Handling the Pressures of the Holiday Season

It has been said, and sung, many times and many ways, that this, the Holiday Season, is the most wonderful time of the year. Unfortunately, for some it’s not so wonderful. They may associate the holidays with the loss of a loved one. They may see the holidays as an “obligation” that requires them to spend time doing things with people they would rather not be around. And they may think of the holidays as a time they “have to” spend money they just don’t have.

It’s good for us to realize that just because this is the most wonderful time of the year for most people, not everyone feels that way. Don’t try to force your joy onto someone who just isn’t into it. But even for those of us who truly love this time of year there are “pressures” that can build up that rob us of the joy of the season.

Handling those pressures can be challenging. They often involves a mix of social, financial, personal stressors and more. So here are a few strategies to help make sure The Grinch doesn’t get ahold of your holiday spirit.

• Set Realistic Expectations: Be realistic about what you can accomplish and what you expect from others. Understand that not everything will be perfect, and that’s okay.

• Budget Wisely: Create a budget for holiday spending and stick to it. Financial stress can be a significant pressure during the holidays, so planning ahead can help alleviate this.

• Plan Ahead: Start planning early to avoid last-minute stress. This includes gift shopping, meal preparation, and travel arrangements.

• Learn to Say No: It’s okay to decline invitations or additional responsibilities if you feel overwhelmed. Focus on what is most important to you and your well-being.

• Prioritize Self-Care: Take care of yourself physically and mentally. Get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, and make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation.

• Delegate Tasks: Don’t be afraid to ask for help or delegate responsibilities. You don’t have to do everything on your own.

• Focus on the Meaning of the Holidays: Remember the true meaning of the holidays. It’s not just about material gifts but also about spending quality time with loved ones and expressing gratitude.

• Create Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries to protect your time and energy. This may involve limiting the number of commitments or politely declining certain invitations.

• Celebrate in a Way that Works for You: Tailor your holiday celebrations to match your preferences and values. It’s okay to break from tradition if it means reducing stress.

• Connect with Others: Reach out to friends and family for support. Share your feelings and concerns, and don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed.

• Learn to Let Go: Understand that not everything will go as planned, and that’s okay. Learn to let go of perfectionism and focus on enjoying the moment.

• Create Meaningful Traditions: Establish traditions that bring you joy and fulfillment. These can be simple activities that align with your values.

• Seek Professional Help if Needed: If the holiday pressures become overwhelming, consider seeking the support of a mental health professional. They can provide guidance and coping strategies.

For many of us, but not all, the holiday season is about joy, connection, and celebration. By prioritizing your well-being and being intentional in your choices, you can navigate the pressures more effectively and perhaps bring a little joy to those who struggle this time of year too.

How to Be More Patient

I was going to title this post how to be more patient when dealing with lazy, slow minded, uncaring people who hate their job and want you to hate dealing with them too. But the title seemed a little long. I still might have used that title but I wasn’t sure anyone would have the patience to read the whole thing.

We live in an incredibly fast changing world. I’m not sure everyone agrees that all those changes are helpful. Dealing with ChatBots, PhoneBots or people who are robotic in how they “help” us requires tremendous patience. We see signs in restaurants asking us not to yell at the poor souls who actually showed up for work. That would seem to indicate that many customers don’t have the patience required to wait an hour or two for dinner.

It seems our patience in constantly being tested. And it feels like we’re failing the test way too often. But being more patient is a valuable skill. One that can contribute to better relationships, reduced stress, and improved decision-making. So here some strategies to help you cultivate patience in your life.

• Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness involves staying present and fully engaging with the current moment. By focusing on the present rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, you can reduce feelings of impatience.

• Set Realistic Expectations: Unrealistic expectations often lead to impatience. Assess situations realistically and set achievable goals. Understand that not everything can happen instantly or according to your desired timeline.

• Understand the Importance of Patience: Reflect on the benefits of patience. Consider how impatience may negatively impact your well-being or relationships. Understanding the importance of patience can motivate you to develop this skill.

