Lessons Never Forgotten

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Recently I was reminiscing about life lessons I was taught as a child through adulthood that have served me well over the years. These lessons were learned from my parents, teachers, employers and by experience. I will share a few of these lessons that I’m sure a lot of others have learned as well.

The value of work

Very early in life I was required to to do chores around the the home and yard. These chores were my responsibility … and mine alone. The chores included mowing the grass, trimming the shrubs and trees, washing the car and cleaning the house every Saturday.

I started mowing lawns for others at the age of 12. I started with six lawns that expanded to 17 by the time I was 15. At age 14, I started landscaping. This work allowed me to purchase professional musical instruments and buy a car when I was older.

If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing it right

Not only was I taught the value of of work, I learned how to organize each task and how to do the job right and efficiently. I also learned that that the job isn’t done until I had cleaned up any mess I had created and the paperwork was completed.

I also learned that providing quality materials and workmanship were far more important than having the lowest price because having long-term customers that kept doing business with me year after year was what built a solid, profitable business that survived the up and down business cycles.

In everything we do, let’s do it so well that we’re willing to sign it.

Your word is your reputation

If you tell someone you are going to do something at or by a certain time … do it. If you can’t do what you promised, contact them immediately upon learning you are unable to do it. Likewise, if your promise requires numerous steps over a period of time, keep in regular (sometimes daily) contact with them. The person you made the promise to should never be uncertain about the progress.

If you tell someone you will call them, call them … even it was to give them bad news.

Be on time

Being punctual is a sign that you are organized and that you respect the other person’s time. Over 32 years of doing business, I was only late to two appointments. I always allowed myself an extra 15 minutes to get to the appointment in case I ran into a traffic jam, accident or whatever.

I had a teacher that called this practice working on the Vince Lombardi clock.

Be clean and groomed

One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Ecuador was that the people took pride in their appearance when they were in public. Even those living in or near poverty made sure:

  • Their body and hair was clean and well-groomed
  • Their clothes were clean and pressed
  • Their shoes were clean an polished (if applicable)

Pay bills on time

Your paycheck is important to you and you expect to be paid on time for the work you provided to your employer. The same principle applies regarding the payment of your bills. The due date of your bill is the “pay day” for the entity that provided you with the product or service. They have the same right as you do to be paid on time.

First impressions

Within a few seconds of coming in contact with you, people will make an impression of you based on your appearance, greeting, speech and manners. In most cases, you have full control over how you present yourself to other people.

Greeting people

Make your greeting of someone else, especially someone unknown to you, genuine by looking them in the eye, with a smile and having a firm handshake. Giving all three will separate you from the everyone else. You will be remembered.

Listen

A skilled conversationalist listens more the he/she talks. This is a skill rarely learned.

Diversity of beliefs and opinions

Respecting the beliefs and opinions of others is acceptable behavior in a civilized society. Just because we rarely see this on social media and discussion boards today doesn’t mean it isn’t proper behavior. Everyone has the right to their belief and opinion. Acceptable civil behavior requires us to be respectful to those having opposing beliefs and opinions to our own. It does not require us to accept their beliefs and opinions but to be respectful in our responses.

I can remember being taught this in debate class in high school back in the 1960s. It has been to my own detriment that I don’t remember this lesson often enough.

Be kind

A genuinely given kind gesture, comment or word of encouragement marks you as a gentleman or lady.

But for the grace of circumstance, there am I

“While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
― Eugene V. Debs

What ever success we achieve in life, it is as much the result of race, gender, education, the country we live in and family we were born to as to how hard we worked for it. To recognize this is the mark of a leader among all humanity.

Give more than we take

When we give more than we take, we’ll always have more than we need. This is as much a law of nature as gravity. Understanding and living this principle is transformational and the key to a fulfilled and purposeful life.

Sharing and caring is one of life’s greatest opportunities. We cheat ourselves when we let this type of opportunity pass.

Please share what life lessons have made a significant impact on your life.

