Interpersonal Style Type
The chart below is for your use in determining the usual personal interpersonal style type with which you are most comfortable for yourself. Your usual style falls into one of the four quadrants of the chart below. As you will see, each quadrant contains two representative from the TATORS and five characteristics from the Interpersonal Elements. Your task is to choose the combination with which you are most comfortable and with which you most identify personally. Once you have chosen the combination that best describes you, that quadrant can then be seen as an approximate description of your style, your way of relating within your family.
You will tend to experience most difficulties with those family members whose styles are best described by the quadrant diagonal from yours. You will have the next level of difficulty with those family members whose styles are best characterized as falling in the same quadrant as yours. The least difficulty will be experience with family members whose styles are best characterized by the quadrants adjacent to yours.
At the bottom of each quadrant is a short phrase that characterizes the four styles. "Street Fighters" will have the least difficulty with "Cheerleaders" and "Pacifiers." Street Fighters will have more difficulty with other Street Fighters but will experience the highest difficulty trying to deal with "Unanimity Seekers."
Once you have located your style, determine the styles of other family members. When you are having difficulties, do not take it personally. Remember that it is just a matter of style. Things will go better with dictators if you encourage them to be assertive and give them more opportunities to be decisive. Be very selective about those points at which you choose to be confrontive, insist on your rights, or have to have things your way. The idea is not to "roll over and play dead." The idea is to find opportunities for the dictator to be decisive, assertive, spontaneous, energetic, and flexible, with ample opportunity for him/her to feel like he/she won the streetfight. Use the same approach for improving relationships when you are having difficulties with family members who reflect styles from any of the other three quadrants. As a trade-off, encourage them to create opportunities for you to exercise your style more freely and purposefully.
This activity begins to consolidate the skills and insights developed through the development of multidimensional style, understanding of group roles, and consideration of the elements of interpersonally effective relationships. Most clients will be comfortable with the forced choice nature of the activity, although some will not. For those individuals, the consultant will need to emphasize the concept of approximation in relationship to the style type and encourage the individual to pick that quadrant that most approximates his style. For a few individuals, it will become clear that they do not reflect any consistent style and spend significant portions of their family energy moving from quadrant to quadrant in terms of style and self-projection. These individuals may be thought of as chameleons or style switchers. The major problem they are experiencing is a significant lack of consistency and predictability. They are, rather, simply trying to accommodate to the needs, whims, and projections of others. This by itself becomes a focus for consultation.
For most individuals who are old enough and reflect enough conceptual development, however identifying with one of the quadrants will be something they are able to do rather quickly and spontaneously. At the individual level, it is important for the consultant to focus in terms of the extent to which the individual interpersonal style of the client manifests itself as a game as discussed in an earlier activity. Assuming that the client functions in a relatively game free manner, the consultant may encourage an expansion of the perspective from which the activity is viewed.
At a family level, identification of the styles of each family member may be accomplished in two ways. First, the individual client may simply indicate where he thinks each family member belongs in the grid. If two or more family members are participating in the process, they may discuss and try to involve themselves in-group decision making relative to the appropriate assignment of each family member. At those points where there is disagreement, sharing perceptions of each other will, itself, be a useful intrafamily process. In addition, the observations of the consultant add an outside perspective to the family discussion.
Importantly, assignment of a family member to one of the quadrants does not represent a value judgment. Being in one quadrant is not better or worse than being in another. The key is simply recognizing and owning one's personal interpersonal style.
Focusing on the pacifiers, it is important to see that their being helpful, loyal, responsible, dependable, and consistent adds a level of stability and cooperation within the family that is a very positive, systemic factor. Their orientation to pacifying has the effect of minimizing conflict and tension and increases the ability of the family to get along and get things done on a day to day basis.
Alternatively, the orientation toward pacifying works against their accepting personal responsibility at times and represents a somewhat short-sighted orientation to problems, difficulties, and significant family issues.
