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Learning When to Walk Away

walkawayPhoto courtesy of Rocky Lubbers

As you continue on the path to your best life, it’s only natural that you want to be (now, more than ever) surrounded by like-minded people. After all, the crowd you spend the most time with is very likely to have a significant influence on your state of mind.

Many times we may think that we can help someone else grow and change along with us. If we’re getting better, why can’t they?

If a friend and/or family member expresses an interest in making improvements in his or her life, you’ve struck gold, and the two of you can cheer each other on – all the way to the finish line. However, just because you’re making changes for the better does not mean that everyone else is, too, and this can cause you quite a great deal of strife if you don’t do something about it.

What should you do?

First, you’ll have to silently take stock of which people in your life are the most beneficial to your psyche, and which people are bringing you down. You may find that there are some neutral players in your circle of friends and family – people who neither boost you up nor pull you down. They aren’t causing any problems, so shift your focus away from them and onto anyone that feels like a happiness bandit.

Chances are good that you already know who the Negative Nancy is in your life. Of course, you may have a Pessimistic Paul and a Debbie Downer, too. Determine exactly what it is about these particular people that brings you down the most. Do they constantly complain? Perhaps they always think the worst is going to happen, and are quite vocal about it. Overly controlling people can be quite stress-inducing, as well.

Have a face-to-face discussion wherein you clearly but kindly explain what they do that is upsetting you, or bringing you down. When having this talk, remember to:

  • Start with a positive.  Be sure to express something you love about them before launching into a conversation about what you’d like them to change.
  • Be kind.  Lead by example. Rise above their negativity by showing them respect and kindness during your discussion.
  • Be clear. It’s important that they walk away from the conversation with an understanding of what you need.

Once you’ve taken the time and energy to have a heart-to-heart chat with someone whose values and goals are contrary to your own, give it some time. Remember that significant life changes don’t happen overnight, and the shift may be very small at first.

If, after a pre-determined amount of time, you still feel as though an anchor is attached to both of your legs when in the presence of certain people, you will need to distance yourself from him or her in order to continue your upward momentum. I’m a firm believer in second chances, but I also believe that you reap what you sow. Assuming you’ve been clear about what you need from others during this time in your life, anyone who isn’t responsive to your needs is simply disregarding you, and doesn’t deserve a third, fourth or fifth chance.

Although you may scoff at the idea of ‘walking away’ from a close friend or family member – the alternative is that you continue to spend your precious time with someone who is sucking the life out of you. Whether it is your sister, ‘best’ friend, or even your spouse – you have the power to decide who you want to surround yourself with.

Luckily, “it’s never too late to be what you might have been.” ~ George Eliot


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How to Recover From a Professional Faux Pas

Photo courtesy of Charlotte Morrall

I’ve committed several really embarrassing faux pas in my life, and in hindsight, I really wish I had known the best way to make them right. Unfortunately, my worst infractions occurred when I was young and fresh, without the experience of life to teach me when to keep my mouth shut (or when not to reply to an email.)

As a matter of fact, one of my infamous slip-ups was pretty serious – and could have potentially cost me a job, had I not been working for an extremely cool dude at the time. Now, 13 years later, I don’t have nearly as many instances of foot-in-mouth disease because I’ve gained some perspective and a lot of self-control. It still happens to me, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve got a much better handle on fixing the fallout.

If you put your foot in your mouth in a professional setting (say, meeting at work with the higher ups), here are some things you can do to mend fences:

