Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Ulterior Motives - Part 1

 If you can figure out what their motivation is, then you're ahead of the game.
-Donald Faison

At many points in our lives we are forced to rely on others for assistance. This starts from the moment we are born. As we grow from baby to infant to toddler to child, we are forced to rely on our parents or guardians to care for us. As we get older, while we grow more independent, we still rely on others for assistance. For example, we seek assistance from doctors for our medical needs,  auto mechanics to fix our vehicles, mediators to resolve conflicts, just to name a few.

When we rely on others, we often do so with the belief that they have our best interests in mind. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

There are the cases when we know quite clearly that the person assisting us doesn't have our best interests in mind. The classic example of this is a salesperson. They are being paid to make sales, not to help us. Perhaps they might even be getting a commission from each sale. Yet we still go to the stores and ask for their help, but we take their suggestions with grains of salt, as we are well aware that they have ulterior motives.

Ulterior motives aren’t bad in their own right. They are bad when they come from those people and places who shouldn’t have ulterior movies and they are bad when they conflict with our motives. When it comes from these people and places, we are left feeling, among other things,  hurt, resentment and loss of trust.

When I was in school for my MSW degree, one of the professors told us the following:
“If you discover that your client was born via c-section, or gave birth via c-section, inquire as to why that was. Sometimes you will discover that the reason is because the doctor simply ran out of patience waiting for the birth to proceed naturally.”
This is quite disturbing. A doctor, someone with whom you trust you care and well-being, makes a decision for you, simply because of his own needs.

There are countless other examples that I have seen. Lawyers not having their client’s best interests in mind. Sports agents getting their athlete to sign for less now, because the agent is afraid that if the player waits a year, he may go with a different agent. Mechanics insisting on a lower quality part, since they make a higher profit from that company, etc.

When working with anyone, one should constantly be asking themselves “Does this person have my best interests in mind?”. If the answer is no, the person should ask “Does this person’s motives conflict with my motives?”. If the person doesn’t have your best interests in mind, and their interests conflict with your interests, one should try to find someone else to work with. Just because you hired a lawyer doesn’t mean you need to keep this lawyer. A person should always be evaluating and reevaluating, to ensure that they get the best results possible.

 Learn the questions to ask. (e.g. Why is this in my best interest? What is wrong with the other option? Do we need to decide now or can this wait?)
 Speak with others who’ve been in similar situations, see if the way you’re being treated is the norm.
 Don’t be afraid to go with your gut feeling

With these examples, the person with the ulterior motive is an outsider. Things get much more difficult when it is a parent who has ulterior motives.

That will be Part 2 of this topic.

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.  
You can email Yisroel at
Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn here

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Waiter's Mis-steak

"In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson."
— Tom Bodett

Often we spend the most times worried about the things outside of our control. We worry about the weather and how it will affect our plans. We worry about how our favorite sports team will do. Mostly, we worry about how other people will perceive us, and how they will react to the choices that we make.
I would like to share a personal story that just happened to me.
My wife and I decided to go out for dinner recently. The restaurant had three specials listed on their menu. I chose the first one listed, an Asado steak. When I placed the order, I noticed that the waiter wasn’t writing down my order. As my wife started placing her order, the waiter realized it was a good idea to write down our order.
Our first course was nice, then out came the main course. He puts a steak in front of me and tells me it is the Entrecote steak that I ordered. I told him that I didn’t order the Entrecote, I ordered the Asado. I pointed at the Asado on the menu. I asked if the side dish listed with the Asado can be changed. I even asked my wife, she confirmed, I ordered the Asado.
At this point, after all the waiting for the steaks, and with my wife having her food, I wasn’t really interested in waiting longer for my food. Additionally, I felt bad that they made this other steak for nobody, and they now had to make a new steak for me. So I offered to take what they prepared already for me, even though I didn’t order it.
There was just one small thing that I wanted to ensure before I took my first bite.
The Entrecote was about $20 more than the Asado, and I didn’t want to pay more than I intended.
So I asked the waiter to ask the manager to make the decision, whatever works for them will work for me. Would they rather give me the Entrecote at the price of the Asado, or would they rather not serve it and fire up an Asado? They gave me the Entrecote .
I started feeling badly. Perhaps they will misinterpret my offer of kindness as a me taking advantage of them? Maybe they think I purposely lied about my order in order to save $20. Then I reminded myself that I can only do my best. I have no control over how people will interpret my actions. Since I have no control over this I shouldn’t let it bother me.
As my wife and I were finishing dinner, she joked about this event becoming an article of mine. I soon realized that this wasn’t a joke. This event taught me a number of lessons.
First it reminded me about not being concerned about the things we cannot control. It also taught me how to try to resolve a problem. Some people in my position would have sent the steak back, others would have told the waiter that they would keep the steak, but they would be paying the cheaper price. I don’t believe that either of these resolutions are wise, as the patron is telling the restaurant the solution. In order for there to be a positive remedy, one needs to make sure that both sides are on board. In order to do that, one side should give the options, and the other side should choose which option serves them best. Having both sides involved in this decision making process lessons the anger between the sides and helps form a healthy, working relationship.
This also reminded me of my own rule which I forgot to apply this time. It is the rule that I always ask the waiter to read back the order, just to make sure we don't have a bigger problem later. When communicating, it is incumbent on both sides to ensure that they understand and that they are understood. Taking this extra moment in the beginning can easily save time and money later.
People often rush things in the early stages. Often this leads to problems, problems that take time to correct. Take the extra few moments in the beginning, it might feel like you are going slow, but it will save valuable time and resources in the long run. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Always try to pace yourself and always try to take a long term view.
Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.  
You can email Yisroel at
Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn here