The street fighter's inclination to be decisive, assertive, spontaneous, energetic, and flexible has the effect of moving family processes and activities along. Decisions are made, points of view are expressed, participation occurs as a function of the situation or circumstances, energy is high, and the family is able to change directions, change plans, and respond to what is going on at the moment. Alternatively, the street fighter may be somewhat inconsiderate of the needs and interest of others. May somewhat overwhelm or overpower other members of the family, and may be seen as not able to stick to his ideas, convictions, beliefs, or feelings. The predominate impression may be of an insensitive, self-serving approach to family life.
The gravitator's orientation to unanimity seeking is furthered through his playful, gentle, open, patient, accepting approach to other members of the family. Each member of the family feels acknowledged, understood, and important. The positive effect is a comfortable and safe environment for all. Alternatively, the unanimity seeker may be viewed as not really understanding the significance or seriousness of problems or difficulties, not being able to be tough and make the hard decisions when that is necessary, unnecessarily gullible, and unable to protect his interests or those of the family.
The cheerleader's being involved, positive, relaxed, attractive, and supportive gives him a special place in the family. He is seen as invested in and committed to the life of the family, is always able to see the brighter side of things, is someone to whom others are drawn, and represents a source of continuing encouragement and affirmation. Alternatively, he may be viewed as someone who does not really understand the significance or seriousness of what is happening, as someone who's laid back and calm approach represents a lack of sincerity and caring, and as someone who thinks whatever anyone does or whatever is happening is alright. The effect is an impression of superficiality and insensitivity.
Each quadrant represents a somewhat habitual and natural style and is the style one would tend to project at points of increased stress, conflict, and tension. At these points, a somewhat stereotypic style becomes somewhat counter productive and may interfere with the smooth functioning of the family system. The key through the educational process is for individuals to recognize those points at which there is increased stress or tension and make some adjustment in or accommodation of style to increase interpersonal congruence and compatibility.
How is this done? The idea is uncomplicated but not always easy. The client looks at the specific situation and pattern of interaction and determines where each individual is functioning at the time. He then adjusts his style toward the quadrant that would result in the best fit while still serving the short and long term interest of the family system. For example, dictators move more in the facilitator direction or in the levitator direction, using the elements in the quadrant to which they are moving as guides or behavioral mandates in reference to how to best reflect more of that style. This might mean that the dictator consciously becomes more helpful or more positive, depending on whether he is moving toward the facilitator quadrant or the levitator quadrant.
Although people will find it nearly impossible to modify their styles toward the quadrant diagonal from theirs, they will usually have little difficulty modifying in the direction of a quadrant adjacent to theirs. The result is that style is not rigid and unresponsive to people and situations. It is, rather, both responsive to and sensitive to other family members and specific situations. This ability to appropriately modify style in turn becomes part of the style of the individual. He is and is seen as an individual who is sensitive, reasonably accommodating, and orientated to both his interest and the special needs and interest of other family members and of the family as a system.
The Transition to Community Integration
Above, I introduced the notion of "centeredness." As we saw there, the child protection paradigm transitions from the traditional staff centered approach to incorporate a client centered approach at the intermediate transitional level. The paradigm then transitions to the advanced level where child protection is fully success centered. At this level, child protection is neither staff nor client driven. It is instead driven by a continuous focus on the shared success of the client and child protection workers as they strive to keep the child safe while achieving permanence and ongoing success for the child.
In the continuing emergence of the new child protection paradigm, centeredness is an increasingly important feature. Just as the paradigm transitions from staff to client to success centeredness, it similarly transitions from program centered to family centered to community integrated. At the program centered, traditional level, services and resources are delimited by the specific program to which the child is attached or for which the family is eligible. The client receives those services or resources the program provides. At the intermediate level, services and resources are family driven. The family receives those services and resources the family believes to be in its best interest.
In the new, emerging child protection paradigm, centeredness shifts to the community. The community becomes a place where children and families can fully participate in assuring that their needs are met, their vulnerabilities are managed, their problems are resolved. It is a place where young children are safe and nurtured and older children are at home, in school, and out of trouble. It is a place where both families and children succeed. When they do not succeed, the services and resources are there in the particular mix most appropriate for each child and each family.
