Archive | Life skills RSS feed for this section

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.

Comments { 0 }

How to Say No Without Feeling Like a Dud

Photo courtesy of Melissa Maples

It’s become a popular trend to come from “a place of yes” in many aspects of the hustle and bustle of modern life.  The pressure is on to do good deeds, raise well-rounded kids, have a respectable job, serve on a multitude of committees, attend the right social events, and look good while doing it all seamlessly.

I support the idea of generally coming from a place of yes; in fact, one of the quotes I live by is: “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference” (Winston Churchill). I work hard to make sure my children know that they can do anything they set their minds to. I applaud their attempts at new things and their willingness to step out of their comfort zones whenever possible. And of course, I lead them by example.

With all of that being said, without the right boundaries in place, this can easily lead to a life crammed too full of all the wrong things. By saying “yes” too often to others, your life may suddenly seem emptier than ever before.

The solution sounds easy enough, but suddenly saying ”no” can be quite difficult. Your desire to keep the peace, fear of appearing rude, and a strong desire to be helpful are some of the reasons that may be causing you to overfill your plate, time and time again.

Surprisingly, many people report that others begin to show a newfound respect for them once they start declining, and that their own self awareness improves exponentially. The key is finding the right way to say “no.”

  • Get clear on your “Yes.”  Decide what is most important in your own life, and get your priorities in order. By putting your needs first (and the needs of your family), you’ll then have a better idea of how much you can agree to take on without cutting in to your own time, creating a sweet balance.
  • Think before agreeing. Some people feel pressured into taking on more than they can handle when put on the spot.  To avoid this, practice buying time. Tell the person that you’d like to think about it/check your calendar/ask so-and-so before committing. By putting a little time between the request and your response, you’ll have an easier time coming up with a reason for saying “no.” Anyone who is respectful of your time will be ok with waiting for a response.
  • Offer an alternative. Sometimes you may get requests for your help when you’re really not the best person for the task. If this happens, explain that while you may not be able to offer much help, you can steer them in the right direction to get the help they need.
  • Share your reasons. If you simply can’t help because you’re too busy, it’s ok to say that. Explain that you’d love to help, but that you’ve got x, y, and z going on at the moment, and that you don’t like to commit to something if you can’t devote the appropriate amount of time and effort required to do it well.

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of bowing to others’ needs before your own, but it’s also really important to get out of that habit as soon as possible. Helping other people is admirable and can be an extremely rewarding part of life, as long as you leave more than enough time in your schedule to be able to stop and smell the roses on a regular basis.

Comments { 0 }

Is Etiquette Dead? Minding Your Manners in a Modern World

Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks

In our world of modern conveniences, we can communicate instantly through Skype, Facetime, online chats, texting, and more. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr allow us to upload the important moments in our lives to keep friends and loved ones in the loop. Want to know how my trip to Hawaii was? Read my WordPress blog (and leave a comment if you have a question.) Check out my Flickr pics if you want a visual of my new bikini and how we lavishly lived it up.

As a generation who grew up in the shadow of Baby Boomers, Generation X is now having a midlife crisis, and virtually none of them seem to notice.  They’ve hung all their hopes on eternal youth – refusing to grow up and follow the rules of society. While generations past have experienced similar phenomenons – Dad leaving Mom after 20 years of marriage (when Mom leaves Dad it’s therapeutic and not a travesty), Dad buying a convertible and getting a younger girlfriend. Mom might have quit her stable job to start up her own cookie business. Whatever the scenario, at some point, most generations fight the aging process as they desperately try to feel young again.

The difference now, of course, is that Generation Xers have never really grown up. They’ve clung on to their youth white knuckled and sweating, even as they’ve gone through the motions of being adults – like getting married and having kids (marriage optional). Becoming parents hasn’t stopped this generation from partying hard and tweeting harder. “I’m too old for this. Remind me never to do this again!”

One characteristic that seems to be glaringly missing from society these days? Etiquette. Baby Boomers cluck their tongues at the younger generations who figuratively thumb their noses at ‘Manners’. They’ve got better things to do than sending paper thank you cards for all of life’s events. Besides, who uses actual paper anymore? Texting was invented for a reason, right? A thank you text is pretty much all that Generation X feels is necessary.

Women and men are equals now, and this generation embraces that fact like no generation that has come before us. Same sex couples, opposite sex couples, who cares? IT’S ALL GOOD. Today’s thirty-somethings are living life for the moment, shrugging off societal expectations and the need for anything that’s deemed a ‘waste of time.’

Can you sufficiently express thanks and appreciation through a little palm-sized device rather than with a pen, paper and a stamp?

