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Last Updated on February 28, 2018

Saying “What’s Up?” Can Make You Wiser

Saying “What’s Up?” Can Make You Wiser

In most parts of the world, greetings are often brief and carry no hidden or complex meaning. There’s simply no afterthought, just exchanging a few pleasantries. But Iraq, the cradle of civilization, is the exception. Iraqis usually greet each other with mind-boggling questions that are poised to work like Zen koan to open your mind.

One such greeting, shaku maku – an existential question equivalent to “what’s up?” can actually open your mind and make you wiser. Who thought a greeting could actually be a source of wisdom? Ephrat Livni walks us through the allure and tidbits of this magical greeting in his recent article published in Quartz This Iraqi Greeting Can Open Your Mind and Make You Wiser.

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Obscure Meaning

In the backdrop of endless checkpoints and ruins left by sectarian warfare sits a fascinating Iraqi culture – the shaku maku. The phrase loosely translates to “what’s everything and nothing?” although its origin remains obscure, every Iraqi gets shaku maku inherently. The greeting is often accompanied with a wink to denote its playful paradox of unpredictability. Nonetheless, the most popular answers include Alhamdulillah which means “praise God” and maku shi which translates “there is nothing.”

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Origin

Again, the origin of shaku maku remains largely unknown. Most researchers and language experts like Akeel Abbas al-Khakani believe that the phrase is ancient. He thinks the word has its roots in one Mesopotamia era language: the Akkadian. In fact, there’s a consensus the shaku maku is a mash-up of an array of words. Aku came from Akkadian word akoon which means “exists.” When combined with sha – “what” – and ma, negation, it forms a phrase which literally means “what exists, what doesn’t.”

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Shaku maku cannot be understood by reason alone

Although it might seem senseless to non-Iraqis, the allure of shaku maku lies in its wisdom. The question has a profound meaning that one cannot just understand with reason alone. By relying on the in-depth feeling that life is strange, you can garner the inherent meaning of the greeting.

Contemplate the question and become wiser

By contemplating this question, one can become illuminated as well as grow wiser. With two parts of the phrase contradicting, your mind can cease making distinctions, therefore, gaining more wisdom. Read the full article hereto learn more about this fascinating Iraqi gem.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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