Revisiting the same transition, think about a particular program associated with child protection. That program offers defined services to identifiable clients. The program is at the center of the helping circle and clients move into and out of the helping circle. We find this arrangement at the traditional level of practice. Next, think about a family. When it receives focus, is at the center of the helping circle, it may receive services and resources from several programs, depending on the family's specific needs and interests. Various programs and associated staff move into and out of the helping circle. Now consider an arrangement where the community is itself the helping circle. The services, resources, and supplemental guidance children and families need from time to time are equally available to and accessible by all members of the community.
If a child or family need special or supplemental services or resources (either self-identified or community-identified), the needed array materializes. Think of it as a meta program, uniquely designed to respond to the individual interests and circumstances of the particular child or family. The development of one-stop services centers are a long step toward realizing this new reality. Families know about and easily access the services mall where they can get the exact help they need. When managed well, each customer has a personal shopper (case manager) who makes sure each client gets exactly what he (or she) needs.
If the exact services or resources are not immediately available, the personal shopper locates them at another mall and has them brought to the customer. "If we do not have exactly what you need, we will find it for you." At this level, child protection has fully transitioned from program centered practice, past family centered practice, to actual community integration. Each member of the community either has or can access the exact services and resources he (or she) needs to succeed.
A Unique Support Network For Each Child
Thus far, I have explored the transition of the child protection paradigm from its traditional foundation. At the traditional level, child protection is rules and procedure driven, emphasizing its reliance on a perceived, well established bureaucratic reality intended to govern and regulate its functioning. From this spurious perspective, child protection is nearly exclusively focused on safety for abused and neglected children, on keeping children from harm's way. This important goal is then pursued through child protection practice that is staff and program centered, providing prescribed services arrays intended to increase child safety. Children receive those predetermined services and resources believed by the bureaucracy to best serve their interests. Child protection operates locally within an identifiable agency and that agency is itself at the center of the helping circle into which children are brought for protective services.
At the intermediate level of the transitioning paradigm, focus shifts from the agency to the community. Within that broader context, child protection is judged in terms of pre-determined outcomes in addition to rules and procedures compliance. There is increased reliance on the continuous inventiveness of workers who function with expanded empowerment and flexibility. Services delivery is less programmatic and staff dependent. Permanence is added to safety as a core goal and the child's family becomes the primary locus of interest. Child protection is additionally judged in terms of the adequacy of community supports and resources and the effectiveness of interagency cooperation and collaboration.
At the advanced level, the paradigm shifts to reliance on standards, best practice approaches, and the professional judgments of child protection workers. The ongoing success of the child stands as a third practice pillar, along with safety and permanence. This emphasis on success expands to incorporate the family and its integration into the community and its array of services and resources for all families and children within the community. At this level, each child and, in turn, each family develops an individualized support network including resources, services, and opportunities flowing from public, private, community, family, and neighborhood sources that continuously adjust and accommodate to the immediate situations and circumstances of each child and family. Establishing, supporting, and maintaining this support network is the ongoing focus of legislative and administrative efforts to assure the safety, permanence, and ongoing success of each child, including those who have been abused or neglected.
From the support network perspective, Children who have experienced abuse and neglect should not be viewed differently than children who experience other situations or circumstances that jeopardize their safety, permanence, and ongoing success. Included here are children who are not succeeding in school, children who are not succeeding in the community due to behavior and adjustment issues, children who are not succeeding due to illness or physical disability, children who are not succeeding due to psychological or developmental issues, and on and on. Significant numbers of our children experience critical life jeopardy for multiple and complex reasons. To treat those who have been abused or neglected as a different class of people is wrong. Further, to treat their families as a different class of people is similarly wrong. Our approach should not vary based on the nature of the specific jeopardy. We should be sure the child is receiving the supports and services he (or she) needs to succeed.
This starts with the child's immediate family, with his parents. Our intervention then expands out to include the extended family, the child's neighborhood and local community, and so on. The intervention moves out far enough but only as far as necessary to assure the child's success. We build the exact support network needed by the specific child to best serve him and his interests. How to do this can be neither legislatively nor administratively mandated. Rather, it simply emphasizes the need for identified standards and best practice methods reliant on sound professional judgment and informed by consensus based guiding principles for work with children in general and with abused and neglected children in particular. Re-forming child protection must proceed with an understanding of those guiding principles as we shift our perspective to incorporate a clear vision of child protection practice from the perspective of the unique support network essential for the ongoing success of the children for whom we are responsible.