Patience in a Relationship

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It’s natural to get impatient in everyday life: maybe your train was late, or you’re impatient to get home from work and start watching your favorite show. There’s one place where impatience is never welcome, though: in a relationship. When you’re working to solve issues with your significant other, demanding quick fixes and easy ways out isn’t the best way to go. The rewards of patience in a relationship, though, are well worth the time and effort. By being patient and understanding with each other every day, you can work together to create a happy and healthy relationship.

Being Patient with Your Partner

Consider your partner’s feelings
If you are patient and kind with your partner, they will feel loved and adored. If you are impatient and intolerant, your partner is likely to feel rejected by you. Your actions and reactions can have a direct effect on how your partner feels, so think about this when you’re feeling impatient or frustrated. Remember that you care about your partner deeply and don’t want to hurt them.

  • For example, if your partner forgets to stop and buy milk, saying “That’s okay, we’ll just get it later,” shows that you understand it was a simple mistake. If you instead say something like “I can’t believe you did this again. You always forget everything,” you are implying that your partner is flawed and that their mistakes are unacceptable. Remember, a little mistake like this isn’t the end of the world.

Buffer your responses
It’s normal to turn immediately to an impatient response; many people assume that mistakes or inconveniences are the result of other people’s incompetence and carelessness. This is a pretty bleak outlook to have on those around you, though, and may lead you to say hurtful things before you even realize it. A great way to break this habit is to use a buffer to force yourself to think before responding.

  • For example, you could make it a personal rule that when something frustrating happens, you take three deep breaths before you say anything at all. This will give you time to process the situation and respond appropriately. You’ll probably realize that what you thought was a huge mistake actually isn’t that big of a deal, and you can downgrade your response from angry to understanding.
  • In a more serious situation, you could leave the room or go for a walk. This will allow you time to cool down and think about your reaction.

Have realistic expectations
Patience will come along with understanding, and one of the most important things to understand about your partner is that they’re not perfect. They can’t be! When you set unrealistic expectations for your partner or decide that things absolutely must go a certain way, you will inevitably be disappointed. This disappointment will lead to impatience and frustration in the relationship. You can avoid this by simply having reasonable expectations for your partner.

  • An example of an unreasonable expectation might be thinking that your partner should be home at exactly 5:30 every day, even though they have a 25-minute commute and work until 5:00. This leaves little to no time to account for things like walking to the car, or changes in traffic, and ultimately sets your partner up to fail. Try instead to hold a more reasonable expectation, like expecting your partner to let you know if they get held up or will be late getting home for some reason.
  • Another example: expecting your significant other to always want to watch the same shows as you. Instead, you could expect that they allow you to choose some of the time, and you allow them to choose other times. Compromise and understanding are keys in any relationship.

Look at your partner as a whole
Remember that no relationship will ever be perfect. There will inevitably be points of tension between you and your partner from time to time, and that’s okay. Instead of letting this tension define your relationship during those times, always keep in mind the things you love about your partner. When you see your partner as a whole, it is easier to be patient through stressful times.

  • For example, if your partner does something that really annoys you, like tapping their foot, do not let that pet peeve take precedence over all of the good qualities that you love in your partner.
  • You might also notice that some expressions your significant other uses often seem repetitive to you. Keep in mind that you are likely around them more than anyone else, and that you hear their stories and phrases more, too. Remember that these things are part of the whole person that you fell in love with, and aren’t such a big deal in the long run.

Being Patient with Yourself

Give it time
Learning to be patient takes–wait for it–patience. If you are easily frustrated, that isn’t likely to change overnight, and being hard on yourself will only add to your frustration. Instead, recognize that you are working toward being more patient and forgive yourself for any mistakes that you make along the way. If you’re putting in sincere effort, you deserve to be given a break once in a while, especially from yourself.

  • For example, if you get frustrated sitting in traffic, recognize that you are frustrated and try to calm down. Take some deep breaths, then let it go. There is no need to be frustrated about being frustrated!