  • Keep your tongue wagging – If you’ve managed to hurl an insult about a coworker without meaning to be heard, the only thing to do is to keep talking. In the form of an apology, that is, and be sure that the apology is a grandiose as the blunder. In other words, a simple, “Sorry” isn’t going to cut it if you dogged on the boss’s wife. A good rule of thumb is to avoid talking badly about anyone you work with, unless you really enjoy eating humble pie.
  • Unmix your message – Sometimes the things we say have well-meant intentions but come out sounding like a garbled hot mess. Don’t worry, I’ve been there too. If what you said just came out wrong, you can (probably) make it right by clearing up any misunderstandings. Be sure to restate your message clearly, but only once your audience fully grasps that what came out initially really wasn’t what you meant.
  • Know your place - This may sound demeaning (to you), but if you spoke out of turn and ended up making your company and/or boss look bad, you’ll probably have to apologize, even if you don’t mean it. Ingenuous? I don’t think so. Although you may not necessarily agree with them, company policies are something you’ll have to abide by as long as you want to keep getting a paycheck from them.
  • Hold the emails - Another easy place to unintentionally offend someone is through the magic of email. If someone said something that upset you, don’t put anything in writing until you’ve cooled off first. Also – always triple check the recipients of your outgoing messages before hitting ‘Send.’ Be ultra careful of that sneaky little ‘Reply All’ button too - unless you want the entire office to know exactly what you think of Becky’s idea for Dave’s going-away party.

These days, I no longer work in an office environment, and the people I collaborate with are all supremely awesome. We communicate via e-meetings, Skype, emails, phone calls, and occasional in-person sessions. There’s still room for error, though, so I always err on the side of caution when it comes to my professional relationships. The keyword in that sentence wraps it up nicely: professional. Knowing what to say and how to handle yourself are all part of having a successful relationship in a professional setting.

“If you have a job without any aggravations, you don’t have a job.”  ~Malcolm S. Forbes

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The Working Woman: How to Ask Your Boss for a Raise


Photo courtesy of Kheel Center at Cornell

Did you know that a gender gap still exists in regards to salary?

According to the National Women’s Law Center, over a lifetime of working, women make approximately $400,000 less than their male counterparts who are employed in the same field with equal credentials. To catch up, women would apparently have to delay retirement for an additional 12 years, working well into their so-called ‘golden years.’

It sounds a lot worse than it really is, though.

After reading several articles in popular media regarding the gender pay gap, I set out to do some research on the topic. I discovered that there is a ton of media hype surrounding this issue, most often led by feminist and political groups attempting to make their voice heard or secure more female voters.

Digging a little deeper, I found out that, while a discrepancy does exist, it actually has little to do with discrimination. Many reports suggest that what women expect, want, and demand out of their professional lives often differs from the goals of their male peers.

Women are four times less likely than men to initiate a conversation with their superior(s) about a pay raise.  In fact, women also don’t fare well when it comes to negotiating their starting salaries during interviews, which sets the pace for their future income. They dominate when it comes to negotiating for someone else, like perhaps the company they work for. Unfortunately, a lot of women don’t put themselves high enough on their own priority lists, and also have cited “fears of asking for too much and being denied” as major deterrents when it comes to asking for more money.

If you’re a working woman, or if you’ve got a close friend or family member who is, beat the odds and get that raise:

  • Do your research – Know ahead of time what your magic number is, and bring solid evidence that will show your boss that you’re being paid less than you deserve. Get a really firm grip on what your market value is before your one-on-one with the head honcho.
  • Create a collaborative vibe – Start the negotiation meeting off by saying that you understand that money might be tight at the moment. Approach the situation with a positive attitude - be upbeat and friendly. Avoid playing the victim card.
  • Inquire about your job performance – Ask your boss how pleased he or she is with your work. From there, see if they are aware of your market value. Keep the talk focused on the job – not on you personally.
  • Think small – You know how we feel about tiny steps in the right direction here at TinyShift! Be prepared to accept incremental boosts in pay rather than a gigantic raise all at once. Even if you’re getting paid less than someone else in your department, catching up in salary can take time.
  • Have options - If the negotiation seems to be headed south, let your superiors know that Company SB has offered you a position at the salary you desire. If you’re an excellent and important employee, you’ll be hard to replace, and a good boss will recognize it.
  • Be good at what you do – Going into your boss’s office and asking for a higher salary certainly means you know you’re really good at your job. Right?  If you’re slacking, or even just giving “average” effort – instead of getting a raise, you might end up getting fired.

