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When You Give A Man A Cupcake...

On one typically busy afternoon, I picked my two boys up from a class, my daughter was with me.  My son entered the car and handed his sister a cupcake.  Another kid brought them in and he took one extra for his sister.  That was nice.  J was appreciative, but didn't want the extra sugar so she just held onto it until we
stopped at a red light before the highway entrance where she spotted a ragged looking man holding a cardboard sign with the words "Will work for food" scribbled in black marker.  She handed the cupcake to me and said "give to him."  I said "A cupcake isn't going to help him."  She shrugged,  "Maybe it'll brighten his day, and that could help."   J was right.  I lowered the window and held out the small confection.  The man accepted the treat as I watched him pull into a wide grin that his whole face wore. That dusty, tooth missing smile was on of the most precious, genuine smiles I'd seen and as he thanked us and bid us a hearty "God Bless" the light turned green and off I drove. Glancing in the rear-view mirror I saw him gingerly peel the paper back and take a bite; the tattered cardboard under his arm, happily focused on the small gift. I smiled too. We all did.  And I realized that that small act, which  may have seemed insignificant, wasn't -to him, or to us.        

Every little thing matters.  Everything causes something.  And this isn't a new revelation, it's something that we know, but do we embrace it?  Do we actively apply it?  Do we live it?

That cupcake did not have monetary value, but it was useful indeed!  Maybe he felt just good enough to pick up litter, prompting the owner of the gas station to offer him $50 to clean the lot?  Who knows?  What if it made him just glad enough to smile at the right time, affecting another someone's day and altering an otherwise negative trajectory.  It altered mine! I was having a rather crumby day until then and the dose of gladness turned out to be just the elixir to change that.  Did J do it for me?  No, and not for herself  or  her brothers, but we benefited from that act just like the man.   And whats more,  I don't believe it was the cake itself, lacking in any nutritional value, that mattered; it was the gesture.

Is it selfish that I allowed myself to benefit from a small act meant for another?  I don't think so. Kindness is for everyone.  Every opportunity you have is valuable.  Every conversation, verbal or no verbal, matters in some way. You control whether it's going to be a positive vibe or not.

Want to have a nice day?  Be Nice. It really is that simple.

Lions, Guns, Caityn AND Rainbows

If we cared as much about aborted tissue, prayer in school, supporting the troops, gay marriage, gun control, etc... as we do about Cecil the lion, then...?   What?  Then what?  We'd be perfect?  We'd be focused on the "correct" issue? In the spirit of productive communication and personal growth, lets take a moment to define our terms. 

The latest furor en vogue exemplifies a common, and interesting social phenomenon wherein two opposing ideas are compared and contrasted against  one another in an attempt to declare a logical point.  The problem is that this erroneously erected paradigm is in and of itself illogical.  It is in fact, a logical fallacy known as  false dichotomy.  

A false dichotomy occurs when two seemingly contrasting ideas, opinions, rules, items or arguments are deliberately presented in stark opposition, while ignoring (either by intention or ignorance) other alternatives and information along the continuum between the two.   It is a commonly used manipulation tactic, but is often carelessly used in ignorance by anyone seeking to support their ideas, albeit on a weak and fallacious pillar.
We can care about this AND that.  Amazing! 
Observing this is anthropologically fascinating. Understanding it is abundantly useful to the betterment of interpersonal growth. By identifying quagmires that hinder communication, we navigate a more productive path toward positive development.

Look at the following memes and consider the false philosophical paradigms presented therein:


These words/images, and many others like them attempt to compel us to choose one idea over the other.  It presents an either or situation, which is a false reality.

Instead, consider these truths: 
We can be upset about the lion AND abortion.
We can care about the well-being of animals AND the lives of people.

We can support Caitlin Jenner AND the troops.
We can care about rainbow wedding cakes AND gun laws.
We can own our opinions AND we can pray.
You see, despite their presentation, the issues are mutually exclusive and do not exist in a dependent relationship to one another.   Try to acknowledge each issue independently and let us avoid being mislead by limited,  myopic options presented foolishly.  Critically slanted judgments are often the byproduct of intellectual  malaise and personal insecurities; and are completely unproductive.  Think first.

Observation and Consideration precede Verbalization.

What do you think?  Your comments are welcomed!

Love to improve communication?  Download CRUCIAL Elements of Communication for FREE.

Confessions of a Former Thief

What if I said that what you believe is BULLSHIT?

How does it make you feel?  What is your immediate reaction?  More than likely you are feeling defensive. You erect a wall of "defense" to protect your beliefs.  This is a communication barrier.  

Can we break through the barrier?  Sure.  But it is far more efficient to avoid establishing the barrier in the first place.

