HOW TO NOT TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY

Taking things personally. Photo credit: pixels

“What did you say?” She asked.

“Look, Sharon, I am quite busy now; I will call you later in the evening,” replied Donald.

“Busy. You’re always busy! You never really have my time,” Sharon said.

“You don’t expect me to leave my job to start a chit-chat with you, do you? Well, I could, if you don’t mind us being hungry and broke for a long time. Start a hobby in the meantime till I’m back, okay,” he replied.

“Are you calling me jobless? Is it my fault I didn’t find any? I wonder what kind of bad-mouthed partner I got married to. Get off the phone!”

Maybe you do have a better response to what Sharon gave — or maybe not. Let’s see another scenario, shall we?

Tony was excited to secure a seat very close to the stage at his favourite music concert. A lady walked in and requested to sit on the free seat just beside him. After a few seconds, she stands up and leaves for another seat just behind Tony. Tony became depressed and his head was drowned with a thousand thoughts.

Photo of man in audience. Photo credit: pixels

Was he wearing a prominent body odour?

Was he too ugly for her to sit next to?

Did he brush his mouth properly before coming?

Did he look too nerdy? Did he emit negative vibes?

Did he dress awkwardly?

Was he… 

At one stage of our lives, we’ve probably taken people’s actions and words personally, sometimes, even to bitter extremes. Only for us to later realize that they never even had a bad intention towards us and most likely acted to comfort themselves or try to be humorous or whatever reason they’ve birthed.

Unlike Sharon in the introduction of this article, we should seek other possibilities for her husband’s response: he could be extremely overwhelmed that day, or was having a deadline to meet or for some reason, was just not in the mood to talk. He was possibly not implying that his wife was jobless or that she was a menace.

In Tony’s case, anything could make a lady change her seat that had nothing to do with him. She could be the type that was not so comfortable with sitting at the front, or she had sight issues (long-sightedness, perhaps) or maybe found a friend she finally recognised a few seats behind her.

Not every action done by another is a pressure cooker ready to make you mad at the moment. Sometimes, our interpretation of people’s actions is a reflection of the fear or trauma we’ve harboured during our early lives. It is good we identify these things and name them so we know when they try to get in the way of a proper judgment of other people’s actions.

First up, why do we take things personally?

There are several reasons why people unconsciously take things personally and they are usually centred around the nature of our past situations, upbringings and values.

  1.  Past fear and trauma

We have some not-so-good memories of our childhood. Some have worse memories than others. These memories can pose a cloudy judgment in our current dealings with others. 

A classic example is a female boss who would see being corrected by male employees as a threat and unacceptable, especially in front of another person, because she grew up with boys that abused or bullied her.

Woman in suit. Photo credit: pixels.
  1. Personal Values

Things that conflict with our values are usually spark plugs on our nerves. But sometimes, we allow ourselves to generate so much more than sparks.

For example, imagine you’re walking down a market with a friend and she says that the beggars you both saw deserve to remain in that state until they make a change. 

Man begging. Photo credit: pixels.

Since you have a value for “charity” you might attack her statement, wage a “wordy” war with her or may even call her “heartless.” This can occur even though:

  1. You are not the beggar being described nor are you related to the person.
  2. She is probably right — until someone makes a firm choice to stop being something, the person will continue being that thing.

What are the signs you take things personally?

  1. You have a poor strategy to taking criticism well.
Two people being criticized. Photo credit: pixels.

Criticisms are like orange seeds, compared to their fruits, they taste rather bitter. However, they are needed to make that desired betterment we need. 

Many people have not really learned to absorb criticism well or see it as a building block to creating an upgraded version of themselves. People in this category would see the not-so-positive comments as a threat and as such would want to attack them without even critically thinking about it.

  1. When there is a disagreement with others, you feel attacked.
Two people arguing. Photo credit: pixels.

People who take things personally sometimes have a sense of you-must-agree-with-what-I-say principle, which, for certain, is a terrible mindset in a world where the thinking pattern of every individual is unique. They feel extremely bad when friends or loved ones disagree with them and conclude that they are being attacked and so view every act or word towards them as a personal attack.

  1. You often find yourself in the pool of guilt.
Girl feeling guilty. Photo credit: Pixels.

In this case, you might often be engrossed in a sorry state of yourself probably based on past mistakes or unpleasant events you’ve witnessed. With this kind of mindset, you tend to even twist general statements as a fault caused by you. 

For example, if your boss tells the members of your team that sales dropped in the last quarter, you might feel that you are the cause of the decline since you got employed roughly before that quarter. This leads to your thinking that your boss was talking directly to you and you’re the pain in his…

The Effects of taking things personally

One can be said to be in control of one’s life when one’s emotion is not easily stirred by others. Here’s what I mean: I can’t say I am in full control of myself when someone else can almost always trigger my anger at their will — that’s emotional slavery if you ask me.

Taking things personally shows that the person who triggered your reaction is really in charge of your action at the moment.

Finally, here are ways to help you not take things personally 

  1. Recognize that you might be reacting to a more underlying hurt than what is said or intended at face value.
  1. Don’t assume; ask for clarity and intent. Before you print out your judgement on the other person(s), ask to know what they actually meant. Try to decipher what they were really trying to pass across.
A woman asking questions. Photo credit: Pixels.
  1. React only after a 10 seconds pause. Trust me, we are often at our peak of eagerness to react to a statement that seems to have tapped our nerves. And most times, we react in ways our sane mind would not have done so. This is why we find ourselves using curse words we never imagined we would use, or resulting in regretful physical violence toward our friends and loved ones immediately after they hurt our feelings.

A man try to calm down. Photo credit: Pixels.

This is why we should enact a delay in reaction. This would give us a little time to quickly weigh our actions more consciously. Delaying for a few seconds may sound unreasonable to do but it would certainly save you days, months and years of regrets.

  1. Recognize your worth

When someone tells you (as a group or individually) that you’re brainless or crazy. Just tell yourself things like: 

brainless people die really quick these days. I’m still alive and so they aren’t talking to me, really. 