Living mindfully and enjoying all of life’s moments isn’t replacing manners, but it is changing the way we express them. It’s still important to show your appreciation and to keep in touch with loved ones who don’t live a stone’s throw away, but what isn’t important is how you do it. The world as we know it is ever-changing, and as Bruce Barton once said, “When you are through changing, you are through.”

Comments { 2 }

14 Reasons to Open Your Mind

Photo courtesy of Hobvias Sudoneighm

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” -  Oscar Wilde

It’s true that most of us have been raised with a certain set of morals and beliefs about life that can sometimes make it difficult to entertain or accept ideas that differ from ours. Much of our childhoods were spent surrounded by people with very similar belief systems and ways of living.

Even as adults, we tend to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals because it’s much easier to enjoy life without daily conflict.

It’s okay to have your own opinions regarding important life issues. I definitely have some strong opinions concerning matters close to my heart. However, if you asked the people who’ve known me longest, you’d find that my attitude has shifted away from the need for absolute truths.  At some point I realized that I can live a much richer and fuller life by being open-minded.

How far open should your mind be?

Personal choice will dictate how receptive to new ideas and differing opinions you are able and willing to be.  Your innate personality and the open-mindedness of your closest family members will play a part as well. Even if you have to go it alone, opening your mind’s door and allowing yourself to be receptive to new information and ideas can be quite rewarding and beneficial.

Approaching life with an open mind can lead to positive things like:

  1. Increased knowledge and understanding of concepts that had previously eluded you due to your lack of exposure or willingness to except new ideas.
  2. New friendships – If you were raised to eliminate entire groups of people from your friendship pool because of their differences, imagine the potential relationships you are missing out on!
  3. Pleasurable experiences you might have otherwise missed, including personal experiences and professional opportunities alike.
  4. Creating the life you’ve always wanted by taking a different path - Remember - there is always more than one way to get where you are going.
  5. Personal growth -  Letting go of some previous beliefs or letting in new information may lead you to make some changes that you never even realized you needed.
  6. More interesting conversations -  Earn a reputation for your open mind and more people will get a lot more pleasure out of holding conversations with you.
  7. Empathy -  It’s hard to have empathy for people when your mind is closed off to them.
  8. Better relationships - Open-minded people are not easily angered by opposing views, and this leads to healthier interactions.
  9. A more secure sense of self -  Are your viewpoints really your own or are they ideas that have been passed down to you from your parents and grandparents? Taking a step back to analyze your beliefs before calling them your own will give you more confidence in your own points of view.
  10. Being less judgmental -  Someone who is open-minded would never make a judgment before hearing both sides of an argument.
  11. Improved listening skills – Taking in all information before formulating an opinion means you’ll be engaging your analytical thinking skills on a more regular basis.
  12. Getting more enjoyment out of wherever life brings - Life has so many wonderful opportunities; those who can let go a little bit and see where life takes them will end up happier and more fulfilled.
  13. Lower stress levels -  It’s significantly less stressful to be open-minded and relaxed about opposing views  than it is to be closed-minded and argumentative.
  14. Physical health improvements – By not allowing a difference of opinion to provoke you, things like your blood pressure, heart rate, and blood oxygen will stay within desirable ranges.

Having your own beliefs and opinions is an important indicator of who you are as a person, but so is how amenable you are to new ideas when they’re presented to you. The best way to formulate a set of beliefs that you can call your own is to be willing to listen and think analytically about all the facts that come your way. Also, staying receptive even after you’ve formulated your opinions shows respect to others who have contradicting viewpoints.

Comments { 1 }

Can the Truth Really Set You Free?

Photo courtesy of Tiago Pinheiro

Do you feel like you’re on a search for truth as you make your way through the world, dodging hyperbole as you go?  For a long time it was the opposite for me. I felt like I was blatantly avoiding some hard truths in my own life. I buried my head in the sand, thinking that avoidance would keep me safe and help me hide from the truth.

Looking back, I thought I knew my own truth for a very long time, but only on a subconscious level. Knowing your truth and acting on it are two very different concepts, because when you finally begin to share your truth with others, they will react accordingly. Those who have different truths and beliefs will potentially be hurt or offended.

Staying silent when you know your own truth is perhaps one of the most detrimental forms of dishonesty. It has been called the ‘Disease to Please’ and curing yourself can be quite difficult. If you question your own truth, you may end up trying to please others forever.

But here’s some food for thought – some people who are convinced that they know their own truths may actually be wrong.

Is it possible to be wrong about your own truth?

