Category Archives: Relationships

How to Make a Powerful First Impression

3 minutes to read

First impressions. Everyone forms them and is subject to them. No relationship begins without a first impression. In some cases, you can overcome a situation that starts off on the wrong foot. If you’ve recovered from such an experience, you know how difficult it is getting back on track. In most cases the old adage, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” rules.

How to Make a Powerful First Impression

The Dominance of a First Impression

Harvard Psychologist Nalini Ambady and her colleague Robert Rosenthal examined the power of first impressions. In the 1990s, they did a series of experiments comparing the ratings given to college professors by students at the end of the semester with ratings that another group of students gave the same professors based only on three ten-second silent video clips shown prior to any actual lectures.

Ambady and Rosenthal found both groups essentially agreed on how good or bad the professors were. As far as their performance ratings were concerned, the first impression from ten seconds of silent video counted for almost as much as a whole semester’s worth of interaction.

Think about that in the context of an HR person reviewing 100 or more applications for a job. While you may get more than 10 seconds, in this first screening he’s looking for any reason to weed you out.

Controlling How People Perceive You

As a chaplain, I faced this issue every day. At stake was whether people would come to me when they needed help. Fortunately, the two decades I spent in business prepared me to quickly establish rapport with people.

These days, with so much of business happening online, someone’s first impression of you is likely to be based on something you write. Especially if you’re looking for a job, your resume and a cover letter is a company’s introduction to you. That being the case, you’re being assessed on your writing skills. It’s a good idea to know what to do. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Customize everything – You’re communicating with individuals. Even if they don’t treat you that way, get in the habit of customizing cover letters, resumes, and everything else.
  2. Spelling counts – While it’s true that some people don’t care about spelling, how will you know if that’s the case with the person you’re writing to? You cannot rely on spell checkers since they don’t detect the wrong word. Stick with the standard spelling of words unless you prize creative spelling over your finances.
  3. Grammar counts too. Do you know the difference between the homonyms there, their, and they’re? I can’t tell you what percentage of HR people do but I bet it’s high. Yet countless times I receive correspondence using the wrong one. There are numerous grammar traps to trip you up. Check out the Grammarly Blog. You’ll get great information in an easy to understand and fun format.
  4. Double and triple check before sending – Proofread everything, whether it’s a casual email or a formal letter. While Microsoft Word purports to check syntax, it is not infallible. Have someone else read what you write, especially if it’s important.

Your high school English teacher was right. Your ability to clearly express your thoughts in writing is a crucial skill. Your access to the marketplace where you plan to turn all your other skills into a high-income career rests on the first impression you give, in writing.

What resources do you use to improve your writing skill? Please comment below.

Do You Want to Communicate or Be Poor?

3 minutes to read

Doesn’t it seem that sometimes life would be easier if you didn’t have to deal with other people? Whether it’s someone you know well or a stranger, miscommunication happens so often. The most innocent comment to your spouse can spin out of control. The next thing you know you’re sleeping on the couch. It’s no better at work. If your colleagues don’t understand you, kiss the promotion goodbye or worse. Whether you seek wealth or rich relationships, you have to be able to communicate clearly.

Do You Want to Communicate or Be Poor?

Why It’s So Hard to Communicate

On its face, communication seems simple. You speak, the other person hears, DONE! But breaking down the process reveals surprising complexity.

First, there are at least two people involved. Each has a different background and perspective. Then there’s the message itself. Use one wrong word or a word the other person doesn’t know and communication fails. These three parts leave ample room for lack of clarity.

People communicate on many levels. Your words can be perfectly clear and your message may still be garbled. Body language, tone of voice, and the other person’s mood or health may change how she perceives what you say. When you take into account how many factors impede clear communication it’s a wonder anybody understands anything.

How to Ensure Clearer Communication

You can’t take everybody’s temperature. Nor can you give people a vocabulary test. So how do you pave the way for to clear communication?

These five steps take seconds, at most, to use but will improve how you communicate with family and colleagues:

  1. Accept responsibility for being clear about what you say. If you have a message to convey, it’s your job to make sure others understand you. Blaming another for misinterpreting what you said is like insisting that someone who doesn’t speak English is at fault for not knowing the language.
  2. Assess people’s state before beginning or responding. Is the person paying attention? Is she feeling well? You can’t read minds, but you can take a few seconds to decide whether you’re likely to be understood under current conditions.
  3. Have a conversation. Especially in situations when clear communication is crucial, take a moment to absorb what someone is telling you. Repeat it back in your own words to confirm understanding. Give the other person a chance to do the same.
  4. Be clear about what you want to say before saying it. If you lack clarity, you cannot communicate effectively. Don’t be afraid to stop speaking if you realize you’re unsure about what you mean. Let the other person know you need time to think through what you meant to say. Re-engaged at another time.
  5. Tailor your vocabulary. I once had a doctor tell me there was foreign matter in my umbilicus. Seeing the stricken look on my face he let me in on the joke – I had lint in my belly button. (Okay, I made this up but you get the point.) Jargon and slang prevent communication outside of their arenas. Often that’s the point of using them, to exclude the uninitiated. If you want to communicate well, use language the other person is sure to understand.

