Family, friends mourn death of Barbara Bush, Advocate for Adult Literacy


Family, friends and politicians mourned the death of Barbara Bush Tuesday night, recalling the former first lady for her dedication to her country and family.

The matriarch of the Bush family, Barbara Bush was the second woman to ever have her husband and son both serve as president. She is remembered by her family for her passion, sense of humor and commitment to causes she was passionate about.

“Barbara Bush was a fabulous First Lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love, and literacy to millions,” Former President George W. Bush said in a statement. “To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until then.”

A family spokesman announced Tuesday night that Barbara Bush died at age 92. She had been hospitalized multiple times throughout the past year, and recently decided against seeking additional medical treatment.

President Trump recalled Bush for her commitment to spreading literacy, and as an “advocate of the American family.” He ordered flags be flown at half staff in her honor.

“She will be long remembered for her strong devotion to country and family, both of which she served unfailingly well,” Trump said in a statement.

The Hill

Brett Samuels


The Eight Habits of Highly Popular People

By Hara Estroff Marano

If you were ever the last person picked for a team or asked to dance at a party, you’ve probably despaired that popular people are born with complete self-confidence and impeccable social skills. But over the past 20 years, a large body of research in the social sciences has established that what was once thought the province of manna or magic is now solidly our own doing–or undoing. Great relationships, whether friendships or romances, don’t fall out of the heavens on a favored few. They depend on a number of very sophisticated but human-scale social skills. These skills are crucial to developing social confidence and acceptance. And it is now clear that everyone can learn them.

And they should. Recent studies illustrate that having social contact and friends, even animal ones, improves physical health. Social ties seem to impact stress hormones directly, which in turn affect almost every part of our body, including the immune system. They also improve mental health. Having large social networks can help lower stress in times of crisis, alleviate depression and provide emotional support.

Luckily, it’s never too late to develop the tools of the socially confident. Research from social scientists around the world, including relationship expert John Gottman, Ph.D., and shyness authority Bernardo Carducci, Ph.D., show that the most popular people follow these steps to social success:

1 Schedule Your Social Life

It is impossible to hone your social skills without investing time in them. Practice makes perfect, even for the socially secure. Accordingly, the well-liked surround themselves with others, getting a rich supply of opportunities to observe interactions and to improve upon their own social behaviors.
You need to do the same. Stop turning down party invitations and start inviting people to visit you at home. Plan outings with close friends or acquaintances you’d like to know better.

2 Think Positive

Insecure people tend to approach others anxiously, feeling they have to prove that they’re witty or interesting. But self-assured people expect that others will respond positively–despite the fact that one of the most difficult social tasks is to join an activity that is already in progress.

3 Engage in Social Reconnaissance

Like detectives, the socially competent are highly skilled at information gathering, always scanning the scene for important details to guide their actions. They direct their focus outward, observing others and listening actively.

Socially skilled people are tuned in to people’s expression of specific emotions, sensitive to signals that convey such information as what people’s interests are, whether they want to be left alone or whether there is room in an activity for another person.

To infer correctly what others must be feeling, the socially confident are also able to identify and label their own experience accurately. That is where many people, particularly men, fall short.

Good conversationalists make comments that are connected to what is said to them and to the social situation. The connectedness of their communication is, in fact, one of its most outstanding features. Aggressive people actually make more attempts to join others in conversation but are less successful at it than the socially adept because they call attention to themselves, rather than finding a way to fit into ongoing group activity. They might throw out a statement that disrupts the conversation, or respond contentiously to a question. They might blurt something about the way they feel, or shift the conversation to something of interest exclusively to themselves.

“You don’t have to be interesting. You have to be interested,” explains John Gottman, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Washington. “That’s how you have conversations.”

4 Enter Conversations Gracefully

Timing is everything. After listening and observing on the perimeter of a group they want to join, the socially competent look for an opportunity to step in, knowing it doesn’t just happen. It usually appears as a lull in the conversation.

Tuned in to the conversational or activity theme, the deft participant asks a question or elaborates on what someone else has already said. This is not the time to shift the direction of the conversation, unless it comes to a dead halt. Then it might be wise to throw out a question, perhaps something related to events of the day, and, if possible, something tangentially related to the recent discussion. The idea is to use an open-ended question that lets other participate. “Speaking of the election, what does everybody think about so-and-so’s decision not to run?”
“People admire the person who is willing to take a risk and throw out a topic for conversation, but you have to make sure it has general appeal,” says Bernardo Carducci, Ph.D., director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast. Then you are in the desirable position of having rescued the group, which confers immediate membership and acceptance. Once the conversation gets moving, it’s wise to back off talking and give others a chance. Social bores attempt to dominate a discussion. The socially confident know that the goal is to help the group have a better conversation.

