Category Archives: Relationships

How to Make a Bad Habit Good

How to Improve Your Relationship with Your Spouse and Kids

1 minute to read

Have you ever met someone who has an infuriating habit? Perhaps worse, does your spouse or one of your children have such a habit? I don't mean something that annoys you but one that really sets you on edge. Did you analyze why it aggravates you? You may be surprised.

How to Make a Bad Habit Good

Why Does the Habit Infuriate You?

I have had a friend for many years who is a profuse thanker. When I would give her something to drink she would say thank you three, four, even five times. Occasionally I found myself commenting that once was sufficient. I started to get angry about the excessive thank yous.

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What to Do About It

One day I decided to explore why her habit made me so angry. I came up with several conclusions:

  1. Unquestionably, her thanks are sincere.
  2. She intends to improve friendships through expressing gratitude.
  3. Her habit upsets me because she is better at being thankful than I am.

The last point surprised me. I was disappointed in myself that I had created so much negativity by being jealous. The lesson:

Question – When you reacted negatively toward someone did you ever find it was for the wrong reason?

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How to Judge People by Standards

Standards. Are they permanent or variable? Are some the former and others the latter? How should people be held accountable to them? These are not idle philosophical questions. They get to the root of how we view the past and interact in the present.

How to Judge People by Standards


Recently I finished reading several Charlie Chan novels. One of the most famous characters in detective fiction, when I saw the book on sale for $1 I realized I had never read any of the stories or seen the movies. While reading them I kept swinging back and forth between thinking the author, Earl Derr Biggers, was quite enlightened in his attitude toward the Chinese or a racist.

Researching his life, I found that Mr. Biggers was disgusted by the bigotry toward the Chinese in California during the early decades of the 20th century. While vacationing in Hawaii, he decided to write about a Chinese professional, loosely based on a police officer he met there. In the novels, Charlie Chan takes umbrage at overtly racist attitudes by other characters. He bristles at the less obvious ones. Yet at times Mr. Biggers accords to Detective Chan what today can only be characterized as grossly stereotypical behavior.

How do we judge Mr. Biggers and his work? By the standard of his day, Mr. Biggers’s portrayal of a Chinese man was enlightened. It countered the common image of the evil, conniving Chinaman. Yet by our standards, Charlie Chan appears one-dimensional, clichéd. Is it just to hold Mr. Biggers and his writing to a standard that he knew nothing about? Should his laurels be revoked because in today’s world he would not merit such praise? Or can we justify applauding him for his enlightened views on race, perhaps not even footnoting the change in societal standards?

I maintain people should be judged in the context of their own time. Stipulations based on a change of standards should the exception.

In contemporary times the issue is more complex. First, I distinguish between a settled societal standard and a popularly espoused view. Few people would assert that randomly shooting someone to death is acceptable. But what constitutes murder is open to any number of opinions. Next, I decide which viewpoints, though I disagree, fall within an acceptable range. This is tricky since the tendency is to conclude that those who disagree with me fall outside my range. I am challenged to stretch in the interest of civility while not abandoning standards.

Question – How do you decide the standard to which you will hold someone?

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See How Easily You Can Improve Your Children’s Behavior

Remember air travel in the 1960s and 1970s, or perhaps earlier? People dressed up to fly on an airplane. Even for frequent travelers, who could have been blasé about the experience, men wore suits and ties and women wore stylish dresses, hats, and gloves. Passenger rage was unheard and poor service was uncommon.

See How Easily You Can Improve Your Children’s Behavior

Yesterday while waiting to board a flight I spoke to a fellow passenger who complained that she had to endure an eight-year-old child crying and sassing her mother during a five-hour flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles. I empathized with her, especially later when I approached an airline counter to get my seat assignment and was curtly told by the ticket agent that she was handling a different flight.

Air travel today is so different than my first airplane ride in 1966, as a six-year-old, when I flew from Phoenix to Kansas City. I wore a red blazer and tie. It never occurred to me to misbehave.

The way you dress matters. A 2009 survey conducted by showed that 41 percent of employers admitted to promoting people who dressed professionally. Licensed Professional Counselor and retired public educator and counselor Carole Bell sums up numerous studies that show dress affects how children behave. Being dressed up impacts your mental state. It turns an everyday occurrence into a special event or makes you feel that your conduct has to rise to the level of the way you are attired.

Half a century ago, it was understood that more formal dress led to better manners. While it is unlikely that suits and dresses for air travel, let alone daily activities, will make a comeback, perhaps with greater attention to attire behavior can be improved.

Question – Do you think people should strive for the refinement of prior decades? How would you bring it about? Please leave a comment below.

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