• Take a Deep Breath: When faced with a challenging situation, take a moment to breathe deeply. Deep breathing can help calm your nervous system and give you the space to think more clearly before reacting impulsively.

• Practice Empathy: Put yourself in the shoes of others. Understanding different perspectives and appreciating the challenges others may be facing can increase your tolerance and patience.

• Develop a Positive Outlook: Cultivate a positive mindset. Instead of focusing on what’s going wrong or what you lack, look for the positive aspects of a situation. This shift in perspective can make waiting more bearable.

• Distract Yourself: Engage in activities that distract you from the source of your impatience. This could be reading a book, listening to music, or doing something enjoyable to pass the time.

• Learn from Waiting: Use waiting periods as an opportunity for personal growth. Whether it’s waiting in line or for a response, consider it a chance to practice patience and self-control.

• Practice Delayed Gratification: Train yourself to wait for rewards. Delayed gratification involves resisting the temptation for immediate rewards in favor of larger, more meaningful outcomes.

• Communicate Effectively: If you’re feeling impatient in a situation, communicate your feelings calmly and assertively. Expressing your emotions can help prevent frustration from building up.

• Set Goals and Break Them Down: Break larger goals into smaller, more manageable tasks. This can make the overall process seem less overwhelming and help you appreciate progress along the way.

• Reflect and Learn: After a challenging situation, reflect on how you handled it. Identify what triggered impatience and consider alternative ways to respond in the future. Learning from experiences can contribute to personal growth.

Developing patience is a gradual process, and it’s okay to encounter setbacks along the way. Always remember that your “emergency” isn’t necessary the other person’s emergency too. Be kind to yourself as you work on cultivating this valuable skill. You’ll be glad you did.

How to Resolve Conflicts Without Going Nuclear

Conflicts are a part of life. To resolve conflicts without losing friends, co-workers, or even family, you need to be willing to find solutions that benefit everyone. If your goal is simply to “win” an argument or overpower the person you’re in conflict with then you’ve lost before you even started.

To resolve conflicts well, you need good communication skills, empathy, and a sincere desire for real solutions. Here’s a few ideas to help you navigate and resolve conflicts without resorting to the nuclear option of just blowing the person off forever.

• Stay Calm: Before addressing the issue, take a moment to calm yourself. Emotional reactions can escalate conflicts. Nothing that’s been said has ever been unsaid so make certain you mean exactly what you say.

• Define the Issue: Identify the specific problem or issue causing the conflict. Avoid making it personal and focus on the behavior or situation. “Blame” has never resolved a conflict, remember that and you’ll have a chance at a positive outcome.

• Understand Perspectives: Listen actively to the concerns and perspectives of all parties involved. Seek to understand their point of view, even if you disagree. Other people see the world through their “life lens” which is made up of their experiences. If your life experiences were the same as theirs you wouldn’t have a conflict to begin with. Value their experiences as much as your own and it will become easier to see their point of view.

• Communicate Effectively: Use “I” statements to express your feelings and concerns without blaming others. For example, say “I feel” instead of “You always” to avoid accusations.

• Find Common Ground: Identify areas where you and the other party agree. This helps create a foundation for finding a resolution.

• Explore Solutions Together: Brainstorm possible solutions collaboratively. Encourage everyone involved to contribute ideas without being judgmental. But here’s the challenge, you need to exercise good judgment. But to do that you’ll first need to understand that there is a difference between being judgmental and making judgments. When you work to truly understand the other person’s point of view you’ll be far less judgmental. That will lead directly to having better judgement.

• Evaluate and Select Solutions: Assess the pros and cons of each solution. Choose an option that addresses the concerns of all parties to the best extent possible.

• Implement the Solution: Put the chosen solution into action. Clearly communicate the steps to be taken and ensure that everyone is on board with the plan.

• Follow Up: After implementing the solution, follow up with all parties involved to see how well it’s working. Make adjustments if necessary.

