Podcast 28: Don’t Interview for Pain, Face the Challenge of Shared Work, and Whether to Keep Ice Cream in the Freezer.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

To listen to this episode, just zip to the bottom of this post and hit the red “play” button.

Or if you’re reading this post by email, click to view online, to listen to the podcast from this post.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin: Episode 28

Update: Elizabeth is an Obliger, and we’re holding her accountable for writing her novel — she explains why, in fact, she has not yet started.

Try This at Home:  Don’t interview for pain.

I’m quoting from Michael Thompson and Catherine O’Neill Grace’s terrific Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children. I love this book.

Here’s the passage I read:

I believe that we live the story we tell ourselves–and others–about the life we’re leading…If you constantly interview your child for pain, your child may begin to hear a story of social suffering emerge from her own mouth. Soon she will begin to believe it and will see herself as a victim….


Please understand that I am not advising you to disbelieve our children, nor am I saying that you should not be empathic…But…don’t interview for pain, don’t nurture resentments, and don’t hold on to ancient history. Kids don’t.

Happiness Stumbling Block: Navigating the challenges of shared work.  This is a very common stumbling block!

Listener Questioner: “My husband loves to have ice cream in the freezer, but I find myself in the kitchen with a spoon at 10:00 a.m. because I just cannot get the ice cream out of my head.” To hear the Abstainer vs. Moderator discussion, it’s in episode 2.

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth was so stressed about her family being on time for the first day of kindergarten that they showed up too early.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I love my special drawer. Can you think of a better name? Special drawer is a little…generic.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

Check out  The Great Courses for a wide variety of fascinating courses taught by top professors and experts in their fields. Special offer for our listeners: go to thegreatcourses.com/happier to order from eight of their bestselling courses, including The Science of Mindfulness, and get up to 80% off. Limited time.

Also check out Warby Parker, a new concept in eye wear. Most Warby Parker classic styles start at $95, including prescription lenses, and you order on-line. Go to warbyparker.com/happier to choose your five free home-try-on frames. Send the frames back, choose your favorite pair, and order.

We love hearing from listeners

Tell us — have you ever found yourself interviewing for pain?  In what circumstances? Also, please send dog advice and dog reading suggestions!

There’s lots of ways to share your responses:


To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or click here.

If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Click here to tell your friends on Twitter.

Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)


How to Subscribe

If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

HAPPIER listening!

  • MaggieRose59

    Dog Advice: I have been a professional groomer for 30+ years and this is my advice. 1. Crate train, crate train, crate train! All dogs are happier when they are crate trained, and so are their owners. Once they get used to their crate it becomes their special safe zone. Depending on the personality of your dog, it could take a few days to a week to get them used to it. Any time you can’t be supervising him he should be in his crate. Never use the crate for punishment, it should be a comfortable happy place. Crate training is also very helpful if he has to go stay with someone or you travel with him. 2. Start basic obedience training immediately. There are a gazillion tutorials on line for how to train with treats (very painless). And you should definitely sign up for at least one set of dog training classes. This is just as much for you as the dog. It will teach you how to work with your dog as well as socialize him. Wow! I’m happy for you. I can’t imagine life without dogs!

    • s_ifat

      I agree. crate train is very helpful. but you really need to know how to do it. Susan Garret is great and has the wonderful ‘crate games’ method.

      • Cheryl Black

        Absolutely! Susan Garrett with her Say Yes, DO-land type of training. Don’t let anyone tell you positive reinforcement training is permissive training! It takes some time and effort but will give you a dog that is WANTING to do what you want it to do.

        • s_ifat


  • Natalie

    When I read the title “whether to keep ice cream in the freezer” I wondered: where else would you keep it? Lol. Ice cream is definitely not a problem for me so my husband can have his ice cream in the freezer. I have different trigger foods.

  • Mimi Gregor

    Regarding the name of your “special drawer”: The way you described it reminded me very much of Hogwart’s “room of requirement”. Maybe it should be your “drawer of requirement”.

  • s_ifat

    Loved the podcast. I mostly don’t interview for pain, funny enough, because I know so much about dog training! Yes, this knowledge radiates to other areas in my life. a very important notion in dog training is to never focus on a bad behavior, bcause then your dog will learn very quickly to chew the legs of the sofa just to get your attention. There are other great ways to teach a dog not to do it, none of them include pain or negative attention. So I do it automatically now with people around me as well. The ways positives reinforcement works so well on my dogs, actually trained me to respond better 🙂

  • MaggieRose59

    Dog Books: I assume you mean non-fiction, but I learned about dogs hands-on so I can’t recommend anything in that area. However, I know you have a love for children’s literature and the greatest dog book I believe ever written is “Finn the Wolfhound” by A. J. Dawson (published 1908). I got this book in 1968 (third grade!) from the Scholastic Books Catalog that came around every month. It was a little over my head at that time, mostly because of the 1908 style of writing and also being English, but I have probably read it 20 or more times since then and it never gets old. I have never read a book that so accurately depicts what a dog would actually feel and think under the given circumstances. The author doesn’t humanize Finn at all. He is completely a dog with instincts fully intact. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves dogs and enjoys a great dog story.