Or

Idiots can’t cross the road twice; I just did so yesterday. 

Do you get the point? Find a deviation from what you could have absorbed and belittle the statement so much that you can easily wave it off your mind.

  1. Understand that many people say or do things because they have been hurt themselves.

When someone acts a bit rude or violent or cold towards you, there could be an underlying cause.

Let me give you a real-life scenario. There is this particular girl I met in school — to protect her identity, I would give her the pseudonym “Lily.” 

Lily was known to be the rough stone in our faculty. She was considered hostile, rude, loud and unapproachable. One day, her friend left school quite early and we somehow had the opportunity to walk home together. 

Two students walking. Photo Credit: Pixels.

As we spoke, I saw a different dimension of her: the warm, kind Lily that was full of humour. I later found out in our discussion that she had a rough childhood where she was bullied and treated like garbage. 

I could then connect the dots on why she tries to be rude and dominating before someone else possibly acts in that way before she does. I realized on the spot that our childhood experiences still rub some patches on our present selves.

  1. Aim at the body of the animal not its tail. Focus on what matters, not the peripheral. Look at the big picture of what they are trying to communicate rather than drooling over a single word or sentence out of an entire speech that tapped your nerves.
Man on horse aiming at something.
Man on horse aiming his arrow. Photo Credit: Pixels.

Tony Robbins said, “where focus goes, energy flows. Where energy flows, what you focus on grows.” Reflect on that quote and see why taking things personally, like any habit, can be reinforced with a consistent focus on them or be retarded with a consistent focus on the bigger picture of things.

  1. Question your belief

Are you disturbed when someone says they’re busy and can’t attend to you at the moment? Would you immediately judge them as selfish with their own time? When you find yourself pricked after a particular trigger, question the reason why. Were you always given attention while growing up such that when certain people don’t do so now you feel annoyed or entitled to their own time?

  1. Finally, don’t jump to conclusions (pun intended). 

The human brain is wonderful in many ways. One of such ways is its ability to fill up the gaps in sentences, events and any expected logical sequence.

Try this out one day, have a friend blot out some words in a paragraph and you can still make some sense in your way of what you think the paragraph or sentence is conveying. 

This is, however, faulty sometimes, especially when dealing with some people. Our brain might try to fill in gaps or make quick assumptions that are not true. This can cause a disparity between you and the other person especially when your interpretation is way different from what they even intended.

Conclusion

Communication between people can be misunderstood by the receiver or wrongly laid out by the speaker — often in a bitter way. However, we should aim to not be reactive to every word or deed that we receive. We should learn to find out what the other person intends or learn to not always react to every little thing. Taking things personally in nearly every situation is like deliberately allowing anyone to control your emotions. As a smarter thunder, you don’t give such power to just about anyone, would you?

Action plans for Smarter thunders

  1. Practice delaying your responses for some seconds whenever you feel triggered. Biting your lips suddenly or mentally counting up to 10 while focusing on your breath might help. Remind yourself that you don’t have to explode at every trigger. Tell yourself to let go sometimes.
  1. Write out about five things that exactly trigger you to take things personally, the likely cause of the trigger and how you can belittle those remarks. 

For example, Williams always makes me angry when he compares my height to a ruler. I wouldn’t mind him because that’s an exaggeration and the joke is getting boring anyway.

  1. Try to think of the not-so-obvious possibilities in many situations or discussions. Ask yourself if they are intentionally trying to hurt you or maybe just trying to sound casual or funny or relatable, or perhaps, struggling to fit in.
  1. Get busy. There is a high chance that you would probably spend less time arguing or reacting to what you took personally when you know you’re occupied with tasks and activities than when you are not. 
  1. Do you know someone who takes things personally? Don’t tell them not to, share this article with them. Doing so will not just help them improve their mindset, it would also help other people like you find this article easier. 

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW TO START ANY CONVERSATION EASILY

There was the soft background music of saxophone jazz. The atmosphere was cool. The shoes of most men and women in suits made little echoing squeaks against the tiles. The seminar just ended and my young brain had drunk millilitres of ecstatic aura. 

My focus was on Mr Collins — the one who spoke on entrepreneurship. I had so many questions to ask: how to get your startup funded, how to globalize your brand and all.

I waited by the exit door closest to the podium. I stole some glimpses of him to monitor his movement.

Then I heard him say to a fellow speaker at the seminar that he’d have to leave as soon as possible. Then I thought it wise to go hang around the elevator outside.

Certainly, he came around to use the elevator; it was just the two of us, coincidentally. As the elevator sank, I felt slightly weightless but my heart, however, seemed heavy.

My soul kept biting me: just say something to him! 

But I kept pacifying my mind: I would talk to him when the elevator got to the ground floor. 

It was unsound of me to just assume Mr Collins was heading to the ground floor as well. When the door opened up, he walked out.

All I could murmur was a soft “S-ss-sir?” My right hand fairly stretched as though it should grab and pull him back inside before the elevator gates shut close. He looked back but our eyes could only connect through the narrow slit of the closing elevator gates till we saw no more.

I felt like poo.

As the elevator continued its journey downwards, I said to myself: Sixtus, promise yourself that you wouldn’t make this error again. Ever!

Some people find it effortlessly easy to start a conversation, to others, solving a math test would rather be preferred. 

Yet, the importance of starting conversations is valued in areas ranging from businesses to networking, from making curious inquiries to asking for directions in unfamiliar places.

Why is it so hard for some to start a conversation? 

The fear of the unknown is the major hindrance in speaking with a stranger. This fear can be split into two main fears:

  1. Fear of Rejection

One basic part of our instinctual makeup is socialization — the need for acceptance. We long to be part of the larger community, we feel a need to belong. And even when you want to pull out from the group, maybe to get into a distraction-free state to achieve a higher goal, you’d probably still feel that tinge of string pulling you back to the larger group — which is then left to your reasons and willpower to yield or not. 

