Author Archive

Joanne Deck

Joanne M. Deck, MBA, SPHR is a certified academic and career coach, educator, public speaker, and author with expertise in higher education, careers, and healthy dating relationships. She has over 20 years of corporate experience as an instructor and tutor, leadership coach, human resources director, wellness and management consultant, and customer service manager and is active with Toastmasters, having achieved the levels of ACS and ALB. Joanne is also the author of Sane Sex for Singles, a three-time winning dating guide for the new millennium. Joanne was born in Rochester, NY and graduated from the University at Albany, NY with a degree in math and an MBA in human resources. She is the mother of young adult twin daughters and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, Roger. Joanne is currently working on her next book, Learning to Receive with Grace and Ease, aimed at helping people become more comfortable and skillful receivers. Her observation is that most people have the giving side of the equation down, but struggle with receiving.

Critical Thinking Skills Are Essential Today

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Academic & Career Success, Blog

Today, more than ever, students, employees, and organizational leaders need well-developed critical thinking skills.  There are several reasons for this.  The rate of change and degree of complexity increase every year thanks to rapid technological developments and the information explosion.  The world’s information is doubling every two years, according to the 2011 Digital Universe Study.  What’s more, high-school seniors graduating in 2002 were exposed to more new data during their senior year than their grandparents knew in a lifetime! (www.yourbabytoday.com).  

The growth of the Internet has increased the accessibility of information with estimates of some 400 – 500 million people accessing the web on a daily basis (http://cyberatlas.internet.com/big_picture/demographics/article).   The shelter of anonymity and detachment offered by the Internet, together with the lack of government regulation, requires users to critically assess the information they obtain.  Critical thinking skills are essential to sort through the unfounded claims, erroneous interpretations, and outright deceptions presented on the web.

Since the 1920s, advertising techniques have become increasingly emotional and fear-based, affecting all age groups through various forms of media.  Reflecting Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, advertising executives play on our need for acceptance, security, family, change, membership in an elite group, and excitement.  They strive to associate their product or service with wealth, luxury, happiness, success, youthfulness, health, patriotism, individuality, and romance.  Common fear tactics include fear of death, aging, sickness, failure, poverty, and violence, among others (http://www.estevancomp.ca). 

It’s no surprise that critical thinking skills are taught at every grade level today.  We all need “a conscious and intellectually disciplined process of analyzing, interpreting, applying, and evaluating information,” the definition of critical thinking presented in the workshop I’ve developed.  Learn how to develop these essential skills in your employees here or in your leaders here.

The Potlatch Tradition – Giving Gone Awry

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Blog, Learning To Receive

Totem PoleWhile traveling in Alaska a few years ago, I learned about the tradition of potlatches. The word “potlatch” means to give, and it is a celebration of a person’s well-being.  These were important events, as they established the people’s economic stability and confirmed their status and family ties. In the absence of written deeds, a village member needing to obtain privileges would hold a potlatch during which a totem pole would be raised. The request might involve claiming a hereditary rank of a deceased relative or obtaining a vacated leadership position. The guests witnessing the host request would validate the claim in exchange for valuable gifts presented by the host.

While this sounds harmless and even fun, the practice was carried to extremes.  Hosts of potlatches would continually try to outdo each other, saving for years to afford the food and gifts they would have at their potlatch.  The celebration could last for two weeks, ending in bankruptcy for the family.  The practice was perpetuated, as the hosted family was expected to reciprocate at an even higher level within two years.

In contrast to the potlatch custom, giving from the heart is joyful and rewarding for both the giver and the recipient.  I love the idea of honoring tradition and our elders, but this “strings-attached” form of giving seems contradictory.  It’s a good reminder that the cliché “give ‘til it hurts” is a notion to release.  The gift offered out of obligation is best not given at all.

Buddha’s Approach to Sane Sex

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Blog, Sane Sex for Singles

I was delighted to learn recently that the sane sex approach to dating is in alignment with the third of Buddhism’s Five Mindfulness Trainings dating back to the 5th century B.C.E.  As you may recall, sane sex is always safe and results from combining attraction with emotional intimacy.  It happens in the context of an exclusive, loving relationship. 