Lastly, in today’s challenging economic times, be sure to approach any discussion about a raise with caution, and use your best judgment regarding when to make your request. Be sure that your boss is in a really good mood and has recently experienced some kind of “win.” Be mindful of the fact that you have a job, keeping in mind that many Americans are struggling to even get hired, let alone make more money. That being said, it is possible to negotiate for a better paycheck as long as your approach is cautious, positive, and reasonable.

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The Golden Rule: Reversed

goldPhoto courtesy of Mykl Roventine

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

We’ve all heard some version of this quote before, usually as children when our parents were attempting to turn us into decent people. “Remember the Golden Rule,” my mother would often remind me - before I did something I’d end up regretting. As it turns out, following the Golden Rule is a pretty effective way to ensure that you treat other people with respect.

But – what should you do when those other people aren’t returning the favor? Do you still have to follow the Golden Rule? My vote’s on no – but don’t stoop to their level, either. Putting up with poor treatment and disrespect simply shouldn’t be on your To-Do list as you move toward the life you really want. Be on the lookout for anyone who wants to subject you to:

  • Abuse – I think we all know that it’s not ok to get knocked around by someone and then stick around for more. But remember, emotional abuse can be just as, or even more damaging, and should be treated so. If someone is abusing you – in any form – they don’t love you, and it’s time for you to move on.
  • Taking you for granted - Many people bring this one on themselves, but that doesn’t make it right. If you’re being treated more like the hired help than a spouse or a friend, it’s time for you to wake up and smell the insult. You deserve to be acknowledged for your efforts.
  • Inconsistency – You need people in your life who you can count on when you need them. Constantly receiving mixed or contradictory messages from those who are close to you can leave you feeling discombobulated instead of how friends should make you feel: understood and confident.
  • Mean girl behavior – You know this personality type from way back in middle school. It comes in the form of tightly knit groups of (usually) girls who are eager to spread rumors in such a passive-aggressive manner that you end up thinking you’re the crazy one. Unfortunately, mean girl behavior has stuck with some women well into adulthood, and it can be just as traumatizing to you now as it was at age 12. The mean girl (or guy) typically draws in at least one other friend to harass or bully their peers. Doing so gives her a sense of control, and takes the attention off of her own insecurities. My advice on dealing with mean girls in adulthood? People can only bring you down if you let them.
  • Jealousy - Feelings of insecurity can lead others to believe they are inherently “not good enough.” Because of this, any perceived threat to your relationship with them will be met with anger – and fear that you will discover their “unworthiness.” Although you may think that consistent reassurance can eventually put an end to any behaviors a jealous friend subjects you to; that’s simply not going to happen. Since jealousy stems from a low sense of self, the change will have to come from within the person who is feeling jealous. Don’t allow yourself to be punished for someone else’s low self-esteem.
  • Lying - Being lied to can range from annoying to extremely frustrating, depending on who’s telling you the lies. Everyone lies from time to time, but a close relationship with a compulsive or pathological liar can be maddening.  Getting a true compulsive liar to see the hurt they’re causing is difficult; in fact, you may need to resort to an intervention of sorts. Be forewarned – lying can be indicative of a much larger problem like narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder. If it’s not a relationship that you plan on keeping for the long term, say bye-bye to the liar and pursue relationships with more honest and forthright people.

The Golden Rule tells us to treat others how we’d like to be treated. In cases where that’s just not working, treat yourself how you’d like to be treated. Kiss the mean girls good bye and pursue outside relationships with people who make you feel good rather than drag you down.

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When Opposites Attract: Does it Last?

oppositesPhoto courtesy of Ragnar Jensen

We all know that the ever elusive ‘true love’ is a mysterious phenomenon that happens at least in a lifetime – if you’re lucky.

So what exactly constitutes “falling in love?” On a quest to determine if there is indeed more than one way to find your “love of a lifetime,” I set out to do some reading on one of the most debated of relationship types - The Odd Couple.

Does the theory that opposites attract hold any weight? Psychoanalysts have been debating this concept for years, and some believe that when we feel an attraction to someone who is very different from us, there are very scientific reasons at work.