Rejection, unlike in the case of conscious separation from the world, doesn’t need your change of mind to go back; it is a no-thoroughfare situation and it can feel rather terrible. This ancient instinct is seen in play when we approach strangers. We could harbour the fear of being rejected, intensify the gravity of rejection in our minds and then decide not to even go through it in the first place.

Building on a theory by Robert K. Merton, an American sociologist who first coined the statement “self-fulfilling prophecy,” B. Renken et al (1989) stated that the expectation of rejection makes a person subconsciously exhibit a colder and more defensive trait towards other people which would, in turn, lead to actual rejection.

So basically, you would most likely materialize what you fear and pounder on. This then points out that we should be meticulous in choosing what we think about.

  1. Fear of Embarrassment

We resent any form of shame, especially public ones. This is why we would rather keep still than speak to a crowd for fear that they find out our insecurities or that there is something to make us a laughable character.

Basically, we naturally detest embarrassment and even avoid anyone or anything that could cause us such. Since we don’t know whether the stranger may act in ways that shower us with shame, we tend to not even make an effort to meet them. It may make you ask yourself why you should even bother talking to strangers.

Here are some reasons why you should bother talking to new people.

  1. It has been scientifically proven to boost our mood, especially because we are social beings by nature.
  1. We could learn something interesting from them.
  1. Talking with new people could open your mind to opportunities that you haven’t found by yourself and even discover a variety of thinking patterns and perspectives you haven’t been exposed to.

  1. Especially when everyone in a location is new, it could help the both of you feel less lonely or ostracized. 

How can you overcome these fears?

There are two main ways to overcome this fear: 

  1. Mindset reset

Make an intentional change of your thought about speaking to strangers. See it as a way to connect with someone new. See it as a medium to learn and enjoy one of the many human varieties life offers. Rather than unconsciously seeing strangers as people to avoid, picture them as friends not yet made. 

Besides, all your friends now were once strangers if you think of it. You were not born with them, you met them as you walked the street called life — and there was a first time doing so.

  1. Constant and deliberate practice

Like any skill, regular practice strengthens the neural pathways that make it less hard to do next time. 

Basically, the more you practice starting up conversations, the better you become at it.

How can you start a conversation with a stranger:

  1. Prep up your mind with positivity.

Give yourself more good reasons why you should speak with people than reasons why you shouldn’t. You can convince yourself with any of these statements:

It’s going to be just like talking to my best friend (mention the name), only that it is with another amazing person.

Or

This is new but it sure would be a memorable moment.

Or

This person seems interesting, I like interesting people.

Declarations like this make you start the conversation with a positive vibe with no restraint.

  1. Smile — genuinely.

Genuine smiles symbolize friendliness — at least that’s how the human brain sees it. It tells the other person that although there is someone strange talking to them, it’s okay to relax. According to a study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, it has also been proven to build trust.

Smiling has an equal benefit to you; it helps you relax. It tells you, “the environment is fine over here; there is nothing to fear.”

  1. Harness the power of deep breathing when nervous

Take a couple of deep breaths as you walk up to the person or just before you make a move to speak or walk to the person.

There are many breathing techniques, but I would recommend using the box breathing exercise. The exercise is simple. It involves these basic steps:

  • Exhale for a count of four. 
  • Hold your relatively-empty lungs for a count of four. 
  • Inhale for a count of four.
  • Hold your relatively-full lungs for a count of four.

Simple right? (Or maybe not. I understand that it might be quite challenging especially if it’s your first time). This should be done for at least three rounds up till the moment when you feel calm. You can start small, then increase the size of your box to 5, 6 or 7 counts as you get better at it. You may feel light-headed but this fades away soon. Just don’t be too hard on yourself, especially as a beginner.

This exercise calms you down and helps lower your stress and anxiety level which could cloud your normal thinking process. Doing this helps calm you down so you can have clarity in your speech and may improve your concentration and reasoning speed.

  1. Understand that you cannot truly know someone until you get close. 

Some people appear like wild wolves when outdoors only for you to find out that they are only wounded cubs trying to appear frightening. Or they might seem so calm and nerdy outside but can be cool and really interesting people in private.

  1. Transfer the excessive self-consciousness to people’s awareness. 

Try to focus on them not yourself — ignore unnecessary self-consciousness like: are my shoelaces tied perfectly? Is my nose sweaty? Is there a coffee stain on my shirt? 

These thoughts distract you and make you say or act in your not-so-best self. Try focusing on the other person and remind yourself that you’re perfectly fine.

  1. Give out sincere comments or compliments

As you walk towards them, give a quick but subtle scan of their appearance to find out one thing you like about them and make positive comments on that thing.

For example, I could say, “I like the way your teeth glitter when you throw a smile; I find your hair attractive, did you apply any special care to it or you were just born special? I like the way you speak with authority or I love your voice, it’s one of a kind. These comments ease off most of the tension that might have built up initially. And please… be sincere.

  1. Don’t pretend.

In anything you say or do, be yourself. Be real. Be truthful. Don’t feign a character you are not. When they find out that you were not who you presented yourself to be, it can ruin their trust in you and make them less open to you.

  1. Listen; make it about them, first.

People love to express themselves. Most do so by talking about themselves, what they’ve achieved, who they have met, celebrities they love or subjects they find most fascinating. 

You know about yourself already. Why not learn something new from the other person as they speak? And better, when people are really being listened to, it makes them feel good.

  1. Ask questions

Asking questions shows you are interested in the life of the other person. Research says most people are interested in people who are interested in them. 

Additionally, questions, when asked correctly, have proven to be a conversation mover. Asking questions related to the previous question makes the conversation flow smoothly. 

As you do so try to spot similar interests you both share and build upon them. This builds up the human connection as people would most likely become attracted to someone who shares similar interests or experiences with them.

As an example, we’ll study the conversation between Alex and Nancy.

Alex: It seems you have a love for yellow leather jackets.

Nancy: Oh. Well, not really.