Think about the people you like the most. Most likely it’s because they communicate in a way that you find compelling. Taking the time to do the same for others dramatically increases the chance you create solid relationships. And relationships are the key to a rich life.

How to you ensure you communicate clearly? Please comment below.

Sorry, Even Your Kindness May Actually Be Selfish

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Shemos – Exodus 1:1-6:1

One of the traits Melanie and I most want to instill in our daughter is kindness. If you have a child you know that’s not an easy job. Fortunately, Parshas Shemos clarifies how to accomplish this feat:

"And these are the children of Israel who were coming to Egypt, with Jacob each man and his household came." (Shemos/Exodus 1:1)

Sorry, Even Your Kindness May Actually Be Selfish

In this Sabbath’s parsha, which begins the second book of the Torah, a new Pharaoh succeeds to the Egyptian throne and enslaves the Israelites. He declares all male infants will be killed. Moses is born and Pharaoh’s daughter raises him, nursed by his own mother. He flees to Midian after killing an Egyptian to save a fellow Hebrew’s life. There he meets and marries Zipporah, the daughter of Reuel, also known as Jethro, the priest of Midian.

Moses encounters an angel in a burning bush. G-d appoints him messenger to obtain release of the Children of Israel. Reluctant, Moses eventually bows to the Almighty’s will. He leaves Midian for Egypt and is met by Aaron, his older brother, who becomes his partner in dealing with Pharaoh. They have their first meeting with him and rather than agreeing to their demands Pharaoh makes the enslavement harsher.

Kindness vs. Justice

Hardly anyone would argue with the idea that people ought to be kind. But major disagreement arises over how to be kind. Since the Exodus narrative requires a nuanced understanding, its first line explains a subtlety often missed when defining benevolence.

In the above verse, it’s redundant to add, “with Jacob” to “the children of Israel were coming to Egypt.” We know this from a previous verse. The brevity of the translation obscures its true meaning. Not only did Jacob’s sons accompany him to Egypt, they were with him when expressing their values. In turn, Jacob embodied the greatness of Abraham and Isaac by uniting their two key traits, kindness and justice. It’s easy to see justice without kindness leads to mercilessness. But untainted kindness would seem to be ideal.

The Motivation for Kindness

Benevolence comes from two motivations. Some desire to help other people. Others cannot bear to see people suffer. On their face both are noble. Indeed the latter one seems to be the kinder source. After all, shouldn’t we strive to alleviate suffering?

On closer examination, being kind because your heart aches when others are sad or in pain belies selfishness. Your kindness alleviates your suffering but ignores the fact that sometimes others have to experience pain to be motivated to resolve an issue, make a change, or grow. You feel good because the person has avoided distress but at what cost?

If you are motivated by a desire to help people you’ll be willing to undergo heartache knowing that in the end the other person will be better off.

Later in Exodus, G-d hardens Pharaoh’s heart to give him the opportunity to truly change. It pains the Almighty any time one of His children suffers, but He is motivated only by our well being so He endures. When dealing with others, our kindness must allow for personal discomfort, even pain, so that others have the chance to truly improve.

How do you reconcile personal suffering with helping others? Please leave a comment below.

 

Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How Will You Triumph Next Year?

3-1/2 minutes to read

“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” ∞ Albert Einstein

Now’s the time to commit to your goals for the New Year. It’s daunting. The blank sheet of paper in front of you screams unlimited possibilities. At the same time it reminds you of all the New Year’s resolutions that lasted less than a week. So what do you do? How do you choose? If you try to go for everything you’ll end up achieving nothing.

How Will You Triumph Next Year?

Overcoming Years of Broken Resolutions

A study two years ago showed that over 40% of Americans make New Years resolutions. Yet, just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals. The average person makes the same New Year’s resolution ten times yet still doesn’t achieve it. With such a high failure rate it’s tempting not to bother setting objectives for next year.

If you give up you’ll accomplish one thing for sure. Change will be impossible. Then again, you’ll have to accept poorer physical fitness, inadequate finances, and lower quality relationships. And this assumes you’re not forced to make a transition such as going from military to civilian life or finding a new job. The reality is, even if you don’t want to change, life forces you to.