Feeling drawn to a lover simply because they possess qualities we may be lacking can elicit a heady high that is sometimes mistaken for true and long-lasting love.

It’s actually quite common for people with vastly different romantic ideologies to make a love connection. The reasoning behind having an attraction to your exact opposite may go something like this, “He completes me.”

But will it last?

Relationships between people with extremely conflicting personality types are often filled with passion and fire. The bad news is that the passion and fire often shift to irritation and arguments. Especially in the case of polar opposites – soon enough the early passion may fizzle, leaving two totally different people looking questioningly at each other, as if to say, “What are we doing here?”

When the initial appeal wears off like a buzz, what’s left is similar to a bad hangover. You’re in despair and agony and probably vow never to do it again – but the attraction of someone with abilities and traits that you lack can repeatedly draw you back because you find them so fascinating and attractive.

The good news is that you absolutely do not have to seek out and marry someone exactly like you. How boring! Most people with the longest lasting and most satisfying relationships have some really solid things in common with their mates. Notably, they also report that there are at least a few things about their partner that are strikingly different from their own personalities.

And the proof is in the…sweaty t-shirt?

You may not understand where I’m going with this, but bear with me. The most interesting study (to me) was one in which researchers at the University of Liverpool asked women to smell men’s dirty t-shirts.  They were then asked to rank the shirts according to how attracted they were to the smell. The results implicated that women typically sniff out men with at least a 50% difference from them in a specific set of genes. The MHC (major histocompatibility complex) were the genes in question during this particular study.

Women who reported marital satisfaction (in heterosexual relationships) showed differences in their MHC genes when compared with their husband’s. Couples who shared more than 50% of the same MHC genes typically admitted to an adulterous affair on the part of the wife. The MHC gene has not been shown to affect men’s relationship satisfaction at all.

Just as it is with all of the other fun stuff on this journey called life - for best results in the relationship arena – everything in moderation. Next time you’re on a date, you’ll know what to do. If the pit fits, he’s a keeper!

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6 Steps to Improved Real World Communication

omgPhoto courtesy of Tama Leaver

As a parent of children born into Generations Y and Z (born between 1980-present), I’m feel like I’m constantly nudging them to communicate more.  You know, the “old fashioned” kind of communication – the kind where you speak to others, face to face, without using an electronic device, and really laughing out loud.

With the constant advancement of technology, it’s a safe bet that the way we communicate with our friends and loved ones has changed forever. The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to change completely.

Those of us who grew up in Generation X (born 1965-1979) were raised with a pleasant mixture of basic technology awareness combined with real world communication skills. Most of us who are now approaching 40 spent our crucial developmental years without even one computer in our homes! We whiled away our childhoods playing with the neighborhood kids, engaged in make-believe games - and as teens, writing love notes on paper and talking endlessly on phones with cords.

Our children, on the other hand, have been raised with cell phones to distract them while we changed their diapers, iPod touches on their 8th birthdays, Instagram accounts and Facebook profiles.  Even their school interactions are shifting toward the impersonal, with more and more learning and instruction taking place on Smart Boards, iPads and laptop computers.

As a result, many of today’s young people have a serious deficit when it comes to communication skills, making real life relationships difficult to navigate. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon first hand, and frankly, I’m more than a little bit concerned. Fostering and nurturing friendships and family bonds are skills that are learned. The problem?     No one’s teaching them.

If you have a Gen Y or Z child (or are one yourself), try implementing some of the following simple steps to ensure better all-around relationship success.