Alex: I think it is eye-catching; it became a popular design after the XYZ artist first wore them on a stage performance. You know them, don’t you?

Nancy: I’ve only heard about them. They don’t really catch my fancy.

Alex: Oh. Wow. I personally think they’re wonderful. So who’s your favourite artist? 

Nancy: I think I prefer the AB genre of music, so it’s ABC artist for me.

Alex: Great! I heard they are amazing, too. I have a neighbour who plays their full playlist every Saturday whenever they are at home. Music, to me, is a beautiful art. I love the creativity it births. Do you have any other hobbies of interest?

Nancy: Hobbies… well… I love taking photographs; I write a bit. 

Alex: You do?

Nancy: Yeah, I write for a blog. A healthy lifestyle blog. But that’s not so often; about once or twice a month. 

Alex: Amazing! You seem to have your passions at your fingertips. I write, too, and I love the fashion industry. I may consider applying as a writer on some fashion blogs from next month. And of course! What’s fashion without good photographs to show your creativity? I bet you wouldn’t say no to teaching me about taking quality photographs, would you?

Nancy: (Laughing).

Alex: You post your works on a portfolio? Or on social media?

Nancy: Yeah, instagram.

Alex: I would love to see your creativity in photography. May I have your IG handle?

Nancy: Yeah, check me out at… 

Alex: It’s wonderful talking with you. I’m Alex by the way, and you’re?

Nancy: Nancy.

Alex: I’d have to go now, hope to see you again. Thanks for your time; I appreciate it.

Notice how Alex made the conversation flow by asking questions, stating briefly his view then asking further questions.

However, care should be taken to avoid entering interview mode as it can make the person quite uncomfortable. And you wouldn’t want the person you’re speaking with to become all tensed and overly cautious of you.

  1. Ask for advice 

Show them that their opinion matters and that you care to listen to it. Pick out a problem in your life and ask them for advice. You can generalize the problem if you don’t find it comfortable personalizing it. 

For example, you could ask:

“What do you think about an employee speaking to their boss about a colleague who harasses them?” if you experience or know someone who experienced a similar case. 

Try to listen attentively to their viewpoint but still analyze their idea afterwards before taking any major actions on it.

  1. Appreciate their time

As you round off the conversation, let them know that you value spending time with them and that you are grateful they chose to spend some time with you. Leave them feeling positive and maybe even eager to see you, again.

Note how, in the dialogue above, Alex ended his conversation with a thank you. That would make Nancy feel appreciated and valued. Who doesn’t want to feel that way?

A striking conclusion

Starting a conversation with people we are not so familiar with can be difficult for many. However, when you mentally kick out your fear of being rejected or embarrassed, when you show receptiveness, respect their values and genuinely show your interest in meeting with them, then speaking to them would be as easy as eating noodles with a knife fork. 😎

Action plans for Smarter Thunders

  1. Prep your mind before meeting with the person. Remind yourself that they are as human as you are. Mentally inform yourself that they might act cold or switch to a who-is-this-stranger defence mode at first. But after a few seconds, they’d want to listen to what you’re saying or asking.
  1. Watch your gestures: 
  • Are you smiling or showing your frustrations through your frown?
  • Are you expressing yourself with your palm or folding up like you’re hiding something?
  • Are you really listening to them while they talk or fingering your phone?
  • Do you often nod to show agreement and encouragement as they speak or do you interrupt with a scary blank stare?
  1. You only get better with practice. No practice, no improvement. So your action plan is to go out and speak with someone new. Simple. Try the a-different-person-a-day challenge (Well, if not every day, make it at least three times a week). Choose a colleague, coursemate, someone from your place of worship or a neighbour, for example, that you just greet or barely speak with and start a conversation with them. Tip: find a common interest you both have and build up from there.
  1. Reward yourself with a favourite snack or meal, a movie episode, a visit to a friend’s or an interesting novel anytime you have a better-than-average performance at starting a conversation at the end of the week. This motivates you to do more and also get better at starting a conversation as well.
  1. Share this article with AT LEAST FIVE 👋 people you know that would strike⚡ their world 🌍 smarter 🧠 and become better 📈 with this info. Trust me, you know someone who needs this.

BE AN ACTIVE LISTENER; BE A BETTER PERSON 

Photo credit: http://www.activated-europe.com

Sandra sat close to me on the bus. She had this youthfulness in her slender body but her pretty face looked like it was born five years before her body — stress, I thought. She constantly changed her posture from head-on-hand to hand-on-head. I could tell she wasn’t comfortable at least. 

“This country is so terrible,” she had murmured, “everything! Everyone!”

People gave her some free seconds’ worth of gaze then returned their eyes to whatever they were doing.

I asked her why she said so — well not that I didn’t know that the country was in a quite difficult state — I wanted to know why she said so; she sounded so broken. 

I listened to her talk about how she was planning to flee the country since it was becoming increasingly unbearable. She spoke to me about her PhD degree which had not even been able to secure her a job! 

My phone rang. Mum. I ended the call, placed it in silent mode and stabbed my left pocket with it — I planned to call my mum back later on. I apologized for the interruption and pleaded that she proceeded with what she was saying. Sandra spoke about her family, and the expectations her parents had of her as the only child. She went deeper into her relationship. She said she’d had three female children for a pilot who’d promised to marry her. She didn’t know he’d even had a family elsewhere. Sandra told me that she wanted to run amok when she discovered; it made her connect the dots on why they kept making babies yet he had to be “reminded” at every visit that they should get married. She spoke about how tough it was to take care of three kids as a single mother. She talked about how she plied from washing dishes at a local restaurant, 9 am to 3 pm, to working the night shift at a biscuit factory two bus stops away from her residence, from 8 pm till 3 am. She said her mother took care of the kids while she was away at work.

I kept on listening without yielding to the desire to interrupt or stuff her with “helpful” advice. I wanted her to flow. I didn’t want to distract her. I could feel her releasing her age-long bottled-up problems. And I knew giving her my rapt attention would make her feel better afterwards.

