Why Bother Tolerating Irregular People?

 

Why Bother Tolerating Irregular People?

I don’t remember who coined the phrase, “irregular people,” but the words made perfect sense to me. Irregular people are not necessarily enemies, but they don’t bring out the best in us. Even though they might be a relative, coworker or serve on the same committee as we do, they don’t really seem to know us very well. Irregular people are those individuals from whom we get an unfriendly vibe. Although we try not to take it personally, we wonder why they don’t seem to like us. 

     Recognizing Our Irregulars 

We will always have at least one irregular person in our life. Currently, I count seven in mine. With them in mind, knowing how to tolerate them makes being in their company a little easier. 

One thing I have to remember when I am around one of my irregular people is that it is okay that they do not like or appreciate me. Not everyone understands my sense of humor, my bluntness or my point of view. Not everyone appreciates my personality. Does that mean I need to change just for them? Not necessarily, but maybe. More on that idea later. 

Consequently, when I am around one of my irregular people, I know what to expect. I feel an invisible yet noticeable negative force between us. Like a character on Star Trek, I am tempted to shout out, “Shields up, red alert.” But in doing so, I’d  only be reacting to the initial fear I get when I sense that I am not appreciated. Simply being aware of my tendency to react causes me to pause long enough to tell myself that there is no need to be afraid. Their force of negativity does not have enough voltage power to zap me out of the universe. 

My irregular people all have one thing in common besides being irregular: they like to be “right.” I’ve learned that arguing with them is pointless. It changes nothing for either of us. Voicing my opinion, which is always different from theirs, only creates a greater discomfort between us. I’ve learned to listen more and talk less while in the presence of my irregular people. 

Still, I have noticed three wonderful things about irregular people. First, sometimes the problem eliminates itself, such as when they move away and are no longer in our lives. That just recently occurred with two of my irregular people. Now I’m down to five. 

Secondly, an irregular person can sometimes turn into a friend, not a best friend, but still a friend. Once we identify someone as an irregular person does not mean they will always be that way.  There is always the hope that mutual understanding will someday bridge the gap between us and when it happens, well let’s just say it is a wonder beyond our control. I can vouch for such an experience and now I am down to four irregular people on my list. 

The final wonderful thing about irregular people is that they can sometimes, but not always, have a positive effect on our lives. This brings me back to the question, “Does that mean I need to change just for them?” The irregular people in my life long to be heard and understood. And maybe, just maybe, if I keep my shields down, I can listen and begin to understand them. 

Why bother tolerating irregular people? There will always be someone who is peculiar and a little unfriendly toward us. But recognizing and accepting them as just an irregular person who needs to be heard and understood, could have a positive outcome for us and for them.

Why Bother Growing Your Emotional Intelligence?

Why Bother Growing Your Emotional Intelligence?

My mother had a funny way of offering advice to me. Oftentimes, she would cautiously open my bedroom door where I sequestered myself during my teen years, and set a newspaper article on my dresser. Like “Thing” from Adam’s Family, her hand would slide through the crack in the doorway, set an article down and then withdraw, without a word. 

Her method of communication bothered me somewhat and for that reason, I rarely read any of the items she left for me. But titles such as, “Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk,” and “Don’t Make Mountains Out of Molehills,” told me she was at least aware of my emotional state at the time.

        Good Intentions

I do not doubt my mother’s good intentions. She observed my moods, mostly indignation, an ill temper and silence and tried, in her own way, to help me. But, placing an article on my dresser with my name scrolled across the top in hopes that it would urge me toward understanding my emotions and grow toward a happier disposition only fueled my exasperation. What I needed from her was a good conversation about how sometimes emotions can be messy, making us feel awkward, uncomfortable and out-of-sorts. But she and I were a lot alike— we were both emotionally illiterate. 

Emotions were never a topic anyone in my family spoke about. No one knew how to identify them or name them. We all wanted to be happy, lighthearted, full and gleeful gladness, but sometimes anger, sadness, and disappointment crept in too. 

Feeling these “darker” emotions confounded me and like dirty laundry, they accumulated into piles. Though I attempted to kick the mounds out of my way, it only made things messier. 

Eventually, I grew into adulthood and discovered some things about emotions. First of all, they are not something we can ignore or disregard. They come with our humanness and they tell us quite a bit about ourselves if we listen to them.  

Our emotions need our attention. They require time and patience. But as we take the time to sort through our “dirty laundry”  we become more intelligent about what makes us feel the way we do. When I’m angry, it is usually because I feel threatened and when I am sad it is because I’ve been disappointed by someone.  Being aware of these feelings builds a bridge to understanding myself. But, first I have to notice the emotion. Recognizing what is going on inside me and why, gives me the power to choose how I respond. I can shift to thinking differently and thinking  differently makes all the difference, it makes me intelligent. 