People in the public eye are the most notorious of all for not living truthfully – we see examples of this in the news, in Hollywood, in politics and in professional sports. Our society seems to be riddled with untruths everywhere we turn. If everybody’s doing it, then why can’t we?

Should we give up on honesty and truth?

We should not give up on truth! It is empowering and liberating, even while it may be complicated. Living untruthfully can ruin just about anything - including your health, according to recent research presented at the American Psychological Association’s 120th Annual Convention.

In order for you to live a truly authentic and (mostly) truthful life, you’ve got to really get in touch with yourself. Having the confidence to live a truthful life is never easy, because it means taking responsibility for all of your actions and decisions. Be able to answer for yourself with self-assurance. What you know to be true for you may not sit well with others, but what matters is that it works for you, and that you feel good about your decisions.

As important as it is to live your truth, remember that others around you are attempting the same thing, and their truth may not look like truth at all to you. Only when you can learn to accept other people as they present you with their truths is when the truth really will set you free.

I’d like to leave you with an open-ended, thought provoking concept today.

Does absolute truth exist?

If everyone’s versions of the truth are ’right’, even if only for them (I imagine Hitler thought his truth was ‘absolute truth’), what then?

My truth, your truth, we all fall down?

Comments { 3 }

How to Find Success with Love and Money

Photo courtesy of Mark and Cece

Taking control of your own happiness is an important theme for us here at TinyShift. Our entire staff lives and breathes our mantra: making small changes that have big consequences. We’ve all seen our lives improve exponentially since we started taking control of our own lives. Part of what fulfills us on our journey is sharing our success so that you can also move toward living the life you really want.

We make it our practice to regularly learn about a variety of elements like books, apps, disciplines, practices (such as mindfulness, meditation, and cognitive therapy), courses, and the latest research that may help our readers find success. Recently, we were lucky enough to meet Cece Suwal and Mark Brener, who are Co-founders of The One World Initiative blog and co-authors of the national bestseller A Guide to Your Supreme Power. Let me tell you – this is one amazing twosome. They’ve been featured on ABC and in The New York Times, The New York Observer, Fortune/CNN Money Magazine, The Guardian UK, Shanghai Daily, and other news outlets around the world.

While talking with Mark and Cece recently, we learned that they are currently offering a 3-Part Mini-Course absolutely FREE. This course consists of: an audio series wherein multi-millionaires reveal their secrets, an e-book that addresses the root causes of anxiety and how to overcome it, and an e-book designed to help you enjoy happy and satisfying relationships and sex lives.

Here’s exactly what you’ll receive:

  • Multi-Millionaire Interview Series: Self-Made Millionaires Reveal Their Real Secret Tools for Success-a new, 3-part audio interview series and cheat-sheet-style e-book that will help you learn about the real ways to succeed financially, as shared by 3 highly successful multi-millionaires that Cece and Mark interviewed. (value: $100)
  • What Stress, Worry, and Anxiety Really Mean and How to Replace Them With Delight! – a 28 page e-book that explains the causes of anxiety and how to be free from it once and for all. (value: $30)
  • Relationship Advice That Really Works: How to Have Meaningful, Loving, and Sexually Satisfying Relationships – a 19 page e-book that reveals timeless wisdoms about love, why we need it and how to have awesome sex lives. (value: $14.99)

PLUS two bonus gifts!

  • How To Influence People For Maximum Results (value: $30)
  • Why Passion Comes Before Success AND What To Do If You Can’t Find YOUR Passion (priceless)

Again, we think this mini-course will help you as you take control of your life, and we think it’s great timing that we met Cece and Mark just as the new year is about to start.  We know you, our readers, are ready to make changes in your lives for the better, and this is a great tool to use on your journey. And it’s totally free!

To sign up for the mini-course, simply click here. You will be re-directed to their site. Please let us know your thoughts after you’ve had time to review everything!


Comments { 2 }

Can You be a Leader and a Teammate?

Photo courtesy of myheimu

When it comes to working collaboratively in teams, keeping everyone on task and maintaining productivity levels are important responsibilities.  Without a leader, most teams would end up as vacillating mobs of confusion, resulting in wasted time and fruitless efforts. As a general rule, highly successful teams are led by ambitious and motivating leaders.

Most of us are quite familiar and comfortable with letting others fly the plane (proficient pilots preferred).  Some of us ride in coach with others making it up to first class. A select few possess the right skills and end up as co-pilot. Moving toward the cockpit is by and large the direction of choice.

If we go by that logic, what happens when the captain decides to switch on auto-pilot while he ventures back to first class, or maybe even coach? Can the leader be an effective member of the team?