  1. Say those three little words. With the foundations of so many relationships today being built on the internet and via text messaging, many people have had a brainfart when it comes to showing emotions in person. If someone is important to you – tell them! Show your appreciation for the people in your life, and say “I love you” to your family members at least once a day.
  2. Make eye contact. This is a skill that has fallen victim to the replacement of real life conversations with text messages.  Many people today find eye contact uncomfortable simply because texting doesn’t require it. To get more comfortable with looking into someone’s baby blues, you’ll need to practice. When you’re listening to a friend speak, look at them. Try not turn your attention away at the slightest distraction.
  3. Quality over quantity. It’s ok to text and email. There’s no fighting it – we’re living the technology era. However, it doesn’t take much effort to spend some quality time each day with those who mean the most to you. Quality in this case means in-person interactions with no screens.
  4. Call instead of text. The next time you need to get ahold of somebody – why not give them a ring instead of shooting them another text? A phone call is more personal, and many people have simply dropped the habit of talking on the phone.
  5. Ask questions. During those times you set aside for quality interaction – show your interest in others by asking them poignant questions about their well-being.  Inquire about their day, or simply ask pointedly, “How’ve you been?”  Maintaining eye contact and listening intently to the answer lets people know that you care about what they have to say.
  6. Leave the phone at home. I know it sounds impossible, but it’s really not.  After you leave your phone at home once, you’ll experience a sense of freedom. If it’s not an absolute necessity, turn it off or let it charge on the kitchen counter while you’re enjoying time with your friends or family.

Most importantly, make real life interactions a priority. If you must have your cell phone with you during family or other social outings, keep it silenced and refrain from checking it too often. As you try to make the most of this self-learning process called life, staying engaged in the people around you is one of the most enjoyable things that you might’ve never even realized you’ve been missing.

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Turn Your Frown Upside Down: Can You Decide to be Happy?


Photo courtesy of Lauren

As I wander through the world each day, I regularly find myself face-to-face with someone who radiates negative energy.

With each encounter, I walk away from the situation mystified at how much energy these people are simply throwing away. Energy that could be used so much more effectively toward making life better.

It’s not that I never get upset or mad. There are things that irritate me, and (although infrequent), I do have some conflicts in my life. As a matter of fact, I think a life completely void of struggle would be quite yawn-inducing.

However, there’s huge difference between having some conflict in your life and having some life in between all of your conflicts. Although I wouldn’t say I was ever a totally negative person, I can definitely tell you that I used to be a lot more cynical than I am these days.

Those people who seem to be absolutely brimming with negativity are generally unhappy or unfulfilled in their own lives, so they squash happiness, ambition and success wherever they can. If they’re miserable – you should be too. Innovative ideas thought up by others are picked apart and insulted. Jealous of the good things happening to those around them, they display obvious resentment of those who have what they want.

Eventually, putting out constant negative energy will push friends and family away from someone as they seek relief from the continual complaining and general air of discontent.

Does someone close to you display this type of behavior? Is it possible that you’re the Negative Nancy? Luckily, negativity doesn’t have to be a permanent state of being. After a period of pretty intense self-reflection and a great deal of research on the habits of unhappy people, I learned how much better it felt to be positive.  Some helpful advice to nix negativity from your life:

  • Force it (at first):  Refraining from making negative comments or engaging in unnecessary conflicts and debates won’t come naturally for someone who’s been practicing a whole lot of negativity for (possibly) years. The most effective way to shift into positive gear is to purposely set out to do so. Fastidiously police your behavior and set increments of time in which you are prohibited from saying anything negative at all. Start with small time segments to ensure success.
  • Reinforce positivity:  When you are able to avoid being contrary for your goal time period, you’ll immediately feel good about yourself. The simple fact that you were able to go against your natural instinct toward negativity will give you a feeling of peace and accomplishment. Sit with those feelings, and reward yourself accordingly.  This will make it even more desirable for you to continue on your journey toward positivity.
  • Smile Therapy:  Even when you don’t necessarily feel like smiling, do it anyway. Many studies, including one performed at the University of Cardiff in Wales, have reinforced Charles Darwin’s idea that “the free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensi­fies it.” We typically smile because we’re happy – but as it turns out, the reverse is true, too. You can feel more happiness because you’re smiling.
  • Observe and Repeat:  As you begin to realize the exorbitant amount of energy you’d been wasting on negative thoughts and actions, it will become much easier for you to observe and analyze your thoughts and why you’re having them. You’ll gain the ability to stop negative thoughts before they become spoken words.