This activity enables you to look at your interpersonal style and at your style in relationship to the styles of others. You may find the activity most helpful if you first complete the activity and then read the discussion that follows. Once you have completed the discussion, return to the activity and reconsider your responses. Also, this will be a good time to consider your style in relationship to the styles of others.
Here focus is on your basic nature. It is important to get in touch with who you really are and to avoid responding in terms of how you would like to be or how you would like to be seen by others. In each of the five sets below, consider the descriptions of each personality type, get in touch with who you really are, and then circle either "A" or "B," depending on which one most closely parallels your nature. It may help to think in terms of how you would respond or react during times of stress or tension. It is at these times when one's real nature tends to come to the surface.
1-A: SHARKS Sharks are involved and decisive. They are very much into being individuals who are not part of the group and who definitely operate in their own interest. Being involved takes the form of being extremely alert, aware of what is going on, and prepared to act quickly and efficiently. Decisiveness is a major characteristic, with sharks being able to make a decision and act on it without hesitation or second guessing.
B: SEALS Seals are helpful and playful. They are definitely part of the group and social participation is a high priority for them. They like being helpful, doing things for and with others, and making things work out well for everyone. They also have an ability to be helpful in a fun way, with playfulness being one of their primary characteristics.
2-A: LIONS Lions are assertive and positive. They loudly make their presence known and are immediately recognized and are always attended to. Their assertiveness serves them well in terms of furthering their point of view, their ideas, and their view of the situation and how it should be. They are also positive, expect to succeed, assume that others will respond to their needs and interest, and take the attitude that they never lose but only sometimes need a little more time to win.
B: LAMBS Lambs are loyal and gentle. A lamb is the type who says she will do anything for you and really means it. A lamb's loyalty causes her to go the last mile for anyone to whom the lamb is loyal. They are also recognizable by their gentleness, ability to go with the flow, and the certain knowledge that they will never become aggressive, abrasive, or menacing.
3- A: BEARS Bears are spontaneous and relaxed. Their spontaneity results in their being a lot of fun, easy to be around much of the time, and always ready to be part of the action and usually responsible for spontaneously initiating the action. Bears also appear to be quite relaxed, laid back, and always in control. They do have a tendency to go into hibernation if things get a little out of their control or are not quite the way they want them to be and also have a tendency to get a little carried away with what are sometimes bone-crushing bear hugs when they want to press their point, with those "hugs" coming up fairly spontaneously and a little unpredictably.
B: BEAVERS Beavers are very responsible and open. They do what is expected, always follow through with their commitments, and are intent on taking care of the piece of the world that has been assigned to them. This responsibility combines with openness to make them very accepting, very up front and sharing, and willing to work with anyone under almost any circumstances. Their sense of responsibility does get a little rigid sometimes in terms of doing things the way they are supposed to be done whether that is exactly what the situation calls for or not. Their openness may occasionally be seen as gullibility and does have the tendency to make them vulnerable to those who are less scrupulous. Nonetheless, they do what they do very well, especially if it is not of concern that they seem to have virtually no capacity to do other than what they do.
4-A: TIGERS Tigers are energetic and attractive. They are real go-getters who enjoy taking on a challenge to which they can bring nearly boundless energy. They are also extremely attractive in terms of others being attracted to them. Their attractiveness draws a crowd to them quickly; and they have the good fortune of having the energy to deal with all of the attention. They are great at getting things started but sometimes may lack a little in the follow through or persistence department. It has also been pointed out that tigers are sexy which is not surprising since they are obviously attractive and do have the energy to "stay out all night and cat around:" a good pastime for a tiger.
B: TURTLES Turtles are dependable and patient. They can be counted on in the short run and in the long run. This includes sticking to the path, persevering under difficult circumstances, and an ability to endure the gusty winds and bumpy roads inherent in the journey. Their patience really is a virtue of the first order, giving them the ability to wait until it all blows over or things clear up. They do have a tendency to crawl into their shells when the going gets tough or stress gets high; but they are well protected within the shell and will always be there when the time comes to start again. They have also been seen as extremely thorough and able to do a job, especially if it doesn't matter how long it takes.