  • Msconduct

    Re the ice cream dilemma: Gretchen’s rule that the person who’s at home most should prevail is a good one, but I have an alternative: the person to whom it matters most should get their way. So by this logic, the ice cream loving husband might enjoy eating ice cream at home, but that’s not as important as the wife’s avoiding ice cream for her health is, and she should get her way. Of course, it’s possible that it’s REALLY important to the husband that he has ice cream at home. In that case, both should rate out of ten how important the issue is to them, and the highest ranking should prevail. (This is also a great strategy if you’re arguing about something like what movie to see or which restaurant to go it – it can save hours of debate! Even better, the “loser” doesn’t resent not getting their way when they understand that the issue is more important to the other person than it is to them.)
    And if they’re still deadlocked, I suggest sulking, tears and sexual blackmail:).

  • Margaret

    Although I too am an abstainer, I found myself feeling sorry for the husband who wouldn’t be able to have his ice cream! I wonder if a “firm red line” policy might work here: if she can’t just have a little ice cream after dinner, maybe she could set herself a rule that she just does not eat freezer ice cream at all and only has it when they can go out for a special ice cream date. And maybe the husband could promise to go out with her for this treat every week or so. This kind of policy works for me, but I’m an upholder too, so I recognize that it might not work for everyone. (By the way, Gretchen’s pointing out that things that work for upholders don’t work for everyone has been immensely helpful for me. Thank you!)

    • gretchenrubin

      Interesting! Great to hear from a fellow Upholder!

  • michaelmelcher

    Make sure you read “The Nature of Animal Healing,” by Dr. Martin Goldstein. Wonderful book to help you prepare your dog for a long, healthy life.

  • SMann

    “Don’t Interview for Pain” reminds me of the parable “The Wolf you Feed” which I just heard for the first time in the movie Tommorrowland. It’s a beautiful, short parable that has stuck with me: http://www.oneyoufeed.net/the-parable/

  • Teri1147

    I’m re-listening to all the podcasts and loving it. As a mother of four school age kids, I find that SO MANY of the things you discuss apply really well to parenting. Treats vs rewards, making habits convenient, the one minute rule, etc. While it’s totally true that we can only change ourselves, parenting is the business of teaching and training other human beings in important life strategies. You have given me so many! Thank you!

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks so much – great to hear that it strikes a chord with you!

  • Caroline V

    Hi !

    For the ice cream : it is an issue for me & my mom with unhealthy food. She keeps buying it at the grocery store… and I eat it. Point. I mean, I am really struggling and it is hard to not eat it, sometimes I can eat and cook really heatlhy and not touch her food. BUT, it is so much easier when there is none. I ONLY buy fresh products and healthy stuff at the grocery store. When I was living alone in my apartment I remember succeeding in eating healthy for 2 whole months in a row because I was the only one buying food. Still, I can not find myself as an abstainer. I don’t know why, but I always ‘fall off the wagon’ like a moderator would. But I can not moderate once I start eating fast food I can not stop.

    *By the way, there was an Harvard EdX Free class that was called Immunity to Change. I recommand their book and the class which is free and very well done on the Internet.

    I think for the ice cream issue, the husband should find a way to moderate himself in a way that will not harm his wife. I’m sure there is one and Gretchen mentionned some ideas that were great! =)

  • cmclaire

    I’m loving catching up with these podcasts now I’m home and working in my little home office!


  • Caroline V

    And Thank you for the idea of the walking meetings! ( I think it was in another episode but I listened to it today) Loved it and never thought about it!! I have been wanting a treadmill desk, but it wasn’t well received… I have to think about another way to bring it.

    * I just saw that Elizabeth was a writter for Dollhouse! I LOVED LOVED that tv show! I watched all the episodes in a row I was addicted it was sooo good. I was on vacation with my family and I loved it so much they let me do it =)
    * I would be interested to read about Elizabeth’s carreer in a kind of journal way if she was interested in doing a project like that.

  • Lynn Wilson

    On the ice cream. Seems like a great opportunity for the wife to develop a new habit to replace that ( what sounds like) emotional eating…..

    • gretchenrubin

      I have to say, in my view, it’s not that one person should have to change. Both ways are right. The question is, how to make an environment that works best for everyone? It may require logistical compromise – but it’s easier to change our surroundings than OURSELVES. I always push back when someone says, “you have to change YOURSELF.”