Over time, these practices will become habit, and may even become a natural part of your new outlook on life. In your efforts to live a more positive life, try not to be too hard on yourself if you stumble at first. You’re making a valiant effort to use your energy for good instead of evil! Forgive yourself for your imperfections, and pride yourself on your desire to improve.

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When Familiarity Breeds Contempt:10 Friendship Enders

love hatePhoto courtesy of Rory Finneren

Last week, a friend and I were sharing the traits we liked most about each other, and we remarked that time has given us a new perspective on friendship. In addition to getting older, living mindfully has also given me a pretty good handle on the type of people I enjoy being around.

For me, a typical ‘friend interview’ goes something like this: I’m introduced, in any number of ways, to someone new.  I almost immediately begin evaluating this person’s friendability. My scoring system is simple: if I get a good feeling when I’m around you – boom – we’re friends.

Nine times out of ten, going with your gut instinct works pretty well, but it is possible to get the wrong first impression.

Unfortunately, you often won’t discover someone’s annoying traits until the two of you get more familiar and comfortable with each other. As long as her worst habit is biting her nails or telling really bad jokes – you’ve got nothing to worry about.

It’s when familiarity breeds contempt rather than closeness that you’ve got a problem. Breaking up with a friend is hard to do, but putting up with more than one item on this list is enough to drive anyone straight to Friendship Divorce Court:

  • Chronic interruptions – Let’s face it – we’ve all interrupted someone before. However, when someone makes a habit of cutting you off mid-sentence, it shows that he or she honestly doesn’t care what you’ve got to say. Someone who is worth having as a friend wants to hear what you’re thinking, and they respect your opinion enough not to interrupt while you’re sharing your thoughts.
  • Habitual lying – Honesty is (almost) always the best policy, whether it’s between friends or lovers. Most of us turn to someone we trust for advice, and we really do want to know if those pants make us look fat. If you’ve caught a friend in several lies, you can be sure that there are many more lurking in the shadows of your friendship.
  • Unannounced visitsTHE POP-IN is an act of disrespecting someone’s schedule, time, and privacy. The type of person who practices frequent pop-ins puts their time at a much higher level of importance than yours.
  • Constant attempts to make you look bad – Whether to your face or behind your back, if you’ve got a friend who has such incredibly low self-esteem that she wants to bring you down to her level, show her to the door, and fast. You deserve to be surrounded by people who boost you up instead of weigh you down.
  • Perpetual guilting – This type of person never seems to handle her responsibilities, in and outside of the friendship. This can be extremely tiring and frustrating, because oftentimes you will end up as the scapegoat.
  • Continual complaining – Unless you share a mutual love of grumbling – nobody likes a whiner, right?
  • Bossiness - No friend of yours has the right to tell you what to do. Friends should give advice, not orders.
  • Excessive gossiping – Know that if she’s talking about other people when she’s with you, she’s talking about you when she’s with other people.
  • An inability to be wrong – Do you know what having a friend who’s ‘never’ wrong means? It means that you’re ALWAYS WRONG – and that’s just no fun at all.
  • A total lack of self-awareness - This type of person has trouble with social cues, overstays her welcome, invites herself to your house (with or without your knowledge – the POP-IN), and rarely shows up to scheduled events on time. Her worst crime? She has no idea she’s committing friendship murder.

Don’t waste your precious time with someone unless you feel pretty darn great when you’re together. Oh, and if you get the distinct feeling that you’re being given the slip, perhaps it’s time to look at your own friendability score.

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Mindfulness and Compassion Go Hand in Hand

look within2

Photo courtesy of Adriel Socrates

Mindfulness is a way of living in which you learn to become attentively aware of yourself in the present moment. Generally speaking, learning to live more mindfully allows calmness and acceptance to prevail over more reckless or negative emotions. For me, the practice of mindful living has helped alleviate physical pain and many of the negative emotions that I used to associate with pain.

Myself included, most people take strides to live more mindfully in order to improve their sense of self-awareness and self-esteem, along with getting more enjoyment out of life. Ultimately, many of us set out to live more mindfully to improve how we feel.

