Category Archives: Personal Ruminations

Please, Excuse Me and Thank You

New York City StreetAs I finished reading Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P.M. Forni, I thought back on the lessons in good manners my parents taught me as a child. Looking at modern life today, I’m convinced it’s the little everyday habits that really can make our world a better place to live. And how easy they are to forget.

My own modern life is an example – one that has me living in New York or Los Angeles in any given week, pursuing a demanding career. I admit, I’ve forgotten about using manners that were once very familiar.

Learning to say please, thank you and excuse me early on does not ensure we’ll keep saying them.

We live in a society that encourages material gain, ambition, and dog-eat-dog individualism. We celebrate and admire people who are aggressive and abrasive if they’re good at making money. It’s tempting to believe that getting the right things, having outward beauty and keeping toned at the gym is the road to happiness. There’s nothing wrong with ambition and single-minded focus on reaching goals in life. But what is the cost – if we simply become self-absorbed and forget about the needs of others in the world and in the places around us?

Why have we forgotten about good manners?

Lately, when I’ve gone to the gym, I’ve been doing a little informal behavior study. When opening the door for someone, I’ve counted how many times I hear “thank you.” About 20% of the time, there’s no sign at all that the person has even noticed the courtesy. No word of thanks, no gesture or acknowledgment of any kind. It’s like they didn’t see that another person did anything for them at all.

As I’m walking in New York or taking the subway, it seems most people are okay about pushing past someone they’ve jostled or bumped into. They’re in a rush; it’s fine to just keep going on your way. Once they’ve got the earpieces plugged into a phone or PDA, it’s like they’re in their own personal world. It’s a space without concern or mindfulness of other people.

Try a different approach to daily living.

I want to offer a different way to approach modern life. Starting right now, think about each person around you as a person like you or me – with good days, bad days, hopes, wants, and dreams. Try to show somehow that you see this other person exists. This isn’t about intruding or starting unwanted conversation. It’s about doing something that signals: “I see you.” Stop and hold a door; offer a smile; let someone else go ahead of you in traffic.

It’s a little sign that can make another a person feel special, if only for a moment, and spark the urge to do the same for someone else.

Let’s spread good will.

Forni’s book has me rethinking and practicing more basic courtesies. I do feel more encouraged and happier. I’m feeling the rewards of “think globally – act locally.” Try it for yourself – let’s make today better by sharing a please, excuse me or thank you to make the world a friendlier place.

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People Do Change

Spring leaves grow and changeLet’s say you’re talking with a friend, about someone else. You don’t have the most pleasant thoughts about this individual. But your friend feels genuinely positive about this person.

“People change,” your friend might explain. And you might be thinking, “A leopard doesn’t change its spots.”

Which view do you agree with?

This reminds me of a point in Steven Covey’s The Eighth Habit. He quotes Viktor E. Frankl:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

The space is the attention we give to our choice when responding to the world around us. Say a child, in disadvantaged circumstances, witnesses violence and impulsive actions from others. Frankl says he still has a choice when reacting to the rough patches in his own life.

When someone bumps into him, does he say “excuse me,” or deliver a punch? His environment doesn’t necessarily dictate this. As this child grows, he may respond to the same incident very differently much later in life. What at first seemed like a reason to fight may become completely trivial later on.

People DO change, and often do. We look at things differently, given our life experience, insights from friends and loved ones, and from therapy and medication. There are many forces at work that can reshape the space between stimulus and response.

So, what makes us change our reactions for the better?

Speaking from personal experience, I admit, I’ve made many, many mistakes in life. I have, regrettably, hurt other people’s feelings. As I enter into a space at midlife, I’m looking to act more ethically, responsibly and honestly, and try to be more sensitive in situations where I was not as thoughtful before.

As human beings, all we can do is try again. Perfection is a pursuit, not a permanent state. After all, people do change.

This article appeared first on iMatchDesigners as: People Do Change

About social media like facebook and twitter

Social media like facebook and twitter. People become “friends” and “followers” and exchange vast amounts of information and personal details with each other, much of it mundane, little of it useful, and yet they really don’t know each other any better. Moreover, they “connect” online and have rapport, online, but are not engage on a personal, 1:1, interpersonal level. The internet provides a safety mechanism, a way to share intimate thoughts, say things that might be intended, but not actually forced to honor anything.

People can be anonymous with each other, not really honor the fact that there is a person on the other end of the computer, someone with feelings. There are certain behaviors which have become accepted because one cannot expect to much from the “internet”. The problem with this being that it is not the “internet” which causes problems, creates spam, fraud, makes dates that are not kept, it is the people who populate the internet that are the cause of woes.

PDA’s, phones, blackberry’s, i-phones, all of these devices are the new centers of attention, the focal point of many peoples interest, whether walking, driving, dining, chatting with friends. Many people are inevitably waiting for a call, an e-mail, or a text that might be important, more important than what they are doing at that very moment. Use of these devices robs us of being in the present moment, focused on the person or activity we are engaged in, and ultimately denies us the ability to truly hear and pay attention to whatever we are doing. There has been a spike of accidents of people with face injuries who fell while walking and looking at their phones and managed to hold the phone and not protect their faces! Legislation has been required to prohibit texting and driving as a way to lower the accidents caused while texting. A disastrous train derailment in Southern California was attributed to the engineer missing a signal because he was busy texting!