Set goals
This will give you can a clear definition of how you are succeeding. Each goal you reach will help motivate you to reach the next. Be proud of the progress you make when you hit each goal and use that energy to push you to your next one. Some examples of goals that lead to being more patient might be things like:

  • Waiting in line without being frustrated.
  • Keeping a positive attitude with co-workers.
  • Overlooking things that your significant other does that you find annoying.

Remind yourself that patience will pay off
Because it will! Being patient benefits you in many ways. First, it helps keep your relationships more loving and respectful and allows you to be calmer and more at peace in general. When you start to feel frustrated, keep in mind that responding with patience will help you live a more satisfying life. You’re in this for the long haul, so don’t get distracted by minor frustrations along the way.

Practice positive self-talk
Listen to the inner dialogue that plays out in your mind all day long. This is your “self-talk.” Your self-talk can tear you down just as easily the things other people say, or it can boost your confidence. When you analyze yourself and think (or talk) to yourself about being patient, focus on your progress in a positive way. It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re angry, but positivity will help you calm down and approach things rationally.

  • For example, avoid thoughts like “I’m just not patient enough to deal with that.” Instead, frame it in a positive by thinking or saying something like “Dealing with that is going to require a lot of patience. I can do it if I take my time and control my emotions.”

Practicing Patience Everyday

Be aware of your stress
Understand your stress levels and what stressors affect you the most. Try keeping a journal of these top stressors and how they make you feel. As you come to understand your triggers, you can better control your stress. Having your stress under control will allow you to focus on being a more patient person. Some of your common stressors might be:

  • Traffic
  • Long lines
  • Excessive phone calls
  • Deadlines

Remain positive
Most situations can be looked at in a positive and negative light. How patient you are in a given circumstance will depend on how positive or negative your outlook is. If you focus on the positive aspects of a situation, you’ll find yourself being much more patient.

  • For example, if you view time spent sitting in traffic as time wasted, you will be frustrated and impatient. Instead, reframe the situation. Sure, you spent a long time in traffic, but it was a great opportunity to have a conversation with your significant other. With this subtle twist, the experience becomes a positive one and you will both be more patient.

Have a plan for tough situations
Being caught off guard is stressful, regardless of the situation. You can be more patient if you prepare yourself for difficult situations. One of the best ways to prepare for a situation is to visualize yourself dealing with it before it happens. Close your eyes and think about how the situation will play out, then how you want to react to it. Breathe deeply and tell yourself that you can do it.

  • For example, if you get irritated when your significant other sleeps in on the weekend, visualize yourself doing something you enjoy in the morning. Include in the visualization how you will greet your significant other warmly when they wake up, maybe with a plate of pancakes ready or a bowl of fresh fruit prepared.

Keep your body healthy
Exercise and a healthy diet can keep your body healthy. This will make you feel better, raise your self-confidence, and help to balance your hormones and neurotransmitters (the chemicals that send messages throughout your brain and body). All of these things will make your hormones work for you to reduce your stress level and help you to be more patient.

Focus on your mental health
Of course, physical health is not the only factor to remaining happy and stable. If you practice good mental hygiene, you will find that you have much more capacity to be patient with yourself and your significant other. Practicing yoga, meditationdeep breathing techniques, and talking in support groups can help you relieve built up stress and maintain your cool at all times.

Co-Authored by Klare Heston, LCSW, Clinical Social Worker

Source: wikiHow under a Creative Commons License

Living Life with Integrity

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Integrity: The adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. (Dictionary.com)

I recently had an experience that caused me to, once again, realize the moral and ethical current condition of our society in which laws must be legislated to determine acceptable behavior.

I was selling one of my cars and a gentleman indicated he wanted to buy the car. We agreed on the price of $13,000. We set a time for the following day for him to make the payment. As it turned out, he was unable to to withdraw the money from his banking account because bank was closed for three days due to the New Year holiday. He called me immediately and told me of the problem and that he wanted to still stop by the house and make a deposit on the purchase so I would hold the car for him and not sell it to someone else who immediately had all the cash to pay for it in full.

