have a huge fight.  While on the outs and unbeknownst to Frank, Helen wins a huge contract with Saks Fifth Avenue, something she'd been pursuing for months. 


Later that evening, Frank asks how her day has been.  In a monotone, she lists four or five things, ending in the same dull voice with, "and I got the deal with Saks.”


"You did not!” Frank yells.  He hugs her, asks her all about it.  Then he asks: “And how can I help?”


You cannot have a better example of an active-constructive response than Frank’s.  We don’t need to know about Hollywood endings to guess how their relationship turns out.




And, there’s more!


Shelly’s scientific research interests also include: Close Relationships, Emotion, Health, Interpersonal Processes, Motivation/Goal Setting, Personality, and Research Methods/Assessment. She has taught courses in Close Relationships, Multilevel Modeling, and Social Psychology.


Latest Research


Shelly’s latest work focuses on the positive aspects of close relationships and their role in physical and emotional health.  Results are revealing “that fear of rejection and anxiety about relationships can actually bring about the very things that people fear.  People who are more focused on the positive incentives of relationships and who are more willing to take risks tend to be less lonely, more satisfied with their social life and have more positive emotions around their relationships."


Here are four of Shelly's most important recent journal articles

  1. Approach And Avoidance Social Motives
  2. Personality And Social Phsychology Bulletin
  3. What You Want (And Do Not Want)
  4. Will You Be There For Me When Things Go Right?

For links to the PDFs of these four articles, click here.




2. September 7, Interview Q & A with Catherine Fitzgerald, Ph.D

Many of you were fortunate to join us for a lively discussion with Catherine Fitzgerald and a few members of her networking group in June. Well, mark your calendars for September 7th when we’ll be treated to another riveting interview with Catherine, who is considered one of the most successful executive coaches in the world.  We’ll also hear the latest details on her new, groundbreaking course.


Before I fill you in on Catherine’s compelling news, here's your invitation to the interview:


Subject: Interview Q & A with Catherine Fitzgerald, Ph.D

Topic: Catherine will detail the creative mission of her leading edge company, Sagience, LLC and of her new class

Date: Friday, September 7, 2007


    *  11:00 am - 12:20 pm Eastern (NY time)

    *  8:00 am - 9:20 am Pacific (LA time)

    *  3:00 pm - 4:20 pm GMT/UTC

    *  4:00 pm - 5:20 pm British Summer Time (London time)

    *  1:00 pm - 2:20 am EST (Sydney time)


To Register, click here.


For those of you who aren’t familiar with Catherine, she is the President and Founder of Sagience, LLC, a company that offers unique approaches to enable baby boomers to optimize their physical and mental vitality and enhance their intellectual and spiritual development.


Catherine is also Principal of Fitzgerald Consulting, a company that offers coaching to senior executives.  Her clients have included Coderyte, Fannie Mae, the Inter-American Development Bank, Lockheed Martin, the National Cooperative Bank, National Public Radio, The World Bank, and World Resources Institute.


She is co-editor of Executive Coaching: Practices and Perspectives (Davies Black, 2002) and of Developing Leaders: Research and Applications in Psychological Type and Leadership Development (Davies Black, 1997).  Catherine has been an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University, the National Leadership Institute of the University of Maryland University College, the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland at College Park, and the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland at College Park.  She has presented at conferences and taught courses on executive coaching and leadership development in the United States and internationally. 


Catherine earned her Ph.D. in psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo and completed an internship in psychology at Yale University.


On September 7th, Catherine will introduce her new company, Sagience, LLC. The mission of Sagience is to enable baby boomers to optimize their physical and mental vitality and to enhance their intellectual and spiritual development. Sagience analyzes and distills information about the best leading-edge approaches to developing and enhancing body, brain, mind, and spirit.


Catherine’s New Course


Listeners will be among the first to hear details about Sagience’s first offering, a 12-week telephone and internet-based course entitled The Next Chapter for Baby Boomers: Thriving in the 21st Century. The course will be held Tuesdays from 4:00 to 5:30 PM, from October 2nd through December 18th.  Course topics will include:

  • Leading edge nutrition and supplements
  • Meditation and other approaches to dealing well with stress
  • Protecting and enhancing your brain
  • The psychology of the second half of life
  • Complexity of mind
  • Essential spiritual practices

Discussions with Catherine are consistently informative, entertaining and inspiring. Be sure to set aside the date and reserve your spot.


Check out, which will be launched on Sept. 6th.


3. September 28th 2007  Interview with Bill George, Former CEO: Medtronic

Many in our 131,000-person Coaching Toward Happiness community are passionate about executive coaching.  We long to support leaders who are changing the world.  But what are leaders at the very highest levels like?  And are there great leaders whose approach is consistent with positive psychology?  Are there even some who talk of "loving" their employees?

On September 28th, 2007, we'll find out.  We will be interviewing Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic  and co-author with Peter Sims of "True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership."

Subject: Live Interview with Bill George

Topic: Value-Driven Leadership and “True North”

Date: Friday, September 28th, 2007


    *  12:00 pm - 1:20 pm Eastern (NY time)

    *  9:00 am -10:20 am Pacific (LA time)

    *  4:00 pm - 5:20 pm GMT/UTC

    *  5:00 pm - 6:20 pm British Summer Time (London time)

    *  2:00 pm - 3:20 am EST (Sydney time)


Registration will be live by next week.

Bill George is on the faculty at the Harvard Business School where he is teaching leadership and leadership development.



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