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How to Be Popular

Photo by Lucia Holm

Over the past few days, I’ve attended a few social gatherings at which my interactions with other people provided me with a few new revelations. During these interactions I started to notice a peculiar social pattern; that a significant percentage of people are not that good at being social.

After one particular dinner engagement with my partner and another couple, I went home feeling completely uninspired and insignificant. Even after having spent 2 hours with this couple, I am fairly certain they still don’t know anything about me aside from the obvious surface details; my name is Tina, I am Asian and I live in Seattle. They have no idea what I do for a living, what my expertise is, how I spend my time, or where I am from. They were either completely uninterested in me, or they just have underdeveloped social skills.

Later, when I was analyzing the dinner engagement situation, I started to realize why I avoid spending time with certain people in my life, even some friends whom I like and respect. The answer is – they focus too much on themselves, and show a lack of interest in me.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? If someone doesn’t show any interest in you, why would you want to spend any of your precious time with them? I’m sure there are countless other things you would rather be doing.

I have a friend whom, despite her many outstanding qualities, will derail a social gathering by talking about herself the entire night without directing a single question to anyone else around the table. She dominates the table’s conversation by constantly initiating topics that revolve back to the theme of how brilliant she is. It actually is true, she really is brilliant. However, this gets annoying really quickly and obviously makes the others around the table very uncomfortable. It also has the net result of her getting left off of future engagement invites.

The interesting lesson here is that by observing how the behavior of others make us feel, we can tweak and improve our own social skill set. In this way, we can ensure that people leave their interactions with us feeling great, and looking forward to the next time we connect. Just imagine if all meetings ended like this, wouldn’t they also be more enjoyable for us?

How to Get Over a Break Up

Falling passionately in love with someone is one of the most exhilarating feelings, as if you had wings and you are flying high in the sky, feeling the wind romantically blowing through your hair. And usually, when love ends, it feels as if you’ve been dropped like a rock in mid-air. You scramble to grab a hold of something … anything, as you witness your body falling at great speeds, and then shattering on the earth below.

Whether we’re talking about breakups, or facing the reality of a one-sided romance, it is painful. So much so that it disrupts our normal flow of experiences, causing us to not function normally.

With so much emotion invested and our identities tied in with these experiences, it’s no wonder that this is the number one topic requested by readers. Over the past year, I have regularly received email from readers sharing their own takes on painful breakups; tales of guilt, of fear, of regret, and of resentment. Although the stories were different, the underlying message was universal and one in the same, “I am in so much pain from not being with this person – what can I do?

Sometimes, the pain of lost love is so intense that it can shake our beliefs about romance and relationships. When these emotional bruises are not understood and have not healed properly, they become invisible baggage that drag with us into the next relationship. This article focuses on the healing process from “love lost”.

15 Simple Ways to Overcome Anger

Photo by Simón Pais-Thomas

Can you recall the last time you were really angry at someone? So much so that you were physically shaken just at the thought of them? Rarely does this feeling of anger help us in getting what we want. Often, it will work against us, resulting in more pain, unnecessarily.

Even the most gentle of personalities can temporarily turn into a vindictive rascal, if pushed far enough.

A friend of mine is going through a divorce with a spouse who is unreasonably prolonging the process. He’s sad, hurt, upset, frustrated and very, very angry. Words of anger and hatred spout out of his – otherwise polite and thoughtful – mouth. He was no longer his authentic and peaceful self. And he didn’t like who he was becoming.

Through helping him come to a place of understanding and forgiveness of his ex-spouse with love, compassion and humility (we had to dig deep), I realized that the same tools can be used in dealing with other negative emotions.

For sake of simplicity, we will use anger as the target emotion to overcome. Keep in mind that it can be applied to overcome other non-conducive and intense emotions such as jealousy, guilt, hatred, regret and fear.

How to Overcome Resentment

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Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it. ~Mark Twain

Can you recall the last time you held a grudge against someone? Perhaps it was a friend who betrayed you, a stranger who wronged you, a lover who left, or a parent who unintentionally hurt you. Perhaps this has happened recently and feelings of regret, resentment, and injustice are fresh enough that it still stings. What can we do to overcome these feelings and painful memories?

I recently received an abrasive and angry email from someone falsely accusing me of something on a personal level. I was shocked and hurt. The “Cave Woman” in me jumped out and my initial instinct was to write something hurtful back to her, in an act of self defense. My second instinct was to give her a list of reasons why she was wrong, in an attempt to refute her false accusations, thus defending my ego.

In the end, my rational self knew that engaging with her would only trigger more negativity, so I didn’t. I woke up the next morning with defensive thoughts running through my head, like a dark cloud, hovering over me. Thoughts of retaliation had been dancing around in my mind in what seemed to be a never-ending cycle.

I hated this feeling. In fact, I hated the feeling of hating this feeling. Even though, I knew rationally and intuitively that I was getting nowhere by feeling upset, annoyed, and wronged, it felt impossible to control these thoughts and to not be bothered by them. I knew I had to release this energy to set myself free. The key to mental freedom was within me and nowhere else.