Sadly, in the noisy world we live in, silence is a recognized alien. Familiar yet foreign. Society has gradually programmed us to always speak. The quiet ones among us are seen as weak, unresponsive or of little value. We have two ears and a single mouth, yet we act as though our mouth was twice the number of our ears — speaking nearly more than we would listen. 

Photo credit: http://www.singjupost.com

In a TED talk, William Ury gave an account of how listening, without interrupting, to the President of Venezuela made the then-president, Hugo Chavez, eager to ask for advice and hear him out, too. He made it known that listening actively brings out the human nature in the speaking party.

Benefits of Listening

What does listening actively to someone do for them?

  1. It lightens their accumulated burden.
  1. It helps them build trust in you.
  1. It makes them depend on you for possible solutions or referrals to solutions you may offer.
  1. They become emotionally happy with you. Listening makes them associate positive emotions with you.

The benefits are not limited to just the pleasure of the speaking party. As a listener, you have some things to take away:

  1. A good listener builds stronger bonds with their speakers than many others would.
  1. In-depth ideas and perspectives can only be revealed to sensitive and attentive ears.
  1. Emotional healing is felt in varying degrees in the speaker and the listener as well.
  1. One who is an active listener builds one’s relevance in people’s minds.
  1. A clearer understanding of the situation discussed is a lot of a good listener.
  1. Finally, a good listener is more likeable.
Photo credit: http://www.spunout.ie

Knowing these benefits which your active listening reveals, how then can we listen more effectively?

  1. Try to focus on what the person is saying rather than what reply you wish to give.
  1. Intentionally put off distractions: your devices, an unconscious repeated activity you’re doing — tapping on the table, playing with some handy objects.
  1. Show gestures that tell you’re following. A nod, uttering a yeah, an I-get-you, an okay, an Uh-huh, for example, are simple ways to encourage the speaker to continue talking; it subconsciously tells the person that you are following.
  1. Ask questions for clarity. Get to know if what you think they said is actually what they meant to say.
  1. Wait for the person to finish speaking before you chirp in what you have to say. Apply the 3:1 rule of their speaking vs your speaking ratio. On average, let them speak three times more than you should speak. Remember, it’s their talk, not a timed question and answer session.

Striking Conclusion

Communication involves both speaking and listening, yet we often starve the latter. This decreases the value of our communication generally. 

We can deliberately improve our listening skills by showing we care to listen, maintaining good eye contact while resisting distractions, showing affirmative responses to encourage them to go on, and asking questions only after they have finished delivering an idea rather than cutting them during their speech.

Actively listening builds bonds, improves relationship, reliability and trust with the speaking party. It is one of the most vital skills in all forms of dialogue.

Action Plans For Smarter Thunders

  1. Try putting away your phone while listening and putting off notifications or turning down the volume. Never, I repeat, never pick up a call when a person is still speaking with you. It passes a message that you’re rude or whatever the person is saying is not that important. This may even hurt their feelings the most. If, however, you must pick up the call, you should do so with respect: raise a finger to them and tell them, “please, excuse me,” and when you finish the call, apologize for the necessary interruption and plead that they continue speaking. Show some manners to someone who is pouring his or her heart out to you.
  1. Resist the urge to give your advice or suggestions while the person is still speaking. Ensure the person has slowed down to an end before you do so. Be conscious of this. Most people interject at the worst of times. Avoid that habit.
  1. When you want to say something, try rephrasing or summarizing what you think they said and wait for them to ascertain if that’s the idea they wanted to pass or that you misunderstood them. Do this as often as possible before giving your reply or comment to ensure total understanding and a sound flow of thought.
  1. Avoid changing the topic of what they’re trying to pass across; be smart when you want to make a relation to something familiar you’ve witnessed. Don’t go off track discussing something that is not even in the context of what your speaker is delivering. You can only get better at this when you adjust your focus from what you want to say next, to what they are currently saying. And remember, no judging. No breathing being is perfect. Consider them strong enough to even open up to someone and not the other way around. 
  1. Share this article with AT LEAST FIVE 👋 persons you wish would read this — someone you know would strike⚡ their world 🌍 smarter 🧠 with this info.

FEAR: THE CRIPPLING SHADOW

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I laugh at myself now that I remember: I was sickly scared of the dark. Locking me in a dark room, when I was barely ten, would evaporate any iota of stubbornness or rudeness I had in me. 

I would promise earnestly, tears flowing from the creak of my soul, that I wouldn’t commit that crime again — even if I had earlier never planned to stop. 

I couldn’t bear it: the visionless void, the dark dancing curtains, the self-opening wardrobe door and the windswept window panels, the strange figures my brain cooked up from hanging clothes and a chair that would suddenly open its fusiform glittering-black eyes to me as if it would eat me up for all my sins — especially farting unapologetically on it. 

I imagined a lot, sincerely. I should have screamed but I thought it would only wake the creatures of the dark up — the ones I thought hid underneath the bed. It really was an experience!

Today, I can even walk the road at late hours and may even be more occupied by what I’d cook for dinner than by how violently the shrubs are waving at me. 

This made me stop and think: since none of the thoughts I cooked up in my mind actually happened while I was young, why was I incessantly scared?

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F.E.A.R., Zig Ziglar defines, is a False Evidence Appearing Real. I think I find this acronym strikingly smart, don’t you?

Most times, the object of our fear doesn’t actualize. It remains a black balloon with white paintings of zig zags for teeth and two large fullstops for its eyes — it seems like the danger would consume us. But they’re just dust barely landing on the surface of reality. 

Why We Fear

Of and on its own, fear is not entirely a bad thing. In fact, it is part of our emotional build up. 

Somehow, we should just be grateful for this emotion. Just imagine what would have become of us if we met a wild animal, say a Tiger, and we just stood there thinking we would win it in an eye-staring competition.

In these two scenarios, we can appreciate the impact fear has in saving our lives. 