It’s true; I was turned on to one of my favorite mindfulness authors, Jon Kabat-Zinn, by my own therapist.  I’ve been a huge fan of his work and his theories ever since. Kabat-Zinn says that, to him, the concepts of mindful living allow us to embody and embrace who we already are rather than construct some identity for ourselves that may not be authentic.

In fact, there is an entire realm of psychotherapy based on something called ‘mindful self-compassion’. Psychologist Christopher Germer, PhD says, “the foundation of emotional healing begins by being aware in the present moment when we’re struggling with feelings of inadequacy, despair, confusion, and other forms of stress - and responding with kindness and understanding toward ourselves.

Studies completed by the psychology department at UC Berkeley strongly suggest that, along with self-compassion, within us lies empathy for others; we have compassion written into our DNA. Practicing mindfulness meditation and mindful living is simply taking a look at what’s already within you and setting it ‘free.’

As it turns out, this theory is far from new! A century ago, academician Albert Einstein himself suggested that we as humans are imprisoned by thinking of ourselves as separate from the rest of the Universe.  He went on to say that, although we typically restrict our compassion to ourselves and those closest to us, that the ability to be compassionate toward others is already within us.

All we have to do is set it free by being aware of it.

Perhaps Einstein was an expert on more than the theory of relativity!

Another important point made by Kabat-Zinn is that the focus of mindfulness should be on living it rather than talking about it all the time. So I leave you with this:

“Perhaps the most “spiritual” thing any of us can do is simply to look through our own eyes, see with eyes of wholeness, and act with integrity and kindness.”

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

From Wherever You Go, There You Are

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Stop Fighting: How to Turn Any Argument Around


Photo courtesy of Ion-bogdan Dumitrescu

I do my best to steer clear of people who argue more than they laugh, but sometimes interacting with antagonists is just something that can’t be avoided. If you’re unfortunate enough to have someone in your life that loves to use you as a figurative punching bag, you’ve probably tried (and failed) to win at least one argument against them.

Having disagreements with the people in our lives is totally normal, and once we’ve reached adulthood, most of us have figured out some good strategies to calmly resolve differences of opinion. However, this proves to be a little bit more difficult if the person just can’t stand you.

I know what you’re thinking. “What – me? Everyone likes me!” And, while I applaud your high self-esteem, your self-awareness may need a little tweaking.

Even if you do your damndest to say a friendly hello to all of your coworkers each morning, wave a cheery greeting to your neighbors every evening, and try to be the best employee/coworker/friend in between – somewhere, sometime, somehow – there’s probably someone who just – doesn’t like you.

Their distaste for you may be unjustified, or perhaps it’s mutual and the two of you just don’t jive well.  As Charles Colton once said, sometimes “we hate [people] because we do not know them; and will not know them because we hate them.” In my younger days, I lived less mindfully. I tended to decide whether I liked someone without really knowing them at all.

I later learned (by accident) that if we get to know someone we “hate,” the outcome is often surprisingly pleasant.

Nevertheless, if you’re currently on the receiving end of someone who has taken a strong aversion to you, any exchanges the two of you have are likely causing you a significant deal of anxiety. The more frequently you have to interact, the more distressed you’ll become. Being afraid to go to work every day (or anywhere this person is likely to be) is no way to live. Instead of displaying fearful, nail biting body language or blasting her back when she accuses you of something – stop.

Bullies thrive on intimidating others; antagonists love a good fight, and you are going to be the one to put an end to it.

Do you want to know the absolute, number one way to stop someone from arguing with you?

Simply take away their ability to argue.

Don’t interrupt her, but when she’s finished doling out what she feels is her winning end of a debate – smile. Take a breath, and speak in a low voice. Say something neutral, like, “Ok. I didn’t realize I was doing that. Can you clarify (this or that) for me, so I can work on it in the future?” Smile.

It’s (almost) impossible to argue with someone who won’t fight back. By using low tones, you’ll calm your opponent down, and by not firing back, you’ll be the one who took the high road. While you may not really agree with her, you’ll have diffused the situation while looking like the good guy, and you’ll have conserved your mental energy for someone who really matters.

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