5 Learn to Handle Failure

It is a fact of life that everyone will sometimes be rejected. Rebuffs happen even to popular people. What distinguishes the socially confident from mere mortals is their reaction to rejection.

They don’t attribute it to internal causes, such as their own unlikability or inability to make friends. They assume it can result from many factors–incompatibility, someone else’s bad mood, a misunderstanding. And some conversations are just private.

Self-assured people become resilient, using the feedback they get to shape another go at acceptance. Studies show that when faced with failure, those who are well-liked turn a negative response into a counterproposal. They say things like, “Well, can we make a date for next week instead?” Or they move onto another group in the expectation that not every conversation is closed.

And should they reject others’ bids to join with them; they do it in a polite and positive way. They invariably offer a reason or counter with an alternative idea: “I would love to talk with you later.”

6 Take Hold of Your Emotions

Social situations are incredibly complex and dynamic. One has to pay attention to all kinds of verbal and nonverbal cues, such as facial expression and voice tone, interpret their meaning accurately, decide on the best response for the scenario, and then carry out that response–all in a matter of microseconds. No one can pay attention to or correctly interpret what is going on, let alone act skillfully, without a reasonable degree of control over their own emotional states, especially negative emotions such as anger, fear, anxiety–the emotions that usually arise in situations of conflict or uncertainty.

Recently, studies have found that people who are the most well-liked also have a firm handle on their emotions. It isn’t that they internalize all their negative feelings. Instead, they shift attention away from distressing stimuli toward positive aspects of a situation. In other words, they have excellent coping skills. Otherwise, they become overly reactive to the negative emotions of others and may resort to aggression or withdraw from social contact.

7 Defuse Disagreements

Since conflict is inevitable, coping with confrontations is one of the most critical of social skills. It’s not the degree of conflict that sinks relationships, but the ways people resolve it. Disagreements, if handled well, can help people know themselves better, improve language skills, gain valuable information and cement their relationships.
Instead of fighting fire with fire, socially confident people stop conflict from escalating; they apologize, propose a joint activity, make a peace offering of some kind, or negotiate. And sometimes they just change the subject. That doesn’t mean that they yield to another’s demands. Extreme submissiveness violates the equality basic to healthy relationships–and a sense of self-worth.

As people gain social competence, they try to accommodate the needs of both parties. Managing conflict without aggression requires listening, communicating–arguing, persuading–taking the perspective of others, controlling negative emotions, and problem-solving. Researchers have found that when people explain their point of view in an argument, they are in essence making a conciliatory move. That almost invariably opens the door for a partner to offer a suggestion that ends the standoff.

8 Laugh A Little

Humor is the single most prized social skill, the fast track to being liked–at all ages. Humor works even in threatening situations because it defuses negativity. There’s no recipe for creating a sense of humor. But even in your darkest moments, try to see the lighter side of a situation.


Shyness: A Bold New Approach, Bernardo J. Carducci, Ph.D. (HarperCollins, 1999)

The Shy Child, Philip G. Zimbardo, Ph.D., Shirley L. Radl (ISHK Book Service, 1999)

Becoming a Good Conversationalist Part 2

Many of us fear not knowing what to say after the first few minutes. Conversing is a skill; it takes practice and planning. Unfortunately, many people resist “preparing” to meet someone, they want to be spontaneous or free flowing. That would be nice but for some of us conversing takes work. The major problem is the fear, i.e., suddenly there is silent pause, and we start to panic. If we blush or break out in a sweat, it adds to the embarrassment (and builds our fear of silence). How can we reduce the fear? By becoming better talkers by preparing.

There are two options when talking:

  1. Continue on the same topic.
  2. Change to another topic.

A good conversationalist is able to ask questions and may be able to share his/her own ideas and experiences. Practice both, pursue the “finer points” of any topic, ask personal questions, and tell your own stories. When a topic is exhausted, don’t panic…almost any topic will do. Practice having a topic or two ready for instant use.

Up to a point, continuing a conversation is a compliment. You are offering your interest and time. Lastly, practice ending conversations tactfully: indicate you must do something else, give the person a genuine compliment, and suggest a specific time to see him/her again (if that seems appropriate).

