5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You React

Jamie and I used to fight a lot more than we do now.  Sure, Jamie is a woman, and I am a man and well, sometimes that is like water and oil, but there is something different at play here. No matter how many times you mix the water and the oil, they react the exact same way.  The water does not “adapt”, the oil does not “seek to understand”.  The water does not realize if he (or she) would just open up a little, they could create a something great together.  That’s the thing about people, we can change how we react to people.  Whether it be a romantic/spousal relationship, a professional relationship, or with your children, you get to learn from your reactions and change.  We all bring “baggage” into relationships.

Los Angeles (vicinity), California. Baggage of...

Los Angeles (vicinity), California. Baggage of Japanese-Americans evacuated from certain West coast areas under United States Army war emergency order, who have arrived at a reception center at a racetrack. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Divorces, past business failures, and children who repeatedly make mistakes, and much more “luggage” clutter our psyche.  It’s a challenge to check that baggage at the door and change.  We make ourselves vulnerable to “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”.  But without that vulnerability, we are doomed to fail or at the very least stop growing (which I consider failure).  Here is a list of 5 questions to ask yourself before you react to a situation.  While the cliché reminds us that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, let’s not forget the road to heaven is paved with the same stones.

 1.  How do I want the other person to feel by what I am going to do or say?  Is it Love, trust, happiness, fulfillment?  Or am I trying to “teach her a lesson” and prove that she was wrong? Do I want her to feel bad or do I want her to feel loved?
2.  Am I ok if this person doesn’t realize I fixed his/her mistake?  Sometimes a person’s mistake warrants a lesson in order for him/her to grow from it.  Sometimes, your wife simply left the dome light on in the car and you should quietly turn it off. Make it about the other person, and not your own ego.  You don’t always need “credit”.
3.  Is this something that I can learn to love, or in a business situation can I find endearing and even helpful?  Being chronically late to meetings is not an endearing professional trait.  Your wife, however chronically late because she is doing wardrobe for your 5 children most certainly is.  Choose your reactions.  Be 10 minutes late to church with a beautiful family covered in smiles, or be on time in a fit of frustration with messy hair and frowns…the choice is yours.  A co-worker may be a dreamer and you may be Mr Practical.  Find the symbiosis and make it work rather than fight.
4. What’s the upside to what I am going to say or do?  This should be a question you constantly ask yourself.  In personal relationships, it’s the key to success.  Walking into a dinner party with your wife is not the time to tell her that her blouse clashes with her pants.  What POSSIBLE good can come from that?  Asking for feedback from a colleague (or offering) at the wrong time (such as 4:59pm on a Friday) has no real upside, unless you are trying to get out of a Saturday trip to the in-laws.

Everything and every action has some inherent risk to it, make sure your “upside” is worth that risk.

5.  Am I doing this with a spirit of giving and love?  I am not always positive or optimistic in my thinking.  Sometimes I/we must check in to uncover our true motives.  If something has a hint of negativity built in the  intentions, take a break and re think your actions.
Print these questions out and try for a week.  Comment to me how your interactions change for the positive.



How to be Nice: 5 Simple Steps to not being a Jerk By Rocco De Leo

Are you feeling a little “Rough around the Edges”?  Sometimes charging through life as many of us do, we forget to be nice.  Successful relationships, both in the personal and professional world tend to be better when you are a nice person.  Sounds simple enough?  There are shelves of books, university level courses, and hours worth of workshops on this topic.   I am providing a short list. This list should be a starting point on niceness. If you utilize these skills consistently, you’ll move on to the next step of building and maintaining meaningful relationships. Failure to implement  these first steps will make relationship management irrelevant because you won’t get past “hello”:

1. Be interested before being interesting:  Always sincerly ask the other person how he or she is doing (or how the weekend/vacation/holiday was) and listen to that person’s answer.  Do not “one up” the response with something similar in an effort to add to the conversation.  Respond only when the other person invites you with a “how about you?” Nothing endears someone to you more than listening to what they have to say about themselves. Many times I have heard someone verbally step on someone’s story of a treasured trip with the family with a tale of “superior vacation” or weekend ski trip trumped by a holiday ski extravaganza to Aspen.  Please, oh Please don’t squash the prized possession of your acquaintance’s happy feeling.  After all, you didn’t ask the question about his weekend with an ulterior motive of telling your tale did you?  If you did, DON’T!
2. Don’t take yourself too serious: The image of Pope Francis paying his own hotel bill sits on my mind.   He’s the Pope, and he’s waiting in line at the Holiday Inn. A little humility can go a long way.  Professionalism and approachability should not be mutually exclusive. People like a good laugh, and its ok to laugh at yourself.  If you must be referred to has “Mr ABC” then do it.  But allowing others to feel a little closer by using a first name can do a lot to build initial trust and likability.  Approach every interaction as an opportunity for humility.  Laugh a little.  Find an opportunity to make the other person feel comfortable.  This may mean offering a glass of water, or offering to wait a little longer if someone seems flustered at a meeting.  Encourage others to be happy.
3. Don’t burst any bubbles:  Bursting someone’s bubble is similar to “one upping” from number one.  The difference is here you are not allowing the other person to complettly enjoy a moment by actively putting a needle into the bubble and popping it.  Remember, you don’t always have to be right, even if you are right.  Sometimes it is just nice to let the other person feel good by letting him feel good or steering him toward a solution and feeling the glory.  Be careful here to pick and choose wisely as we don’t want to give someone a false sense of security over big issues they should be challenged with.  If however, someone gave you their “secret” short cut, and it wasn’t all that great, maybe you can let them feel like they helped.  The point is to not make the other person feel bad.  Push your ego to the side and let others keep their warm and fuzzy.
4. Please and Thank You:  Wow! How simple is this.  Remember always, always, always, say please and thank you.  There is never a wrong time to have good manners.  Please and thank you with the person your meeting with at Starbucks as well as the barista who serves you coffee is a sure way to be nice.  I was out to dinner with a young lady once (she didn’t get a second dinner).  She was polite with me, but repeatedly rude to the waitress.  Nothing is more off putting than someone who simply cannot stop and say thank you.  Trust me here, make a concerted effort to always, always, always use please and thank you.  This will force you to slow down and be nice.  The payoff will be huge.  Perhaps, ladies, you will get a second dinner invitation from your male suitor.
5.  Be Present in the moment: This is the most challenging for many of us in the age of technology.  We are texting, tweeting, blogging, face booking and any other “ing” you can think of.  We are doing this while driving (not me of course), eating dinner, doing kid’ homework, laying in bed, cleaning, bathing (ok maybe not bathing), and any other time when we should be present with the person we are trying to be nice to.  It is rude, rude, rude, to be paying attention to anyone other than with whomever we are sharing a moment.  I have to force myself to not be distracted by baseball on TV.  I will either let it be known I’m checking out for a while or I turn off the game.  If i’m in public such as a hotel lobby with a game on TV, I will do my best to face the opposite direction.  Baseball is kryptonite to my attention span.  What is yours? Be very aware of the moment and don’t be taken away.
There you have it folks.  No giant volumes. No weekend seminars.  Keep it simple. I’ve been guilty of violating all of these at times. How have you faired at being nice?