But being more aware of how I feel isn’t just about knowing myself better, it also makes me a little more savvy about the feelings of others. When a close friend is angry, I won’t be handing them an article about how to control their anger. Instead, I’ll validate that it makes sense they’d feel what they are feeling. Acknowledging the feelings of others helps them become more intelligent about their emotions too. 

So why bother growing our emotional intelligence?  It is worth it to be emotionally intelligent because our emotions are meant to tell us what we need to know, if we listen. 

 

Why Bother Talking “To” Instead of “At”?

Why Bother Talking “To” Instead of “At”?

Recently, I attended a town hall meeting in my community. Though meetings such as these can sometimes feel pointless, the topic was important enough to me that I showed up with an optimistic attitude. I’d hoped that maybe opinions would be heard, understood, and even a creative solution discussed. But, within the first five minutes of the gathering, I could tell that the man in charge would be talking “at” us, instead of “to” us. And after forty minutes, people like me, began to get up and leave.  

    Placating

Communicators who speak “at” someone do not possess humility. Instead, they elevate themselves to an exclusive plane and shut out those who think differently.  As a result, concepts from others can be expressed, but are not considered valid. No ideas are truly exchanged or built upon to create a new viewpoint. Instead, words simply pile up into futile utterances that are discarded. 

Those who talk “at” their audience like to think they are connected to them in some way, but really, they are not. The chasm is sometimes quite wide and most of the time stark enough for everyone to see. Admitting to the incongruity between people is a better strategy. At least it lays down a foundation of truthfulness.  

Those who talk “at” someone are not curious or open to possibilities. On the contrary, their mind is already set. They may listen to what others are saying, but it is not heard. When someone has already made up their mind, no other possibilities exist for them. 

Those who communicate “at” people take a defensive stance. They feel they need to be right and do not want to make any compromises. If they do, it will mean they’ve lost the contest. 

 In a way, I feel sorry for those who communicate in this way. I am embarrassed for them. I hear the fear in their voice. Communicating is not easy. Not everyone will like what we say, but communicating “at” someone creates more foes than friends, more divisions than unity. 

On the other hand, learning to talk “to” people creates more friends than foes. Being on the same plane with someone in order to exchange ideas and construct solutions is a lot more fun and productive for everyone. Letting go of a defensive stance and being open and curious builds bridges of empathy. Talking “to” someone creates a more welcoming atmosphere and discharges the stress that builds up in an atmosphere where though things are discussed. 

Why bother talking “to” people instead of “at” them? It is worth learning to communicate in this way because speaking “at” people produces small if any results, makes others feel devalued and annoyed and you do not want to be left talking only to yourself.  

Why Bother With Phone Etiquette?

Why Bother With Phone Etiquette?

I grew up in an era of  landlines and party lines. When answering the telephone at our house, my siblings and I were taught to say, “Maceks, this is ___________ speaking. How can I help you?” Manners mattered greatly to both Mom and Dad. Besides saying, “excuse” me when we burped, “please,” when we needed something, and “thank you” upon receiving it, establishing good behavior in the household also included teaching all of us youngsters the basics of phone etiquette. 

Undivided Attention

Telephones used to be stationary. To stay connected to the person you were talking to on the phone, you could not go beyond the reach of the phone cord. One of my grandmothers had a specific place in her house for her phone. It sat in an alcove in her hallway. She kept a stool there as well and when the phone rang, if it wasn’t a salesman, she sat down. Whatever else  she was doing, scrubbing her kitchen floor, washing the dishes or watching television, fell by the wayside while she communicated with the person on the phone. If it was not a good time for her to talk, she would politely say to the caller, “Can I call you back? I am right in the middle of taking cookies out of the oven.” 

Of course nowadays, wherever we go we go there with our phones. We are no longer limited to the length of a phone cord. Of course it is convenient to talk on the phone while we are driving, walking, cooking, eating, or working on our computers, but is it necessary? 

Though I was raised with telephone etiquette, I am just as guilty as anyone else at multitasking while talking on the phone. When a friend called the other morning, I was making my breakfast. She thought I was doing the dishes and I was embarrassed when she said, “I will let you get on with your day.” It was obvious to her I was too busy to set aside whatever I was doing to give my attention to her and our conversation. Like my grandma, I could have said, “Can I call you back?”  

I know I get a little miffed when I hear the clicking sound of computer keys in the background when talking with one of my girlfriends. Another friend likes to call me when she is driving. Her voice sounds as though she is inside a tin can and of course, there is the distraction of traffic. At a particular store in town there is a sign at the cash register that reads, “Finish your phone conversation, then I will help you.” Clerks do not want our phone conversation in their faces while they are trying to converse with us as well. 