What can one do to overcome these negative thought patterns? What can we do to relinquish ourselves from feelings conjured up by other people’s actions? This article takes a detailed look at how we can free ourselves from negative feelings of resentment and anger resulting from personal episodes of injustice.

How to End a Relationship

Photo by Erik Clausen

Breaking up with someone you love can be one of the toughest emotional struggles you’ll go through. How have you handled breakups in the past? What can you do to minimize pain for the other person and yourself?

I’ve been on quite an emotional ride recently. What has been weighing heavily on my heart and mind involves a slice from my personal life. Without going into details, Adam, my partner for the past year, and I have decided to part ways. We will remain good friends.

The past three weeks have been a tremendously painful period, feelings of empathy mixed with remorse and guilt. The impulse to burst into tears would hit me sporadically throughout the day.

When I first wrote about the art of keeping a relationship, my friend Pete Forde suggested that perhaps people could also benefit from an article on how to end a relationship. I noted his brilliant suggestion without further thought. Little did I know, this would become the center of my experience a month later.

This being a sensitive topic, I had a tough time finding genuine and in-depth resources online. My goal here is to capture the understanding and wisdom I’ve gained from going through this event, and to perhaps be of help or a point of clarity for your life story.

How to Keep a Relationship

Photo by Stock Photo
When it comes to love, you need not fall but rather surrender, surrender to the idea that you must love yourself before you can love another. You must absolutely trust yourself before you can absolutely trust another and most importantly you must accept your flaws before you can accept the flaws of another. ~Philosophy: Falling in Love

Remember the last time you got in a fight or argument with your significant other? Wasn’t it frustrating? Wasn’t it painful? Was it necessary? What can we do to best deal with these situations without ruining our relationships?

Relationships with our spouses and girl/boy-friends can be one of the most rewarding aspects of our lives. We hold a special place for that someone with whom we’ve shared countless moments of joy. Personality differences are inevitable, and what makes us unique as individuals can result in disagreements and conflicts during our relationship.

When these disagreements are not properly understood and managed emotionally, trivial exchanges can stir into full-on battles, and possibly end what we’ve spent months or years to build.

Yes, there are relationships where personalities are mismatched and breakups are beneficial. However, many breakups are unnecessary, as a result of built up anger and destructive cycles. When they happen, we experience a tremendous amount of pain and emotional hurt.

By facing our partners with awareness and a genuine desire for understanding, I believe that we hold the key to wellness in these special relationships.

8 Keys to Instant Charisma

Photo by Bertrand

There is a simple fact of human nature that states we all want to be liked. Don’t be afraid to admit it. If we think about it, underlying many of our actions, we are really seeking ways to validate ourselves and to fulfill this desire of being liked.

Have you ever met someone and instantly took a liking towards them? You can’t explain why, but you feel a fondness and you want to do things to help them. I’m not talking about sexual attraction, but a genuine and innocent feeling of fondness towards another person.

In a job interview, you are more likely to be hired if the interviewer likes you as a person. In a business situation, you are more likely to get deals done and gain favors. In a personal situation, you are likely to gain trust and loyal friendships.

When we decide that we like someone, it is a psychological process that we cannot quite articulate. It’s not a secret that we make decisions emotionally and justify them logically. So, does this mean that we can influence an emotional decision that happens subconsciously?

I believe that decisions can be influenced. I know that the qualities of a likeable person can be cultivated and proactively developed. Do you want to know how to develop the skills to be likable?

A Gift That Wows!

Photo by Cindy Loughridge

Do you remember the last time you were deeply touched by someone? Sometimes, it is the little gestures that touch us most.

Here’s to Old Friends

It was my dear friend Tania’s birthday over the weekend. Tania was my college roommate of 4 years, someone who I’ve always admired for her grace and kindness. When we graduated, we both moved to Seattle. As we continued into new chapters of our lives as adults, we saw less and less of one another. Over the years, we’ve settled into a comfortable routine of seeing each other twice a year: on my birthday and her birthday *smiles*.

Near the end of her party, she had pulled me aside. After giving me various feedback regarding my blog, she looked deep into my eyes, paused slightly and said genuinely,

“You are amazing. Even if you didn’t have the blog, I would still be so proud of you in so many ways… like that time you imitated (our friend) Tim after his conductor class, how your energy just shined. You know, I will always be here to be your cheerleader… regardless of what you worked on. I have so much faith in you. Just always know that.”

I stood there, stunned, and trying hard to hold back my tears. I smiled back at her with sincere gratitude.

How to Build Intimacy in Any Relationship

Photo by Cindy Loughridge
The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart. ~Helen Keller

You know how things can get so busy sometimes, that not only do we forget to connect with ourselves, but also forget to connect with the people we love most? People like our spouses, our children, our parents, our friends. I mean, we may see them, but we don’t necessarily take time to connect with them. We often tell ourselves that we can make it up to them once our busy schedule slows down. Funny thing is, our schedule never slows down. We really have to schedule our most important priorities first. I am always on the lookout for simple tools I can use to maintain my close relationships.