I told him that we could wait until the following week to complete the transaction and that he did not need to make make a deposit and that I would not sell the car from under him as he was aware of one other person who wanted to buy the car. This totally confused him because, according to national law in my South American country, there is no sales contract without a deposit. I assured him that I knew he wanted the car and I would not sell the car from under him. He finally realized that I was serious and we agreed on day the following week to complete the transaction.

As I was raised as a child and as practiced in my business for 32 years, my word and handshake was our agreement/contract. If my word isn’t good, my signature isn’t worth anything either … regardless of the law. Rather than being a matter of law, it is a matter of ethics and morals. This is what led me to post this article below on integrity.

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How to show integrity

Integrity comes in many different forms, and there are lots of ways to show it both in everyday life and at work. Doing things like being accountable for your mistakes, accepting helpful criticism, and following through on your commitments will help you show integrity in everything you do. To show integrity with others, though, you will also have to develop personal integrity, which means treating yourself with respect and establishing considerate habits that you’ll be able to show to others.

Showing integrity to others

Acknowledge mistakes you made by apologizing and fixing them

If you do or say something that isn’t right, own up to your mistake and acknowledge that you were wrong. This includes apologizing when it’s necessary and making the effort to fix the problem that you may have created or contributed to.

  • For example, if you accuse someone of something they didn’t do, apologize to make it right.
  • If you forgot to pick up something from the store or didn’t remember an important date, avoid making excuses and accept that you made a mistake.

Respect other people’s opinions even if you don’t agree

 It’s likely that you’ll run into people whose beliefs, values, or thoughts don’t line up exactly with yours. Instead of convincing yourself that they’re wrong, try to listen to their point of view. Even if you still don’t agree, respect their right to a different opinion and be considerate when you’re talking about it with them.

  • This could be something as insignificant as which restaurant to go to for dinner, to bigger opinions like who to vote for in elections.

Give credit to others when they’ve done a good job

Congratulate the people around you when they’ve accomplished something so that others are aware of a job well done. This shows that you appreciate the work of others and are a good teammate.

  • Avoid bragging about your own accomplishments, as this doesn’t show integrity.

Treat your employees or coworkers with respect

Whether you’re talking to your boss or a low-level employee, treat everyone equally and with kindness. Do this by listening to others when they’re speaking without interrupting them, and responding in a polite way to their ideas, opinions, or directions. Being respectful of those around you will encourage others to be respectful to you, too.

  • Other examples of being respectful include saying thank you when a coworker helps you out or being considerate of other people’s time.

Follow company policies to lead by example

This shows that you respect your company and believe in its rules and guidelines. By following the proper protocol and not cutting corners, you’ll show a strong sense of integrity and honesty.

  • For example, avoid texting or talking on the phone during work hours if you’re not supposed to.

Communicate with others openly and honestly to inspire them to do the same

If you’re a leader, tell your employees that you want to create an environment where people can talk freely and honestly, and show this by communicating with them efficiently. If you’re not in charge of others, you can still encourage open communication by talking with others frequently and updating them on the things you’re doing.

  • If you’re impressed with something your employees did, worried about a deadline, or have questions about a project, talk with others to share your concerns or praise.

Developing Personal Integrity

Help others without expecting something in return

This shows kindness as well as integrity. Lend a helping hand to make someone’s life easier, not because you think they’ll owe you a favor in the future. This kind of selfless giving will put a smile on your face as well as others.

  • Reach out to people that might need help to offer your support, whether it’s by cooking them a meal, mowing their lawn, or doing them some other favor.

Accept and listen to helpful criticism

It can be hard to accept criticism about ourselves, but being open to others’ advice will only help you become a better person. Take what other people have to say seriously, using it as encouragement to do some self-reflecting.

  • For example, instead of being angry if someone tells you your listening skills could be improved, think about whether you truly have been a good listener lately and come up with ways to be a better one.

