Pay Someone

It seems like we’re always paying people.  Perhaps it’s the grocery store for our recent purchase, or maybe it’s the waiter or waitress at the restaurant.  We pay the utility company, the bank, the cellphone company and many other people and organizations as part of going about our daily lives.  Regardless of that, I’m going to suggest that you cause something truly beneficial to happen this week by finding additional people to pay.

I can already hear the response, “The only thing finding more people to pay is going to cause is me going broke!”  Don’t worry.  I’m not suggesting you find new creditors to send monthly payments to.  Far from it!  In fact, I’m not even suggesting there be a monetary exchange at all.  What I am suggesting is that you find people to whom you can pay a genuine compliment.

Most people enjoy receiving a sincere compliment.   I know I do!  So why not leverage our capacity to brighten someone elses’s day with a sincere compliment by looking for opportunities to do so?

We can all think of someone we know who has done a good job for us, or whose work we admire.  Perhaps it’s someone with a remarkable skill or attitude.  It can be a colleague we work with, someone whose services we use, or even a friend, family member, or a total stranger we witness doing something good.

I had a chance to do this with my veterinarian this week.  He recently was successful in treating our cat for a condition she had been suffering from for quite some time.  His logical, methodical approach impressed me as much as the immediate results we that saw in our cat.  So when we ran into him at the store this week, I told him.  I told him how impressed I was with his methodical approach and how much I appreciated the results of his efforts.  After I paid him this compliment, he was all smiles.  Now I’m not saying that my compliment was the highlight of his day, but based on his response, I could tell that he really appreciated hearing it.

Be on the lookout in the days ahead, and every day for that matter, for people to whom you can pay a genuine compliment.  When you find them, be generous with the currency of your kind words.  Let them know specifically what they’ve done, or what they do, that sparked your compliment.  Also let them know what that means to you.  Not only will it cause them to feel good to be paid a sincere compliment, it will also make you feel good to share some kind words with someone else.


The Positive and Negative Sides of “I Don’t Know”

“I don’t know.”  Sometimes it’s true.  Sometimes we truly don’t know the answer to a question that’s posed to us, or to a decision we need to make.  In either case, I love this answer when it is coupled with a plan of action or next steps to get the information needed in order to answer the question or make the decision.  In this scenario, “I don’t know” shows a confidence in ourselves, knowing that we don’t need to have all the answers.  It shows that we are willing to investigate and learn in order to increase our understanding.  It implies humility, self-assurance, and a willingness to be taught.  I love that!

As much as I love a genuine “I don’t know”, at other times, it can also be an extremely frustrating answer.  Specifically in response to a question that is asked in order to gain a person’s thoughts, opinions, or ideas.  “I don’t know” can often be used to hide behind when we want to avoid having to think or come up with a thought or idea.  For some, this response is almost automatic.  Before their brains have even begun to grapple with the question, their mouths have shut down the thought process completely with a simple “I don’t know”.

For me, when I initially get this response I gently encourage people to give some thought to the question and consider another answer.  Usually it’s as easy as saying, “No, really.  What do you think?”  Often, this is all people need to know that you really are interested in what they have to say, and will cause them to open up and share a well thought answer or opinion.  For others, their “I don’t know” stands.  When this is the case, I politely, but quickly, either change the topic or end the conversation.

Cause something to happen in your own communication starting today by trying the following:

  • Be quick to say “I don’t know” when it truly applies, and be open to gaining the knowledge or understanding needed.
  • If you ask someone a question and they come back with a quick “Oh, I don’t know”, press a little by asking them “No, really.  What do you think?”
  • When you’re asked for your opinion, thoughts or input, engage your mind and exercise your ability to think and reply thoughtfully versus giving a knee-jerk reaction of “I don’t know”, simply to avoid having to think.

Be mindful of these suggestions during your conversations in the days ahead.  By doing so, you’ll be making an effort to better engage the people you’re communicating with.  Who knows, you might even be putting yourself in a position be an influence in someone else’s life.

It Doesn’t Define You

None of us enjoy when we inadvertently make ourselves look foolish.  Unfortunately, sometimes, it just happens.  When it does it makes us feel awkward and embarrassed ashamed.  For me, this usually occurs while asking a question, making a statement, or presenting something I believe to be fact that turns out not to be the case.  All of a sudden I realize how foolish the last thing I just said or did was and begin thinking, “Everyone here must think I’m’ a total idiot!”  This actually just happened to me earlier this week.

The truth is that this happens to all of us at one time or another.  It’s the risk we take when putting ourselves out there to interact and share our thoughts, ideas, and lives with other people.  When this occurs, it is imperative that we be mindful not to let the experience cause us to shrink back from being fully engaged in life.  Usually we want to pull back to avoid the risk of looking foolish again in the future.    That is the last things we should do!  As much as we may feel like disengage, it’s important not to let a single moment define us or negatively shape our behaviors moving forward.