Or think with me for a moment. We hear a couple of random gunshots and we just keep walking at the road center like we wore a headset playing High Hopes by Panic at the Disco (that could, probably, be the last song we’d listen to by the way). 

The problem regarding fear, however, is letting it take “total” control of our being. Allowing it to prevent us from doing things that would benefit us in the future or from making wise decisions; these are, factually, the perils of fear.

What We Fear… 

Most often, our fears are rooted in the experiences we’ve had in the past. 

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We’re shocked by electricity, we may soon become increasingly scared of naked wires.

We got hit or nearly hit by a vehicle and any four-wheeler becomes a suspect.

We get laughed at for trying something and we detest doing something out of the norm and get stuck in the seashell of mediocrity.

Generally, anything that has either posed a threat or discomfort to the normal stands as an event or thing worth fearing.

This is one reason why what we fear is relative. Your younger sibling might cringe at the sight of a cat and you might think they don’t value cutie cats while you might jump out of your skin when a cockroach takes a random flight around you.

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… And How It Cripples Us

  • It hinders our attaining our best.
  • It can barricade the bridge we ought to cross to make new friends or new connections.
  • It gets us stuck in a mundane routine — even when our hearts cry to differ!
  • It cracks the code of trust.
  • It makes us unnecessarily tense for good-for-nothing reasons at events.

  • Fear can help us successfully make wrong decisions.

(Imagine you’re sitting at the edge of a flat roof, legs dangling, sun smiling, while you sip a Jamaican cocktail. Then suddenly, a knife’s tip dances at the back of your neck. Your focus wouldn’t be on the savory taste of the drink again, that I’m pretty sure of).

What We Can Do to Overcome Fear 

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We can’t eliminate fear from our being, totally. However, we can get rid of its negative and crippling impacts. Here are what you can do about it:

  1. Face it

Remember the story about my fear of the dark I showed you earlier? 

If you noticed, I didn’t give you the middle part of the story — the transition from the fearful me to the why-was-I-even-scared-back-then me. 

So here’s the middle piece of the story:

I was so tired of fidgeting when told to go to the dark room as a punishment. I didn’t like it at all. And so, one day, while my whole family laughed at whatever the television was displaying, I took with me a torch light, went to the dark room and waited. 

Whenever the darkness made me cringe, I would put on the torch and get relieved that the funny looking clothes on the wardrobe were just… clothes. 

I did this on my own repeatedly until I didn’t need the torch light anymore. 

And yes, my parents sending me to stay in the dark didn’t really scare me as much. And soon after they realized that it had no effect on me anymore.

  1. Imagine the worse
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I went to submit an assignment late to my lecturer shortly after the deadline. 

I went to the office and scattered around the door were fellow defaulters waiting for the door to miraculously open up so they could enter — if they had the liver to do so.

I somehow cooked up the worst that could happen: a slap for my unseriousness, total ignorance, a roaring yell to march out of his office. 

Then I said to myself, “As long as death is not on the likely-to-happen list, there’s no crime trying. I took a deep breath in — probably as heavy as a liter of water in my lungs — then I respectfully walked in. 

Those outside wondered why I took so long; they probably cooked up a worse case scenario in their heads.

I came out smiling without my paper on my hands — after some wordy chastisements, he collected my assignment. 

I was relieved; even a fragment of the worst didn’t occur, but it had tamed and belittled my fear beforehand.

  1. After you face a fear, reward yourself for not chickening out.
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This strategy works so well in reinforcing the fact that you have overcome a fear and you can still relive that victory. 

For example if you have a fear of asking or answering a question in your Board meeting, lecture hall or any other form of meetings, trick your brain into taking a chance to ask that question. 

Such rewards as dropping by your favorite restaurant  and treating your stomach with greatness, or visiting a long time friend or maybe watching an episode of your favorite series. 

Remember the purpose of the reward and don’t overindulge in it that it becomes a mundane or regular habit. Make it a special gift for facing your fears.

Striking a Conclusion… 

Fear is not totally an enemy. It’s part of what makes us humans — our emotions. 

However when it presents itself in overdose it can be a limiting factor to our growth and progress. This is why it is essential that we learn to tame it.

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Action plans for smarter thunders.

  1. Make a list of 5 things your fear has hindered you from achieving.
  1. Plan out how you can hinder the hindrances 

(If it’s public speaking, for instance, consider if you need to take a practical course on it to learn how to better cope with stage fright. Or do you need to practice on an “audience-less” stage first?)

  1. Use the what’s-the-worst-that-can-happen question to confront your fears and visualize the worst as something that you can still survive with. 

That moment when you want to walk into your superior’s office to make a request, just ask yourself: “what’s the worst that can happen?”

It could improve your confidence since you’ve visualized the worst already — it wouldn’t be a fear of the unknown. 

Most times, that worst, that we so fear, do not even actualize.

  1. Develop a reward system for overcoming your fears. 

With your list of your fears, decide on which ones to start acting on now and then, by the side, write a reward for acting on it regardless of the outcome — as long as you just act on that fear and face it.

  1. Share this article with AT LEAST FIVE 👋 persons you wish would read this — someone you know would strike⚡ their world 🌍 smarter 🧠 with this info.

Strike your world smarter.

HOW THIN IS YOUR SELF-ESTEEM?

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Even I could have believed that Peggy had stopped breathing. She looked at Francis in the eye, looked away, then returned her gaze to the cuff she had fastened to his right arm. 

“I can’t do this,” she peeled the gray clothing from his arm and folded it back into the analogue mercury blood pressure machine. 

I called her over to a corner and asked her why she wasn’t able to take his blood pressure. I reminded her that she was going to be a doctor and a sound practice of measuring the blood pressure of patients was a basic skill she needed to have in the clinic. This event was during one of our Physiology practicals some time ago and virtually everyone was just learning the practice for the first time. I asked her to practice it on me — she was more familiar with me than she was with Francis — and she was able to get it right once. Then I wondered, “what happened earlier?”

photo credit: EnkiRelations.com

Self-esteem is basically the general perception of one’s worth or value. It presents itself to varying degrees in everyone. A couple of people have a medium sized esteem, some have a thick self-esteem, many others are saddled with a worrisomely malnourished or thin self-esteem.