Multi-tasking has already been proven to decrease efficiency, not improve it. Younger generations in particular believe that they are able to do many things at once, whether working, reading e-mails while talking on the phone, cruising the internet while doing just about anything, always listening to music through earplugs (which are attributed with causing hearing loss in the entire generation due to loud volumes causing damage!). Go to any gym and you can see someone doing an exercise machine, listening to an iPod, and watching TV at the same time! now, which of those activities is really getting maximum focus? Is the exercise being optimized, heart-rate at the right level, form and muscles being contracted correctly?

Information overload is a pressing issue with the ever-expanding universe of information at our fingertips. The internet has been a blessing and a curse. Never before has the world been so “flat”, connecting people in diverse countries from around the globe with real-time communication, information, and sharing. Moreover, we can find out instantly what is going on with someone else’s life, download just about anything conceivable, know the minutest details about anything we want to buy, anything. And yet, when do we actually have time to think about everything that is in front of us, to digest what we have learned, understand it’s impact on our lives and the lives of people around us? So much of what we use and do has already been done for us, we just need to access it. before technology, people had time to write out complete thoughts, letters, poems, songs, and to invent, create, and to think. Today, we exist in snippets, “tweets” and the sum total of our lives needs to be captured in 140 characters because that is all of the attention that anyone can afford to devote to just about anything.

We have too many options, to many things vying for our attention, from incessant media on TV, cable, radio, print, internet, you name it–pop-ups, pop-unders, flashing, rotating, dancing banners, to text msgs, animated billboards, cars covered with ads, billboard being towed. Think of the movie Bladerunner and then look at major cities like LA and New York and you can see some of the similarities and the overwhelming intensity of imagery. We see, quickly process, and share those distractions with the speedometer, cell phone, radio, traffic, and God only know what else.

E-mail inboxes provide an increasing number of grabs for our attention in the form of spam, newsletters, surveys, offers, sales, and anything that can possibly be dreamt up by 1:1 marketers. Corporations are desperate for our opinion, from airlines, to technology companies, to even the post office! They have to know what makes us tick because sooooooo much has been thrown at consumers, that nobody really knows what will be effective as most marketing tools have lost efficacy.

We’ve lost the sense of community, knowing our neighbors. While I realize that this is not universal and may be more relevant to urban environments, I do think that part of this stems from the individual worlds that are created from personal technology. We can customize everything just the way we want it, and we don’t need to know our neighbors, care what’s going on with government (other than to criticize it), or assume any personal responsibility for that which happens around us. A wonderful quote I read that I think is attributed to wars and genocides is “a few are guilty, but everyone is responsible”. I think the antithesis of this is a barn-raising as done by the Amish. There, everyone gets together to help one family at a time.

The anonymity deadens our souls. We don’t really need to be responsible to anyone for what we say or fail to do, and therefore lose a bit of our humanity in the process. In a sense, even donating money on-line is an easy way to “support” a cause quickly, affordably, and most likely get kudos for doing so, without actually getting involved or doing something about it. We give to the homeless shelter, but do we actually visit the shelter and see who is benefiting from out largess? We criticize a war, speak ill of our government, but do we actually talk to a soldier or call our congressman?

Find Suspense and Interest from a Dilemma

"When you find the dilemma in a project, that's when you know what it's really about," says Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, author of Yes is More. "If there's no conflict, no clash of interests, how are you going to make it interesting?"

While Ingels was talking about tensions like those between community development and historical preservation or providing spaces in public projects for both rich and poor, the concept of a dilemma represents an excellent organizing principle for any kind of subject matter.

A dilemma seeks to reconcile two seemingly incompatible elements. With a dilemma in a headline, you generate suspense. If the opposing forces are those actually giving your potential customers headaches, the reader can't help but go on to see how you resolve the contradiction.

Sample headlines:

Become a Household Name While Preserving a Haven of Privacy

Parents: Yes You CAN Have Disciplined Kids Who Regard You as Their Greatest Friend

Discover the Career Building System That Ensures Both Job Security and Personal Fulfillment

Are Competitors Gaining Market Share Through Social Media Yet You Don't Have Time to Master It?

by Marcia Yudkin, Marketing Expert and Mentor

Lesson from Moscow: Big planet, small world

i just met with a buddy in Moscow and realized a few things:

we all do not share the same civil liberties

it's not safe to assume that everyone speaks English. People around the world really make an effort to communicate with Americans and we should REALLY be patient and make an effort to learn other languages!

Big planet, small world, we are not really that different as people, just different cultures and expectations.

Common Sense

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
– Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
– Why the early bird gets the worm;
– Life isn’t always fair;
– and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers;
I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I’m A Victim

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.