5-A: BUZZARDS Buzzards are flexible and supportive. They have the long view, the broad perspective, and are very good about cleaning up the messes of others. They are what has been described as troubleshooters and problem finders, although their problem solving is sometimes excessive and may seem like overkill. They are also supportive, since they do not need a goal and mission of their own. They can get involved sometimes without even being asked and will support which ever cause or side they happen to be on at the time. Nonetheless, it is important to emphasize the buzzard's ability to adjust to almost any difficult or complex situation, his ability to find problems where there may not have been any that were obvious to any one else, and his willingness to work toward whatever end seems most appropriate and expedient at the time.
B: BEES Bees are consistent and accepting. Their constancy allows them to do the things they do in a regular and predictable way. They are easy to be around since their styles are so recognizable and definable. They are also accepting and seem not to mind changes in situations or circumstances, the ups and downs experienced by others with whom they associate, and the fact that the world is not always as others think it should always be. These positive qualities are only somewhat diminished by the bee's tendency to "stick it to you" when you might least expect it because the bee is so sweet and honey like that it is hard to get upset or annoyed with her, although things do get a little sticky from time to time.
(Note) It is really a jungle out there and is also important to understand the animals and to understand the animal group to which you belong. There is also the socialized civilized side of things, though. This is where consideration and tolerance come in. They are not of the nature of individuals but need to be learned over time and carefully cultivated. Using a 5-point scale with 5 representing very high, 4 representing high, 3 representing medium, 2 representing low, and 1 representing very low, how would you rate yourself in terms of being considerate with others in your family? Using the same rating scale, how would you rate yourself in terms of being tolerant with other people in your family? Can you give three examples of your being considerate and three of your being tolerant to support your rating?
If this activity is compared to the interpersonal style type activity, it will be seen that the sharks, lions, bears, tigers, and buzzards reflect the same elements or characteristics as were attributed to dictators and levitators. Further, seals, lambs, beavers, turtles, and bees reflect the same elements or characteristics as were attributed to facilitators and gravitators. This activity may, then, be understood in relationship to and as an extension of the earlier, interpersonal style type activity.
Ordinarily, individuals participating in the activity will tend to identify with group A: sharks-lions-bears-tigers-buzzards and with group B: seals-lambs-beavers-turtles-bees. The fact is that their day-to-day functioning may actually reflect this mixed and blended pattern. The tendency is, though, for them to move nearly exclusively toward the A group or the B group during times of stress, tension, conflict, confusion, or ambiguity. The tendency is to move into their comfort zones.
Group A individuals tend, by nature, to be more aggressive and individualistic, while members of group B tend to be more passive and socially oriented. Although individuals sometimes have difficulty recognizing this comfort zone tendency, others members of the family usually have no difficulty assigning each family member to one of the two groups.
Once the consultant has facilitated the client's identifying the group in which she best fits, education begins to focus on the effect of socialization on his natural style and on the client's ability to recognize and modify the style during times of stress, confusion, or interpersonal ambiguity. The activity becomes a measure of the extent to which the client is experiencing stress insofar as she will tend to go to the extremes within group A or the extremes within group B, moving in a direction consistent with her natural tendency. Understanding and recognizing this tendency is, then, the first step in developing more socialized, more effective style during times of stress.
Group A individuals learn to recognize their typical stress reactions in terms of the characteristics designating their group. They will find themselves becoming more intensely focused on and preoccupied with the situations and individuals with whom they are interacting. Their involvement becomes very intense and tends to exclude other interests and activities. At times, this may take on an almost obsessive quality. They also develop an increased need to be decisive, make something happen, and take charge of both the situation and of other people in the situation.
