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Go on a Date with Life

Go on a Date with Life

Go on a Date with Life

    A lot has been written about dating. Some people rally enjoy dating, but for many, dating seems like a horrific trauma. Consider how many people stay in unsatisfying or even outright bad relationships because they’re even more terrified by the prospect of being “out there” again.

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    Dating can be a chore because it seems so far removed from real life. But I wonder if there aren’t some everyday lessons we can learn from dating. Maybe it’s not that dating is different from the rest of our lives but that it’s an intensified version of our day-to-day lives. We work hard on a date to put our best self forward – but wouldn’t it be nice to put our best self forward throughout the course of our lives? Maybe instead of rejecting that persona, we should embrace it? And maybe, just maybe, if we were used to being our best selves all the time, dating wouldn’t be such a chore, either – we’d just show up and be awesome.

    So what can we learn from dating about being our most awesome selves day in and day out? Here are a few things that come to mind:

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    1. Dress counts.

    We all want to be appreciated for who we are, not what we wear, but unfortunately, what we wear often determines whether or not anyone will take time to know who we are. You wouldn’t dream of showing up for a date in torn sweats and a dirty shirt – but I’ve seen people show up for job interviews in similar outfits! Unless you need specialized clothing – a uniform for work, grungy clothes for helping a friend paint a house, etc. – dressing like you’re on your way to a first date means you’ll always put your best face forward.

    2. Listen more, talk less.

    On a date, being fascinated with what your partner is saying is the best way to make them feel good about themselves – and about you. Asking questions and really paying attention is a great way to demonstrate that you value the person you’re dating. It’s also a great way to show people you aren’t dating that you value them – and to make sure you’re as well-informed as you need to be.

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    3. Don’t be too needy.

    “Desperation,” says a character in the movie Singles, “is the worst perfume.” Spend a date leering or pawing at your date, or explaining how very, very, very, very lonely you are is a sure way to get the brush-off. Nobody likes a loser, and that’s exactly how you come off – winners date people they’re totally into, not whoever will have them. This is true throughout our lives as well – lots of people have noticed how much easier it is to get a job when you already have one (and it’s said that the best job interview is the one you come to straight from work) than when you’re down to plucking couch-cushion change for macaroni money. Of course, you have needs – everyone does – but you can get a lot farther in life making it clear to everyone that you’re driven by your passions and talents, not your needs.

    4. Be decisive.

    Partners of both sexes like to see their dates make decisions quickly and effectively – it lifts the burden from them, and it shows a confidence that most find attractive. Unfortunately, we often think it’s nice to offer our date a bunch of choices to pick from, thinking that it shows we respect their wishes, when what it really does is throw them into decision paralysis – and increase their anxiety because they’re suddenly fumbling and looking bad in front of you. In life, as in dating, making decisions quickly and firmly, while respecting other’s input, is a sure sign of leadership. Even bad decisions made boldly often turn out to be better than good decisions made hesitantly.

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    5. Smile a lot.

    People like people who smile. More than that, there’s a lot of evidence that the physical act of smiling actually triggers changes in our brain chemistry that make us happier. On a date, that means less stressed, more confident, and more attractive to our partner. In life, that means the same thing – even when we’re not perfectly comfortable, a big smile conveys to others that we are, and often gives us the boost we need to actually become more comfortable.

    6. Have an exit strategy.

    Not from life – that’s a little morbid. What I mean is this: when you go on a date, you have an idea of how, at various stages, to end it. There’s the perfect “kiss at the door” evening (or “breakfast in bed” night), there’s the pre-planned “emergency” phone call from a friend at 8pm to give you an excuse to bail on a bad date, there’s the $20 spare cash tucked away in case things turn scary and you need a cab, etc. In life’s undertakings, too, it pays to have a couple of escape plans ready, as well as a clear image of what success will look like. Grinding away at a project that no longer has any purpose isn’t very smart, but we often feel compelled to “finish the job” even when it no longer matters to us. Likewise, turning up for a dead-end job day after day is a ticket to depression, at best. As the cliché goes, “plan for the best but prepare for the worst” – go into big projects with a clear idea of how much you’re willing to sacrifice and how little you’re willing to gain to consider it worthwhile.

    I have a half-dozen more tips, but that’s plenty for one post. I’ll be back soon with more ways life could be more like dating, and our selves could be more like the selves we are when we date. In the meantime, how about sharing your tips for dating and how they might apply to the rest of our life (or why they couldn’t)?

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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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