• Seek Mediation: If the conflict persists, consider involving a neutral third party to mediate. This person can provide an objective perspective and help guide the conversation toward resolution.

• Learn from the Conflict: Reflect on the conflict and the resolution process. Consider what could be done differently in the future to prevent similar issues.

• Build Positive Relationships: Focus on rebuilding or strengthening relationships after the conflict. Emphasize common goals and shared interests.

Conflicts are a natural part of human interaction, and resolving them effectively can lead to stronger relationships and a more positive work or personal environment. Running from conflicts or trying to avoid them altogether will not solve them. They simply simmer under the surface until they come to a boil. At that point that may be too hot for anyone to handle.

To avoid this, take action to solve conflicts early. As a result, you’ll have fewer conflicts overall.

How to Make a Difference

President John Kennedy said “Everyone can make a difference and everyone should try.” That’s a very true statement, all of us can make a difference, we just need to decide what kind of differences we want to make.

I don’t think I can change the world but I know I can help change the world for the people I help. So I try to make a difference by helping other people be the best version of themselves that they can be.

Making a difference can take many forms, and the impact one person can have varies depending on the context and scale of their actions. The higher you are in your organization the easier it may be to make a difference. If you’re in a position of leadership in an organization or perhaps government you might find more opportunity to be a difference maker. But make no mistake about this absolute fact: no matter where you are in life, no matter your place in an organizational hierarchy, no matter your level of education or financial situation, YOU can make a difference in the lives of other people. You only need to care enough to do it.

So, if you’re looking to make a difference today and in the future here are some general steps and principles that you can follow to make a positive difference.

• Define Your Values and Passion: Understand what matters to you and what issues you are passionate about. This could be related to social justice, environmental issues, education, healthcare, or any other cause.

• Educate Yourself: Learn about the issues you care about. Stay informed through reputable sources, research, and conversations with experts. Understanding the root causes and complexities of a problem is crucial for effective action.

• Start Locally: Making a difference doesn’t always require grand gestures. Look for opportunities in your local community. Volunteer at local organizations, participate in community events, or support local initiatives.

• Use Your Skills and Talents: Identify your skills and talents and find ways to apply them to the causes you care about. Whether you’re good at organizing events, writing, coding, or any other skill, there’s likely a way to use it for positive change.

• Connect with Like-minded Individuals: Join or create communities that share your values. Collective action often has a greater impact than individual efforts. Working with others allows you to pool resources, share ideas, and amplify your impact.

• Advocate for Change: Speak up about the issues that matter to you. Advocate for change at different levels, whether it’s in your workplace, community, or on a larger scale. Use social media, write articles, or engage in peaceful activism to raise awareness.

• Support Existing Initiatives: There are likely organizations and initiatives already addressing the issues you care about. Support them through donations, volunteering, or spreading the word. This can be an effective way to contribute without having to start something from scratch.

• Lead by Example: Demonstrate the values and behaviors you want to see in the world. Whether it’s practicing sustainability, kindness, or inclusivity, leading by example can inspire others to follow suit.

• Be Adaptable and Persistent: Real change often takes time. Be patient and persistent in your efforts. Adapt your strategies as needed and learn from both successes and failures.

• Educate Others: Share your knowledge and passion with others. Help raise awareness and inspire more people to get involved. Education is a powerful tool for creating change.

The key is to take meaningful and sustainable actions aligned with your values. Making a difference is often a gradual process. But every small effort contributes to positive change over time. Progress doesn’t often happen in leaps and bounds. It often comes from small accomplishments over a sustained period of time. But all progress is progress and a little progress here and a little progress there, can lead to a mighty big difference over time.

How to Give a Sincere Compliment

Have you ever received a compliment from someone and immediately wondered what they were up to? You may be thinking they want something in return. Maybe they are about to ask for a favor. You’re not at all certain the compliment is truly sincere.