Follow through on your commitments to show that you’re reliable

Whether you set a date to do something or make a promise to someone, stick to your commitment. This shows that people can depend on you and you take your obligations seriously.

  • If you set a date to meet up with a friend, get there on time so you don’t keep them waiting.
  • If something serious comes up and you can’t follow through on a commitment, be honest about what’s happened and communicate with the other person or people to make it up to them later.

Be transparent about things that are happening at work and at home

Be honest about events going on in your life or thoughts you’re having. Tell your family members, friends, or coworkers exactly what’s going on so everyone is on the same page.

  • For example, if you’re worried about having enough money for something or having enough time to get a project done, be honest about your concerns and share them with the people involved.

Use your time productively

If you happen to have downtime while you’re at work, try to think of ways to use this time to accomplish things, like responding to emails or helping out a coworker. When you have free time at home, instead of lounging on the couch watching television or wasting time on social media, try organizing the house, reading a book, or spending time on a hobby.

  • Show up to work and try to work productively all the way up until your break or lunchtime, using your downtime to distress and refocus.

Source: wikiHow under a Creative Commons License

Empathy

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Empathy
The capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.

Being able to practice empathy is one of the most important skills you can learn. In a world that spends so much time picking at flaws and igniting fear and anger in people, empathy can be a balm to that fear and anger. It can help you, and others, lead a more fulfilling and healthier life. Empathy means you have to put yourself in their shoes and be aware of and sensitive to their feelings to help them.

Connecting with Others through Empathy

Listen

Listening is one of the most effective ways you can demonstrate empathy to other people. When you are practicing active listening, you are listening with purpose.[1] You aren’t fiddling about on your phone, or thinking about what you’re going to make for dinner tonight, you’re really taking in what the other person is saying.

  • If you’re listening to someone and you get distracted by thinking about dinner or whatever it is you want to say next in the conversation, bring yourself back to the present by saying “I was just thinking about ___(last thing you remember them saying)__ and I was wondering if you could repeat what you just said so that I don’t miss anything.”
  • Look the speaker in the eye (don’t stare, but try to maintain eye contact), and sit facing the person. Don’t let your gaze drift all over the place, because it will look as though you aren’t paying attention and that you don’t care what this person has to say. (Eye contact is culturally based. Some people feel it’s rude and many autistic people feel literally threatened by it. If you aren’t sure, ask what they would prefer.)
  • Active listening requires three things. First, paraphrase what the person said to show that you understood the content. This is a general listening skill as well. Second, reflect back your emotional reaction. Reflecting back your emotions is a key part of empathy because it helps the person better understand and regulate their own emotions. This is a core reason why we require empathy from others. Their reactions help us regulate our own responses and make sense of it in the world. Third, indicate how your response makes you want to behave. Expressing your behavior is another key element, because again you are demonstrating that you understand their emotional state and helping them figure out a behavior to move forward with.

Withhold judgment

This is an important step when practicing empathy and when practicing mindfulness. It can be really hard to withhold immediate judgment, especially when first meeting or interacting with someone. And yet, this is a crucial step towards being empathetic.

  • Try to gain a deeper understanding of someone else’s perspective without immediately saying that it is bad or good. In this way you’re able to get to a deeper level of understanding. This does not necessarily mean that the other person is right or good, but taking the time to gain a deeper perspective will help you in developing empathy towards them.
  • Of course, this is not to say that if someone is acting a reprehensible manner (saying racist or sexist things or behaving like a bully) that you shouldn’t intervene or say something. Speaking up is an act of courage and compassion.
  • Making snap judgments about others is a fundamental aspect of being human. We developed this ability from our ancestors in order to read potentially dangerous people and situations. However, this innate mechanism can be hard to override.
  • The next time you find yourself making a snap judgment about another person, try to override this judgement by: 1) Looking deeper at the person for ways you can empathize with a situation the person is going through. 2) Noting a few things this person probably has in common with you (when we can uncover universal commonalities we are less likely to judge others). 3) Asking the person questions, so you can learn more about their unique story.