  • Carol

    They make lock boxes that are big enough to store a pint or two of ice cream and small enough to fit into a freezer. Only the husband has the key. Wouldn’t that be a win-win?
    For Gretchen’s drawer “Gretchen’s Drawer of Wonders!”

  • Natasha Rivett-Carnac

    It was interesting hearing the bit about not interviewing your kids for pain. Like Elizabeth, my daughter just started kindergarten and I totally related to interviewing for pain because, like Gretchen said, you just sort of feel like it’s your parenting responsibility. I’m going to try this advice, but honestly I’m a little on the fence about it. I don’t really want to create a sort of “everything has to be happy” attitude that I think we do too much of as Americans, but since there’s something about the advice that peaked my curiosity I’m willing to try it

  • Tara

    In our kitchen we have one wall painted green, on the wall is a cabinet with a big drawer which we call “the big green drawer.” Whenever anyone needs something it’s “in the big green drawer!”

    • gretchenrubin

      Love that name!

  • Gretchen: get ready to add a new item to your special drawer (the number one item in my special drawer): doggie-doo bags! 🙂

  • Laura

    When they were young, my husband and his brother would lick the top of treats (in front of the other) in order to stake ownership. It might work if the husband did that to the ice cream! Maybe she wouldn’t be tempted to eat any.

  • Sarah Anderson

    I also have a special drawer! But it is not the same as my junk drawer. It is conveniently located beside my junk drawer. Everything (scissors, pens, notepads, phone chargers and earbuds, tape measure, etc) in the special drawer has a place, whereas the junk drawer is everything I want to hang on to, but don’t have a place for (receipts, coupons, programs, menus etc). the different is that junk drawer items get purged from time to time, special drawer items get replenished or replaced, but they’re always there!

  • Veronica

    My special drawer is actually a cupboard which I call The Cupboard of Useful Things.

    • gretchenrubin

      Love that name!

  • Reena

    When I was a freshman in college, I started “the important drawer”. I was a hopeless disaster when it came to tidiness, but I knew I couldn’t lose stuff like my passport, important papers etc, so anything that was important went into the important drawer. Eventually it became two drawers: the important drawer and the very important drawer. Now, everywhere I live, I always immediately designate the “very important drawer” in the house the moment I move in 🙂

    Also, to the woman with the ice cream dilemma: I feel your pain. My boyfriend would bring full boxes of cookies and leave them on the counter, and maybe nibble on one while I scarfed down the rest of the box. Also, my office was like ten feet away from our fridge, which did not help the situation at all!! We had to resort to buying this: http://www.thekitchensafe.com/ it isn’t a perfect solution, because no one could get into the box when it was closed, but it did stave off some late night cookie binges…

  • Malin

    Oh my gosh ladies. I love your podcast, and as ive just started listening a few weeks ago, i have your amazing backlog to go through. I find myself wanting to comment on all of your episodes but feel I should wait until I catch up a bit more.
    HOWEVER I must suggest a new name for Gretchen’s drawer. As I know Gretchen is a Potter fan, and this was my immediate thought I must suggest: The drawer of requirement!

    Love your work Elizabeth and Gretchen. You’re both amazing. Thank you! Malin.

    • gretchenrubin

      LOVE THIS! The drawer of requirement! That’s its new name.

      • Malin

        Happy to help! Thank you again for all your amazing work. Books and podcasts alike.

  • Beth Clawson

    I was recently introduced to your podcast and have been “spree-ing” past episodes on my vacation whilst hand sewing myself a skirt.

    Re: interviewing for pain.
    One of the wisest, most effective parents I know does “rose, bud and thorn” with her sons each night. They talk about the best part of their day (the rose), the worst part of their day (the thorn) and what they are most looking forward to tomorrow (the bud). In this way, the parents and the kids talk about their days–the good parts and the less good parts–and the future. Using this metaphor — rose, bud, thorn — is a habit they have cultivate since their boys were in preschool.

    My daughter (currently six years old) and I do rose, bud, and thorn, too, as part of bedtime routine. We don’t do it every night. I’ve often thought about keeping a R, B, T journal with my daughter. Kind of in line with the “one sentence journal” strategy, as a way to document our lives.

    Having written all the above, I’m reminded of the mother/newborn group I participated in. It was a group designed by a new mom who had her first kid and was the first in her friend group to have a child. With no one in her similar situation she started this group as a way to share parenting ideas. We were a huge group of strangers. To get to know one another we used the “high, low and advice” method. Each mom had a turn to share their week’s high point and low point plus a nugget of advice we thought others would find useful.

    Both of these above examples offered ways to talk about sadness/upsets AND happiness/achievements. giving the positives and the negatives equal footing was a very effective way to get to know one another and to get used to talking about “hard stuff”.

    Thanks for this podcast.