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10 Things in Life That Aren’t Fair – and What to Do About Them (Part 1 of 2)

10 Things in Life That Aren’t Fair – and What to Do About Them (Part 1 of 2)

10 Things in Life That Aren’t Fair – and What to Do About Them

    “Who ever said life is fair? Where is that written? Life isn’t always fair.” – Grandpa, The Princess Bride

    Life’s not fair. Our thought processes are controlled by brains that are not always strictly rational. Social and economic forces beyond our control can toss us like plastic bags in the wind. Physical appearances play as large a role, if not larger, in the way we regard others – and the way others regard us. It’s just not FAIR!

    With a little thought, I came up with 10 things that just aren’t fair, and some ideas about how to deal with them. I’ve deliberately avoided things having to do directly with race, sex, and other forms of discrimination, hoping instead to focus on more universal unfairnesses. Maybe I’ll come back with a follow-up dealing with those issues at a later date.

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    1. Packaging makes food taste better.

    Strange but true – the way food is packaged, from the label design to the size of portions to the texture of the box, affects our perception of how it tastes. (If you’re academically inclined, you could look at this study of how packaging and taste interact.) Roughly speaking, we identify with certain values the packaging conveys, and that predisposes us to feel more or less favorably about what’s inside.

    What to do about it: This is fortunately one of those things where knowing is more than half the battle. Comparing similar foods free of labeling is one way to deal with it – that’s what wine tasters do to avoid biases. And just reminding ourselves not to judge a book – or a food – by its cover helps a lot.

    2. People prefer to do business with people they have relationships with, rather than the ones offering the best deal.

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    We’ll drive miles out of our way to support a local store or a friend’s shop because of the relationship we have with the proprietors. We’ll spend more money on services from friends of friends rather than coldly evaluating all the possible vendors. Again and again, social relationships balance and even outweigh other considerations like cost and convenience.

    What to do about it: Develop your social network! While you should certainly focus on providing value in every other way, developing social relationships will often be the thing that gives you the edge over your competitors.

    3. Many jobs are never advertised. News travels through social networks instead.

    Obviously related to #2 above, this is of major concern given the rough state of employment at the moment. Only a small percentage of jobs are advertised in newspapers and online and even when they are, getting them can still rely heavily on social contacts.

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    What to do about it: Again, get to work on that social network. Use online networking sites like LinkedIn and niche sites in your field (check out the various networks at Ning) as well as attending (or organizing) local events in your industry. Make sure you announce your availability through every channel available to you – most people will at least try to think whether they know anything suitable for you if they know you’re looking.

    4. Attractive people are considered smarter, nicer, and more moral than unattractive people.

    “Attractive” is, of course, subjective, but even so: when someone thinks you’re good-looking, they’re more likely to think you’re a good person than if they find you physically unappealing. And vice versa – you’re more likely to think highly of a person you find handsome or pretty than one you find ugly or even average. (Here’s what psychology has to say about our assessment of attractive people.)

    What to do about it: Well, one option is plastic surgery, dieting, working out, make-up, etc. but that seems pretty pathetic just to get people to think more highly of you. Since confidence is a big part of what makes people find you attractive, work on projecting confidence in yourself. And, of course, make sure whatever you do has merit in its own right. As far as your opinion of other people, try finding ways to see others as attractive whatever their appearance, and remind yourself when you think poorly of someone that you can easily be mislead by the way they look.

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    5. We trust other people, even when we think they’re wrong.

    Oh, the trials of being a social animal! Far too often , we’ll go with the crowd, even when we think the crowd is wrong. The classic example si a psychological study in which several people, only one of which is not in on it, view three lines of different lengths and asked which is the longest. Everyone says the shortest one is longest, until they get to the actual subject, who knows they’re all wrong but agrees with them anyway so as not so make waves. Other examples include people’s willingness to join lines even when they’re not sure what the line is for, and people’s unwillingness to enter restaurants that are empty.

    What to do about it: It’s easy to say “don’t be a sheep” but it’s part of our social nature. We don’t generally want to rock the boat – it’s socially dangerous, and can even be physically dangerous at times. The best we can do most of the time is ask ourselves what, exactly, we have to gain from following other people’s leads. The point isn’t to avoid doing what other people are doing, but to avoid doing it because other people are doing it. If we can determine that we’d do something whether or not others did it, then enjoy!

    Be sure to check out part 2 when it’s posted later in the week for more unfair facts of life, including the difference that height makes! And tell us below about the unfair situations you’ve dealt with, and what you did about them.

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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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