Open up

Just listening to someone isn’t going to build a bridge between the two of you. Opening up emotionally is an incredibly difficult and brave thing to do but it will deepen the connection with another person.

  • Empathy is a two-way street. It’s about sharing vulnerabilities and an emotional connection. To truly practice empathy you have to share your own inner landscape with someone else as they reciprocate
  • This doesn’t mean you have to spill your life story to every person that you meet. You get to decide who you’re going to share yourself with, but, to practice empathy, you have to be open to the possibility and the opportunity of opening up, especially with the people you least expect.
  • Once you find an individual with whom you’d like to be more open, try the following: rather than leaning on thoughts or opinions in conversation, attempt to express your feelings about a given topic. Try to start your sentences with “I”, or in the first person. For example, “I am very glad we got to hang out today.” Finally, refrain from answering a question with “I don’t know” especially if it is a personal question. People often respond in this way to prevent from going deeper with another person. Try to come up with an answer that truly expresses how you feel.

Offer physical affection

Now, you can’t do this for everyone and, obviously, you should ask before you give someone physical affection to make sure that it’s okay (even if you’ve known them for awhile). Showing physical affection, however, can boost oxytocin levels and make both of you feel better.

  • If you know the person well, give them a hug, or put an arm around their shoulders, or a hand on their arm. Not only does this show that your attention is focused on them, but it creates a connection between the two of you.
  • Oxytocin has been known to help people better interpret other people’s emotions, so a consensual hug can build up your emotional intelligence as well as the emotional intelligence of the person with whom you’re empathizing.

Focus your attention outwards

Pay attention to your surroundings and to the feelings, expressions, and actions of the people around you. Be mindful about how others you interact with might be feeling.

  • Notice your surroundings, really notice them. Pay attention to sounds, smells, sights and register them consciously. People tend to register things unconsciously. For example, think how many times you’ve walked or driven somewhere and have no memory whatsoever of getting from A to B. Take in your surroundings mindfully.
  • Research has shown that practicing mindfulness about your surroundings and the people around you makes you more likely to extend empathy towards them and to help when someone needs it.

Offer help

This shows that you see what someone is going through and you want to make life easier for them. Offering help is a great act of empathy, because it shows that you’re willing to take time out of your day to do something for someone else without asking anything in return.

  • Offering help can be as simple as holding the door for a person who’s entering the same building as you, or buying a coffee for the person behind you in line. It can be as big as helping your grandfather set up his computer and talking him through how it works. Or, it can be offering to take care of your sister’s kids for the weekend so she can take a break.
  • Even just offering the opportunity to help, can be an empathetic gesture. Tell a friend that if they need anything they can ask, opening up the way for providing help and support.

Building Up Your Empathy


Practice curiosity about strangers

Part of showing empathy is being interested in other people, especially people that you know nothing about and who are outside of your social circle. These can be the random people you meet on the bus, or who you’re standing in line for coffee with.

  • This sort of curiosity moves beyond simply talking about the weather – although that is always a great place to start. You want to understand a little of another person’s world, especially a person that you might not normally talk to. It will also require opening up about yourself, because you can’t have this type of conversation without giving of yourself, too.
  • Having these types of conversations is also a great time to test your empathy, because some people don’t want to talk, so you can learn to pick out these behaviors and leave these people alone. Check for things like whether they reading a book, wearing headphones, facing away from everyone and not making eye contact.
  • If a person makes eye contact with you, smile at the person encouragingly. Then, try to find something about their surroundings or personal characteristics in which you can use as an opening to engage in a conversation. Some examples may include: commenting on a book the person is reading or asking the person for help or an explanation about something in your environment. Continue to smile encouragingly and use the other person’s name sporadically in conversation.
  • Also, always make sure that you care for yourself in these situations. If you feel threatened or uncomfortable by the person you’re talking to, end the conversation and get away. Trust your instincts.