Why Bother With Phone Etiquette? It is worth it to be courteous and thoughtful when using our phones. Think about how much we like it when someone pays close attention to us when we are talking. Now let’s do the same for them.

Why Bother To Be Quiet?

 

Why Bother To Be Quiet?

There once was a popular song that often played on the radio of my mom’s Volkswagen, the car I’d borrow and drive around the city streets as a teenager. One of the lines from that song still sticks in my  head, “silence is golden.” But those words did not take on any meaning for me until I married a man of few words.

I’d grown up in a household with a lot of noise and not much silence unless everyone was asleep or Mom was mad at you. When angered, Mom went into silent mode. You never knew who had been the one to cross her since she’d apply the silent treatment to the whole household. She’d ignore all of us for a good while and we’d tip toe cautiously round her until she was no longer angry. Then she’d resume acting like her regular self, as though she’d never been upset in the first place. Her  behavior always left us feeling wobbly about our relationship with her. We never knew what we’d done wrong, so it was hard to know what we needed to do right. 

On the other hand, the way my brothers’ handled their anger was a much more productive method. One would wrestle the other to the ground and then pound on him until they apologized for their wrong doing. The offender then swore to never do it again. After that, there were no hard feelings lingering in the air. Unlike the silent treatment method that could last for days and make one wonder what they’d done wrong, wrestling and pounding on someone got the offense out in the open and an apology was always delivered.  

Silence Does Not Equate Anger

But with my husband, silence did not equate anger, which at first threw me off. His silence only meant that he had a different way of sorting through his thoughts. His way was quieter, something I was not used to, something I’d not seen while growing up. 

What had attracted me to my husband in the first place was his calm, quiet demeanor. He kept his cool all the time, never forcing anyone to apologize when they’d wronged him. But that same quality that had attracted me to him also caused some turmoil in our relationship until I learned how to talk less and listen more. 

Early in our marriage when I’d ask him a question, his answer never came quick enough to satisfy me. If I wanted an argument to clear the air, he’d refuse to argue. If I gave him the silent treatment, his silence outlasted mine. In exasperation, it finally dawned on me that I was the one who needed to change. If I wanted to hear him, I had to be quiet. If I valued his perspective, I had to give him ample time to share it. I had to let him process in his way; alone and quietly before hearing any answers from him.  Now I know that silence is golden. It does not signal anger or danger. It’s just the signal of a man, my husband, who is in the process of thinking things through, quietly and alone.

Why bother to be quiet? It is worth it to be quiet so that the ones who are otherwise silent can be heard.

Why Bother Lending An Ear?

Why Bother Lending an Ear?

Not everybody likes the holidays. Not everyone thinks “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year.” For some, happiness is not a common theme any time of the year and Thanksgiving marks the beginning of harder times ahead for them. 

For some, holidays bring more stress than cheer, grandioso expectations from themselves as well as from others and haunting memories instead of Norman Rockwell images.

In light of the holidays, joyful spirits are supposed begin soaring just before Thanksgiving and come in for a graceful landing in early January. This is known as the Christmas season, the holiday season or the festive season. Unlike Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day and Halloween, the holiday season is long one. 

In addition to maintaining an upbeat demeanor, other presumptions fall into our laps whether self-imposed or from family members. Traditions are a family’s trademark. But some see them as heavy, cumbersome, outdated, yet unchangeable. 

For the one who volunteers to host the family gathering, preparing the menu alone is daunting. Turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes and cranberry relish, all homemade of course. And don’t forget, someone has to make the famous family batch of rolls, or melt-in-your mouth dessert. 

Moreover, there is the table to set. The special china, Grandma’s crocheted tablecloth, Mother’s silverware and a festive centerpiece that represents the season. 

Seating people around the table can be tricky. Everyone may indeed be related, but not everyone may relate well to each other. Like unseen ghosts, an unresolved conflict may hover between two people. Hurt feelings from some altercation in the past is not forgotten by another and differing opinions about the latest news topic will abound. 

In addition to the food and relatives, there is the probability of a moment where everyone holds hands to say grace or  someone makes the suggestion that everyone name one thing for which they are grateful. It can almost feel like a lie, but everyone plays along. 

In reality, not everyone feels jolly during the holidays. Some of us have family members who struggle every day of the year with anxiety, or depression. This time of year may  only bring out the worst in them.  

Why bother lending an ear? Listening is almost as complicated and time consuming as cooking the perfect Thanksgiving meal, yet its effects are more satisfying. 

Despite the effort it takes to understand someone else’s sadness when your personality bends toward happiness is not as daunting as cleaning up the kitchen after a holiday meal. Bending an ear toward someone who struggles to muster up cheer can be a heartwarming and enlightening exchange.

 It’s worth it to keep one’s ears open during this season. A shared load is a lighter load.