Tagged: How To

My Best Conversation Tip When You Know You Are Smarter Than Everyone In The Room

I recently moved. It’s been difficult, but it is a good thing–a great thing. I am flying again.

However, I have been struggling on the social side of life. Many of you may recall that while I wasn’t flying, I was educating myself. More than educating myself, I was learning how we know anything about anything.

When one engages in this pursuit, the pursuit of knowledge, he or she is usually surrounded by other like-minded individuals. In other words, he or she feels normal. They feel comfortable.

But when school ends, reality hits home. No one cares. People not in school simply do not care. To you all, I say, “Cool beans. Good for you.”

But the problem remains. If I walk into a church, I probably have studied biblical history, language history, and the Bible itself more than any two people present combined. If I am among a group of pilots, my military flight training sets me apart from the civilian group for sure, and my having been trained by the Air Force sets me apart from the wannabe Air Force pilots that settled for serving in a flying capacity in one of the other branches.

In short, the problem is conversations become belabored. These days I want to get in-depth on whatever subject matter is of note. I mean, I have questions, man! Soon after, though, they realize that they don’t quite carry the same fire as I do. Consequently, one of us changes the subject to avoid silence.

After much consideration, then, I have discovered the solution. Or at least the following offering is my best conversation tip when you know you are smarter than everyone in the room. (This is both for me and for some of the other smartypants I know who are noisily lurking around out there.)

Ready?

Here it is: Be quiet.

Yup. Stay silent. Keep observing and keep learning. There is no rush.

Okay. That’s all, folks!

PS: Dark Phoenix was great. I think the reason it received bad press was its elevation and commendation of the virtue of “forgiveness”.

4 Reasons To Avoid Using Eye-Catching Headlines

1. First, nobody likes people who try too hard. And a good eye-catching headline, such as, “Did Michael Jackson Secretly Confess to Janet That He Was Guilty?” or my favorite one from LinkedIn of late, “10 Reasons You Should Quit Your Job in 2014”, these types of headlines that really beg the reader to point-and-click reek of strong cologne before a big date. Rather than trying too hard, it’s better if you try just the right amount.

2. Second, your reputation is worth more than the ad revenue generated by clicks. And readers often feel let down when they discover (again) that Michael Jackson didn’t confess anything to Janet, and that there is not one good reason, let alone ten, to quit working in 2014. After time, people will question your integrity and motivations.

3. Third, and finally, the most enticing headlines are always one mistake away from pissing readers off.

How To Start An Argument

(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions).

“Are you kidding me?  That’s not at all what I said,” he said, resigning himself.

“That is what you said.  That is exactly what you said,” she replied, her voice betraying her emotion.

“No.  I said that your family does things different from how I’m used to.  I never said they are weird.  I never said they are wrong,” he argued, trying one last time to be clear.

“Well, I think if we Googled ‘synonyms for different’, ‘weird’ would make the list,” she said, calming ever so slightly.

“It might.  But the difference is that ‘weird’ carries a value, whereas ‘different’ is value-neutral,” he said trying not to get excited too early.

“Why does my family have to be the ‘different’ one?  Why can’t your family be the ‘different’ one?” she stammered, signifying she was beginning to understand.

“Because I was the one who said it.  My family can’t be ‘different’ to me.   My family is what I am used to.  Therefore, if your family is not like what I am used to…they are different.  You could say the same thing if you thought so,” he said, hoping to be done with the whole thing.

“Fine.  My family is different to you, your family is different to me,” she said, unable to recall why this ever even came up.

“Good.”

“Good.”

“Your brother, on the other hand, is weird,” he said, laughing heartily as he ran.

Instructions for How To Start An Argument

Step 1 – Fail to communicate yourself fully and accurately on the first try.

Step 2 – Believe the other person is incapable of making the same error.

How To Ignore

(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)

Five days had passed.  He still wasn’t able to focus.  He couldn’t believe what the President had said–what the President had done.

His friends were sick of listening to him rant.  He felt like his co-workers were starting to be more than annoyed.  But he couldn’t relent.  He was in shock that the President of the United States of America had come to the conclusion that his best play was to say what he did.  He was so angry.  Rage had descended upon him as if an avalanche.

Five days was too long.  He knew this.  Academically, he knew he needed to get over it.  But he was a man of integrity.   He couldn’t pin down the reason, but he felt his integrity was under attack.  As of this moment, though, he knew the time had come.  He had related to everyone what he felt, and he had reached the point of diminishing returns.  He knew he needed to just ignore it.  He just didn’t know how to do that.

Instructions for How To Ignore:

Step 1 – Decide that acknowledging an experience, regardless of it’s truth, hurts more than it helps.

Step 2 – Lie.  Deliberately convince yourself that you didn’t experience or aren’t experiencing the event in question.

How To Avoid Responsibility

(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)

“Darn-it!”

He was going to be late.  He was going to be late and that meant that there wasn’t going to be parking nearby.  He didn’t know what to do.  Scratch that, he knew exactly what to do.  It was just that what he wanted to do had consequences.  Those consequences are what scared him.  If only there was some way he could avoid being responsible for his actions.

Then is struck him!   His car had emergency flashers.  He could park in the no-parking zone right outside the building, and simply fib a little.  What would be wrong with that?  He knew that the no-parking zone was never needed anyhow.  And he was in a hurry.  It was a very important event.  The brilliance of the plan was that only a real hard-case would call-in a car with emergency flashers blinking.  How could anyone actually distinguish whether there was an emergency or not?

Okay, one problem down.  Next up, people were waiting for him.  He said he’d be there at 9:00.  It was 8:57 and he was still 15 minutes away.  Like a thunderbolt, he was struck again with a great idea.  Reaching for his mobile phone, he texted his friend to say that he would be late.  It was beautiful.  The best part was that the friend he texted was the most responsible person he knew, so of course he’d already be there.  That this friend would share the news with the others further justified his tardiness.