You can intentionally work on making your life better or on accepting the status quo.

Insuring You’ll Grow Next Year

While there aren’t any guarantees, the way you plan your goals increases the likelihood you’ll reach them. Here are four steps to take:

  1. Write down your goals. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, studied goal setting and found you are 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down.
  2. Make sure your goals align with your life purpose. Having a purpose for your life makes you happier and healthier. If your goals and purpose are out of sync you’ll negate one or both.
  3. Have a compelling why for each goal. Write it down too. Review it every day. Keeping your why uppermost in your mind gives you the motivation to change.
  4. Visualize attaining your goals. Your mind is so powerful if you spend five to ten minutes a day visualizing your life it as if you have already met your goals. Frank Niles, writes,

“According to research using brain imagery, visualization works because neurons in our brains, those electrically excitable cells that transmit information, interpret imagery as equivalent to a real-life action. When we visualize an act, the brain generates an impulse that tells our neurons to ‘perform’ the movement. This creates a new neural pathway -- clusters of cells in our brain that work together to create memories or learned behaviors -- that primes our body to act in a way consistent to what we imagined. All of this occurs without actually performing the physical activity, yet it achieves a similar result.”

How I’ll Help You

You may have noticed I reorganized my blog into six categories:

  • Transitions
  • Fitness
  • Finances
  • Relationships
  • Resilience
  • Soul

I’m committed to helping you with these areas of your life. Is losing weight your priority? Do you need to get out of debt? Are you focused on building your marriage? How about nourishing your spiritual growth? You’ll find practical suggestions and food for thought here. And I’ll be posting more of the same as well as new tools that will help you stay on track and achieve your goals.

If you have a different challenge let me know and I will refer you to someone who will help you.

Let’s work together to make this year your best one ever!

What is your top priority for next year? Please comment below.

You’re Lying to Yourself: Here’s How to Solve It

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayechi – Genesis 47:28-50:26

The calendar year is coming to a close. Merry making aside, it’s time for taking stock. Did you meet your goals? What held you back from making the required changes? I bet Parshas Vayechi has the answer:

“Simeon and Levi are Brothers.’” (Bereshis/Genesis 49:5)

You’re Lying to Yourself: Here’s How to Solve It

This week’s parsha, concluding the book of Genesis, begins with Jacob becoming ill. With death imminent, he appeals to Joseph not to bury him in Egypt, but back in Canaan with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, and Leah in the cave of Machpelah. Jacob blesses Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim, elevating them to the status of his sons. Then he blesses his own sons, though some of the blessings sound more like rebukes.

All of Egypt mourns Jacob, testifying to his greatness. The grandeur of his burial procession impresses and scares the Canaanites. After his father’s death, Joseph assures his brothers he forgives them. He lives to see his great-grandchildren. Before he dies, Joseph asks his brothers to bring his bones with them when G-d brings them out of Egypt.

The stage is now set for the enslavement of the Children of Israel and their redemption.

Fraternal Fidelity of Convenience

One of the challenges of written communication is conveying the feeling behind the words. When Jacob tells his sons that Simeon and Levi are bothers, I imagine it was with an undertone of contempt.

Back in verse 34:31, when the two brothers wiped out Shechem in retribution for the defilement of Dinah, they justified themselves by saying, “Should he treat our sister as a harlot?” Jacob quietly took the explanation under advisement. At the time he was willing to accept their word.

But their subsequent initiation of the sale of their brother Joseph put the lie to their claim of fraternal loyalty. They slaughtered the Shechemites out of anger and hatred. Jealousy motivated their selling of their brother. Loyalty to their siblings was a justification to salve their consciences.

Dedicated father that he was, Jacob waited for a time when Simeon’s and Levi’s mind would be open to show them how they were fooling themselves.

A True Friend Will Challenge You When You’re Lying

Most of the people I know are honest, scrupulously so when dealing with others. But they willingly accept lies about themselves. They rationalize rather than confronting uncomfortable truths. Saddest of all, they’re as likely to put themselves down with their lies as to be conceited. Seeing our true selves is perhaps the most difficult task we have.

A real friend will help you see yourself honestly. But he won’t be confrontational about your lying. He will understand directly disputing your self-perception will only cause you to dig in your heals. Rather he’ll ask you questions to help you be honest with yourself.

We all put on faces in public. Often these masks are effective and for good reason. But until we stop lying to ourselves, both good and bad, we cannot overcome challenges and improve. For 2016, vow to find a true friend or mentor who will help you see the real you. It’s the greatest gift you can give yourself.

How do you make sure you’re not lying to yourself? Please leave a comment below.

 

Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

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