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Mister, Doctor, or Does it Matter?

Mister, Doctor, or Does it Matter?

Mister, Doctor, or Does It Matter?

     

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    My mother was the secretary at Glennwood Baptist Church in Morris, Alabama for about eight or nine years. My parents attended Glennwood for a while, and the pastor (David Bays) is someone I respect and admire very greatly. Even when I moved to St. Louis, after I got married, and after Shannon and I moved to Memphis, we continued to get a newsletter from Glennwood, and I enjoyed staying abreast of what is going on there. The newsletters that came to our house changed shortly after I defended my dissertation in May, 2006. “Mr. and Mrs. William Arthur Carden” became “Dr. and Mrs. William Arthur Carden.” In trademark display of motherly pride, I’m sure Mom really enjoyed changing “Mr.” to “Dr.” in the church’s mail-merge.

    Getting a PhD is an accomplishment and it is rightly something to be proud of; however, it also provides, for many, an occasion for conceit bordering on arrogance and tactlessness. A few days before Christmas in 2007, I was flipping through my in-laws’ copy of the Birmingham News when I came across a letter to “Miss Manners” from someone who had sent a Christmas card to a cousin with a PhD. The card had been addressed to “Mr. So-and-so” rather than “Dr. So-and-so.” Instead of responding with grace, as one might have hoped that someone of Dr. So-and-so’s high stature would, apparently he wrote back with a self-addressed envelope to “Dr. So-and-so,” a copy of his diploma, and a note saying that it is customary to refer to someone of his stature as “Dr. So-and-so” or “Firstname So-and-so, PhD.”

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    My thought: wow. That’s pretty insecure.

    This caught my eye in part because I’ll admit, I sometimes chafe–with tongue planted firmly in cheek–at getting stuff addressed to “Mr. Carden” when I have earned the right to be addressed as “Dr. Carden,” presumably. When I get arrogant about it, I remember Michael Myers in one of the Austin Powers movies as “Dr. Evil,” reminding people that he “didn’t spend five years in Evil medical school to be called mister, thank you very much.” What a joke.

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    Economist Tyler Cowen has blogged about how, apparently, people who conspicuously refer to themselves as “Dr.” or “Firstname Lastname, PhD” are often those with arguments or claims that are somewhat weak and that need to be bolstered with an air of authority. While I will admit that qualifications and affiliations are important signals—I’m much more likely to listen to a PhD economist at Harvard in a discussion of the minimum wage than I am to listen to someone who has never taken an economics class but nonetheless maintains a very strong opinion about the subject—reliance on authority is the weakest form of argument or evidence. There are a lot of smart people saying a lot of very off-base things. Nonetheless, they have the credentials to back themselves up. As people stay in school longer and as life expectancies increase, the letters “PhD” will come to have far less signaling value.

    Dr. F.A. Hayek’s Nobel Prize address was entitled “the pretence of knowledge,” and while it sought to upbraid those who thought that central planning (or coherent macroeconomic policy) were possible, it speaks today to those who think they are something when they are not. Just because you have a PhD doesn’t mean that you have automatically earned glory, respect, and approbation. While it is customary (and wise) for people to address you properly or defer to you in areas where you have expertise, it is grotesquely immature to insist upon it.

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    So what’s the message, then, to the newly-minted PhD and to those around people who have doctorates? For the friend or relative, it is customary to refer to someone as “Doctor” in formal communication. This doesn’t give someone the right to get his or her underwear bunched up if someone forgets to say “Doctor” or “PhD” or “Grand Poo-bah” or what have you. If you have something important to say, let that stand on its own merits. If you want to be respected and loved, be respectable and loveable. Don’t rely on the fact that you spent five, six, seven, or however many years grinding away at a graduate degree to earn your favor in another’s eyes.

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    Art Carden

    Art Carden is an Assistant Professor of Economics and Business at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.

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    Last Updated on January 3, 2020

    The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

    The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

    Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

    The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

    1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

    Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

     I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

    To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

    And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

     2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

    Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

    3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

    Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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    4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

    The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

    5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

    Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

    6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

    Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

    7. Positive people smile a lot!

    When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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    8. People who are positive are great communicators.

    They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

    9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

    One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

    10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

    Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

    How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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    I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

    Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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