Volunteer

Sometimes, people are only motivated to reach out and help others after they themselves have been in need. If you want to develop empathy for others, volunteer now. Volunteering promotes understanding of the needs of the community and allows you to connect with people you may not otherwise meet in your everyday life. Dedicating a portion of your time to those in need also has amazing mental health benefits.

  • Do some research regarding your local community to determine which populations may be in need. You can volunteer with your local Habitat for Humanity, at a homeless shelter, the Red Cross, or even offer to tutor school children.

Challenge your own prejudice

It’s hard sometimes to remember that just because you firmly believe in something doesn’t mean that it’s right. Take time to analyze your own prejudices. Learning to see individual people rather than “welfare moms” or “terrorists” or “gangsters” will help you practice your empathy.

  • Search for things that you share in common with someone who you originally see as one specific label and use that commonality to forge a connection with that person.
  • Also, challenge your biases and assumptions. Ask yourself why you think that all poor people are lazy, or all people with mental health issues are dangerous, or that all followers of a certain religion are terrorists. A lot of assumptions and prejudices are bases on erroneous information that has become widespread. Educate yourself and listen to the groups that are affected by this misinformation.

Use your imagination

 A good imagination is one of the cornerstones of showing empathy towards something. You’re not going to be able to experience every single thing that can happen to a person, but you can use your imagination to give you an inkling of how it might feel and use that understanding to empathize with them.

  • Actively imagining what someone else might be suffering can help you empathize with them. So, instead of deciding that the old man on the street begging for money is automatically going to use what he gets on booze, try imagining what it would be like to live on the streets, on the mercy of unmerciful people, in a system that punishes people like veterans, the mentally ill, and the destitute.
  • Research has found that people who read fiction tend to be better at understanding emotions, behaviors, and intentions. So read widely and try to branch out into the works of marginalized people.

Practice experiential empathy

This means getting a direct experience of another person’s life, the “walk a mile in another person’s shoes” adage. The writer, George Orwell, lived on the streets of London to discover what it was like for those on the margins of society. Orwell made friends, changed his view on the destitute (deciding they were not “drunken scoundrels”), and changed his views on inequality.

  • You don’t have to go quite that far, but consider taking on all the things that your mother does in a day for an entire week. You’ll discover how difficult it is to manage both the home and work, and you’ll have a better appreciation for how much work she has to do. You may even decide to pitch in a bit more.
  • Likewise, if you’re religious (or atheist) consider attending the service of another faith, not to ridicule or to feel superior to, but to learn what it is like for them.

Treat people as being important

Start treating people as if they have as much importance as you do. Recognize that you aren’t the only one living in this world and that you aren’t some superior being.

  • Take each person as they come. Don’t lump them into stereotypical groups with erroneous one-size-fits-all labels. Each person is an individual and comes with a set of flaws and strengths.

Practice loving-kindness meditation

Meditating is a great way to help yourself deal with things like depression and anxiety and just the stresses of day to day existence. Practicing loving-kindness meditation, however, can help make you more empathetic.

  • Start by doing regular meditation. Sit somewhere comfortable and focus on your breathing. When thoughts start to intrude, accept them and release them from your mind. Visualize yourself as an object of loving kindness. Don’t start thinking about all your flaws and don’t start thinking about all your strengths either. Simply see yourself as worthy of love.
  • Once you’ve got the loving kindness to yourself down, start practicing it for 4 different types of people: someone you respect, like a teacher; a dearly beloved person, like a family member or friend; a neutral person, someone at a store, someone you saw outside that day; and a hostile person, someone with whom you are in conflict.
  • To keep you on track it can be helpful to repeat a mantra to yourself, like “loving-kindness” to remind you when you get off track and to help keep you focused on holding the feelings of loving kindness, even towards the hostile person.

Source: wikiHOW under a Creative Commons license.

Welcome

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Welcome to Perspectives on Life!

The purpose of this blog is to stimulate our minds and souls to help us determine what we really believe and to ensure our actions and daily lives coincide with these beliefs.

Your participation with comments and questions are critical if this blog is to be successful. I want to develop a community with active participants so that this blog has life instead of being static, lifeless words on a page.