To be a leader and a teammate simultaneously takes a person who possesses a specific set of characteristics. No leader works totally separate from his team, and vice versa, but a leader who either has to or wants to do some of the ”grunt work” must be absolutely certain he maintains his authority while doing so, or retaining his leadership role will be impossible.

At times it can be unsettling for team members when their leader suddenly wants to be an active participant rather than a supervisor. As leaders are often (but not always) Type-A personalities, they can be a bit overwhelming in the team environment, where the rest of the teammates are more even-keeled.

If you are in a situation where you must switch between the two roles of leader and teammate, it is crucial to remember several key points in order to do so swimmingly.

  • Always keep the team’s goals in mind rather than your own personal agenda.
  • Show your team members respect at all times. In order to eventually return to your role as ‘leader’ you must be careful not to lose the support of your team. Disrespecting someone is a surefire way to lose any respect they at one time held for you.
  • True teammates will ‘take one for the team’ when they have to. When you work as a teammate, be sure that you are willing to do everything you would expect other members of the team to do.
  • When you work as team leader, keep your interactions soft and keep the environment collegiate.  This will allow you to move easily between the two roles.

Keep in mind that the best leaders don’t create good followers – they create other leaders because they lead by example. To be an extraordinary leader means keeping your focus on the success of the team and doing what it takes for the team to thrive. If you keep your eyes on the runway, you’ll be able to keep your team on track for a safe and sound landing every time, whether you’re in the cockpit or sitting in the very back row of ‘coach.’

Comments { 0 }

Should You Use Your Connections to Get Ahead?

Photo courtesy of Tiare Scott

I recently had a conversation with one of my doctors in which he discussed the phenomenon of having the letters M.D. after his name. He expressed amazement at his ability to get the best seats at the opera, being shuffled to the front of the line at the DMV and getting his daughter an appointment with a busy specialist when no appointments were available for 6 months. We both wondered out loud whether or it was right for him to take advantage of his status as a medical doctor, and it really got me thinking. Should you use your connections to get ahead?

The old saying goes, “it’s not what you know; it’s who you know,” and the sentiment behind that saying used to be that if you knew the right people and used them to your advantage, you were most likely a jerk.

When I was younger, I agreed with that sentiment. I felt that if you were talented, intelligent and resourceful that you would eventually live the life you wanted based on your merits alone. Today I believe that using your connections wisely is a huge testament to precisely how talented, intelligent and resourceful you are.

What follows is a list of helpful ways to use who you know (and who they know) to get you closer to many of your goals and to make life more enjoyable along the way.

  •  Use your network only when necessary. If you tap your connections all the time, it will become clear that you cannot accomplish anything without their help.
  •  When you do ask your network of friends or professional connections for help, try to limit it to asking for information, phone numbers, submission   guidelines, or tips about who you can get in touch with to accomplish the goal at hand.
  •  Make sure that you follow through and actually use the information that you have been given.  Remember that the person you asked for information will most likely find out if you did nothing with the tips he gave you, and the next time you ask, he probably won’t be so forthcoming.
  •  Never forget to say thank you to anyone who does offer you help, whether it is in the form of a job interview, the phone number of a contractor who will work at half-price if you mention the name of your connection, or, in the case of my physician, better seats at the opera.  Send a thank you card if you think it would be appreciated, but make sure that your thanks are graciously given in some way.  People generally enjoy helping others – but only if they get something out of it too.  Usually, they feel pretty good about helping someone who is extremely grateful.
  •  Try to vary who you reach out to.  Repeatedly asking the same person or small group of people for favors is definitely going to get old quickly. If your network is small, make a point of growing your connections daily.  One great way to do that is through the use of social media networks.  Outside of the virtual world, go to the right social gatherings, and, if you’re invited to dinner with someone who might potentially be able to help you in the future, make every effort to show up.

Of course, using your connections in life will only get you so far, and the real work (putting those connections to use) has to be done by you, and you alone.  With that being said, networking, and the benefits that come from it if done correctly, can benefit you greatly.  The next time you need help with something that might be made easier by someone you know – remember this: the worst they can say is no.


Comments { 5 }

The Friendship Test: What’s Your Score?

Photo courtesy of Kiran Koduru

As I started thinking about Thanksgiving this week and all that I have to be thankful for, my family members naturally sit at the top of my list. However, my friends are a close second, and for many people, they tie for first. As we think about why we are thankful for the amazing friends we have, let’s take a moment to reverse it and think about what our friends want and need from us. After all, this Thanksgiving day, those same friends are going to be sitting around a table (maybe yours), thinking about why you  make their lives more enjoyable.

