Archive for August, 2011

Men are from Home Depot, women are from Starbucks

Posted on August 18, 2011 in FiM, WaW

James Pennebaker has been studying the way people write for years and has drawn some interesting insights from the way we use language. Scientific American has recently interviewed Professor Pennebaker and two of his insights might be of interest.

Professor Pennebaker noted that

Men and women use language differently because they negotiate their worlds differently. Across dozens and dozens of studies, women tend to talk more about other human beings. Men, on the other hand, are more interested in concrete objects and things. To talk about human relationships requires social and cognitive words. To talk about concrete objects, you need concrete nouns which typically demand the use of articles.

This adds further evidence that there are interesting differences between the sexes which has me wondering about the potential implications for ministry, beyond mundane ideas such as sermons should reference humans and objects. I will certainly pay more attention to differences between male and female preachers! Maybe this helps to explain why men love power tools and home improvement stores, and women love meeting friends for a cuppa at their favorite coffee shop.

Of greater interest is what his research has shown about the journaling. He has show that writing about life can have very positive benefits for most people, including such things as helping us respond better to negative events. In a series of studies Professor Pennebaker and his colleagues explored the links between life journals and physical health. Among the interesting insights is this one:

Much to my surprise, I soon discovered that the ways people used pronouns in their essays predicted whose health would improve the most. Specifically, those people who benefited the most from writing changed in their pronoun use from one essay to another. Pronouns were reflecting people’’s abilities to change perspective.

Perhaps if we get people to write about others we will find not only that it makes them healthier, but it might also make them more helpful and altruistic. Professor Dan Batson at the University of Kansas has studied altruism for years and among the many important research insights from his work is that empathy fosters altruism. When we try to see the world from another’s perspective and seek to understand their life challenges, we tend to be much more altruistic. So journaling might make us healthier, more helpful, and it just might foster flourishing as well!

We hope that you are flourishing


Matt Bloom and the FiM team

Facebook isn’t real

Posted on August 16, 2011 in FiM, WaW

Social networks have become so prevalent in modern life that people have started to speculate about whether they will soon make face-to-face interactions obsolete. Here is the word from science on this assertion: hogwash. Humans thrive on being together and a great deal of research indicates that we communicate best when we are with each other, face-to-face or side-to-side or simply over a nice cuppa coffee.  (Jonah Leher reviews a bit of this research.)

It’s interesting to note that people made the same outlandish claims when telephones first became popular. A bunch of Chicken Little’s were running around back then claiming that, with the phone, no one would ever need or want to meet in person. We all know those concerns were overstated. Sure, the phone can be used to avoid interactions with people and it can be used for down-right nefarious purposes. But the phone can also be life-enriching, such as when it lets us speak with loved ones who live far away.

This does not mean that Facebook has no value, nor should it be misconstrued as suggesting Facebook is totally benign. Facebook, like the phone, has its light and dark sides. When used prudently, it can be useful and even life-enriching.

We also know that face-to-face interactions have their light and dark sides. When we are with someone we can care for them, support them, encourage them, create with them, play with them, pray with them, and much more.There are lots of great things we can do face-to-face. But we can also be horrid to each other in face-to-face interactions (read here about recent research on the corrosive effects of bad co-workers).

There are a few insights to take from all of this research. (1) We need to be with people. Caring for, loving, supporting, playing and many more of life’s richest activities happen in the presence of other people. (2) We communicate best face-to-face, a good reminder that being together is a precious moment. (3) All forms of communication can be used for good or evil: it’s all in how we chose to use them.

We hope you are flourishing in ministry

Matt Bloom and the FiM team