This group A tendency compounds in terms of being more forceful and assertive sometimes edging on aggressiveness. The individual's level of spontaneity shifts to what is easily perceived by others as insensitivity and a lack of concern for their feelings and thoughts. The intense control experienced by the individual is intended to convey an attitude of relaxed positiveness and confidence. The underlying tension and anxiety, however, come through and are easily seen by others as the primary state of the individual. Group A people under extreme stress take on a driven quality with their normally energetic and attractive approach becoming overwhelming and, to some extent, overbearing. The usual responses they get from others to their flexibility and supportiveness are quickly replaced by a reciprocal anxiety and quality of apprehension. The group A person has become, from the point of view of others, unpredictable and potentially dangerous in socioemotional terms. Along with experiencing extreme stress, she becomes a stress carrier, quickly transferring her stress and tension to others.
Group B individuals in times of extreme stress begin to manifest that natural helpfulness becomes a need to do things for others and to be all things to all people. Their nervousness and apprehension are managed through seeming to take little seriously and seeming as if they think everyone wants to play and not really deal with the serious issues or concerns. In this sense, their attitude is sometimes perceived by others as somewhat childish and inappropriate.
Type B individuals also begin to find their security in being loyal to others without rational appraisal of the goals and direction inherent in this unquestioning loyalty. Their normal gentleness becomes passivity and increases their vulnerability. This is compounded by their openness that becomes excessive in the direction of self-disclosure and an absence of self-protection. Their sense of responsibility intensifies and increases to the point of becoming a self-imposed burden with compounds with an increased need to be seen as dependable which may result in their pushing themselves past the point of responsible participation. What is usually a very desirable quality of patience becomes an inability to act, developing a quality of socioemotional immobilization.
The result of these tendencies is a high level of ambiguity and uncertainty that results in increased anxiety and tension as a result of a perceived inability to consistently play their parts in the group. At this point, their usually appealing, accepting approach to others moves into the realm of fatalism and powerlessness and a sense of being defeated and unappreciated.
Whether extreme stress moves one toward the group A adaptation of the sharks or the group B adaptation of the seals, the effect is counterproductive for the individual. This is true whether the tendency is mild or more toward the extreme. In either event, the individual needs to move toward a socialized, interpersonal adaptation. With the support and coaching of the consultant, both the sharks and the seals learn to develop early awareness of and recognition of stress reactions and adaptational patterns in themselves. Once this recognition has occurred and has been accompanied by education directed to understanding the reaction pattern, consultation focuses in terms of more effective self-management and interpersonal participation.
Sharks will find that their stress levels reduce as they become more helpful and playful, loyalty-oriented and gentle, sensitive to their interpersonal responsibilities and more open with others, conscious of being there for others and being a dependable participant, developing a longer perspective with increased patience and more socioemotional consistency, and simply being more accepting of others, who they are, and what their needs and interests are. Sharks best manage stress reactions by emulating the strengths of the seals, with the seals achieving the same end through emulating the strengths of the sharks.
How might you and your significant other become competitive? Actually, it is much more subtle than you might think. Even less obviously, you may not see it as competition and might deny that you are competing, if asked.
Do you recall, "Relationships are a 50/50 proposition?" Well, therein lies the source of most of the competition Simon has in mind. If relationships are supposed to be 50/50, then it is reasonable to rate yourself and each other. Who is ahead or behind?
"I do all of the work and you spend your time laying around."
"I'm getting tired of doing my work and yours too."
"I'm there for you but you are never around when I need you."
"I hold up my end of things but you just do whatever you feel like doing."
Do you see the pattern? "I am doing fine and you are screwing up." Although this is most always the pattern, it can work the other way. "I know that you are getting the short end of things but. . . ." Either way, the race is on, you and your significant other have become competitive.
The first order of business for you is to do today's business today, every day. Whether your significant other is or is not doing likewise is not the issue here. For you, your relationship needs to be a 100%/100% proposition. The only course you have, your only responsibility is to be sure that you are doing your 100%. If both of you use the same approach, all is well. If not, it is time to re-negotiate.
Of course, you do not start with, "This is unfair. I am getting fed up with your not doing your share." You also do not open with, "If you are not going to do your stuff, I'm going to stop doing mine." It is not a fairness issue nor is it a time to start threatening. It is, however, definitely time to sit down and reconsider the distribution of responsibilities.