The Third Training states:  Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment.  To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others.

People often suggest that things have changed today. Love and sex have not changed.  The way we meet, connect, and communicate will change over time, but the sane sex approach, while assigned different labels, stands as a sweet, effective, and honorable way to conduct our most intimate relationships.

Consider the Opposing Choice

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Academic & Career Success, Blog


As an academic and career coach, I help people develop the skills to succeed. Successful students usually become effective employees; most of the skills are transferrable.  In keeping with this week’s theme, let’s look at some of the things a student or employee (or manager) might do if they did not want to be successful.

  • Not use the tools they have at hand, such as calendar reminders and task lists
  • Fail to get up when the alarm goes off
  • Neglect to put things back where they belong, causing them to waste time looking for items
  • Fail to read the instructions
  • Reject feedback and suggestions
  • Resist asking for help or guidance
  • Underestimate the time needed to study, prepare, or practice
  • Allow distractions to prevent them from using their time wisely
  • Fail to set priorities and honor them

If you’re like me, you’ll see yourself in at least one of these items.  Let’s raise our awareness and make better choices.  Try considering this final question from my Weight Watchers days: “Will taking this action bring me closer to my goal?”

What Would You Do Not to Receive?

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Blog, Learning To Receive

Are you striving to receive something?  Perhaps it’s a new job, a special relationship, or a healing.  Let’s make sure we’re open to receiving by turning our thinking inside out regarding receiving. What would someone do who believes it’s better to give than to receive or feels guilty when given recognition or gratitude?

  • Refuse offers of help.
  • Keep silent about what they need and/or desire.
  • Ask (and even pray) for what they need or want, but prepare for the worst, so they’re not disappointed when it doesn’t appear.
  • Deny to himself and others that he could use help.
  • Change the subject when someone offers her praise or thanks.
  • Urgently look for an opportunity to reciprocate or give back should they somehow be given something.
  • Turn a compliment around and immediately begin praising the other person.

Encouragement 276x390Do you see yourself in any of the above actions?  Turn your thinking around and put yourself in the flow of good.  Practice receiving in small ways every chance you get so you’ll be ready to receive what your heart desires.

Turn Your Thinking Inside Out When Dating

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Blog, Sane Sex for Singles

When I was a leader for Weight Watchers, my favorite meeting topic was “What would you do if you wanted to gain weight?” The members listed many items and then we discussed how often they actually did those things – the exact opposite of what they knew they should be doing.  It was a real eye-opener.  Let’s try that here: what would you do if you didn’t want to meet anyone?

  • Stay at home and complain that you never meet anyone.
  • Go to a singles event, but stay hidden in the back.
  • Refuse to consider the suggestions of friends and family, saying you’ve already tried those things.
  • Go to a dance and either turn down every offer to dance or not ask anyone to dance.
  • Resist trying anything new to you, such as speed dating, taking a non-credit class, or volunteering.
  • Keep seeing the same person who you’ve told friends repeatedly is not the one for you.

What would you add to this list?  Try doing the opposite and see what happens.

Is It Time to Intervene?

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Academic & Career Success, Blog

There are similarities between academic and career issues, as I’ve found being a parent, an educator, and a manager.  One common issue is knowing when to intervene with a student or a subordinate.  It’s important to recognize the possible early warning signs that we can observe:

  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating or showing signs of sleepiness (eg., slow responses, low energy, dropping off during a meeting)
  • Over-reaction or hypersensitivity to comments or situations
  • Ongoing complains about the teacher or supervisor
  • Forgetting to do assignments
  • Skipping classes, being absent from work, and/or missing tutoring/coaching sessions or meetings
  • Refusal to talk about problems or concerns
  • Difficulty getting along with roommates, classmates, or co-workers
  • Missed deadlines or failure to keep commitments

These signs are especially meaningful if the student or employee were to display two or more at a time.  The first step is talking directly to the student or employee.  The issue may be short-term or easily addressed.  If not, parents who observe these behaviors in their son or daughter can contact the school’s Counseling Department or Parents Resource page on the college’s website for additional support.  In the workplace, managers can turn to the Human Resources Department and/or company Employee Assistance Program for guidance.  The most important thing is not to ignore the warning signs.  Taking early, informed action is the best way to nurture and support those who need our assistance.