This variation could be influenced by any or a combo of the following factors:

Parental influence, the role one plays among one’s peers, quality and quantity of personal accomplishment, Temperament, level of openness or extroversion, mindset towards setbacks and the kind of information we tell and feed ourselves with.

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Ways a thin self-esteem strikes you down?

  1. A thin or malnourished self-esteem makes you give up even before you try.
  2. It makes you unnecessarily anxious to do what you normally can do.
  3. It weakens your communication and interpersonal skills.
  4. It denies you the opportunities to do something new, to be a new you.
  5. It can make people take advantage of you.
  6. It may lead to self hate or a sprouting disdain for your overall being.
  7. A thin self-esteem makes you compare yourself unhealthily with others — an act that only helps in vanishing the only unique “you” the earth can ever have.
  8. A thinner-than-normal self-esteem has also been recorded to be a cause of unproductivity and procrastination.
  9. It could lead to depression and other mental health issues.

So now that we know how detrimental a low or malnourished self-esteem can be to you, it’s time we strike it up.

How To Fatten Your Esteem

  1. Write out your fears

There are benefits of writing things out on paper. It basically takes abstract or vague concepts from your mind and teleports them into a solid, less vague format. It works for two reasons: it is easier to fight or tackle what you can see physically than in the ungoverned sphere of your imagination. Secondly, it seems like you’ve moved the problem from your delicate head to a poor, undeserving paper (it’s not cruelty, is it?). 

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When I pen out my fears on paper, I see exactly what it is that bothers me and I can make more strategic plans to tackle it. For example, if I bubble up symptoms of a low self-esteem when talking to beautiful ladies, I could write out: 

I have a fear of talking to beautiful ladies. What can I do about this? 

This makes me, in a more conscious manner, seek a solution for one of the root causes of my low self-esteem.

  1. Practice the small-wins effect
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Our brain releases a hormone called Dopamine when we accomplish a task. Anything ranging from winning a competition to simply preparing a dish (without burning it), creates a sense of accomplishment in the same brain center. We learn in progression. And when we believe that we can do something well, we can take the challenge of giving the next step a chance. 

When we discovered that we were able to write just a paragraph or a page of a book, we celebrated the small win. You find that you have mastered the swing of a racket in tennis without hitting the ball higher than the fence that encapsulates the court, celebrate it. You were able to do ten more push ups than what you did yesterday, give yourself a thumbs up. 

Progress: that’s the key. 

And in no time, watching yourself improve would find a way to enhance your self-esteem especially in those areas of your life and even beyond.

  1. Create a deck of My-Value Cards. 
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Basically, a value card should state the achievement you’ve had in the previous years, months or weeks.

It is true that we should not dwell on glories in the catalog called “past”. However, if utilized well, we could use them as a boost to encourage us with the great feats we’ve accomplished earlier. This helps us instill in our minds that we are the same person, if not better, who made those acts come to pass. And that we can still repeat such success even at a higher level. This reinforces our can-do-it mindset and inversely affects our fears and self doubts.

A couple of value cards can be used to help us achieve this especially while in transit. 

  1. Use Anki cards to motivate you

Anki can be used for more than just actively recalling what you study. It can be used to ask glory recall questions. You can use it to ask yourself questions like: 

  • What happened to your team on the 17th of October 2021? And your response could be: I came up with an idea that gave us an advantage over our opponents. 
  • What did mum say when I prepared Succotash for her? 

She said it was amazing! (My cooking was amazing!!)

  1. Dare to do a new activity.
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Not only are you going to get proud of your newly acquired skills, you’d also develop a level of dominance in a new and unfamiliar niche.

Try joining a discussion group (it could be a study group, research team, or something else) with the mindset of speaking among a small group — a way to develop your public speaking skills. Pick up the tennis sport, or a fine art class — helps develop your fine hand motor skills for surgery or playing a musical instrument, for example, hence improving your self esteem in those areas.

  1. Notice the negativity and fight it out.
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When we hear derogatory thoughts about ourselves, we should take note of it so we can immediately tackle it. When we tell ourselves negative statements or descriptions we slowly, but certainly, reinforce them into our lives. This can do nothing but degrade our self-esteem overtime.

Always think up at least one strong point to counteract negative thoughts such as:

  • You’re not as smart as… 
  • I can never be a sound public speaker… 
  • I am as poor as… 
  • I can never… 
  • I am a failure at… 
  • I always mess up at… 
  • I will never amount to anything good… 

Find strong positive thoughts to fight them out of your mind. Hold firm to the good side of events that occurred and see them as an opportunity to be better not as an assessment of how incapable you think you are.

In a Striking Conclusion

Somehow, external factors may rock your boat so hard. But yielding (or not yielding) to the storm is wholly dependent on you. Your self-esteem should never be left to the society to drain it till it becomes malnourished. You have total control. You can improve your esteem and guide it from further detriment. At this point, I believe, you’re certainly a smarter thunder at this and there’s no backflip to the old low-self-esteem bridge. You’re a smarter thunder; strike your world with a better version of you.

Action plans for smarter thunders

  1. Write out a list of 10 things you like about yourself. They’re so much more; we just don’t want to overstress you. But trust me, 10 things about your gifts and talents, what you have, who you have, your kind acts and how unique you are 

(You write a copy for your own keep and leave it in the comments below as well).

  1. Try something new this week. Especially something not so difficult ( really easy); see how you conquer that world. Think Arts, Reading, Charity works, Sport, speaking to people you barely talk to, think cooking… Think about anything (positive, however)! 
  1. Work on your posture: Set a mini-alarm, every couple of hours maybe, to remind you to stop slouching, seriously! Remember the trio: Head’s high, shoulder sideways, and a graceful gaze.