All of your beliefs are in place because information was presented to you in such a way that you chose to commit, intellectually and emotionally, to that information.  You came to posses the knowledge and commit to its truth.  The beliefs that we have about religion, politics, life etc... Are such because we have accepted the principles and information. We have taken possession of them, so our beliefs are, in a very  real sense, our belongings.  Consider this when you are arguing, or about to argue with someone who has vastly different political ideas.  Think.... Homosexuality, abortion, immigration, taxation, public education etc

These are controversial topics because they always challenge someone's beliefs; so let's start seeing that challenge in its raw form: attempted robbery

I used to talk about controversial topics all the time.  I prided myself on posing a challenge and 'threatening the status quo'.  I arrogantly thought I was just so very brilliant for 'shaking people out of their comfort zone'. (That was one of my tag lines!)

But really, I was just a common burglar.  I was invited into conversation under the pretense that I was going to offer something, but instead I tried to steal something.  I was a Belief Thief.

Anyone who may have perceived me as giving, already had what I was selling  (they already believed it) so all I really did was validate their beliefs by praising their possession (like admiring someone's shoes and saying you have the same ones). Sure I made some connections this way, everyone likes hearing our own ideas echoed back to us, but we didn't do anything to establish a bridge across a divide.  We just celebrated our mutual beliefs, stroked our mutual egos and collaborated to create more division as I kept on trying to rob people without giving them anything.

Thankfully, I eventually realized the pattern because deep down, I knew that I truly did have something valuable to offer.  As it became clearer that I was burning more bridges than I was building, I knew I had to cease, regroup, and find a way to grow.

The solution was this: Give, Don't Take.  Offer something without trying to take anything away. Rather than challenging others to deny or lose what they have (their beliefs) I let them keep it.  I respected their ideas and offered something new.  

When you knock on a door (open a discussion) don't walk in and try to burglarize.  Respect contrasting property (beliefs) and offer something new.  Give instead of taking.  
If you are trying to open people to new ideas, remember that giving will always more effectively alter perspectives because people want new stuff and will happily consider it if they aren't busy erecting walls of defense to protect their property.

When contrasting views frustrate you, remember that it is only because if others aren't committing to our same beliefs, we perceive it as an insinuation that our beliefs are faulty.   What to do?  Get over yourself.  You don't need everyone else to have the same shoes to prove that yours are cool.  Yours are yours and that's cool.  Theirs are theirs and you can suggest a new shoe style without taking the ones they have.

Intellectual flexibility allows us to more clearly understand an opposing view and helps us find something new to offer that can establish a bridge across which our ideas can travel, which is the whole point of expressing them in the first place!

P.S. You can read more about controversial communication in the Belief Thief section of CRUCIAL: Effective Elements of Communication, which you can download for FREE here.

Be a successful communicator!

Critical Camaraderie: Leadership Must Have!

Camaraderie: noun;  comradeship; good-fellowship. 

A manager with whom I worked recently was deeply concerned about the decline in sales his store was

experiencing.  Naturally, he was responsible for the sales numbers in his store and was in danger of losing his job if things didn't improve.  I was happy to help.  I was able to diagnose the issue swiftly.  The environment was  uneasy and tense because, simply put, the team was missing an important ingredient: camaraderie.

This is a critical ingredient in the recipe for success within any organization, on any project that requires multiple people and within any team oriented environment. Personalities clash causing inevitable schisms and creating destructive fault lines that weaken structural integrity.  Camaraderie needs to be encouraged, fostered and nurtured on a continuous basis. 

If you are a leader and want to ensure success, or if your organization is experiencing troublesome productivity issues the first place to look is amongst your team, and ask yourself these important questions:

You Are Such a Half Brain? My Stroke Of Insight Book Review

 Left thinks "me" Right feels "we" and a striking balance is the ideal.

During a conversation on another matter, a friend mentioned the book My Stroke Of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor PhD.  He briefly described one particular concept, in relation to our discussion, but I was intrigued so I diverted from the topic at hand to ask more about the book.  I have long been fascinated by brain science; not so much as to study medicine, but enough to be drawn to books and documentaries on the subject.   I'm no 'brain surgeon' but I know a thing or two and it truly is fascinating, how our brain works.  What was compelling about his explanation of this book was that the author IS a brain surgeon, who had experienced a major stroke, and documented her plight as she understood it as a neuro scientist.  How cool!

What?  That doesn't sound cool to you?  I suppose not everyone finds brain science as fun as I do but dry as it may seem - this book was a wonderful, enlightening and interesting read!

The enlightened understanding of left/right brain that Dr. Bolte offers, gives a whole new meaning to the term "cerebral".    The book is meant to offer important support for caretakers of stroke victims.  Thankfully, I don't fit that target audience; but I will state that this is an absolutely worthy read for anyone.  It was enlightening and unexpectedly EMPOWERING!