How to better deal with people

Get me out of here!

Let’s face it – there’s is not one end all, be all cure to how to deal with everyone, all the time, but there is however, a few things we can do to consistently increase the quality of our interactions with others. I’m sure both you and I can both think of a few times when we’ve met someone where we have rolled our eyes at that person, or wished the conversation to be over almost as soon as it began. We all have.

What’s interesting is that even though this is a natural reaction to other human beings sometimes, we can get so much more out of our interactions if we ask ourselves ‘what made this person act this way?’

If we try to understand why they’re acting like they’re currently acting even when it might seem outrageous to us, then we gain a deeper level of understanding of that person, and we might actually realize that we can both gain some value from this interaction.

Bless you

Another concept I’ve found immensely useful is that whenever someone is acting up, making a scene or being a complete nut-job I think to myself ‘bless you’. Or even better, I think to myself ‘I wish you well’. This has a tendency to spread positive energy and though it might seem a little new age-y I’m not asking you to grow dreads and get your Chakras mapped (yet). What I am saying however, is that the idea of wishing someone else well is a much better tool when it comes to interacting with people than it is to get upset with them.

I urge you to try it out next time you get upset. It can truly work wonders.

All the best

Nick

On how to better cope with anger

Getting angry is easy. It might be one of the easiest emotions to encounter in daily life. Someone steps in front of us in the line at the supermarket we get angry. Our boss or co-worker says unkind words to us, we get angry. Our partner asks us to clean more, we get angry.

There are a million different ways to get angry, and most of us don’t know how to deal with it because it seems so natural when it arises within us – it seems like there is no way we are able to free ourselves from this emotion.

And maybe there isn’t. But that’s not the point. Instead, the point is to have a plan of action for when it does arise.

To be aware of our anger when it arises, notice that it’s there and let go of it immediately. This way, we are in control of our anger, instead of it being in control of us.

When I think of how many times I’ve said something in anger which I wish I could take back later, I’m mortified. Thankfully I’ve gotten good at apologizing and explaining that I didn’t mean the things I said in anger, but obviously this strategy is not ideal.

A better strategy, which I’ve found to work incredibly well is to simply notice the anger as we experience it – it is easier said than done, but it is doable, and it becomes easier with practice.

What’s important to realize when we think about how to deal with complex emotions such as anger, is that we don’t have any control of when or how they arise in our minds – we must prepare for them to arise and have a coping strategy ready to deal with it, because the only thing which is within our control is our response to our emotions – not our actual emotions themselves.

That is why it is of crucial importance to have a plan of action to make sure we are ready to deal with anger when we experience is – this way we can regain control of ourselves and actively shape our outcomes instead of letting our outcomes shape us.

On friends and happiness

Numerous studies have shown that happiness is not so much an outcome as it is a choice. In other words, if we focus on the things which are good in our lives we are prone to experience more happiness.

Lyubomirsky et. al. (2005) found that on average successful people are happier. This is far from surprising – what is surprising however, is the fact that happiness leads to success, not the other way around. The researchers studied people over time and found that the happier you were, and the more enthusiastic you were about the different areas of your life, the higher the chance that you were going to be successful. What’s even more important, from my perspective is the fact that happier people have more friends, and friendships and connections – more than any other single factor – determines our levels of success in life.

The reasons for this are numerous, chief among them is the fact our social support systems functions as – well – a support system. What this means is that whenever we get into trouble, or start stepping into murky waters, the people around us are there to pull us up and pull us out. What’s more interesting is that numerous studies have found that social relationships are the best predictor of a heightened sense of well being, as well as a lowered sense of stress and depression. With this in mind, it’s clear that if we want to feel better, we need to go out there and make ourselves some friends – or at least interact with other human beings. Humans are a social species and the worst thing we can do is coup ourselves up in a dark room and hope that we can think our way out of a precarious situation.

When the going gets tough, what we need is to surround ourselves with good people. People who understand our situation, and who know how to make us feel better. Usually however, the very act of being there is enough, and this is something we can use the other way around as well – we don’t need to reinvent the wheel in order to be a good friend – all we need is to open our hearts, minds and ears to the other person and be willing to listen.

A final note on friends and happiness is that the best way to get more good friends is to be a good friend.

If you are genuinely empathetic and caring people will rush to be friends with you, and those skills can be trained. One simple way to raise your level of happiness is to become attentive to other people’s needs and find ways to help others in a way that makes you both feel fulfilled. If you actively look for areas where you can add value to other people’s lives, you are bound to find them. When you do, it is simple to act on them, and when you act on them you are bound to feel increased levels of joy and happiness in your own life.

On wanting what we get instead of getting what we want

There is a stoic saying: “Amor Fati”, which translates to love fate. In other words, we will be much better off, if we focus on appreciating the things that come our way, instead of striving for things, which we may or may not get and which are ultimately outside of our control.

I’m not arguing that we should succumb to apathy, but I am saying that if we stop resisting the things that happens to us, we might just be able to appreciate the things we have – because the truth is, if you are able to read this, then chances are you have a number of things in your life to be grateful for. And if you feel like you don’t, I guarantee that looking for things to be grateful for will change your outlook immediately. Looking for things to be grateful for is such a massive shift in mindset that it is almost unfathomable.