  1. Create your deck of value cards.

First take out 10 minutes to brainstorm and write out a list of at least 10 accomplishments you’ve had in the past 1 to 3 years. Next, cut out square cards (different colors of cardboard could be fun) and write down each accomplishment on each card. This should be with the intention to ginger your self-esteem, spurring you to be and do more.

Remember, no accomplishment is too basic.

  1. Share this article to help others become a smarter thunder like you’re now. (You can check out our about page to know why sharing this post really matters).

How The Pygmalion Effect Affects You

Winifred never felt like a student. She struggled to stay within the average range for most courses. Then it happened one day, their lecturer got transferred and another had to replace the position.

His name was professor Sam E. He had the friendliness that Winifred had never expected from any lecturer. Somehow he asked a simple question and had chosen her to answer the question. 

Winifred was not surprised that she knew the answer; it was a most basic question — she expected the smart guys to answer it even in their deep sleep. However, to the professor, she was a sound student.

Within the lecture period, he had asked about eleven questions in the class and Winifred was the highest shareholder.

Then the professor did something that would change Winifred’s life forever. He asked, “What’s your name, Miss brilliant?”

Winifred head spun. 

Faster than when her brother told her that she had a talent for pacifying a crying baby.

She had never been referred to as “brilliant”. 

Never. 

Yet a professor was the first to tell her that.

Yeah, it’s just a regular word, I know, but for someone who had only been shot arrows of mockery describing how useless her brain was, it was a golden word.

Throughout the rest of the lecture, Winifred maintained a fairly laser focus. 

At the end of her classes, Winfred went home to begin a new habit. She would attempt to read up a couple of paragraphs in her textbook or watch some YouTube videos on the topic professor Sam would take in his next lecture. 

She began to gain confidence in her department and within just a year, Winifred had gained a lionshare of the top five students and she miraculously maintained that level of excellence till she graduated. 

The professor had high expectations of Winifred and she had unconsciously made the effort to live up to the expectation. 

That’s what psychologists call the Pygmalion effect.

In a research done by Robert Rosenthal in 1964 to determine if truly high expectations result in a positive difference in performance, he divided a group of lab scientists into two, giving them lab rats to train to get through a maze. In the first group, he told them that they had super smart rats and in the other group, he mentioned that their lab rats were dull and probably won’t perform well. 

At the end of the experiment, Rosenthal discovered that the first group who had been told that their rats were smart actually performed much better than the groups who had been convinced that their rats were brainless meatbags. 

Surprisingly, Rosenthal made it known that there was no special thing about any group of the rats. He said that they were regular lab rats randomly distributed to either group. Robert Rosenthal concluded that the rats in the first group had performed better at the maze experiment because their trainers had been prepped to think that they were actually smart and so, they did everything possible to ensure that the activities of the rat matched their expectations. On the other hand, the people who handled the “dull rats” group probably didn’t sweat it as much since they had assumed that those rats were already dull and so much couldn’t be done to change that.

Four years later, Robert Rosenthal partnered with Lonore Jacobson to conduct the study on children in the educational system. First, they made sure they all did an IQ test before the experiment. 

Next, they got a list of names of members of a class and marked out random names as intelligent bloomers. The list was then given to a teacher who taught them for a time. The teacher had high expectations of the intellectual bloomers and so along the line, they became as expected. 

At the end of this experiment, the children were given the same IQ test they had done earlier and those tagged as intelligent, on average, did way better than the others who were not tagged as intelligent. 

From the study, Robert Rosenthal and Lonore Jacobson came to a conclusion that regardless of the previous view the students had of themselves, their teacher’s view of them altered their effort to meet the expectation of their teacher.

In a different shade of thunder, there is in fact an opposite of the Pygmalion effect.

This is called the Golem effect. The Golem effect is described as when someone has low (or negative) expectations of an individual and so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for the individual and so never performs much or performs negatively.

For example, a person who has been told by a fellow athlete, for instance, that he can never run a 400 meter race would, in a short time, believe it and actually see his attaining it as impossible — especially when he finds himself panting heavily after jogging a few feets. He believes in the notion of the athlete and so doesn’t make the extra effort to try to attain that feat.

In a singing group for instance, a singer could be told that they are just not as talented as another person and so, slowly, those words sink and then they begin to percieve a “self-decided truth” in such statement and whenever they make a mistake they blame it on their lack of talent and may even get to the point when they lack enthusiasm and eventually give up saying, “Singing is not my thing.”

This psychological theory has been used in many fields of life and has either revamped or rubbished the expected actions of students, athletes, colleagues, employees, children and peers in what they do.

The striking Downside

  • Mostly targeted at only a few neglecting or indirectly downsizing the others in a particular organization, team or house.

The striking Upside

  • It can be used to boost the performance of people who hitherto haven’t expected much from themselves.

The Thunder Conclusion

  • The Pygmalion effect has been and can be used to enhance the performance of people. When we set high expectations for others, we tend to raise the bar and limits to what they can achieve. This allows them to make the extra effort to get to or even surpass such marks or limits in their head.
  • The Golem effect on the other hand, is derogatory to performance enhancement. What you say or do to others is more powerful than you think. 

To-dos for Thunders:

  1. Apply the Pygmalion effect in your life and the life of those you love.

Action plan

  1. Take about 10 minutes to reflect on the following:
  • How has the Pygmalion effect influenced your growing up? At home? In your school? Work places?
  • Do you think the expectations of someone you know has affected you in the past?
  • Is there any area in your life that you’ve been doubted and unconsciously shown low expectations in your field?
  1. Reflect on whether you have consciously or unconsciously been a support or a suppressant to the people around or under you.
  1. Have you placed anyone more special at the expense of others? Do you think it has been the reason they are in the vicious circle of your favouritism?
  1. Take out a pen and write down three derogatory words or statements that you have said to others, see how it can possibly ruin their lives and make an effort to stop it.

5. Share this post with your friends, family and maybe your boss so they can be aware of this fact.