Ten Ways to Become a Better Conversationalist

Conversation by Patrick Bohnen

Conversation by Patrick Bohnen (Photo credit: Kraemer Family Library)

Doesn’t it seem like some people have lots of friends and others have very few.  You might say that it’s unfair.  However, you may have found some people are more fun to hang around with than others.  Why is that?  Well, it may be personal chemistry or the fact that they’re positive, upbeat people.  There may be many other reasons for this, but the one factor that I would like to zero in on is conversation skills.  Conversation skills often make or break potential relationships and may help or harm existing ones.

Why?  One who is fluent with words and can confidently express their feelings or insights on a specific topic and at the same time, entertain their audience, is a good conversationalist.  Such a person attracts people and makes friends easily.  Not only are they interesting to listen to, but knowledgeable on what subject they speak about.  Also, once one realizes they are good listeners, she is likely to turn to this person again and again for advice or feedback.  People will seek out that great conversationalist time and time again.

Before we can understand what makes a great conversationalist great, we must focus in on the poor conversationalists.  I would like to categorize poor conversationalists into two groups: the quiet and the blabbermouths.

Quiet People

The quiet person typically has nothing to say.  He just sits there silently and may or may not pay attention to what is being said.  Rarely, if ever does he have anything worthwhile to contribute to a conversation and when he speaks, his responses are usually monosyllabic in nature (“yeah” or “no”) or single sentences.  They usually speak in a monotone voice.

Getting this person to speak is a big challenge.  He’s like the “are we having fun yet?” type of person.  He appears to be apathetic and may be thought to lack intelligence.  It seems like he has no opinion about anything.    He often annoys people in one-on-one situations because he leaves it up to the other person to make all the effort in keeping the conversation going.  Such an individual is often a loner with few, if any, friends.

Usually, the quiet type is not too sociable.  If they see someone they don’t know or care for, they won’t stop and say “hello.”  Many of them are introverted.  Since they lack self-confidence, they feel it’s best just to remain quiet.  Some are shy and unwilling to volunteer to help others in need.  Likewise, if they see something that is going wrong in a public environment (such as a mechanical failure in the workplace), instead of reporting the problem to authorized personnel, they assume someone else will.

Blabbermouths

Then there are the blabbermouths.  Blabbermouths dominate conversations.  They are dying to get noticed by others.  Likewise, they don’t like to listen and may not care how you feel.  They talk and talk and talk whether you care what they’re saying or not.  At the same time, they go into great detail on subjects sometimes to the point where you want to tell them to shut up.  Some go on and on and don’t care if you get a word in edgewise.  Once you finally respond back, they interrupt you before you can finish.  Most of them can’t seem to express all of their thoughts fast enough.

Usually these people are extroverted and are rarely, if ever afraid to say what’s on their mind.  Such people are typically sociable and crave attention from others.

Blabbermouths can be subcategorized:

First are the whiners/complainers.  They just have to complain about something and in the meantime, assume you want to hear their personal beefs.  Most likely, they want you to feel sorry for them.

Second are the know-it-alls.  These are people with overinflated egos who want to convince you that whatever you know about any particular subject, they know even more.  Any experience you have lived through, they lived through a worse one.   Any place you’ve been, they’ve been there too and seen more than you did.

Third are the gossipers.  In order to gain recognition and approval by personal acquaintances, they put others down.  I cover them more in my article: Gossiping Is Annoying and Immature.   Unlike the other blabbermouths, they are willing to listen, hoping they’ll learn more about the people around them.

Fourth are the self-lovers (for lack of a better term).  Like the know-it-alls, they have false, overinflated egos.  While they like to go on and on bragging about themselves,  but deep down inside they feel insecure or unhappy.  They must justify that by trying to get others to notice them.  They are often annoying and don’t want to hear about others.

My Social Anxiety as a Poor Conversationalist

Up to my late 30s, I have been the quiet type.  Trying to find things to say was typically next to impossible.  Afraid of making a fool of myself, I remained motionless and quiet.  In social situations I seldom contributed to conversations.  Although I dreaded personal gatherings, felt too antisocial if I missed them.

While sitting at a table with others I was usually the only one with nothing to say.  This was especially true when coworkers would go out for lunch or drinks after work.  Work meetings were unpleasant for me as well.  I would listen to others and noticed everyone there had things to say, but not me.  As a result, I would become sweaty and shaky and turn red in the face.

I later realized I had a form of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).  Not only did I feel inferior in front of groups of people, but also felt that if I did one little thing wrong, I would be adversely judged by them.  I had a low self-esteem because it seemed like I had very few if any friends.  I have had jobs working in offices where I noticed coworkers stopping at each others’ desks and talking, but never stopping to talk to me. I was worried that people thought I was a boring person.

I remember going out on dates in my mid 20s.  On some dates, making conversation was difficult.  It’s like I let some potentially great women slide through my hands because neither one of us knew what to say to each other.  One woman even constantly fidgeted with her straw wrapper because she became bored.  Needless to say, we had only one meeting and that was it.

How to Improve Your Conversation Skills

Being a good conversationalist is a valuable personal art indeed.  This is one component of humanity that makes a person popular and successful.  Still, no matter how prosperous and well-liked people are, most everyone has room for improvement.

Making great conversation isn’t always easy because people have different lifestyles and interests.  Why some may be extremely compassionate about a particular subject, say astrology, others will find it absolutely boring.  Hence, there is no one formula for making great conversation, but there are tactics that can make a discussion more fulfilling.

Imagine that you see someone you don’t know but would like to get acquainted with.  How do you approach him or her?   Say you see someone of the opposite sex you might want to take out on a date, how do you strike up a conversation?   Or when you’re alone with someone you know and want to pass the time away talking.

As you already know, strangers are not willing to talk to others unless they have to.  Making small-talk or chatting about the weather never leads anywhere (unless perhaps, there was a bona fide storm in your community).

Here are additional tactics:

  1. Speak with emotion – Have some vocal variety in your voice.  Speaking in a dull monotone voice will never get you anywhere.
  2. Talk about something you have a genuine interest in – The more knowledgeable you are about a specific topic, the more prepared you are to talk about it.  Don’t pretend you know about something you don’t and don’t make assumptions.   After all, you don’t know who you’re talking to.  If you make a guess on how something works and the other person realizes that you’re “dead wrong”, you’ll look like a big horse’s ass.  For example, when CDs first came out, I guessed how sounds were transmitted by the players.  Though the signals are composed of only 0s and 1s, I thought every digit from 0 to 9 was used.   Little did I know, I was talking to a computer engineer.
  3. Present an object – If you have something in hand that people like to look at such as magazines, photographs or souvenirs, this is a good place to begin.  People love touching and looking at things, even the not-so-talkative folks.  If you do present an object to a stranger, keep it in good taste.
  4. Tell a story – People love to hear stories about tragedies, mishaps, or controversial subjects.  Likewise, they love to talk about things pertaining to their personal interests.  Nobody wants to hear about matters they can’t relate to or ordinary life stories.  They love to hear about setbacks or troubles one has experienced.  Such examples may be traffic accidents, run-ins with the law, or terrible mistakes one has made.  Subjects as politics and sports are great providing the other person has an interest in them and you remain neutral.
  5. Ask questions — By asking a question, you can solicit a response from the other person.  Such questions may start out with: “How do you feel about…?”, “Did you know that….?”, or “What if…?”   Ask only open-ended questions.  Yes or no questions drop a conversation dead in its tracks.  If you have trouble coming up with a question, ask someone something that you already know just to hear what they have to say.  If you want to know more about something, ask questions, but not unless you “get the ball rolling.”
  6. Follow the topic — If the person starts talking about another aspect of the subject, talk about that aspect too.  If you don’t know much about it, gently sway them back to the original subject.
  7. Be polite – Talk as if you’re talking to someone at a formal occasion such as a wedding or funeral.  Don’t use profanity or make sexist, racist, or any other negatively opinionated remarks.  Even though a subject may upset you, don’t get emotional, especially if they say something you strongly disagree with.  If you already know the person, you are free to them in their own language.  Don’t get sarcastic or run down people in other walks of life.
  8. Stay positive – People would much rather talk to an optimist rather than a pessimist.  By bringing up the positive side of an aspect, you give them a better impression of you.
  9. Don’t interrupt — Never, ever cut a person off before she is done talking.  After all, they would like to get their point across to you just as much as you would like to get your point across to them.  Interrupting them is a sure sign that shows you don’t care about what they have to say.  Also, never try to dominate the conversation.
  10. 10. Keep them entertained – Don’t bore a person with long, uninteresting details or technical jargon they’re not familiar with.  Talk only about things that are likely to affect them directly.  Use some humor, but keep it in good taste.

Join Toastmasters

If you’re an extremely poor conversationalist or you just want to improve your speaking skills, you may want to join Toastmasters International.  For those of you not familiar with this organization, they are simply a group of members who get together once a week to sharpen their skills on speaking in public.  This club helps its members overcome their fear of speaking in front of audiences while helping participants further excel in their professional careers.