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Miracle and a Lesson

"Everyday holds the possibility of a miracle"

-Elizabeth David

The year was 2001

The country was Israel

The city was Jerusalem

We were all on high alert, and rightfully so. There had been attacks in the city. Bus bombings, suicide bombings in cafes.

These were usually followed by a phone call by some nervous relative wanting to make sure that I was safe.

But it was a story that never made it further than the local news that was my own personal miracle. It also taught me about myself and others.

It was my midday break from yeshiva. I decided to take a twenty minute walk to a neighborhood called Mea Shearim. As I got there I started walking down its main street, only to be stopped by a meter-maid. Directly behind the meter-maid was a car parked in a very weird manner. It was parked on the left side of the street, the front left tire was on the sidewalk, and the back right tire was slightly blocking traffic on this one way street. There was someone dressed in black using a slim jim to open up this car.

As I waited to hear the “all-clear” a crowd of others wanting to pass started gathering.

Finally the door opened.

The man who opened the door started looking around the car.

Suddenly he shouted on the top of his lungs. I have no idea what he shouts.

Everyone in the group starts running away, they are all wide-eyed. It is an image that is branded into my memory to this day.

Apparently he shouted “Bomb.”

Based upon the news reports from the local paper, the car was stolen and a bomb was placed inside of it. Miraculously it never exploded.

As the police arrived and moved people further away from the car with the bomb in it, I noticed that my roommate and closest friend was there as well. We stayed for a bit before we decided that it was in our best interest to head back to our dira.

Before we left we both witnessed the same incident.

One of the local kids, about 14 years old, went up to one of the policemen and told him as follows: "I know you are going to tell people to move, don’t bother telling me to move, I am not moving. Worry about the others, forget that I am here."

Next thing we see is that the policeman smacks him and throws him into the back of the police car.

As we are walking back to the room, my roommate and I discuss what we just witnessed.

I’m of the opinion that the kid got what he deserved, you don’t mouth off to an officer in the middle of dealing with a high level emergency. The cop has a job to do and this kid is trying to impede the officer from doing his job.

My roommate viewed it very differently. He was of the opinion that the officer has no right to slap anyone.

This was, and still is, a person whom I respect. A person whose opinion I value. For the longest time I could not understand how he could view this so differently than I view it. This wasn’t some stranger, this was my closest friend. He was a genius and someone whose opinions I respected. How could he get this so wrong?

Years later someone enlightened me.

Without her knowing him at all she hit the nail on the head.

“You are the oldest child and he isn’t. He has an older sibling.”

When I viewed the cop vs. the kid, I viewed myself as the cop, and the kid mouthing off for no good reason was one of my brothers. Just like I had no time for them during crucial moments, so too this officer had no time for this kid during this time of high tension.  

But my friend was the younger sibling. He saw himself not in the police officer, but rather as this kid. He saw the officer as using unnecessary force just like he saw his brother using unnecessary force on him.

