Sunday, May 18, 2014

When to interrupt: Don't.

Listen more.
"Shut up idiot. What I want to say is more important than anywhere you could possibly be going with this."

It's a little harsh, and that's the message interrupting conveys. If that's not what you mean, breathe, have a little patience, see if you can figure out their eye colour and listen to what they're saying.
Interrupting erodes conversational rapport and makes people feel like they're not being listened to: They're not. Right before you interrupt you were figuring out what you were going to say instead of listening.
Let conversations breathe a little. Leave gaps between when they stop talking and when you start. It lets you sound reflective.
Avoiding interrupting also allows you to listen more fully to the person doing the talking. Perhaps more importantly, it lets them feel like you're listening.
Asynchronous communications, like texting, let both sides finish their thoughts, even while the other person is typing. That doesn't work so well face to face.
You can get away with occasional interruptions if you know the person you're talking with is direct and cuts other people off regularly. They are less likely to take offence if you cut them off.
Practice catch and release conversations. Here's how:
Catch: When it's time for you to start talking, refer to something they just said.
Talk: This is where you say what you want to say.
Release: Ask them a question so they know it's their turn to talk.
Listen: Making 'listening sounds' like uh-huh isn't interrupting. It's encouraged and conveys that you're paying attention.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

They don't post the boring bits

Even this is a highlight.
When you see what your 'friends' are up to on social media, take heart. They're posting their highlights, not the boring in-between stuff.
Most of your life is spent between highlights, living out that boring in-between stuff.
When you compare your life to the torrent of highlights on social media your life will obviously come up short.
It's not an apples to apples comparison.
Check your own highlight reel. Even if you're not actively seeking employment, keep your resume up to date.
Your resume is a highlight reel of your achievements at work. With fifteen minutes, four times per year, you can keep it up to date without ever getting very far behind.
And that's just work. There's so much more to you than that. What have you accomplished just for the joy of it? Who have you helped? Who's life have you improved?
The things you share on social media become your highlight reel for everyone else. Your real highlight reel is the smiles in the eyes of your friends and family, the satisfaction you get from accomplishing something challenging and meaningful, and the song in your heart.
With that song, you can delight in the happiness that others share with you, and you can smile in the quiet satisfaction that the things you do make your corner of the world a little better.

A little gratitude helps too. Sharing a little gratitude will spark a little happiness. Appreciating what you have is a great antidote for bemoaning what you don't.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Happiness is overrated. Shoot for satisfaction instead.

Happiness is fickle. You can get 'happy' by pasting a big stupid grin on your face. (Try it. It works.) TV, Angry Birds, any hedonistic 'waste of time' could make you happy.
Happiness is more of a practiced character trait, where you get the pay off in the now. It's like junk food that way. You can synthesize it when you're out of options. Make lemonade.
Satisfaction is the whole grain of feeling good. It lasts longer and is brought on by real accomplishment rather than fickle hedonism.
You can't fake satisfaction. You'll know whether something you tried to do was hard or not. Breezing through the math final is no big deal if you're good at math, but if you had to work hard for that good mark will leave you satisfied with a job well done.
Shooting for satisfaction instead of happiness will change your approach. You'll start working on medium and long range goals rather than the short term hits of happiness.
Unrestrained happiness is undoubtedly responsible for some of the household and credit card debt that people are struggling with. Wanting that hit of happiness now means paying for it later.
The satisfaction of saving up to buy that two-wheeler will last longer than the happiness of simply buying it on credit. Working for it and earning it feels better in the long term than just having it handed to you.
Change your habits and your activities to work towards satisfaction instead of happiness and strangely, you'll end up more deeply content with the way things are turning out.
There are only two problems, everything else is a variation. You know what you want but you don't know how to get it, or you don't know what you want.
Figure out what you want. Make it up if you have to. It will be a challenge. Then make it happen.

That's how you get satisfaction, and that will pay off much bigger than any short term buzz you get from happiness ever will.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Being understood: Superconducting communication

Communicating means taking an idea that's in your head and putting it in someone else's. That requires overcoming several layers of resistance.
Basic elements, like body language and tone, make up most of a face to face message. It's primal. You can tell whether someone's attacking you. You don't need their words.
We're wired to spot threats: negative interactions have a lot more impact than positive ones. In relationships, without at least five positive interactions for every negative one it will deteriorate. How many people do you tell when you had great service? Terrible service? A little bit of negative can outweigh a lot of positive.
Once you've established you're not a threat, you still need to break through the barriers of comprehension (What do you mean?) and ambivalence (Why should I care?).
Attention: If you have a reputation for valuable messages, they are more likely to honour your message with their attention.
Messaging: Articulate your message in a way that is crystal clear to your intended audience. It's irrelevant whether anyone else understands it.
Superconducting communication: Trusted confidantes. There are a few people who really get you. The filters are off. The resistance to communication can drop to zero. You understand. You care. You have enough shared history, in-jokes and context that they already know what you're thinking.

In those cases it doesn't take much to communicate much more than just what's said. Then again, there's always money in the banana stand.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Six ounces of prevention.

No, not those shots.
"To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill." -Sun Tzu
The thing about healthcare is you'd rather not need it.
Doctors, Nurses, EMTs and Pharmacists have raised the level of medical care far beyond what was available one hundred years ago. They can win battles that you are better off not fighting.
Like the seatbelt in the car, if you need it, something else has gone particularly badly.
Inasmuch as you have an option, pound of cure is the default. The 'ignorance is bliss' approach just fixes things when they break. Doctors. Casts. Drugs. All to put things back the way they were before.
1: Keep your hands clean. Wash off the bacteria regularly with soap and water.
2: Floss. This is your best defence against painful, expensive dental work. It's a little tedious every day, but considering the consequences makes it feel worthwhile.
3: Exercise. A little more than you're doing right now. With use-it-or-lose-it muscles and a sedentary lifestyle, that adds up to lose-it pretty quickly. If you can structure your life so that you're walking or biking for your daily commute, you build in automatic activity.
4: Eat well.
5: Don't drive tired. You're already smart enough not to drive drunk. In a pinch, a catnap at the side of the road is better than the alternative.
6: Shots. Help your immune system fight off disease by keeping your vaccines up to date. 

Stay healthy. Stay safe.