Here you will give five to ten minute speeches, evaluate other speakers, or participate in table topics.  Table topics are random subjects each member speaks on for about one minute, but nobody knows what their topic will be until they are given it.  This teaches members to speak effectively “on their toes.”  Sometimes, you’ll be assigned to evaluate a speaker.  Best of all, people learn to speak by watching others and learning from their mistakes.  This is a great club and everyone has fun attending it including myself.  It has helped me sharpen my conversation skills.

Toastmasters Int. is a worldwide organization with clubs in most all major cities and suburban areas.  With a little research, you can find one in your community.  There is a fee to joining, but it is about $50 a year or less.

Learn, Learn, Learn

The more you learn about life and the world you live in, the more you’ll know.  The more you know, the better a conversationalist you will be.  Keep up on the news in your town and current events.  If you want to know more about a particular subject, research it or seek advice from those who know it well.  It goes without saying, the internet is a great source of information with social media sites (as Facebook) and libraries of articles.  Finally, listen to how good conversationalists talk and try to follow their examples.

Other Articles:

Gossiping is Annoying and Immature

Speaking In Front of an Audience/Brave Rooney

The Damaging Remark

Thou Shalt Not Compare

Small Ways to A Happy Life

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People That Eat Too Fast

A typical fast food stand on Blackpool promena...

A typical fast food stand on Blackpool promenade. Ohhhhh this picture was used in one of my fave blogs – the ever lovely lifehacker! 🙂 lifehacker.com/5332352/what-to-eat-and-avoid-at-chain-res… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of us eat too fast.  How many?  That’s hard to say, unless you can find a study done on the subject, but there isn’t any as far as I am aware.  However, the total percentage of all people may be far greater than you might think.   In this post, I would like to alert my readers the dangers of wolfing down your food.  I feel like a hypocrite writing such an article, because I’ve done it all of my life.  I don’t know!  Maybe I was born with this habit.

Why Do We Eat So Fast?

Eating fast is a bad habit and one that many of us have developed over time.  But why do we do it?  Since I’ve done it for so many years, perhaps I could tell you.  There are several reasons:

  • We’re constantly busy –  That goes without saying.  Nowadays, most everyone is busy, especially parents that raise children, attend college, and work full time.  We’re constantly on the go and are trying to juggle multiple duties at once.  Even those that only do one or two of the above three things experience stress in their everyday lives.  If it isn’t our basic responsibilities, it could be activities we engage in outside our homes.  Say if we belong to clubs, like bowling leagues, this adds to our busy schedules, leaving us even less time to relax.  This is especially true for business men on the go who work long hours each day.
  • We’re activity-oriented –  Whether we raise families, go to school, or work over 40 hours a week, or perhaps do none of these things, many of us are still workaholics.  Whatever it is, we have something that we feel is extremely important to do.  This may mean maintaining our homes, building an online presence for ourselves (like blogging or making YouTube videos, etc), operating a home-based business, keeping up on the latest video games, etc, these things make us workaholics as well.  Anything we feel is an absolute must for us, it is our number one priority to make the time for it, even if we must skimp on our feeding time.
  • We must fit in a meal while running errands –  While this might overlap with the first two reasons, that is not always the case.  At times when we must do two or more errands under tight time restrictions, we may lack time to sit down and eat a decent meal.  This may be true for those who try to fit in scheduled appointments as getting a haircut, seeing a doctor, shopping for urgently needed items, picking the kids up from school, or any combination of duties requiring one to keep preset appointments or get things done by a certain time.  Although skipping lunch may seem like the thing to do, some of us can’t function so well when we’re hungry.  This is when we fit a meal in on-the-fly.  This is especially true when we’re running behind schedule.
  • We’re doing something else in the meantime –  Many of us eat while watching TV.  Other eat while driving, playing video games, solving puzzles, reading the news, etc.  During such activities, there are moments that require us to be extra alert and act quickly.  We might get cut off in traffic or some dramatic thing happens on TV.  Such events may make us want to quickly swallow that last bite so we can respond appropriately.  By finishing our food quickly, we can attend to our activities with clear minds.
  • We find eating too cumbersome or time consuming –  Those who eat fast aren’t always necessarily busy.  They just don’t have the patience to sit and chew food for minutes between bites.  Eating slowly seems so boring or a real big waste of time.  It’s like they believe they have something better to do, not always knowing what that is.  This is true for me.  Even though I’m not under any time restraints, I fool myself into thinking I am.
  • We anticipate what’s next –   Maybe it’s been several hours since we last had something to eat.  Possibly, it’s a particular food they have long anticipated to receive such as the arrival of a pizza they ordered over the phone.  Being in an environment where great varieties of appetizing foods are offered as a buffet or picnic brings great anticipation to big eaters.  Some can’t wait to finish what’s on their plate so they can move onto something else.  This may be true during food-sampling events.  It’s like: “Once I chomp down my steak, I want to try some of those desserts!”
  • We fear our food will get cold –  Just like coffee, food gets cold in a hurry.  Well it seems to anyway.  For some of us, there is nothing worse than eating cold food.  Yuck!   By gulping down our food, we can minimize the chances that it will.  Better yet, if your food gets cold, reheat it.  Most every house these days has a microwave.  Even if you’re eating at someone else’s house with a large group of people, it is much more polite to ask to use their microwave than to gulp down your food in front of them.
  • It’s a “learned behavior” –   Eating fast isn’t always associated with being busy.  Sometimes we just don’t have the patience to eat slowly.  This is especially true for those who live and/or work alone.  Since nobody sees them eat most of the time, they are free to eat in whatever manner they’re comfortable with.  After doing this for so many years, it’s become a habit and hence, we do it unconsciously.  It’s just like being a “led foot” on the accelerator of your car.  Remember, bad habits have a nasty way of hanging on.

 

I’ve Always Been a Fast Eater

Yes, I’ve developed a bad habit of eating fast since my early childhood.  Most everyone that I would come in contact with would be surprised or shocked because I would eat so fast.  They’re like: “How can you do that?”  I’m like: “You really think I ate that piece of food fast?  I don’t think so!  That’s my normal eating speed.”  My mother would always say, “You eat like you’re going to a fire?”

Why I eat so fast?  I don’t always know.  For me, it’s become a “learned behavior.”  It’s just the way I’ve always consumed food and I see nothing wrong with it.  A great deal of the time I can attribute it to all of the reasons above, but always making excuses for doing it becomes a cop-out and a way to convince myself that it’s OK and I need not change.   Still, a few people have complained about me eating too fast.

Finishing my food before others wasn’t so pleasant either.  All I could do is just sit at the table until everyone else was done.  In some cases I could excuse myself early, but I feel doing that all the time is uncouth.

I have a strong urge to wash my hands immediately after I eat.  That means, I pick up a piece of food and gulp it down so I could get rid of the wrapper or container it’s in right away and rush off to the nearest sink to wash up.  I hate eating and then handling something like a remote control or computer keyboard while my fingers are oily or soiled with food.  It’s just not sanitary.  Hence, instead of sitting down to eat something, I just make it a part of my walk around the house.

Bad Impressions Fast Eaters Create

However, eating too fast is just plainly uncouth.  “Inhaling” your food is bad manners and might give other the impression that you’re a pig.   Those who live with you may not think too much about it since they’re used to seeing you do that.  On the other hand, eating too fast in front of a perfect stranger might scare a potential friend away.

Whenever you want to win the approval of someone you don’t know (such as a date or business client) and you decide to discuss matters at a restaurant, you must not eat fast.  If your potential acquaintance observes that you gulp down your food without chewing it, they’ll get the impression that you only care about stuffing your face and are not concerned so much about them.   As a result, they’ll lose interest in you and will want to put a quick end to the meeting.

Eating fast might lead to sloppiness.  By shoving too much food into your mouth at once, you may end up dribbling it down your chin or spilling it on your shirt.  Neglecting to cut your food into bite sized pieces may cause bits of food to hang out of your mouth while trying to chew.  Not only are you being sloppy and gross: your attention is suddenly diverted away from the person who’s speaking to you.  If you happen to make a mess of yourself, as spilling food down the front of your shirt, you are suddenly under fire to clean it up.  As you do, you ignore what that person said and they’ll realize that you just weren’t listening.

If you want a second meeting with your new acquaintance, please, don’t eat so fast!  Not only will you gross them out, but you may shock them as well.  They might think you’re unscrupulous, selfish, and childish.  It’s like “Hey, this guy has no class whatsoever!”  If they find you’re a sloppy eater, they may doubt your competency in all other aspects of this potential relationship.