Our Finest Moments

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Blog, Learning To Receive

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”  ~ M. Scott Peck

Sedona RocksThese words are not likely to make us stand up and cheer, but we know they’re true, don’t we?  I heard this perspective affirmed frequently when I was a Weight Watchers leader: people would tell me about a particular moment when they knew they had to make a different choice.  It may have been the photos from their daughter’s wedding or a warning issued by their doctor. Whatever it was, they finally became uncomfortable or dissatisfied enough to change their approach.

Most of the significant things we long to receive, such as better health, a loving relationship or meaningful work, we may hold only as a vague “wouldn’t it be nice” notion.  Without a finest moment of our own, however, we make do, settled into our state of mild discontent.  Perhaps unconsciously we don’t think a better way is possible for us or that it would take a monumental amount of work.

Let us not resist those deep feelings of discomfort that Dr. Peck describes.  Rather than trying to get around them or get over them, commit to working through them.  Ask what they are there to reveal to you, trusting in the promise given in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, “and I show you a still more excellent way.”  Let’s see the pain for what it is – an opportunity to have our finest moment.

Is a “Friends with Benefits” Relationship for You?

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Blog, Sane Sex for Singles

CandleI’ve written before about a “friends with benefits” arrangement where the benefits are sex and the partners are friends. Romantic love is not part of the arrangement, and the parties may or may not be exclusive. A friends with benefits relationship is more than a one-night stand, as it typically involves people who began as friends and decided to add a sexual component to the relationship. This gives the partners the opportunity to have sex with someone each is comfortable with and at least likes.

I was asked recently what I think about this approach.  It’s not a path I would choose – but I’m not you.  I encourage you to be mindful if you make such an agreement and to be clear with your partner what your intention is.  You may want to consider these questions:

  • How likely is it that you’ll fall in love with your partner?  If you think it’s possible, please don’t assume that your feelings will be reciprocated.
  • Should you meet your beloved, will you be disappointed and feel that you have nothing special to share only with them?
  • Will you two be exclusive?  Is it by chance or by choice?
  • If you’re not to be exclusive, how would feel if you saw your partner with someone else tomorrow?

That last question is the one that does it for me.  I don’t care what we agreed to.  Being physically intimate with someone today and running into him on a date tomorrow would be not just awkward, but outright painful.  Whatever you decide, be sure to be safe and take care of your heart.

Look for the Good

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Academic & Career Success, Blog

It seems to be human nature to look for what’s wrong, what’s not working, or what needs improvement.  I understand striving for excellence; after all, I’ve authored a self-help book.  The problem is that when too much emphasis is placed on finding what’s broken and fixing it leaders miss opportunities to praise and encourage employees.

I heard about such an occurrence recently.  An employee was counseled by her boss to improve her timeliness, as tardiness had become an issue.  The individual took this message to heart and during the next quarter reported to work on time every day but one, when an accident caused a traffic delay.  When the employee and supervisor met to discuss another matter, did the boss comment on the vast improvement in the employee’s performance?  No, he mentioned the one time she was late.  I’m sure you can imagine how the employee felt.  I wonder why it wasn’t as obvious to the boss.

Motivational speaker Roger Crawford says most people wear an invisible sign that says Watch me!” just like a kid on the diving board hollering out to his mother.  Most employees want to do their best for their companies.  Let us make it a point to remember to look for the good in our subordinates, our peers, and even ourselves.  It’s especially important when they’ve had their challenges and are truly making an effort.  Offering encouragement and support will go a long way – and it won’t take anything out of the budget to do so.