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Are You Stuck? 10 Distinctions Will Help Change Your Mindset

Are You Stuck? 10 Distinctions Will Help Change Your Mindset

No paths in the forest

    Sometimes we cannot see the path in the forest, so we need to take a different look

    Have you ever felt like there is no way? You chase your dreams, but it seems that everything’s against them.

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    If that is not your case, then you probably belong to the small-sized group of achievers. But, for many of us, the need for “something” that turns everything downside-up is a must.

    As a coach, I have seen the benefits of distinctions, which is nothing more (and nothing less) than looking at certain pairs of words from a different point of view. It may seem worthless, but most of the time the “something” we need is just to take a new perspective, and we can start by using words in a more favorable way. So here is the list of my top 10 distinctions:

    Opinion vs. fact

    According to Newfield Consulting founder, Rafael Echeverria, we are living in “interpretive worlds” which means, at the end of the day, there’s a high scarcity of facts so most of the “facts” are actually opinions. The key point is facts are either true or false – and, in the latter case, they are called “lies.” But opinions are neither true nor false. Opinions can be well founded on facts (my laptop has been working for three years, so it will keep working tomorrow), and they can be shared by many people (one of the best restaurants in the world is “El celler de can Roca”). But they are not true. And they are not false. They’re just opinions. So next time someone (or even yourself) says “you will not reach your goal,” you can be sure it is an opinion, so you can choose to either quit or just keep going.

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    Victim vs. responsible

    The distinction here lies in the ability to act: a victim receives everything as “something that happens,” no matter what it may say or do. On the contrary, responsibility – or, even better, “response-ability” is a call for action, a way of giving response to whatever may happen. Victims don’t take action because they are overwhelmed; response-able people know the answer is action. A victim thinks the blame is outside, while a responsible person knows the answer is inside.

    To be vs. to be being

    “I am stupid.” “You are a liar.” These kind of definitions make us stay away from other possibilities. A liar lies. Always. Period. But if we say “you are lying,” we are open to new future possibilities. And maybe there is a big difference between “I am useless at work” and “I am doing an unproductive task.”

    Commitment vs. obligation

    This one is straightforward: we only do well the tasks we feel committed to. We do not perform well whenever we feel forced. When my boss tells me to do something, sometimes I feel like it’s an order, so I am obliged to obey. But I can choose to think it is something I actually want to do, for whatever reason (salary, keep good mood at the office, etc.) The quality of my job will depend on my choice.

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    Why vs. for what

    Instead of over-analyzing reasons behind our actions and feelings, we can focus on the future benefits and costs, so that the final balance is good for us. For example, let’s assume I feel angry with my boss; I can see the benefits of that feeling are that she will be away from me most of the time, so I have less assignments from her. But the cost is that I arrive home and I am still angry. Now I can start thinking about new possibilities to have the same results at a lower cost. Why not start saying “no” to those extra loads of work? Why not ask for an assistant?

    Learn vs. forget

    Have you ever seen these two words as synonyms? Have you ever realized sometimes we need to forget in order to learn? One of the worst enemies to learning is the “I have done it the other way for the last 20 years and I am not going to change that” way of thinking. For example, in order to learn Russian, you must forget the sound of “H,” “M,” “P” and “X” in order to properly learn they sound like “N,” “T,” “R” and “KH.”

    Dream vs. challenge

    A challenge can be defined as a special kind of dream: it comes with action, which means planning deadlines taking resources, setting objectives, measuring results, etc. So you can have lots of dreams, and they will hardly become true unless you transform them into challenges and start living them.

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    Complaint vs. claim

    Do you feel the difference between, “You do nothing at home!” and, “can you lay the table?” A claim is a specific call for action, while a complaint is unproductive blaming. Next time you need to ask for something, try to make a claim instead of a complaint.

    To make a petition vs. to command

    The difference between these two actions is inside ourselves, and not in the style. Is it not true that “could you please lower your voice?” is just a question, or that “Shut up!” is an order; the distinction lies in our reaction when the receiver says “No.” Can you stand it? Then you were asking. Can’t you? Then you are commanding. And in the latter case, you are somehow forcing the other –or even yourself- so the final result will not be the best (see distinction number 4). Next time, let’s make sure whether we are going to ask or to command before making the sentence.

    Demand vs. excellence

    If you are demanding, your focus is on things that have to be improved, the unfinished jobs, the bad results – and happiness is far from this. On the contrary, if you think of excellence as being conscious about your achievements, you will be ready to go to the next step. Excellence does not mean to hide or deny reality, but being humble enough to say “okay, so far so good. And next time will be better.”

    I hope these tools can help you open new possibilities to reach your goals. Which one is the most compelling to you? Are you using some other distinctions in your life? I welcome your comments!

    Featured photo credit: Ok or KO / francesc rossell-pujos via dropbox.com

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2019

    How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

    How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

    Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

    In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

    Step right up, don’t be shy!

    Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

    The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

    Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

    Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
    So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

    A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

    Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

    Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

    When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

    Culturally Conditioned

    We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

    I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

    The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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    Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

    Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

    Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

    1. Broadens Your Network

    After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

    2. Improves Your Communication Skills

    I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

    Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

    3. Continually Learning

    So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

    Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

    4. Increases Self Confidence

    Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

    Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

    So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

    How to Talk to Strangers

    Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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    1. Say Hello

    Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

    Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

    Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

    2. Ask About Them

    Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

    You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

    As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

    3. Just Do It

    One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

    When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

    Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

    4. Don’t Take It Personal

    One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

    When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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    5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

    I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

    One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

    6. Detach

    A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

    Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

    7. Share Your Stories

    Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

    To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

    So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

    8. Give a Compliment

    Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

    When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

    9. Relax Your Body Language

    If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

    When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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    If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

    10. Practice, Practice, Practice

    Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

    Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

    After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

    The Bottom Line

    As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

    There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

    Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

    Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

    More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

    Reference

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