Reader Chris Sharp shared with me a daily routine him and his wife use. They call it their Daily Wins And Realizations; a time set aside to connect with their loved one every day. I didn’t ask for details, but I was inspired by the name and was intrigued by the possibilities and positive effects it could have on a relationship. I suggested to my partner, that we share our Wins and Realizations every evening after dinner. We have found the process to be enriching and deeply rewarding. It gives us a time and space to connect every day, deliberately. The exercise has been beautiful to observe and I wanted to share it with you.

Before diving further, I wanted to point out that this isn’t just effective in a romantic relationship, but in all relationships. Open communication, sharing and understanding is at the core of intimacy in any relationship and friendship. Try it for a few days with your mom (warning: you will melt her heart with love). This will also be an effective practice in friendship building with trusted friends. The word intimacy in this context is not referring to sexual intimacy, but the closeness and trust between two people through exchange of their inner most thoughts and values. I’m sure you can relate, that some of the most rewarding relationships are built this way.

Here are the reason why we fell in love with this daily routine:

  • It gives us an opportunity to express ourselves freely.
  • We get to be listened to and supported emotionally by another person.
  • You are important – You become a priority and focus of attention.
  • It is a deeply intimate experience where we connect at the soul level as spiritual beings.
  • I find that as I am expressing myself, that I’ll come up with even more realizations. I gain clarity as I articulate out my daily realizations and learning.
  • Gratitude is a pleasant side effect of this practice. Sharing your wins is like giving gratitude for things you are thankful for today.
  • Show the other person how important they are.
  • Enjoy the purity and innocence in your partner.
  • Practice open communication
  • Sharing the things you’ve learned with the other person and learning from their realizations.
  • The moment is highly energizing. When we’re done with our ‘daily wins and realizations’, I feel so full of positive energy that I’m ready to save the world. I’m exaggerating, but you know what I mean. I often follow the evening with something productively creative, like writing a new article or designing a new layout.
  • Both parties will leave feeling great about themselves and their relationship with the other person.

Here’s a beautiful quote from Steve Pavlina when speaking about empowered relationships:

Everyone you meet in your life – even total strangers – are already intimately connected to you. The idea that we are all separate and distinct beings is nothing but an illusion. We are all parts of a larger whole, like individual cells in a body. (…) When you look at other people, you’re really looking at yourself.

– Steve Pavlina

The following tips explain how we adopted “Daily Wins & Realizations“. Feel free to adapt these concepts, as the process is not as important as the moment of expression.

1. Time – set aside time for time to connect. We’ve been setting aside 10 minutes after dinner, but have managed to go well past 10 minutes every day. It’s been so much fun, that we sometimes start new discussions based on topics shared.

2. Place – Find somewhere comfortable that’s not a bed, so you don’t fall asleep. :) We use the couch or sometimes do so at a restaurant.

3. One Person Asks the Question – Person A asks, “What are some of your wins and realizations today?” as person B answers. Sometimes, person B may have a hard time answering this, you can change the question slightly to “What did you learn today?” or “What are you Thankful for today?” Our wins and realizations have been anything from things we are grateful for today, to a realization about ourselves, to a summary of what we learned from a TED talk we watched, to something we read today.

4. No Interruptions – As person B answers, person A should not be interrupting. If you feel an urge to jump in, bite your tongue, write it down or save it for when it’s your turn. It is important to fully listen to the person speaking with openness and compassion, it is their time to express themselves, give them that time and space without interruption.

“Nature gave us one tongue and two ears
so we could hear twice as much as we speak.”

–Epictetus

5. Thank the Speaker – When person B is done. Person A will say something encourage acknowledging what’s been said. Something like “That’s great! Those are some great realizations and big wins!“, “Thank you for sharing!

6. Repeat – Repeat steps 3 to 5 with the persons reversed. Person B will ask the same question to person A.

7. “Cuddle Fest” – Give each other a big Hug with sincerity and love. We call it the ‘cuddle fest’, Tommy (our 8lb fluffy dog) typically will join in the celebration as well.

Simple, huh? If both people are open, non-judgmental, and genuine, you will find the result to be phenomenal in building intimacy with your partner or your friend. Let me know how this practice will turn out in your relationships. I can’t wait to hear them.

Any practices you’ve found useful in building intimacy and closeness with your loved one? Do share in the comments!

How to Really Listen to Someone

Photo by Thomas Hawk
To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other person will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments. ~Dale Carnegie

Everyone desires to be heard. When we listen to others, we validate their need to be acknowledged and understood. Deep down inside, we all want to know that we matter, that we are important. Don’t you find that meeting someone who shows interest in what we have to say, we tend to take a liking to them instantly?

I’m not asking you to pretend to be interested in hopes of being liked, but rather to pay attention to this often overlooked and forgotten skill. In addition to improving your personal and professional relationships, listening also helps to prevent misunderstandings and facilitates cooperation.

The following are techniques to being an effective listener. I have learned these from communication courses, seminars and books on personal relationships. These are ones I’ve personally found to be useful when engaged in a conversation with other people:

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