Health Problems Associated with Eating Too Fast

Apparently, eating too fast is very unhealthy because:

  • You tend to overeat –  This is because it takes approximately 20 minutes for your stomach to inform your brain that it is full.  The communication process between your brain and stomach is vital in controlling your appetite.  Hence, by gulping down your food, you’re sending a massive amount of calories into your body-a lot more than it really needs.  Imagine you’re ordering a pizza.  You are famished and want it delivered ASAP.   Would you call every pizza delivery service in town to ensure you receive one promptly?  Of course not!  You would end up with more pizzas than you can possibly eat.  Eating too fast has this same effect.
  • You risk indigestion and weight gain –  Now you have an excessive amount of food in your stomach, making the digestive process more difficult than it needs to be.  Your natural hunger and fullness signals have been delayed, leaving you to depend on your desires and emotions to tell you when it’s time to quit.  This often leads to indigestion and excessive weight gain.
  • Frequent bowel movements –  By eating too fast, you are putting more food into your body than it needs.  What does your body do with the excessive food?  It sends it out as waist.
  • Heartburn and acid reflux –  Anyone who eats too fast is prone to developing gastro esophageal reflux disease or GERD.  Excessive acid from the stomach splashes up into the esophagus which leads to heartburn and chest pain.
  • Flatulence and bloating –  If you shovel down your food, you are also swallowing excessive air with each bite.  Not only are you increasing your chances of getting heartburn, you now have a large quantity of food in your stomach forcing it to expand.  Meanwhile, your body needs a way to get rid of that extra air.  This is when flatulence occurs.

This is just an analogy of eating too fast.  Imagine you’re working on an assembly line assembling florescent lights and your job is to insert the light bulbs (you are the stomach).  Once some fixtures reach your station, you discover the light sockets are not securely in place or the wiring is coming undone (the poorly digested food).  This is because the guys ahead of you (the teeth and the saliva) aren’t doing a very good job inserting their parts (chewing the food).  Before you can insert the bulbs, you must fix their negligent work.  Needless to say, you are becoming fatigued and overworked (indigestion) unless you return the faulty work to those responsible.   How would you feel about your job?

Do you still want to continue to eat fast?  If not, keep in mind that digestion starts in the mouth, not the stomach.  Your teeth need to do their share of the work to make further breakdown easier for the small intestines.

Conclusion

It is best to make each meal last for 20 minutes.  Again, this is the amount of time it takes for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s full.  Simply, lay down your fork or piece of food (such as a hamburger) between bites and take some extra time to chew thoroughly.  Take sips of water between bites.  This way you can savor and enjoy your food more.   Also, don’t do anything else when you’re eating.

Speaking In Front of an Audience / Brave Rooney

Only Rooney is the only student who  has the courage to read his poem in front of class.

Only Rooney is the only student who has the courage to read his poem in front of class.

Brave Rooney, written by Gerry Renert and illustrated by Barry Gott, is a book for children based on a story how a boy without superhuman powers voluntarily performs a task that those with such powers refuse to do.  The book is 50 pages long with easy to read text and colorful, animated drawings.  This online publication was merely written to persuade its readers, children under 6 years of age, they must not fear speaking in front of an audience.

Children are naturally self-conscious when having to get up to speak in front of class. This is just an in-born fear of being made fun of that kids can learn to overcome. Rooney shows his bravery by volunteering, without being told to do so.  The point conveyed in the story is that talking before an audience is never as hard as it seems.  In fact, once you’ve presented your personal story before others, people are more likely to like it rather than criticize it.  In the end, Rooney proved that he had one power that even the Caped Crusaders lack: bravery.

Every day, children do dangerous things just to prove to themselves and to others how brave they really are.  Gott illustrates examples of such perilous stunts undertaken, as shown on page 9, which are: 1) a child that flies up into storm clouds, 2) a girl attempting to stop the driver of a motorboat who just ran over a kid, and 3) a girl who climbed to the top of a nearby tree just to blow out a forest fire.  While these illustrations are unrealistic and grossly exaggerated, they are so to emphasize their meaning of courage.  This raises a question:  If children have the natural tendency to engage in very dangerous activities, why are they too afraid to get up and speak in front of a group?

This story intends to set a fine example for children to follow.  Although Rooney could have attended an ordinary school, he chose to attend the Captain Majestic Memorial School instead.  Not only is Rooney commendable for being brave enough to recite his poem, but has taken the initiative to do so, even though his teachers are absent.  Children must learn the value in what they are required to do and do it willingly, without having to be told.  Doing more that what’s required is a great virtue that children can possess.  If an ordinary human being (whom needs a nurse) can present his poem aloud, why can’t those with superhuman powers do the same thing?

Brave Rooney is a book that can be found in the children section of most any library.  It can also be read online for free by visiting the MagicBlox site where other free books are offered to children of all ages.

The Damaging Remark

Have I Offended Someone?

Have I Offended Someone? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As humans we love to laugh or do things to just for kicks, but sometimes we take our silly efforts just a little too far.  When we don’t mean to offend the person we aim our toy dart at, we take it for granted they realize that we’re only kidding.  Unfortunately, what I’d like to refer to as the insultee (the target of the insult) isn’t always on the same page the offender is on.

Sometimes we would like to give another person feedback, but expressing the right words can be challenging.  Though we mean no harm, the recipient of our message may take what we say the wrong way.

In either case, our innocent little chat turns into a destructive insult.  Once the “blow” has been delivered, taking back what we said becomes nearly impossible, unless the offensive comment was dealt because of a misunderstanding.

Why?

People are basically sensitive and insecure to some degree.  Most everyone is likely to take everything they hear seriously.  Everything you say to someone is taken as nothing but information.  Also, we respond to all comments we hear as if they were commands.  We naturally try to do what we should do to make people happy and avoid offending them.  Because we truly want to do right all of the time, we take everything we hear seriously.

Delivering a carelessly misfired comment can seriously damage a relationship.  I heard it said, a friendship is created by many acts but destroyed by one.

Why We Insult Others

We crave excitement –   Doing the same thing day after day and behaving properly all the time becomes mundane.  Though we’ve been conditioned to always do right and mind our manners, we know that by being good or nice all the time will not reap us a reward in the end.  By giving others a “hard time” we can create a little excitement for ourselves and them too.

We become fed up  –  There are a countless number of things we dislike in others.  Examples of such things may be: the way people dress, poor hygiene, different personality types, cultural behaviors, others’ attitudes, habits, selfishness, smoking, those with physical flaws (as obesity), and the list goes on and on.  People think and act differently than we do which sometimes is hard to accept.  When we become fed up with differences between us and them, we emit insults just to vent the way we feel.

We seek approval from others – This is especially true in the workplace.  Some feel that to prove that we are worthy to their peers, will put others down to win their approval.  This is where gossiping comes in.  By acting as an information source, we aim to boost our own self-worth and make people believe we are on top of everything that is going on.  Once we earn others’ approval, this entices us to do it more and more.

We love to laughLaughing brings us excitement.  Making others laugh makes us feel clever.  We also feel better about ourselves.  Also, we tend to laugh about annoyances  in our everyday lives such as doing poorly on tests, getting chastised by superiors, lying about our bad habits, the destruction pets or children do, cultural behavior, etc, etc, etc.  Laughing is a free form of entertainment and an assuring way to brighten our day.

Why We Get Offended

There are numerous reasons why people get offended by some comments.  Each individual has their own unique collection of past experiences that shape their current ways of thinking along with unique personality traits.  Likewise, we had to deal with certain people who have their own flaws and quirks.  We’ve all made some really bad mistakes that often resulted in crucial damage.

Considering all these factors combined, we all have developed our “trigger points” or things that set us off.  In time we accrue a big collection of misfortunate events that when added together sum up to a negative image of ourselves.  When people say or do things that remind us of our misfortunes or faults, we then become offended.  That’s because the negative traits we learned about ourselves have been reinforced.

I can state numerous examples.   Girls who were molested and raped as kids are likely to become easily offended by others who act like their predators even in minor ways.  Children who were abused by their parents may be ashamed of their childhoods and be easily insulted by comments pertaining to child abuse.

People Are More Sensitive Now Than Ever Before

Over time, we’ve become a society that is quite eloquent at being sarcastic. Now there are even more idioms or figures of speech used to express specific types of people or certain kinds of events commonly encountered than ever before.  We’ve nearly modified the English language with a big collection of slang expressions and truncated words that adversely describe people or things.

We are also living in a society of declining morals and values.  People have become ever more freely inclined to express their inner feelings and desires.  Manners and respect for others have diminished greatly.  Respect for authority figures as the government, lawyers, or the police force has turned into combativeness or defiance.

As I see it, we are becoming a tired and overworked society that is fed up with others who benefit through their own greed or laziness.  Rather than making an honest living, some have developed unscrupulous strategies to become rich.  One great example is computer hackers.  They make using cyberspace tougher every day and ruin our peace of mind.  Sometimes we are tempted to do similar things to get ahead.

Unfortunately we can’t get ahead.  So what do we do?  We develop resentment towards those at the top, or the wealthy class in general.  We look up to them in jealousy, envy, and even hatred.  As a result, we feel insignificant and seek out ways to fight back.  One great example is insulting celebrities.  So we don’t have the musical talent or looks they do so what do we do?  Insult them.