Lots of people think they’re giving sincere compliments but a truly sincere compliment has two parts. The compliment itself and the “evidence” that proves it’s sincere. It’s easy to say “nice job” and walk away thinking you’ve just given a compliment. But explaining with some level of detail why you believe the person did a nice job requires some effort.

For instance, if they have just interacted with an upset and challenging customer and the customer ended up being pleased with the outcome it can be very tempting to say “nice work” and let it go at that. But consider adding something like, “nice work, that was very impressive the way you calmly interacted with a very upset person. It could have gone very differently but your caring demeanor really saved the day…and likely the customer. Again, very nice work.”

It’s a little more effort but it makes a very big difference. Specificity is the key. If you can’t be specific you’re leaving the door to doubt open in the mind of the person you’re complimenting.

Here are a few additional ideas to consider to make sure your compliments are received the way you intended.

• Be Genuine: Your sincerity should come from a place of authenticity. Avoid giving compliments just for the sake of it; mean what you say.

• Timing Matters: Choose an appropriate time to give a compliment. It could be in response to a specific action, achievement, or simply as a positive acknowledgment.

• Use Positive Language: Frame your compliment in positive language to convey your admiration. Avoid any negative comparisons or qualifiers. Instead of: “You’re not as bad as others at this, try your skills in this area really stand out.”

• Body Language: Non-verbal cues like eye contact and a genuine smile can enhance the sincerity of your compliment. Make sure your tone of voice aligns with your words.

• Avoid Backhanded Compliments: These are compliments that also contain an insult or criticism. They can be easily misinterpreted and may negate the positive intention. An example of a backhanded compliment might be “You’re surprisingly good at this.”

• Personalize the Compliment: Tailor your compliment to the individual and their unique qualities. This shows that you see and appreciate their individuality. Instead of: “You’re good at your job,” try “I’ve noticed your attention to detail in your work. It really sets you apart.”

• Be Mindful of Cultural Sensitivities: Understand the cultural context and be mindful of cultural differences when giving compliments, as what might be considered appropriate in one culture may not be in another.

The key to a sincere compliment is honesty and thoughtfulness. If you’ve ever given someone a compliment and they looked at you a little cross-eyed you may now know why. By acknowledging specific positive qualities or actions, you not only boost the recipient’s confidence but also strengthen your connection with them. It takes a little effort to turn a simple compliment into an undoubtably sincere compliment, but it’s way more than worth it.

How to be a More Effective Public Speaker

Becoming a better public speaker is a skill that can be developed and refined over time. It takes work but the effort required is worth it in a myriad of ways. Improving your public speaking skills can make you a better communicator, boost your confidence, and help you connect with others.  Here are some tips and strategies to help you become a better public speaker and communicator.

• Practice: The most crucial step in improving your public speaking skills is to practice regularly. Rehearse your presentation multiple times to become more comfortable with the material and your delivery.

• Know your audience: Understand who you will be speaking to and tailor your message to their needs and interests. This will help you connect with your audience on a more personal level.

• Organize your content: Structure your speech or presentation logically, with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. Use transitions to guide your audience through your content.

• Start with a strong opening: Begin your speech with an attention-grabbing introduction. You can use a quote, a story, a surprising fact, or a thought-provoking question to engage your audience from the start.

• Use visual aids: Visual aids, such as slides, can help clarify complex ideas and make your presentation more engaging. Just be sure not to overload your slides with text and avoid reading them word for word. Your slides support your presentation, they are not your presentation. Never turn your back on your audience to read your slides cause when you turn back around they may be gone.

• Practice good body language: Pay attention to your posture, gestures, and facial expressions. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and use your body language to convey confidence and enthusiasm.

• Control your voice: Speak clearly and at a moderate pace. Vary your tone, pitch, and volume to keep your audience’s attention. Avoid speaking too fast or too softly.

• Eliminate filler words: Minimize the use of “um,” “uh,” “like,” and other filler words. Practice pausing instead of using filler words, as this can make your speech sound more confident and polished.