The topics of this blog will cover a wide range of interests. Hopefully, our discussions and debates that challenge our perspectives and beliefs and will bring clarity, self-discovery, enlightenment and inspiration. Our goal is to gain insight … not to win converts to a particular ideology or philosophy.

Please join me in this blogging adventure.

W. M. Brown

Please scroll down to view posts.

Manners Matter

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What distinguishes humans from apes? Manners and etiquette. Without respect and consideration for others, we are nothing more than savages.

There are no concrete rules or laws regarding manners and etiquette. In summary though, having good manners is showing courtesy and respect for others in all situations and circumstances. There is no excuse for for being rude, offensive or disrespectful … ever. Caring about others is what manners are all about.

Manners and proper behavior have evolved over centuries from customs, conventions and protocol. Manners promote a civil and harmonious society.

Let’s not forget that the way we behave determines the way we are perceived by family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and strangers. With that in mind, lets take a look at some very basic manners:

  • Open doors for women, the elderly and the disabled.
  • Hold the door open for those immediately behind you. Don’t let the door come slamming back on them.
  • Use the terms please, thank you and excuse me lavishly. Make it a habit.
  • Don’t shout. It is rude and annoying.
  • Don’t interrupt someone who is talking to you. That person’s voice is as important as yours.
  • Don’t swear. It’s low-life language.
  • Don’t point. It’s a low-class gesture.
  • Don’t eat, drink or smoke in the street. It’s the action of a commoner.
  • Eat with your mouth closed.
  • Don’t talk when food is in your mouth. Others don’t want to share your hamburger.
  • Don’t gang-up on someone else.
  • Don’t gossip.
  • Turn away from people, food and your phone when you sneeze or cough.
  • Show respect and consideration for the elderly and disabled.
  • Smile. It illuminates your face and attitude.

I go through periods of time when I need to read these basics daily … and several times daily. I am working on making these times far less frequent.

Manners is what changes a man and a woman to a gentleman and a lady. The rewards are worth the effort.

Keeping Our Idealism In-Check

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We have all had the experience of being around someone who is so enthused about a particular ideal of theirs that they are absolutely obnoxious to be around. They are so motivated and dedicated to this ideal that they become oblivious to reality, logic and reasoning.

The problem is that idealism, with unbridled enthusiasm, can become so engulfing that it potentially leads to the following progression:

Idealism > Propagandizing > Fanaticism > Extremism > Autocracy

Let’s take a look at the definitions of these terms so we have a common understanding of their meanings as it relates to the purpose of this post.

Idealism
The tendency to represent things in an ideal form, or as they might or should be rather than as they are, with emphasis on values. (Dictionary.com)

Propagandizing
To propagate or publicize (principles, dogma, etc.) by means of propaganda. (Dictionary.com)

Fanaticism
Excessive intolerance of opposing views. (WordWeb Dictionary)

Extremism
Extremism means, literally, the quality or state of being extreme or the advocacy of extreme measures or views. (Wikipedia)

Autocracy
The unlimited authority, power, or influence of one person in any group. (Dictionary.com)

While this progression is readily seen in religion and politics, it is also present in social movements, environmental movements, business, education and sports.

The progression from idealism to autocratic behavior usually begins with a valid, legitimate ideal or belief. But … at some point in time our idealism becomes a blinding obsession. It is at this point in time when our idealism, including the individual(s) or group supporting it, becomes so unbalanced that it has the potential to damage individual(s), our community or society if we let idealism run wild with no checks and balances.

In the end, our ideals and beliefs we have to help others collapses because we did not keep our idealism in-check. To prevent this, we must always be grounded in reality. This doesn’t mean that we cannot dream, share that dream, work to grow that dream and influence others. We just need to keep our enthusiasm, actions and expectations within self-controlled boundaries and reason to prevent radicalization. Let’s not be the reason our own ideals fade and eventually fail.

Please share your thoughts, comments and questions. Thank you!