At the same time, we live in a materialistic society where we can have whatever we want if we know how to get it.  We’d all like to become rich with as little as effort as possible.  We’ve been spoiled by all the modern-day conveniences and often refuse to live without them.   We’ll do anything to improve our standard of living.  Such examples may be cheating on our taxes or hurting retailers through stealing or deceptive merchandise returning tactics.  Everyone else does it, why can’t we?

Most of all, respect for our contemporaries has diminished.  We become selfish and inconsiderate.  Some cheat on their spouses while others take advantage of their employers.  Children defy parents or school authorities and may react in violence.  Sexual desires are more openly express now than ever before.

We freely speak our minds and act how we want to.  We are more inclined to put others down and do so on impulse.  It’s like, we aren’t happy unless we are constantly bashing someone, either in our minds or out loud.  As everyday life becomes harder for us, we tend to hurt the ones we love as a means of venting.

What does this all boil down to?  A ruthless, cutthroat society!   Because of this, insults are being flung around more than ever and people are treated rudely or unfairly.  Such behavior only leads to trouble.

With our quest for revenge and our thirst for wealth, many of us turn to the legal system, especially those who feel they’re potential targets of unfair treatment.  Women, senior citizens, the handicapped, and minorities have commonly been victims of discrimination and unequal treatment.   Adding sexuality into the equation, there has been an increased level of sensitivity in our society.

More than ever before, employers must carefully adapt policies to prevent abuse. People must be more careful about what they say and do to prevent offending others.   Advertisers and retailers must be careful on how they word their ads so there are no sexual or racial implications.  Those who feel they are likely to be maliciously treated become overly sensitive to things people around them say and do.

Emails have also become an offending means of communication.  Each message conveys a certain tone.  Although the sender of the message did not mean to be sarcastic, solemn, or angry, the recipient may believe it was meant to be. The two are definitely on different wavelengths.  Relationships at work have been damaged because of this.

If you must send someone an email, put in a few positive lines like, “How are you doing?”  or add a line of good news.  Tell the person that you appreciate their effort.  Just find something positive to mix in with your message.

Mopping Up the Mess

The damage we do to others is often far greater than we realize.  Though we only meant to make a funny or sarcastic remark, we see it in our minds that what we said was simply that.  Nothing more.  We assume the recipient of the comment will see it the same way, but that is not always so.

Typically, the recipient feels flattered or hurt by the remark.  The insultee will feel guilty as if she failed to deliver on an obligation.  She will also and believe that the person who made the remark see her as inferior.  She is then convinced that the offender intentionally meant to be cruel.  Her past experiences and flaws are likely to add to her anguish.  Her self-esteem will take a great blow as well.  The damage can penetrate far deeper than the insulter will ever know.

OK, the insulted party can be a male as well.

If the remark is not incident-related but about herself in general, she will become even more insecure than before.  She will wonder what she did or said that gave the insulter the negative impression.

After the damage has been done, it’s usually too late to say “I’m sorry.”  That doesn’t always get it. “I’m sorry” often sounds like flattery.  It’s kind of like being ignorant to the laws.  The worn out phrase, “I didn’t know….” will not likely let the offender off the hook.

If the insultee is a loved-one, the insulter can often make good on the situation, but there will be a period of resentment between the two that will take time to heal.  If the insulter admits he was wrong and attempts to make good, that serves as a great gesture.  Still this may not totally fix the damage caused.

OK, the insulter can be a woman too.

If the remark was made to a friend, relative, coworker, or other acquaintance, the damage may be worse.  Even if the offender resolves the problem satisfactorily, the hurt will not be entirely gone.  The offended will get over it, but their relationship may never be as strong as before.  This is especially true if the insultee never believed the insulter would ever do or say such a thing in the first place.  From now on, the offended will only act with caution to prevent this same situation from happening again.  She will brace herself from getting hurt again.  However, the bitter memory will always be there.

Practicing Damage Control

Think before you speak.  Plan to say what you need to say in a way that it won’t be taken offensively.   If you really want to tease someone just for a laugh, make it clear that you are only kidding.  You can do this by adding a chuckle to your comment or talking in a humorous tone.  Think about how your remark would affect one if really meant it.

Other damage prevention tips:

  • Limit your humor and kidding to someone you know will tolerate it.  If you have a good friend or family member that you both kid around with each other, then it’s OK.  If the person is a BS’er and loves to give you a hard time, you both can exchange silly remarks, but even then, try not to cut too deep.  If the person you’re bullshitting recently done something hurtful or embarrassing, like got a DWI, filed for divorce, got fired, etc,  avoid kidding about this subject.
  • Don’t kid people about personal flaws or bad habits, such as obesity or alcoholism.
  • Limit your kidding to your time at home or at a casual social event.  Refrain from kidding at family gatherings, special interest events, school, or work.
  • Kid only those that you personally don’t have anything against.  Make sure they know you would never deliberately say something to them to be cruel.
  • Try to be tolerant of others and don’t look down on them just because you disagree with something they do.
  • Don’t kid casual acquaintances unless you know they can take it.  When around relatives or coworkers, act politely and keep quiet about their flaws.
  • Don’t gossip or talk behind peoples’ backs.  If this kind of talk catches up with them, it could spell trouble for you and possible ruin a good relationship.  The offended party may no longer feel they can trust you.
  • Finally, remember the person you would like to razz is not necessarily on the same wavelength as you.
  • Don’t make derogative remarks about famous people, the president, races, religion, trends, peoples’ habits or behaviors, etc, especially in front people you don’t know.

Practicing good damage control techniques can save relationships and lots of grief.  Also, it can save you from singing the blues later.

COMMENTS ENCOURAGED.  Hopefully that covers it.  If there is anything I said wrong or left out please let me know.   Don’t tell me this post is good or bad, but why it is.   Thank you.

 

Positive Thinking – Part 4: Fine Tune Your System

English: Jack Dorsey and Barack Obama at Twitt...

English: Jack Dorsey and Barack Obama at Twitter Town Hall in July 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Warning:  This is a very long post, but well sectioned off.  If you have limited time, just read the sections that interest you.

I’ll say it again; it’s hard to think positively when you have problems in your life.  Carrying on day after day can become hectic, especially when working, going to school, and raising a family can tire you out.  Life seems so hopeless because whatever you try to do, you never can seem to get ahead.  Each day, you’re struck with more bad news and the more you hear, the less likely you are to be happy.  Trying to save enough money to pay your bills and save for what you really enjoy seems virtually impossible, especially when things keep breaking down.

It is likely you feel hopeless and trapped in a stagnant world, however, I don’t blame you for feeling that way.  Is the atmosphere out there polluted or are you looking through a dirty window?  While you can’t clean the outside air, you can wash the window that you peer at the world through.

Instead of feeling hopelessly strapped down, you can do a little “spring cleaning” in your life.  Here is where you get creative.  Figure out some new strategies to make your life run more efficiently.  Try something new.  Find contemporaries you can associate with that are having the same problems as you.  Change the way you handle your daily routines.

Learn Something New

Learning something new is great, even if the newfound skill or info doesn’t improve your everyday life.  We all lack skills or knowledge in one area or another.  As we become aware of this lack or deficit, we may not feel good about ourselves.  Rather than allowing this black hole to handicap us, we can find a way around it.

For me, such a subject was breeds of dogs and cats.  I could look at numerous cats and dogs, but I can’t identify their breed.  Although this was a subject that never interested me whatsoever, I thought it would be great to know more about them.  I would just feel stupid if I came across such an animal and couldn’t tell you what it was.

As a means of becoming acquainted with the various breeds, I purchased a dog book and wrote a blog on several types of dogs.  I even posted poems about each breed on my Publish N Prosper blog, hoping this would attract more readers and educate myself as well.  It’s only been a year now and before then, I never heard of half of these breeds as the Basenji or the Whippet.

The point is, my knowledge about cats and dogs was below average.  Just by studying these breeds, I am now familiar with an area I knew next to nothing about.  So, if there’s a skill you lack or a certain subject you’re totally in the dark about, you need not feel self-conscious about it.  All you need to do is find a book or search the internet on that subject.  Take at least 15 minutes a day to review this topic. Talking to those who are knowledgeable about it can help greatly.

Becoming bright in a once-dark subject will make you feel better about yourself.  You’ll be able to function well in related activities.  This in turn promotes positive thinking.

Polish a Finer Skill

Now focus one of your stronger areas.  We all have a particular skill or knowledge base in one area or another.  So, your gifted asset has helped you launch a successful career or has made an admired member of a social network of others who share that same interest.  No matter how skilled we are in a specific area, there is always room for improvement.  Either it can be an aspect of that trade you never really cared about or changes in trends affecting your trade.  Find ways you can polish your strong suits even more.