• Know your material: Become an expert on the topic you are speaking about. This will boost your confidence and allow you to handle questions and challenges more effectively. Here’s the reality of public speaking. If you know what you’re talking about you have no need to be nervous. If you don’t know what you’re talking about you have no need to be speaking.

• Engage the audience: Encourage interaction by asking questions, sharing anecdotes, and involving the audience in your presentation. This can make your presentation more interactive and relatable.

• Seek feedback: Record your speeches or presentations and review them to identify areas for improvement. You can also ask for feedback from trusted friends, mentors, or colleagues.

• Learn from others: Watch and learn from skilled public speakers. Analyze their techniques and adapt them to your style.

• Keep learning: Public speaking is a lifelong learning process. Stay updated on effective communication strategies and continually work on enhancing your skills.

Remember that becoming a better public speaker takes time and practice. Don’t get discouraged by occasional setbacks, and keep working on your skills to become a more confident and effective communicator.

Dealing With Sudden Loss

Dealing with sudden loss, such as the loss of a loved one, a job, a relationship, or any other significant change, can be an incredibly challenging and emotionally distressing experience. Coping with sudden loss requires time, self-care, and support.

You need to be careful with your feelings during times of sudden loss. They are capable and convincing liars. After a job loss for instance they may try to convince you that you’re somehow a diminished person. That you are less than you were before. That’s all BS. You matter as much as ever. You make the world better because you’re in it. You bring value to the people in your life and you should never doubt that for a minute.

But suffering any significant loss is tough. There is no doubt about that. Here are some steps and strategies to help you navigate this difficult period.

• Allow yourself to grieve: It’s important to acknowledge your feelings and give yourself permission to grieve. Grief is a natural response to loss, and it’s okay to feel a wide range of emotions, including sadness, anger, guilt, and confusion.

• Seek support: Reach out to friends and family for emotional support. Talking to someone you trust can provide comfort and a sense of connection during this difficult time. You may also consider joining a support group or seeking the help of a therapist or counselor to talk through your feelings. You should know this absolute fact…THERE IS NOT A HINT OF SHAME IN NEEDING SOME ADDITIONAL SUPPORT IN A TIME OF LOSS.

• Take care of your physical health: Grief can take a toll on your body, so it’s important to maintain your physical health. Eat nutritious meals, get enough sleep, and engage in regular physical activity to help manage stress and maintain your overall well-being.

• Create a routine: Establishing a daily routine can provide structure and stability during a time of upheaval. Having a sense of predictability can be comforting and help you regain a sense of control.

• Avoid major life decisions: During the initial stages of grief, try to avoid making significant life decisions, if possible. You may not be in the best mindset to make clear choices, and your perspective can change as you process your loss over time.

• Write or journal: Expressing your feelings through writing can be therapeutic. Keeping a journal can help you explore your emotions, track your progress, and gain insight into your grief journey.

• Memorialize or commemorate the loss: Find a way to remember and honor the person or thing you’ve lost. This could involve creating a memorial, holding a memorial service, or participating in activities that remind you of positive memories.

• Be patient with yourself: Grieving is a unique and individual process, and there is no set timeline for when you should “get over” your loss. Allow yourself to heal at your own pace and don’t rush the process.

• Seek professional help if needed: If your grief becomes overwhelming, persistent, or disrupts your ability to function in daily life, it’s important to consider speaking to a mental health professional who can offer guidance and support.

Remember that healing from a sudden loss is a gradual and ongoing process. If you have people in your life who tell you to “just get over it” then it might be time to be over them. They may be well meaning but they clearly don’t understand significant loss. I’d advise against taking advice from the “just get over it” types.

Over time, the intensity of your grief may lessen, but it’s common for waves of sadness to resurface, especially on anniversaries or other significant dates. By taking the time to address your emotions and seeking support when needed, you can work through your grief and eventually find a sense of peace and acceptance.