I believe there are some more constructive things we can do, such as:

  • Realize that one embarrassing moment does not define you or diminish your value as a person.
  • Tell someone close to you that you trust and feel save with about your experience.
  • Look at the situation through the lens of humor.  Was it funny?  If so, give yourself permission to laugh at the situation; and at yourself.

If you really want to cause something to happen that will benefit others, try the following when an embarrassing moment happens to someone you know:

  •  Empathize with them.  Tell them you understand exactly how they feel.
  • Tell them about a time when you embarrassed yourself, or made yourself look foolish in front of other.  As you’re recounting the event, freely laugh at yourself, and let them know it’s ok for them to laugh along with you.
  • Here’s the best thing you can do for them:  Tell them you still think they’re great.  Let them know the event doesn’t define them in your eyes, or diminish their value to you by telling them:  “I still think you’re pretty great, special, cool, fantastic…” you get the idea.

Let’s not let one embarrassing moment keep us from being fully engaged in life.  We all have too much of ourselves to offer the world to keep it hidden away, for fear of looking foolish.

As long as we want to be engaged in life, we’re all going to experience moments where we may look foolish or not present our best selves.  It’s going to happen.

The only way to avoid it is by never sharing your thoughts or ideas with others, and that’s no way to live.  Instead, just remember that when it does occur, go easy on yourself.  The moment does not define you, and it will pass sooner than you realize.  And don’t forget to encourage others not to be too hard on themselves either.  They’ll appreciate your kind words and be encouraged by your example.

We Don’t All Think Alike

I’m always interested in learning how to be a better communicator.  The ability to express an idea to a group or just carry on a conversation with someone is a great life skill to possess, and something that can be practiced daily.  In my pursuit to improve my communication skills, the following realization has confronted me many times.  It’s the truth that not everybody thinks about things or sees the world, the same way I do.

How obvious, right? Everybody knows that!  Although that may be the case, what’s interesting is how often I can forget this truth when talking with someone who has a different perspective.  When I do forget, I hear my own voice inside my head saying things like:

  • “Why don’t they agree what I’m talking about?”
  • “Why is this person being difficult?”
  • “Do they even know what they’re talking about?”

What I’ve come to learn is that those are the wrong questions to be asking.  Those questions devalue the other person’s thoughts, perspective and experience and say more about my on naive assumption that this person should be thinking just like me.

If my goal is to improve my communication skills, the questions I should be asking myself instead are:

  • “What background, area of expertise, or perspective are they approaching this situation from?”
  • “What do they know that I don’t?”
  • “What am I missing?”

These questions assume that the other person or persons bring some knowledge, experience, or belief about the topic that is shaping their thinking.  The fun part of a conversation, for me, is to determine what that experience, knowledge or belief is.

By asking myself these questions, it puts me in a place to be open to new thoughts by realizing that, although our thoughts may be different, there is a high probability that I can learn something from this person, even if it’s just learning about their perspective.

Pay attention to the conversations you have in the weeks ahead and be on the lookout for your own internal thoughts that stem from a difference in thinking.  Instead of getting frustrated by these differences, cause something to happen in your own mind by considering their thinking try to determine why they think that way.  You might just gain a new perspective and learn something in the process.


They’re Automatic

They’re unproductive, they come out of nowhere, and there seems to be an endless supply of them.  And, if you’re not careful, they’ll move in, get comfortable, and be your constant companion.

I’m talking about the negative thoughts that crop up in our minds.  They can be rather insidious, showing up with little notice and focusing our attention away from the good and productive things in life.  It’s scary to me how negative thoughts automatically appear.  All we have to do is let our guard down and they show up and begin to take root.  It underscores the importance of being constantly aware of the thoughts we’re thinking.

The best thing we can do to keep our thoughts in check is to be mindful of what we’re thinking throughout the day.  When we become aware of a negative thought we’re having, we need to cause something to happen and stop the thought and not give it another moment of our attention.  Some helpful ways I’ve found for flushing out a negative thought is to:

  • Replace it with a positive one
  • Say out loud, “I will not think like this!”
  • Pray

I’ve had plenty of experience using all 3 methods.

The longer we allow negative thoughts free reign in our minds, the longer we allow our minds to be poisoned by them.  What’s so dangerous about letting negative thoughts run free is that they will ultimately affect our thinking, which will affect our attitude, outlook and behavior.  Our minds are too valuable to let the decay of negative thought take hold.  Are minds should be guarded like the valuable treasures that they are.

Here’s a challenge for the next 7 days:  Pay attention to the thoughts you’re thinking and instantly squash any that are negative or self-defeating.  After the 7 days are up, continue for another 7 days.  Repeat this process so long as you have a pulse.

Take the challenge offered above and begin uprooting negative thoughts from your mind.  By removing negative thoughts, you’ll be setting the stage to for your mind to flourishing with productive thoughts; thoughts that can change your life for the better.