My greatest skill is writing.  Although I feel I do it well, I can always do better.  Not only must I write well, but I must make my articles interesting.  Hence, I must find subjects that are sure to inspire my audience.  This means staying current with the news and reading articles others have published.  Keeping in touch with the outside world and changing trends of writing will ensure better quality articles on my behalf. By seeing how others write, I can improve my method of blogging as well.

Not only must I find great subjects, but keep my writing style sharp.  Learning and using new vocabulary words may convince my readers that I am quite intelligent.  Embedding up-to-date concepts into my articles shows my readers that I am up with the times.  For example, this may be “tweets” as in Twitter, “likes” as in Facebook, “dashboard” as in WordPress or other copycat applications, etc.  Polishing up on grammar and punctuation will sharpen my posts as well.

Whatever you do, don’t let your finest skill go to your head.  So, up to now, you’ve seemingly attained undefeated success.  That doesn’t mean you’re a god in your trade.  No matter what area you excel in, there are always going to be new trends or methods of doing things.  It is up to you to stay current with the changes.  What was considered a superb job in the 1970s and 80s is most likely worthless today.

My father worked as a carpenter in the 1960s and 70s.  If he was still alive and in good health, I’m sure he would continue to remodel homes.  The only thing: he would use the same building techniques now that he learned back then.  Why?  He felt that his methods were the best since they always worked fine.  For example, drywall and boards that were once fastened by nails are now fastened with screws and/or glue.  He would laboriously hammer nails rather than use a power driver.  It was like he thought, “I am so great at carpentry, I have the world on a string”.  You couldn’t tell him differently.

No matter how well you do something, be open to constructive criticism.  Never think that your shit doesn’t stink.  Don’t adhere to the ways you learned to do things.  Be open to changes and you’ll do even better.  Network with others that share your same interest.  They can teach you great things.

Polishing a fine skill will impress others and keep you competitive in your hobby or trade.  Being sharp and on top will help you land a good job and/or win people over.  This in turn promotes positive thinking.

Keep Your Living/Working Environment Clean and In Order

More than likely you’ve been in peoples’ homes or workplaces and found things strewn about and unorganized.  Some people just hate cleaning.  They figure that since they know where everything is, why tidying up the area?

Having a cluttered and disorganized living space only makes things worse.  If you allow things to pile up into a system only you can figure out, sooner or later, you’ll pay some kind of price for your sloppiness.  One day you’ll need a particular tool or a specific document and wind up spending hours tearing the place apart looking for it.  So you thought you knew where that “whatchamacallit” was?  Guess again!

Those who live in chaotic, messy homes often have low self-esteem.  They abhor getting up in the morning and facing their messy house.  Worse yet, they despise the thought of taking the time and effort to clean up the place.  To them, it’s just a chore and they hate to work.  Others may fear that cleaning up a messy place will only uncover other problems as dealing with unwanted paperwork, fixing broken doors, etc.  Overall, they become tired of looking at their mess and might feel hopelessly trapped within it.

Office workers with messy cubicles may set themselves up for problems on the job later.  They may dread coming into the office in the morning and looking at a huge pile of paperwork.  From their point of view, it’s just going to be another hectic day.  As a result, they’ll lug themselves through the day the best they can and hope that time will fly by quickly.  Not to mention frustration on the job and a negative image they’ll develop.

Disorganization will cost you time and money.  It can seriously handicap your work efficiency.  It will also give others a negative impression of you.  Also, it will make you less happy and not so proud.   There are no two ways about it.

I’m not saying I’m a neat freak, but I try to be.  Sometimes I let papers accumulate in piles, but I don’t let these piles grow too big.  Other times, I’m searching for a tool because my system of tool organization is not totally consistent.  Worse yet, I allow things to pile up in drawers and cabinets.  As a result, I might buy something I already have, because I forgot I still have it, such as a bottle of aspirin.

Once I had to fix a clogged drain in the kitchen.  This of course meant removing all of the contents from the cabinet below.  I pile so many things under there (including shopping bags I intend to reuse) to a point where the cabinet space is packed.  Upon cleaning out the cabinet, I discovered there were four boxes of detergent for the dishwasher, all unopened.  Needless to say, I was spending money on things I already had.

Cleaning up your living and work space will make you feel better about yourself.  Waking up to a clean house will make you feel good.  You will be convinced that all your chores will be done and today will be another fulfilling day.   Reporting to work with a clean office will boost your confidence and make you feel prepared to handle any problem that comes your way.  You may dread the thought of cleaning the place at first, but you’ll enjoy it once you have begun.  The time out and effort required will definitely pay off.

Best of all, having a clean living and work space might even give you the feeling of living in a brand new home or working in a new office building.  This in turn promotes positive thinking.

Fix Something That Is Broken

Finally, fix anything that is broken.  This may be a poorly working faucet, a door coming off the hinges, an appliance that makes strange sounds when it’s running, etc.  A lot of people dread the thought of doing repairs on something they know little or nothing about.  Some fear they’ll only make the situation worse so why bother?  Others may worry about what it may cost to have a professional fix it.

Living with nearly inoperable devices only causes aggravation and inconvenience.  Knowing something doesn’t work right only makes one feel worthless. Likewise, it gives others a poor impression of you.

Owning a house, I have dealt with a number of repairs.  I have fixed clogged drains, leaky faucets, minor electrical problems, and a conglomeration of other things.  Although I wasn’t always successful, I learned a lot from my attempts.  A great amount of what I learned came from hardware owners or clerks from building supplies stores.

There is a bright side to this.  Even if one fails in his attempts to repair something, he will always learn something about the broken down…whatever it is.  While attempting repairs, one thing leads to another and sought out advice is easily found.  Even novices learn valuable things from trying to repair things, even if they do not succeed.  Eventually, one will find a way around his problems after seeking out the expertise of others.  Once a breakdown is repaired, the owner will feel good about his success.  This will give him confidence in fixing things in the future.

After a broken device is fixed, in the end you will feel great about it.  You no longer have to live with the drudgery of putting up with the inconvenience from it.  Most of all, you won’t feel worthless because this “thingy” is not working right.

That in turn promotes positive thinking.

Positive Thinking – Part 3: What to Know Before Purchasing a Self-Help Course

money back guarantee

money back guarantee (Photo credit: lonely radio)

This article is NOT an advertisement for a positive thinking course.  I will not post a link that will bring you to a website selling you such a program.  I am not out to sell anything: just give you good advice and save you money and dismay as well.

Forms of Self-Help Programs

As you know, there are lots of self-help systems and books out there that promise a great transformation in your life by adopting positive thinking techniques.  Such courses promise success in your career, business, wealth, marriage, and overall happiness.

You’ll see them advertised in infomercials and hear testimonies of how people improved their lives by this course.  These infomercials are typically long and created to draw and retain you attention while playing on your conscience that by not trying their program, you’re throwing away a great opportunity.  Either you purchase their course or just go on living the fruitless life you’re living now.  Such courses are advertised indirectly through luring web advertisements that promise overnight changes for little or no money.

Hence, all you need to do is complete “our” course and BAM, you’re a brand-new person.  Right?  I would not make such an assumption!

On the flip side, I’m not saying they’re full of bogus information.  Every course touches down on good points such as making affirmations and adapting positive “self talk.”  However, before you can actually benefit from one of them, you must be willing to dedicate time for listening and put forth great effort on your behalf.

Meditation, Yoga, and Religion

There are other commercially sold techniques to promote positive thinking.  Some are based on meditation, yoga, or other exercise programs.  People will push religious materials at you as they promise overnight changes in your life.  They will ask you to read the Bible on a daily basis, attend weekly church services or studies, and preach the word to everyone you know, converting them to “born again Christians.”  I am not bashing religion, but it comes with no guarantees.  In fact, most of us naturally shun religion and its practices because while growing up we were conditioned to do so.  I suggest one reads the book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner.  It is widely available wherever books are available to the public.

These Courses Are Financial Traps

Frankly, they’re all just a waste of time and money, even the cheap ones.  Take it from me, I tried some when I was young and naïve and my life hasn’t changed.

Most of them come in the form of audio books with numerous tapes or CDs plus workbooks and DVDs.  Seeing their complete self-help kits on TV or on the web will make you think, if that amount of media is necessary to teach positive thinking, then this program has to be highly effective.

Some advertisements will display the price of their course on the TV screen.  If they don’t, this should raise a red flag that a bull can spot from a mile away.  Others will disclose a flat rate of say $99.  Then they’ll follow up with a prompt like: “Call in the next 10 minutes (or respond online by a certain date) and we’ll slash the price by 50%.  Next, they’ll offer to add in free supplements as additional books, CDs or DVDs “Absolutely Free!”

Don’t forget the “100% satisfaction money-back guarantee.”  This leaves most gullible consumers with the conclusion: “What have I got to lose?  I can always get my money back if I don’t like it!  I’ll try it.”