Sure, there may come a time when you want to do a cost/benefit analysis of your staying in the relationship; but it is not yet time to put that old dog in the truck and take it on down-the-road. To totally mix the metaphor, it is time for some serious horse-trading.
Start with your list of activities and services that you think need to be handled but are not. You each will likely have your individual list.
Eliminate everything where you disagree. If you do not both think it is important, then the one who does will have to take care of it.
Next, eliminate everything where "We agree that it is important but disagree about whose responsibility it should be." Those are the disputed points.
You are left with those things that are important and you agree about whose business it is. For those, it is a matter of each of you doing today's business today, every day. If either of you will not or cannot do that, you have a quite different problem that needs your immediate attention.
For those remaining disputed points, you horse-trade, understanding that there will usually be a few disputed points that are a continuing source of discussion and tension in your relationship. The key is in seeing that it is not a matter of competition, who is doing more and who is doing less. It is simply an opportunity to creatively resolve the disagreement you are having.
SPAM is here to stay so knowing how to spot it and what to do with it are self-protection skills everyone who has an email account seriously needs. Of course, there are free SPAM filters, SPAM blockers that can be purchased for $19.95 or $29.95 or more if you have lots of extra cash, or SPAM detectives that will stop SPAM, block pop-up ads, and probably protect you from cyber monsters. All of these products are potentially useful and may even work. While you are deciding which protection you will buy, here are a few tips I have discovered that don't cost anything and work pretty well for me, at least so far.
1. Your email client likely lets you send an auto reply to anyone who sends you an email. Make a message that says, "I am not replying to email today. If your message is important, give me a call or send me a letter. You know, one of those documents you put in an envelope and drop in the mail after you put a stamp on it. I know it has been a long time but give it a try, how to do it will all come back to you if you concentrate."
2. Check your in-box and press the delete key on each new message that arrives. That will get rid of all of the SPAM and you can give all of your attention to sending emails to everyone you know. If anyone asks you why you didn't reply to their email, you can tell them you always delete email so you aren't bothered with SPAM. If you don't want to do that and aren't bothered by a little white lie, tell them your email crashed and you lost their message. The good part here is it is sort of true. You don't need to tell them you crashed it with the delete key.
3. Delete the email if it isn't from a person or company you have heard of. Sure, it may be someone you don't know or a company you may want to know is sending you an important email but it's not likely unless you have a business that does business by email. Be especially cautious about emails from people who only have first names. Even your friends likely put their first name or initial and last name in the TO line of their emails and any reputable business will include its full name.
4. Here's my favorite. Check out the subject of the email. If you don't know what in the world it means, delete it. If it is in a language you can't speak, delete it. If it is a greeting, delete it, e.g. "Hi." If it has odd characters in it, delete it. If you can't pronounce it or would never say that yourself, delete it. If it mentions personal body areas or cures or enhancements for personal body areas, delete it, unless you have a serious need for a cure or enhancement and have discussed it with your doctor and have been advised to find a cure or enhancement by reading SPAM.
5. OK, you have followed tips 1-4 and absolutely can't resist opening that email you just got. Look at the first couple of lines and see what you see. If there are graphics, odd characters, or anything other than simple text that gets down to the reason for the email, delete it. If there are links to click on, delete it. If you can't tell what the point is in a paragraph or so, delete it. Unless you are sure it is good stuff and you really want to know, delete it.
6. If the email has an attachment, don't open it. If you simply have to open it, don't click on the attachment. If the email starts doing stuff without your doing anything, delete it and if you can't delete it, turn off your computer. Can you ever open an attachment? Well, maybe, if the email is from your mother or your best friend or your boss and they sent it to you and did not forward it from someone else. If you are asked later what you thought about the attachment, it's time for one of those little white lies, "I couldn't get it to open." Well, it is again sort of true. You don't need to mention that it wouldn't open because you deleted their email and the attachment went to cyber heaven with the email.
7. What should you do if you decided to ignore tips 1-6? Go to the help section of your virus software to see what it has to say about ignoring tips 1-6. If that doesn't work, maybe you can quickly develop a close personal relationship with a computer guru.