What’s important to understand however is that we’re not biologically wired to look for things to be grateful for. We’re biologically wired to gather resources for hard times, but our society has significantly outpaced our biology, and our technology has significantly outpaced our society. What this means is that most of us have enough resources to stay alive without worrying if we will starve to death – that is enough to be grateful for. What this also means is that we’ve created sufficient security for ourselves to not worry about being eaten by sabretooth tigers – our biggest worry is that our boss might get upset with us – which to our brains ironically is the same thing.

The point here is that in order to live our best lives – or in order to live a good life – we must stop focusing on all the things we don’t have, because if we stop to focus on all the things we do have, it turns out life is pretty sweet. And if you focus on the things you do have, people will start noticing that you smile more, that you’re easier to be around, and that in turn will give you more things to be grateful for.

I don’t want to presume that I’m in a position to tell you what to do, but I will say that focusing on the things I am grateful for on a daily basis has provided my life with immense value. This is not to say that my life is perfect, because it isn’t – but the quality of my life has improved immensely from jotting down a few things that I’m grateful for each and every day, and I encourage you to try it, to experience the effects for yourself.

On gratitude and what’s important

There a few things we only recognize the value of, once we lose them. The value of our health for instance, is immeasurable, yet we tend to take it for granted until we no longer have perfect health. Ever since I was a child I’ve had small tics – absence epilepsy – nothing major, and nothing that needs to be medicated. This morning however, I had a massive seizure and had to be put in the hospital for observation. Thankfully, everything is okay, but the point is that there are certain things it makes sense to be grateful for – a kind and loving family, good friendships and especially our health.

My point here is not to beat you over the head with something you already know, but instead to highlight how valuable certain things are, and it’s worth taking time out every day to recognize that and to express our gratitude. One way to do that is to write a list of items we are grateful for every day in a journal, or on our phones.

Showing our gratitude daily in this way has massive positive impacts on our happiness, mental health and well-being. Specifically, Seligman et. al. (2005) found that showing daily gratitude can increase our feelings of positive emotions by up to 10%. Moreover, Lin (2017) found that high levels of gratitude has a strong positive impact on psychological well-being, self-esteem and mitigating feelings of depression.

The point here is that showing gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions, and the more we can do to express our gratitude the better off we will be. My own experience is that my own happiness has increased way more than 10% from expressing my gratitude on a daily basis – although it’s hard to quantify – and I would argue that this daily practice is the one single factor which contributes to my happiness and well-being.

I dare you to give gratitude a go, and experience the results on your own mind.

It’s not about the gear

When I was a kid the one thing I coveted more than anything was a pair of Nike Mercurial Vapor. To the uninitiated this was the most covet-worthy football boot for a young kid at the time. All my favorite players played in these boots, so naturally I wanted them as well. But there’s something more subtle going on here, which is the reason I wanted them, and the reason I wanted them was because I thought they would make me a better football player overnight. I figured that if I could get my hand on this one item, I’d level up and be able to play with the first team. Of course, this is not how things work, but it illustrates very well our want for shortcuts, and our ability and willingness to not doing the work. Because if I’d been willing to put in the work, I would have become a better player, but no amount of gear would get me there, and that’s the point right there. We tend to think that before we can start running we need to spend 500 dollars on running shoes and the right clothes, when really all we need is a pair of gym shorts a t-shirt and whichever shoes are somewhat comfortable to run in. We don’t need the gear. What we need is to start running. Start working. Put in the effort and not shy away from the work that needs to be done if we want to attain our goals. No matter, how much money I spend to get the same equipment as Stephen King that’s not going to make me a better writer – only writing will ever make me a better writer. Work with what you have. Put in the work. Improve a little  every day. That’s the way to achieve our goals.

The first questions

Writing is an act of love. An act of putting our heart and mind on a page. But it’s also an act of observation. The act of observing the world around us, through the eyes of a writer – our job is to catch the details that others miss. The idea behind this blog is cultivate the discipline to write on a daily basis as well to share interesting thoughts and ideas and observations about the world that each of us share. Sometimes the writing will be better than others, but isn’t that just the way it goes? Sometimes we’re more ‘turned on’ than others. It’s almost as if we have a mental switch that we can flick sometimes, the only problem is that that switch is really hard to find. That’s why I’m going to write and write and write in the hope that I’ll sometimes hit that switch, and that every once in a while what I write will be valuable to you, and my thoughts will be useful to you in your everyday life. It’s also an effort to make sure that I hit my daily quota of 300 words – something I’ve stolen from Anne Lamott, whose incredible work ‘Bird by Bird’ is not only worth reading, I’d go so far as to call it one of the keenest observations of the human experience I’ve ever read.

So what can you expect from this blog? You can expect to hear thoughts heavily influenced by stoicism, Buddhism and modern psychology. I’ve always been incredibly fascinated with the human experience – what some might simply call living, but also living well. Meaning how do we go about our daily lives in a way that is beneficial not only to ourselves but to others around us? How do we become men and women of value and still stay true to ourselves? How do we handle a life that is so fast paced it can take anyone’s breath away? How do we stay content and happy in a world where we are constantly bombarded by content? This blog is an attempt to answer those questions. Welcome. I hope you enjoy your stay.