The trouble with money-back guarantees is they are for a limited time only and require a seemingly great amount of effort to act on them.  Not only is there the repackaging and sending the content back, some fear that their return will be rejected.  Still, some say they’ll try the course thoroughly but don’t or forget how long the trial period is good for.  With all the potential problems, many just keep the course and rarely, if ever use it.

So you call to order the $99 course mentioned above, thinking you’ll get it for $49 (plus taxes).  Right?  Wrong!   Once they got you on the line, they’ll make you feel like you’re doing a mighty great deed by trying their program and your life from this moment on is on the up and up.

Next thing you know, they’re making additional recommendations to supplement your course as in subscriptions to magazines, newsletters, listings of seminars to attend, etc.  Without them, the course won’t be fully effective.  If you’re not hard-nose enough to say “no” a hundred times or hang up, your cost of $49 turns into say $249.  Ouch!  You hang up the phone and ask yourself resentfully, “What the hell did I just do?”

Their sales team reps pray on people who don’t realize that all this information is already available at their local library.

Others are free local seminars or perhaps, webinars.  Though they are seemingly free, just wait until you get your foot into their door.  You’ll sit through a 3-hour talk session just to find out it ended with a recommendation to buy their program.  If you don’t buy it, you’ve invested 3 hours of sitting and listening-all for nothing.  Next thing you find out, the price of the program is astronomically high.  What do you do, whip out a “piece of plastic” (credit card) or just walk out.  I recommend the latter.

Why Positive-Thinking Courses Don’t Work

I’m not saying you can’t succeed at one of these programs.  They do offer great pieces of advice that you may never think of yourself.  Still, you must devote a lot of time and effort on your behalf to make their info work for you.  If you don’t do the work, you don’t reap the results.

However few people ever succeed for the following reasons:

  • We expect instant results: If we don’t see positive changes, right away we become impatient and abandon the program.   Although the advertisements profusely promised overnight changes, for few if any individuals, such changes come about.  What we don’t realize is that these changes happen over time.
  • The time commitment:  This may mean lying in bed for a few hours a day or meditating in a quiet place at home for 15 or 30 minute sessions where you won’t to be disturbed by the ringing of the phone, crying babies, the doorbell, etc.  You must lie down, close your eyes, breathe deeply, follow along with their sessions, and hope your daughter doesn’t suddenly barge in on you.  For most of us, our busy lives are much too busy to take on new activities.
  • Awkward activities:  For example, you may have to do therapeutic talk sessions with others.  This may require interacting with family, friends, co-workers, relatives, etc, that’s if you know very many people to begin with.  Those you do know are always busy, unwilling to change, or don’t believe in self-help programs period.  Most likely, you’ve had unpleasant experiences with family members and relatives which caused you guilt or remorse.  Thus, these people are hard to approach and likely to refuse to participate.  Friends and casual acquaintances are not willing to participate in such activities unless maybe you can sweet talk them into doing so.  Some may resent you for asking and think of you as another solicitor.  This just might damage a few relationships.
  • Self-consciousness:  Many of us naturally shun infomercials and the products they sell.  Others are strongly convinced that they are overpriced garbage.  Therefore, the individual who purchases the course must establish a mutual agreement with their significant other and others they respect.  They must agree that purchasing the course is financially feasible and well worth it and doing the activities will not interfere with others in the household.  Finally, the course will suggest its trainees to post notes and pictures around the house as reminders of keeping certain things in mind throughout the day.  These notes say things like “I am just as worthy as anyone else” or “Nothing in my past can affect me today”, etc.  For some, posting notes is not their style, especially for immaculate people.  Others may worry about what household members or visitors would think if they saw them.  For the self-conscious, such a practice may not be an option.
  • Unresolved emotional issues:  People who turn to these programs for help sometimes have unaddressed and unwanted emotions.  Some have pent up feelings of guilt or inadequacy that stems from rejection, failures, or mistakes, etc.  Feelings of anxiety, guilt, or worry have a nasty way of hanging on for years and cannot be dismissed at one’s free will.  Others suffer from depression, mood disorders, or adverse behavioral conditions that may stem from a natural chemical imbalance.  Self-improvement courses only make positive suggestions, but do not offer psychiatric advice.  Therefore, those with emotional problems must successfully undergo professional counseling before attempting to complete the course.  Nobody can sell you a solution to your emotional problems.  If you fail to seek treatment, your feelings will only hamper your progress in the course.
  • Change in attitude:  Attitude is essential in success, even if you’re not affected by any of the previous conditions.  Some may just get sick of the course after awhile or form opposing beliefs towards its content.  Such people are likely to make excuses as why it’s not feasible to complete the course or that they’re not the type of person it was intended for.  They will just abandon it and continue to live as they always have.

If you are absolutely serious about developing positive thinking habits, by all means go for it.  Rather than purchasing an online or TV course, resort to resources that offer free or low cost books or audio books on the subject.  This may be your local library or online.  If you feel you need professional help, don’t refrain from getting it.  Worst of all, don’t deny it.  If you have negative emotions pent up inside or lack of confidence, seek advice on how to deal with or remove them.  Research forums or other venues of information on those who have the same problems you have.  You may be surprised at what you find out.

Remember, money can’t buy you happiness.  Self-improvement courses are often overpriced and sold for profit only.  Not only are you paying for the materials, but you’re paying the overhead in producing and selling them.  That includes the costs of renting rooms in convention centers, traveling expenses incurred by the reps, TV advertising time, professional speakers, and all other affiliated prices.

All the publishers really care about is turning a profit-not how much (or little) their program benefits you. Pitching in for these expenses will never improve your outlook on life.  Why not check out a book on positive thinking at the library where you can read it for free?

Please feel free to comment on this blog.  If I said anything incorrectly or left something out, please let me know.  Genuine comments only please.

Positive Thinking – Part 2: Accepting Things We Can’t Control

2012 Behaviour Matrix copy

2012 Behaviour Matrix copy (Photo credit: Robin Hutton)

No matter what happens, you were not born to have an unhappy life.  After all, you have superb qualities and good intentions.  You strive to be as independent as possible and avoid being burdensome to those around you.  You don’t intend to hurt or cheat others.  In fact, you like to help others out whenever possible.  However, you must put yourself first and look out for your own survival.  If all these things I mentioned about you are true, you have more self-worth than you realize.

All the good things that happened to us or we have done become eventually become invisible or overshadowed by the bad.  It’s like they’re hiding peacefully in the background, never making a sound.  On the other hand, the bad things we have done or have happened dart out, shout at us, or just stick out like sore thumbs.  Hence, all we see is the bad and rarely, if ever, the good.

Dealing With Things We Cannot Control

Still, we must learn to accept things we have limited or no control over as:

  1. News events as wars, poverty, or crime.
  2. Environmental problems as pollution or global warming.
  3. Taxes.
  4. Unfavorable economic conditions.
  5. Societal changes or behavior.
  6. Bad weather and natural disasters.
  7. Actions or behavior of others.
  8. Health problems or ailments.
  9. Job-related circumstances.
  10.  Laws, rules, or regulations.
  11. Accidents, mishaps, or disasters.
  12. Bodily flaws
  13. Failures or defeats.
  14. Wealth
  15. Financial setbacks
  16. Depreciation of our possessions.
  17. Personal weaknesses or faults.
  18. Bad luck.
  19. Events that don’t go as planned.
  20.  Unwanted emotions

Hopefully, these 20 things I mentioned cover everything.  If I left anything out, please let me know.

We must not let these unfavorable circumstances affect our self-esteem or happiness.  There is no way we can fault ourselves over things we cannot control.  If something bad happens, if it doesn’t affect you directly, accept it as it is.  If it does, find a way around it.  Whatever happens, your fate and ego should remain unaffected.

You’re Only Human

Another thing to remember: you’re only human!  As humans, we’re SUPPOSED to make mistakes.  No matter how hard we try to be perfect, we never will.  In God’s eyes, we are humans, or just another species of animals and all animals have natural flaws.

Sure, our modern-day society conditions us not to make mistakes or they will cost us big time.  Unfortunately, the damage done by our mistakes cannot always be reversed so we must learn to live with it.  This is especially true if we say or do things that hurt others.  All we can do is try to button things back up the best we can as we bring the plaintiff back to status quo, and pretend the mishap never occurred.  In most cases, things are never 100% as good as before the unfortunate event.

Likewise, we all have weaknesses and faults.  Some of them can be corrected by simple changes in habits, but others require drastic measures that we may be uncomfortable in undergoing.  It’s not always easy to admit we’re wrong or to face our fears so we don’t always attempt to do so.

Finally, fatigue, anxiety, or boredom gets the best of us at times.  We also let our responsibilities in life overcome us.   Some nights we cannot sleep and some days we become tired at work or during our daily chores.  When one or all of these things happen, we naturally tend to neglect things, compromise our job performance, or commit selfish acts.  We’re only human.