What makes you a good friend? Do you know? Take a look at this list of traits that people treasure most in their nearest and dearest companions, and see how you measure up :

  •  Trustworthiness – This personality trait covers a lot of bases and, when it comes to friendships, most people are looking for someone who will keep their secrets and keep their promises to be there when times are tough.
  •  The ability to forgive – Of course it is important that friends don’t do wrong to each other on purpose, but when you are friends to the end, you’ll be going through many life events together and mistakes are unavoidable. True friends forgive easily because they have a solid foundation based on a connection that goes beyond trying to be perfect. A good friend understands your faults and flaws and loves you anyway.
  • Self confidence - While this may not seem like a necessary component of being a good friend, a person with a high level of self-confidence is more likely to be giving, loving, and generally more fun to be around.
  • Reliability – If you’re showing up for your friends late all the time, you’re sending them a message loud and clear: Their time is less important than yours. Make the effort to be on time more often, and let your amigos know they’re worth it.
  • Willingness to give slack – Long-lasting friendships can span lifetimes if you treat them right. As we know, time brings struggles of all shapes and sizes. When your friend is facing something challenging and asks for a little slack – give it.
  • Going above and beyond - Friends will go to the limit and beyond when a friend is in need. Are you willing to go to extraordinary lengths to help, even if it inconveniences you greatly?
  • Taking one for the friendship – Sometimes you might be called on to take the fall – or the blame – in order to save a friend’s hide (or reputation.) Are you willing to put a friend’s reputation before yours in times when it might really make a difference?

Of course there are about a hundred other good qualities that lead to great friendships, like having things in common, having fun together, and having similar goals and aspirations. This Thanksgiving, let your friends have one more thing to be thankful for by making sure you ace the friendship test. If you don’t ace it, at least put forth the effort to make sure you consistently do the best you can. Your true friends will be willing to cut you some slack.

Comments { 1 }

The Biggest Surprise About Hitting Rock Bottom

Photo courtesy of Vincent Desjardins

On my journey to live the life I really want, a multitude of very important changes are occurring within me, but they are changes that I worked toward; they were goals that I clearly set out to reach. Today I want to talk about something remarkable that has happened to me along the way that I never expected.

Up until a year ago, I spent approximately 18 months fighting and clawing against the gravity that was inevitably pulling me toward rock bottom. I wanted nothing to do with hitting the bottom, because I knew I would have to admit some harsh realities after the impact.

After the collision, I remained curled into the fetal position with my eyes squeezed firmly shut in denial. A few weeks later, when I finally managed to open my eyes, it was with the sudden realization that I had exactly two choices: get busy living, or get busy dying.  And if I planned to stay alive, well, I had better get up and get moving, because I had some real work to do.

Thus began my exploration of self-empowerment and taking back control over my own happiness. Divorce, illness, unemployment, depression, low self-esteem, abuse, toxic relationships, obesity, lack of direction, and drug and alcohol addiction are just some of the reasons that have put many of us on the path toward self-love and acceptance.

As we all make strides toward living the life we really want to live, most of us have seen and felt a number of changes happen within us, like increased self-confidence, better self-image, and more effective life skills, all of which have led us to accomplish many personal achievements and overcome hurdles that we never thought we’d conquer.

As we accomplish more and come closer to our ultimate happiness, the image we project to others begins to shift. They can see us more clearly now that our walls of self-loathing, destruction, or denial are crumbling. Liking yourself makes you infinintely more likeable to others, which is something that most of us have known all along.

I am thoroughly enjoying how the positive changes are affecting my life, but I have to say that there was something that took me totally and completely by surprise in all of this, and it wasn’t mentioned as one of the most common side effects of self-improvement.

It is also something that is rather hard for me to admit, because in doing so, I will be making a confession about who I used to be. Ok. Here goes:

(I like helping people now.)

What many of us don’t realize as we’re spiraling downward (in some cases completely obliviously), is that we really don’t even like other people all that much, let alone want to help them. Only upon reaching the summit of self-love and appreciation can we begin to really care that other people are suffering too.  Going through the motions of helping others is one thing, but really, genuinely wanting to help someone simply for the sake of making his or her life better?  Well, that’s another beast entirely, and frankly, it’s something that makes hitting rock bottom 150% worth it.

Karl Reiland said, “In about the same degree as you are helpful, you will be happy,” and although we most definitely must focus on helping ourselves first, the level of our satisfaction in life can most accurately be measured by how much joy we feel when we reach out a helping hand.

Comments { 2 }