Feel free to peruse this section of for more helpful tips on becoming a comfortable, confident conversationalist.

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First, seek out people who are likely to be open to talking with you.  Anyone who’s alone and not heavily engrossed in activity can be considered a good prospect.  Look for displays of interest in you by good prospects who smile at you, look at you more than once, or having their arms and legs uncrossed or their legs crossed toward you.

Once you’ve decided who you’re going to meet, the next step is to smile, make eye contact, and speak.  What you say as an opener is relatively insignificant.  Ordinary comments are just fine.  Thinking of openers is somewhat simple.  You basically have 3 topics to choose from:

  • The situation
  • The other person
  • Yourself

And only 3 ways to begin:

  • Asking a question
  • Voicing an opinion
  • Stating a fact

Your major goal in the beginning is just to show interest or involve the other person, so the best way to start is usually by asking a question.  Stating an opinion also works well, and certainly works better than just stating a fact.

Talking about the situation you are both in is usually the best of your three options.  To begin a conversation about the situation, look around and find things that interest or puzzle you.  Use dual perspective: find something to say that the other person is also likely to want to talk about.  After you have asked your question or made your statement, listen carefully for the response, especially noting any free information you may want to follow up.  Some openers:

·         In a classroom:

“Why did you take this workshop?”

“What do you know about the teacher?”

“What do you hope to get from this class?”

·         At a game: 

“Who do you think will win?”

“Why do you say that?”

·         At an art museum: 

“What do you suppose the artist wanted to say?”

·         In line for a movie: 

“What have you heard about this movie?”

“What made you decide to see it?”

·         At a market:

“ I notice you’re buying artichokes.

I’ve always been curious. How do you prepare them?”

·         To a neighbor: 

“Your lawn is so green.  What’s your secret?”

“What’s that you’re working on?”

·         At a Laundromat: 

“Where do I put the detergent in?”

Talking about the other person
Most people like to talk about themselves.  Before you begin your questions, observe what the other person is doing, wearing, saying, and reading and think of something you’d like to know more about.  For example:

·         “That’s an interesting jacket.  Tell me, what does the insignia stand for?”

·         “You’re the best player here.  What do you do to train?”

·         “That was a fascinating comment you made to the board.  Tell me, why do you think                solar energy isn’t being developed more quickly?”

·         To a policeman:  “I’d like to join the force.  How do I go about doing it?”

·         “You look lost.  Can I help?”

·         “Say, haven’t I seen you at________?  How did you get involved in that?”

·          While jogging:  “What kind of running shoes are those?  Why did you

choose that brand?” “Do you run marathons?”

·         At a restaurant:  “Mind if I join you?”

·         At a party:  “How do you happen to be at this party?”

·         “Hi, you look nice and I’d like to meet you”

·         “Hi, I’ve noticed you here several times and thought I’d come over and introduce                      myself”

Remember that the other person is just as nervous as you.  Try to breathe.

PTSD and the VA

Today and tomorrow

PTSD is no longer an Anxiety Disorder. PTSD is sometimes associated with other mood states (for example, depression) and with angry or reckless behavior rather than anxiety. So, PTSD is now in a new category, Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders. PTSD includes four different types of symptoms: reliving the traumatic event (also called re-experiencing or intrusion); avoiding situations that are reminders of the event; negative changes in beliefs and feelings; and feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal or over-reactive to situations). Most people experience some of these symptoms after a traumatic event, so PTSD is not diagnosed unless all four types of symptoms last for at least a month and cause significant distress or problems with day-to-day functioning.

Today VA operates more than 200 specialized programs for the treatment of PTSD. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, more than a half million Veterans diagnosed with PTSD received treatment at VA medical centers and clinics.

VA is committed to provide the most effective, evidence-based care for PTSD. It has created programs to ensure VA clinicians receive training in state-of-the-art treatments for PTSD. At of the end of FY 2013, VA had trained more than 5000 of its clinicians to use Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) or Prolonged Exposure (PE), which are cited by the Institute of Medicine Committee on Treatment of PTSD as proven to be effective treatments for PTSD.

VA’s National Center for PTSD was created in 1989 by an act of Congress, and celebrated its 25th anniversary on August 29, 2014. We continue to be at the forefront of progress in the scientific understanding and treatment of PTSD. In addition to improving upon existing treatments, we are researching effective new treatments. We are also developing new educational products such as our What is PTSD? whiteboard video.

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