At the same time, we turn to indulge in harmful substances as cigarettes or caffeine-based beverages to get rid of these unwanted feelings.  Some of us fool around when we should be working while others take extended breaks.  I’m not knocking people for doing these things, because I’ve done them myself (except for smoking).  Although such behavior is not good for our health or well-being and is generally coined as improper, we just can’t help that.  We’re only human.

Boredom is natural and a hindrance in our lives.  When we become bored or consumed in some personal matter, we find it hard to focus and pay attention.  This makes it hard to listen and perform as we should.  In some instances, we go out and shop or engage in some other form of entertainment just to cure our boredom, but that doesn’t always work.  Such behavior can take a toll on our finances.  I’m not condemning this behavior.  After all, we’re only human.

As the saying goes:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Keep this prayer in mind whenever something goes wrong.

Positive Thinking – Part 1: Understanding Negative Thinking

Pessimism

Pessimism (Photo credit: Ankher)

If you read books on self-help or self-improvement or listened to audio tapes, you know they all basically say one thing: positive thinking can change your life.  Such guides stress the importance of being an optimist instead of a pessimist.

It’s Hard to Be an Optimist

Are you kidding?   How can you be an optimist when things seem to be going wrong all the time?  In the past, you tried to plan events (like parties, weddings, or vacations) or hoped to complete tasks (like home repairs, presentations, or college courses) successfully, but it seems that almost always, you encountered a road block somewhere along the way.

Wouldn’t you know it!   Something would have to happen to put a damper on your plans or spirit.  Things happened that prevented you from succeeding in many things you tried to do.  People let you down, the weather turned bad, somehow you weren’t able to get what you needed or some disaster or accident happened that ruined your plans.

Such examples may be planning to take a drive only to discover your car has a flat tire or arranging an outdoor party and when the day comes, it rains.  Speaking of rain, it seems like God is out to rain on your parade.  When things go wrong, you might make inferences as “it’s just my luck” or “I wasn’t meant to do that.”

Maybe it’s just Murphy’s Law.

What Causes Negative Thinking?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to answer that question.  There are a countless number of things that cause you to be a pessimist.  One need not go too far to find them.  Worst of all, mishaps can crush your self-esteem.  You feel like a failure or your life overall is ill-fated.  Some of them may have more dangerous effects than you realize.

You’re not the only one who feels this way.  There are many factors in our lives that promote negative thinking.  Such things may be:

  1. Bad news from others or from the local news.
  2. The bad economy and inflation.
  3. Receiving too much information or advice that is hard to follow.
  4. Increasing demands or stress.
  5. New rules or laws making it harder to obtain the things you need or enjoy.
  6. Difficult people you must deal with daily.
  7. Personal failures.
  8.  Seemingly unfair circumstances that affect you.
  9.  Being treated unkind or unfairly.
  10. Embarrassing, stupid, or regretful things you’ve done.
  11. Disappointment from others.
  12. Bad things happening in your community.
  13. Being affected by the declining morals of our modern society.
  14. Annoying or unhealthy habits of others.
  15. Financial problems.
  16. Doing tasks you hate.
  17. Troubles with loved ones.
  18. Troublesome relationships.
  19. Potential problems.
  20. Deaths to loved ones or pets.
  21. Accidents, mishaps, or disasters.
  22. Dissatisfaction with yourself and your life.
  23. Unfavorable changes in your life.
  24. Being degraded or criticized by others.
  25. Getting robbed, cheated, or assaulted.
  26. Being turned down for loans, grants, or other financing.

There, I’ve named 26 things that cause negative thinking to occur and hopefully I covered all of the bases without overlapping or repeating things.  Anything you can think of should fall under one of these categories.  Hopefully, I didn’t leave anything out.

Add all these things up and you may feel that living a happy life is hopeless.  You strongly believe there is no use in trying to get what you want because you’ll likely face disappointments and unconquerable road blocks.  No matter what you try to do, you firmly believe you’ll live a grim or mediocre life.  You’re thoroughly convinced that whatever you do, nothing will make a difference.  Are you hopelessly doomed?  No.

Launching a Business or Career

Going into business often seems enticing.  The thought of making lots of money while doing what you do best makes you motivated to try. But once you get started, there will be unexpected barriers that make it seem impossible.  Unless you have previous business experience and extensive resources at your disposal, moving onward can seem intimidating.  All at once, you need lots of capital, a team of knowledgeable people, and in depth skill or experience in your trade.  Likewise, you’ll need to know how much competition you’re up against and create a strategy to get around it.

If this is your first time running a business, congratulations for having the courage to launch it.  Most likely, you’re proud that you’ve taken your first step towards financial independence and now you can be your own boss.

Commercially produced self-help guides insinuate that the total difference between succeeding versus failing depends on your mode of thinking: positive or negative.  Of course you must think positive when starting such a venture.  This will motivate you to find ways around potential problems and create better products (or services).  Negative thinking will surely sabotage your business.  As you have little or no hope of succeeding, you’ll lose motivation and eventually give up.

As time goes on, what seemed to be easy at first turned into a barrage of overwhelming demands and high costs.  On top of that, you must become extremely proficient at your trade and learn how to handle problems in the most effective manner.

It seems that you’re now on an ocean in a small boat of your own. Though you’re the captain of your boat, you wonder if you can handle the turbulence of the wind and waves without capsizing your boat.  Quite often you’ll wish you were on a ship controlled by an experienced captain instead.  Fear of sinking can seriously impair your likelihood to survive.

Hence, those who start their own enterprise are positive thinkers-or else they wouldn’t attempt it.  Even though you have high hopes, there are many other variables to consider.  If you’re not skilled or prepared to deal with all the demands, you’re not too likely to succeed.

Attending college is another endeavor that requires positive thinking.  First, you must believe you have the potential to pass all the courses and earn your degree.  Just wanting a high-paying job in a few short years is not enough.  You must have a deep interest in what trade you want to pursue.  Like a business, positive thinking will ensure success in earning your degree, but will not guarantee it.  Failing to earn a degree often makes people feel worthless and unintelligent.  Hence, dropouts feel they’ll never earn a good income or live the lifestyle they desire.

Being unsuccessful in such ventures can really hurt one’s self-esteem and bring on negative thinking.  Some will make the conclusion that they’re total failures and don’t deserve success.  Everything they try from now on, they’ll only fail at.  How they suppose to adopt habits of positive thinking?

Small Daily Improvements Add Up

"Improve Your Skill-or Learn a New One - ...

“Improve Your Skill-or Learn a New One – In a Vital Army Job-Join the WAC’s Now” – NARA – 514613 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More than likely you know people who are unhappy with their lives.  It may be they don’t make enough money, they lack motivation, they can’t seem to lose weight, their house is messy, etc.  Such people tend to make excuses rather than changes.  They’ll use phrases as: “if only I….”,  “I can’t seem to….”, “I never…”, “It always seems like….”, “I don’t have the skill…”, and on and on.

Conquering a Problem

What would you like to improve in your life?  How do you go about changing your circumstances?  Start by assessing your problems and brainstorm small ways to fix them.  Think of your troubles as challenges instead of hindrances.  Break each problem down into bite-sized pieces and eliminate one piece at a time.  If only you take the time to think things out, you may surprise yourself with what you come up with.

Remember the movie “What About Bob?”  This was a 1991 comedy starring Bill Murray as Bob Wiley (a psychiatric patient) and Richard Dreyfuss as Dr. Leo Marvin (a New York psychiatrist).  Bob is a kind man who suffers from several phobias.  Leo decides to take a week’s vacation which Bob finds hard to cope with.  Bob follows Leo to his cabin where he forces them to let him stay.  Leo had published a book called “Baby Steps” that explains how to conquer an intimidating problem by approaching it gradually.

I’ll always remember what Dr. Leo said about taking baby steps.  If you have a big problem or need to learn a new skill, but don’t know how to go about it, approach it with baby steps. This advice comes in handy when I need to learn a new computer task.  Keeping up with new technology is not easy unless you face it one step at a time.

Make a Small Improvement Daily

Even if you feel you can’t solve your problems easily, you still can make your life better with each day.  You don’t need a whole lot of luck or a bundle of money, just a little time.  All you need to do is figure out some small way to make your life better.

Following are some troubles people may have and ways they can improve them:

  • Difficulty operating a device –  If you have trouble figuring out your new cell phone, take a few minutes a day to review its manual.  Have friends or family teach you its functions.  Find information about it online.  Aim to learn a new function every few days.
  • Being lonely – If you feel you don’t have enough friends or someone to keep you company, you can become acquainted with one person per day or week.  Look up activities in your community and try a few.  If you like to have a few drinks, go to a saloon and chat with others there.  Find and join a special interest group.
  • Having a messy house -If your house is cluttered with all kinds of stuff and you’re disorganized or embarrassed to have people over, you need not live with it.  Rather than spending one whole day cleaning the entire house, you can spend up to an hour a day cleaning one room at a time.  Monday you can scrub the bathroom, Tuesday, organize an overfilled closet, Wednesday, catch up on the laundry, etc.
  • Learning a new skill -So you have a weakness or a need to learn a new skill, but you don’t know where to begin.  Ask yourself some questions:  Where can I learn to do this?  Who has the talent or knowledge that I can contact?  Where can I find out more about it?  Most of all, don’t forget about the internet.  It is a great source of information for practically anything under the sun.
  • Improving a relationship – It may be a spouse, family member, or a friend who has become angry with you.  Analyze where you went wrong and try to make good on your mistakes.  Do a small good deed for him or her.  Offer to help this person with a problem they have.  Send him/her an article this person would be interested in reading.  Going out of your way and doing one or several favors may help revive your relationship.

Chipping Away at the Stone

So you have a fear, a weakness, or trouble of some kind.  This only proves that you’re human.  Still, some feel that if they can’t resolve the issue immediately, they can’t resolve it at all.   Not true!  Even if it takes you weeks, months, or years, you can remove this problem by slowly trying to resolve it.  Taking a long time is much better than not trying at all.

Is Free Software Really Free?

Screenshot of GLUI example program.

Screenshot of GLUI example program. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are a lot of sugar-coated offers for free software online these days.  Some are like roaches that multiply with each passing day.  These offers sound too good to pass up, but in reality, sometimes you’re just better off purchasing these programs directly from the publishers.  Why?  This is because free software not only promotes its programs, but other online services as well.

I Want It Because It’s FREE

What attracts consumers?  The word FREE!  Most computer users would like to learn to do more things on their machines as make videos, record music, read or write ebooks, etc, but don’t want to pay for software unless they absolutely have to.  However, times are tough and many consumers lack good paying jobs-that is if they’re lucky enough to still be working.  Before buying software, they must be sure they’ll use it enough to make it worth the price.  They’ll only purchase a program as a last resort.

All the more, free software does sound enticing.  More than ever before, people would like to update their computer skills in hopes that by doing so will land them a better-paying job.  If they can learn skills that are in high demand for free-all the better.

I’ve run across numerous companies that offer free software.  Yes indeed, I was tempted to try some of them.  I would check out the Tucows (www.tucows.com) site where a variety of programs are available for both PC and Mac users.  Some are freeware, others are shareware  (donations appreciated), and the remainder are for pay.  Another great thing, most of these programs run on various versions of Microsoft Windows and have ratings and reviews submitted by past users.  Tucows is a reputable site for safe software applications, for all I know.

Free software downloads are like everywhere online, but some are downright deceiving.  Yes, they’ll say they’re free when viewing their listings, but be prepared to jump through some hoops if you wish to try them out.  I won’t do any name-dropping or finger-pointing here, but I’ve had extensive experiences with many of them.  As I would download a program, I found I wasn’t only downloading that software, but other services as well.  And if there weren’t services connected to them, the application was free for a trial time period, usually 7 days.  Hey, they never said that up front!

The “Free Lunch” Buffet

What kind of services come with free software?  There are numerous types as search engines you never heard of and money-saving programs.  Yes, some offer savings on: groceries, pet products, ebooks, auto insurance, health insurance, college education, books, legal services, medications, and so on and so forth.  Do you really need any of these?  Absolutely not!  They’re like the over-priced corn dogs and cheese curds you buy at the state fair, only they don’t satisfy your hunger.

The next day, you’re phone is ringing off the hook because you checked certain boxes or agreed to certain terms you more than likely scanned over when searching for the “Continue” button.  Shame on you!  Maybe if you’re lucky, you save on insurance premiums or find an inexpensive airline flight to the other side of the globe, but there’s a slim chance in that.  Unless you are ruthless enough to slam your foot down, you may find yourself pursuing a college degree in a few months.  Nothing wrong with continuing your education, but… is this a good college?

Why don’t they just make it a “free lunch” buffet?  What if you saw a sign outside a restaurant offering free lunch between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm that says nothing more?  Would you try this place out?  Say you are extremely savvy and hungry.  You won’t want to pass this opportunity by.

The catch is, you must walk down a long hallway that leads to the diner.  The hall is filled with booths (not dining booths, mind you) on either side where representatives are selling products or services to promote their businesses.  As you make your way down the hall, you’re being greeted by several reps who are pushing fliers and brochures in your face and boasting about whatever they’re trying to sell you.

You’re like, “What the hell did I do?  I wanted to go to the buffet, not some business trade show!”  The next thing you know, you have a plastic bag filled with sample products and advertisements because you were too polite to tell the reps “no”.

Once you finally entered the buffet, you tell a waitress that you would like to try the free buffet.  It turns out that you only receive samples of each entrée for free or there is a limited section of cheap food that you can choose from.  If you want the regular “all-you-can-eat” special, you have to purchase the full meal deal.

The bottom line here is: There is no free lunch.  Free software often works this way.

Types of Software Downloaders

From my experiences, I can say there are three type of software downloaders who are:

  1. The “I need it now” people – These surfers are just so antsy that they want to find something right now and get started right away.  They’re not too cautious, as long as the application downloads and is available to use instantly, they’re satisfied.  They’re eager to check boxes and click through dialog boxes without reading the messages. Many don’t realize they may be downloading a virus along with the software, but they’re not too worried about that.  It never happened to them before so why should they worry?
  2. The “I want to improve my life” people – These people just want to enhance their skills and are open-minded, adventure seekers.  They assume that all companies are fair and out for the consumer’s best interest.  You can say they’re much like the coupon clippers that want to save money, but end up spending more on products they’ve never used before, just because they seem like good deals, or perhaps “steals.”  They accept new services in belief that they could benefit or else feel guilty for turning them down because these services seem so nice or practical.  They’re like, “Maybe this can help me, you never know!” or “What do I have to lose?”  These are the innocent, naïve fools that have money to burn or are strongly convinced that catching a virus can’t happen to them, because it hasn’t happened yet.  Go figure!
  3. The “Computer Scrooges” – They’re like: Hey, if there’s a free program out there, why should I hafta buy one?”  From their point of view, software is way too expensive and they’re scared to spend a dime if they don’t have to.  It’s like, let’s see how good the free software is, it may be great and save me from buying a program with bells and whistles I don’t need.  While a significant amount of them are penny-pinchers, others are in hard financial situations where they feel it’s best to avoid gambles any way they can.

I’ll admit I’ve played all of these roles in the past.  Sometimes I would find a great program, but other times I fell into traps that were hard to get out of.

I’m Not Bashing Free Software…

Before considering a free download ask yourself one question:  If this software is free, then why are companies charging users for their programs?  Most likely, free software doesn’t cover all the bases of a purchased program.  Investigate paid programs to see what features they offer.

Although, I know what I might be getting into, I still search for free programs. I found some good file conversion and sound recording programs that were free.  If you want to go that route, fine, but you should be prepared for what you might get yourself into.

Here are some basic tips:

  1. Install an anti-virus program that determines whether or not a program is safe to download.
  2. Create a backup and restore point on your machine before searching the internet.  (Check your operating system’s help section on how to do this).  This way, if the software raises havoc with your machine, you can restore your computer to the settings it had before the download.
  3. Read reviews on the program you would like to install.  Say if the program is called “Kwik-Write”, enter “Kwik-Write reviews” into your favorite search engine.  If you know others that use similar programs, ask for their input.  Anyway, I just made up the name Kwik-Write.
  4. Allow yourself plenty of time to check out a program before using it.  Never be in a hurry to download and use it!
  5. Be prepared to read and read, read, read!  If you hate bothering with the small details and terms and agreements, you’re putting yourself at risk.
  6. Find out if there is a trial period, how long it is, and whom to contact for support.  Beware!  Trial programs have some disabled functions while others have limited functions.  For example, you can try out a new word processor, but might not be able to save or print with it until you purchase the program in full.
  7. Many free software offers accompany online services that install additional toolbars on your browser.  Though these toolbars promise enhanced searching capabilities, they often slow down your machine and eat up its resources.  Your browser has a means of removing them.  Find out how to do this before you download.  Hiding these toolbars does no good.
  8. Some non-affiliated services will lead you into a trap to accept them.  The only way you can escape their dialog boxes, is to click the “Yes” button (or the equivalent).  If you find yourself in a trap, never accept the service.   Shut down and reboot your machine immediately.  You’ll be doing your system less harm in the long run.
  9. Download from reputable sources as much as possible.  Third-party, off-brand names might carry viruses or other rogue programs.
  10. Scan your newly downloaded programs to make sure they’re safe before opening them.

Just play it smart when downloading free software.  Never rush the process.  There is nothing in this world that must be done online today.  If you want to try out software, it is best to consult the publisher’s site and see if they offer free versions.  Avoid third party sites, they’re more likely trying to make money selling other peoples’ works.  This will save you from a severely handicapped computer, tons of sales calls, and strange charges appearing on your bank statements.

Speaking of bank statements, check yours regularly, especially after the download.

If there’s something I left out or could have said better, please feel free to comment.  Thank you.