We are a collection of our previous experiences. The things that we’ve heard, seen and lived through have shaped the way we perceive events. We stood there together on the street that miraculous day in 2001, but our eyes took different routes to get there. My eyes took a route that showed me a dedicated officer, his eyes took a route that showed him an authority figure overstepping his bounds.

We each have a different set of eyes. That is because they each took a different route. Let’s try to remember this next time we have a disagreement with someone. Disagreeing is fine, but don’t let it allow you to view the person with whom you are disagreeing with as a lesser.

You are not better simply because you have your eyes and not theirs.

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.  
You can email Yisroel at
Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn Here

Monday, May 7, 2018

Beginning with No

“The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.”
-Tony Blair

A poster on LinkedIn brought a very interesting piece of information to my attention. He said that the word “No” is one of the first 10 words that a baby will learn in their lifetime, whilst the word “Yes” doesn’t make it into the top 20. I have not researched this myself, but it sounds quite accurate to me, so for the sake of this article, I will assume it as fact.

Facts are a very interesting thing. By definition they are not debatable. However, that does not mean that facts can not cause a debate. Two people can take the same factual information and come to very different conclusions.

The poster who alerted me to this fact used it to suggest that saying “no” is easier than saying “yes”. It is easier to avoid responsibility (i.e. saying “no”) than it is to take responsibility. He suggested that we need to become a “Yes Man”, someone who is willing to commit, willing to step up and take responsibility, willing to become a leader.

He later suggests that we tell our children “no” far too often. Suggesting that perhaps we need to do a better job communicating with our children, trying to find ways to say the same thing, without using the word “no”. I also saw others who work in the mental health field who voice a similar view.

I’d like to offer two points about this. First, there are very good reasons why kids get accustomed to hearing the word “no” very often. I know, I say it to my toddler many times per day. When he opens the refrigerator and takes ahold of a raw egg. When he grabs his sister’s ponytail and pulls. When he takes possession of a sharp object. These are just a few of the recent nos that he received. None of these are situations which can really be dealt with in another way. But as children age, parents should try to find alternate ways of saying what they are trying to convey, without using the word “no”

Example: Child wants to color, but the parent wants the child to be in pajamas.

Child: Can I color?
Parent: No, you aren't in pajamas yet

Here is an alternative approach

Child: Can I color?
Parent: Sure, but only after you get into pajamas

The parent has said the same exact thing, without using the overused word “no”.

The second point I would like to make isn’t about what we say to others, rather, it is what we say to ourselves. We are all a product of our upbringing, and that includes a product of being told “no” very often. People process “no” as a negative. Are we negative to ourselves simply because of all the negatives we have amassed over the years? Do we view ourselves as lesser simply because we took the nos of our younger years and nurtured them with more negativity? Granted many of the nos of our younger years were needed and deserving, but that doesn’t mean we need to allow it and the negativity that it yielded to remain a core part of our thoughts about ourselves.

At this point, some of you might be wondering why I chose to begin with a quote that seems to be the antithesis of the direction of this article. The answer is quite simple, because there is a time for a no and there is a time for a yes. There are times when no is the easier word to say and there are times when yes is the easier word to say.

There are times when the no needs to be delivered softly, or in an indirect way, and there are times when it should be a very blunt “NO”. The wisdom comes from knowing which rule applies when.

For this reason, I am personally turned off by the very many “gurus” who preach absolutes. This yes and no discussion had the very real possibility of being interpreted as an absolute. I did not want my readers to think that I was preaching an absolute. 

Absolutes can be extremely dangerous. Sometimes the person who is the exception hears it, without knowing that they are the exception.

I have heard many such “absolutes”. Here are a few examples:

Never run from something, only to something - Not good advice for victim of domestic abuse

No one ever succeeds without taking risks - Can the person properly calculate the nature of the risk? Will they blindly take risks simply because they feel the need to be risky? 

Opening a restaurant without a proper license and without a chef is risky. Does the listener believe that this is the type of risk they need to take in order to succeed, or do they realize that this reward isn't worth the potential risk involved?

Never Give Up - Sometimes the better advice is to cut one’s losses and move on. The investors who gave up on Enron or Circuit City after losing 50% percent of their investment did better than those investors who “never gave up”.

One needs to be extremely careful when using absolutes, as one can never be certain that the message that they are trying to convey is indeed the message that is being heard. Additionally, the listener might very well hear the message as intended, yet they might later apply it incorrectly.

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.  
You can email Yisroel at
Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn here