October 19, 2007

Let Them Save Face

Today's lesson is about people skills. No, it's not a long discussion. But it's important.


There is a custom in Japanese culture that involves "saving face". (I have been told that my face is not worth saving, but this is about a cultural thing, not literal or physical.) Essentially, it's about keeping your dignity. I'm not going to discuss the details of this cultual bit, but borrow from the idea (just like I do with Buddhism).


In day-to-day dealings, we can irritate people very easily (they don't have a grasp of what is in the previous Weblog, it seems). But if we try to be a bit mindful of our approach, we can ruffle fewer feathers. We can let people save face and keep their dignity, especially in front of others. Heck, I've had bosses that do not require formal address, but in front of "company", I would be a bit more formal and even use "sir" or whatever was appropriate. Didn't cost me anything to do.


Here are some tips:

  • Give an ego stroke if you want to inform or correct someone. F'rinstance, "You probably already know this, but..."
  • Choose your battles. Why be superior-minded and correct someone when it's not important?
  • Choose your timing. Don't correct someone in public if you can help it. Events may dictate otherwise, however.
  • Sympathize. "Yes, I did (or thought) the same thing".
  • Reduce your own dignity. After all, maybe you are making a mistake. "I thought the weather forecast said..." See that bit of doubt? You're not insisting and being superior. And your graciousness will make an impression.
  • Try to work in a bit of humor. Don't be so doggone serious, Sigmund.
  • Be gentle. That one sums up a great deal, since you're not insisting on your superiority, willing to defer (or even learn), offers sympathy.
  • Pay attention. Make sure you're understanding what they're saying, and the situation.
  • Patience. You can figure that one out for yourself. Capice?
  • Be willing to learn. This fits in with reducing your own dignity; they may know something you don't know.

Hope this helps you add an element of class to your life.

October 17, 2007

Ungrateful Expectations

Sometimes it seems to take forever to learn things. And sometimes, we learn things in a relatively short time but it takes many years to master them.


I learned something important from a therapist. (Yeah, I had a therapist for clinical depression. It was good enough for Tony Soprano, so get over it.) This involves expectations, and what "should" be. He was fond of the Albert Ellis school of psychology, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. I don't agree with everything (I think the man's an atheist, for example), but a great deal of it makes sense.


Suppose I go into a shop. Normally, I expect professionalism and courtesy. But suppose this guy is having a bad day, and he's rude. He shouldn't be rude, he should treat me right. Isn't that awful? No, it's not. I get angry because I'm expecting something I'm not getting. Instead, I should accept the fact that it's a little thing. The world isn't going to cave in because he treats me like a cafone. Just dropping that expectation helps reduce the blood pressure and stress levels.


That dummy broad is touching up her makeup and talking on the cell phone while driving. She shouldn't be doing that, it's awful. No, she shouldn't. Drive around her or something, or tough it out. Again, no reason to get excited. Even the "dummy broad" judgment on her is an emotional investment that you're expending.


Some weird guy in the restaurant shouldn't be staring at me... OK, you work this example out for yourself.


We change what we can, sure. Certain injustices should be pointed out and rallied against, but the little day-to-day annoyances that cause us suffering can simply be acknowledged ("he was rude"), the emotions dealt with ("I don't like that") and be realistic ("I can try again, or find another shop"). One fellow used to say to me, "It ain't nothing but a thang".


"It is what it is", as the saying goes, and sometimes it's a useful saying. Something shouldn't happen, but guess what? It happened. We can't expect behavior from people. I made some really stupid mistakes expecting people to act or react in certain ways, putting those expectations on them and making them guess or perceive what I wanted. When I was able to realize what I was doing and really look at it, I saw the folly of my ways and dropped them. But I'm still learning, since emotions are not logical. They can be trained to respond to reason, however.


Interestingly enough, the Ellis approach, which is taking rational control of your emotions and your own choices, is also compatible with Buddhism. I do not accept all of Buddhism (I do have an immortal soul, Jesus did indeed bodily rise from the dead, etc.), but I have learned a great deal from it. One of the best things I got from it, and can mostly agree with (I don't see conflict with most religions in this, in fact) is a .pdf booklet on the Four Noble Truths.


You don't have to like something. But it's up to you how much fretting you're going to do. You can even influence just how depressed you're going to get over something happening that you don't like. Change it if you can, live with it otherwise. (In "Doctor Who", the Fourth Doctor said, "What can't be cured must be endured".)

But first, decide how much emotional energy you want to expend. Is it worth it? Start with the small stuff, even that helps the stress levels.

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