“Yes!” he exclaimed, pulling into the no parking zone.  He’d done it.  Once inside, his friend chastised him for being late.  “But I sent a text,” he started.  Noticing his friend’s changing expression, he pressed deeper into the crowd.

Later that night as he approached his car, dizzying yellow lights attracted his attention.  “But I had my flashers on!” he lamented to the truck driver.

“Oh well,” he thought to himself.  “Nobody noticed I was late, and they can shove this ticket up their ass,” he said tearing up the ticket.

Instructions for How To Avoid Responsibility

Step 1 – Believe you are smarter than everyone else.

Step 2 – Ignore any indications that Step 1 is not true.

Filler Words’ Horrible Secret…Revealed!

The thing is, is no matter our differences we should be able to get along.”

“…and that’s the end of that story…ummmm…oh, yeah, and then there was another time when…”

“…to get to the other side!..soooo…like I was saying…”

They were all guilty.  All of them.  Even him.  He took comfort anytime he knew that to be the case.  There was something appealing about universal condemnations.  In this particular case, the crime was filler word use.  Why?  Because filler words were one more thing that he knew he should avoid, but couldn’t.  And this inability to stop using something frustrated him to no end.

Of late, something intriguing occurred to him.  He began to really listen for filler words, and see if he could determine a pattern.  He wanted to learn if there was anything he could do, any tip he could develop, to help himself and others stop using them.  And listen he did.  He listened to his own usage, he listened to other people’s usage.  After enough listening, the evidence pointed toward one specific conclusion.  For the most part, people use filler words to maintain control of the conversation.  At their core, then, filler words are a symptom of selfishness and laziness.

Yes, he was sure of it.  He thought of it this way.  Before children begin using filler words, they are taught to not interrupt.  And to interrupt is to speak while someone else is speaking.  It appears now, that an unintended consequence of this well-intended “don’t interrupt” principle is that speakers learn that if they are emitting interruptible sounds, even if not words, they will not have to give up the floor.  Enter filler words.

He knew he was on to something when he pushed the idea further.  Who uses the most filler words?  People who talk the most, naturally.  His ego wanted to believe this was coincidental–therefore a lesser crime–not causal, but he could feel the truth.  He played out a little experiment in his head.  He imagined a world where the use of a filler word ended that person’s turn to speak.  In this fiction, he imposed the harshest limitations.  If someone used a filler word, and no one else had anything to say–the conversation ended.  As he played the scenario out in his head, it became clear that the use of filler words is, in fact, causal in determining which people end up talking the most.  Just the same, if certain people can speak at length without filler words, it is a demonstration of skill and they should be able to speak.  Who was he to limit a person with demonstrable ability?

Equally condemned, he could not judge too harshly though.  It is likely that all people begin using filler words harmlessly enough.  But that was the past.  He wanted to be an agent of change.  “Strive” – his adopted motto.  Leading by example, he determined that he would stop speaking the next time he used a filler word.  He wondered if anyone would follow suit.

Grammar at the Edge of the Envelope

“Pilots are so much better than everyone else,” thought a young boy once.  As a grown man, I think we should all agree with the boy.  A few years ago, I found a spare moment hidden in Iraq of all places.  That moment contained irrefutable proof that pilots are better than everyone else.  Pilots are better because they live many lifetimes, while other people only live one lifetime.  Confusing?  Maybe it’d help if I said that pilots are better because they live many mini-lifetimes.  Any better?  No?  Allow me to explain.

A mini-lifetime is the term I use to capture the three-part event of flight: takeoff, flight, and landing.  In order for the definition’s perfection to become perceivable, you must understand that a lifetime has three key parts: birth, life, and death.  To critical readers, I confess that there certainly are other professions or human activities that contain just three parts; however, I’m convinced you’ll see there is a special genius in this metaphor’s specific use of pilots.

To begin the comparison, birth and takeoff share a foundational similarity.  Both initiate a sequence of events that will only ever come to an end.  Next, life and flight are that sequence.  They are the continuation of birth and takeoff.  Moreover, during life and flight, no matter how a person lives or how a person flies, a tragic end lingers at a moment’s distance.  Finally, the death (near death, at least) and landing phases offer a unique ability to look back over the life and flight phases with the express purpose of forming judgments.  For pilots, these judgments, of course, are not the end–but the beginning.  The end is the application of the lessons learned.  Note, that pilots repeat this three-chapter cycle almost daily.  And while doing so, they become very proficient at improving their flying skills through the post-landing debriefs.  Grounded folk, on the other hand, are not afforded these vantage points.  They must make extreme efforts to be still, take inventory, determine lessons learned, and then apply the lessons as they resume living out their lifetime.  Consequently, pilots living all these mini-lifetimes–do not discount the very real threat of death this metaphor demands–are in the habit of debriefing their own grounded lives each day, week, month, year, or whatever time period and applying the lessons learned to the next iteration.  That is why they are better.

Whew!  Glad you’re still with me, as I have great news.  That was just the introduction.  Let’s not kid ourselves, it was worth it.  Next up, the part of the assignment you’ve been waiting for:  more meta-for.  (Yep, that’s my humor.)

The assignment was to write a(n interesting) paper relating grammar to some other system in life.  Naturally, it follows that if my flying-life metaphor is so perfect, grammar being a part of life, then grammar should be able to be explained via flying.  As Rafiki tells newly-mature Simba in the Disney classic, The Lion King, “Eet is time.”  It is time to push the metaphor further.

Clear as day, the first requirement for grammar is words.  Lady Luck, beauty that she is, smiled down on me as it became clear that flying also needs one thing more than anything else: pilots.  So words must be pilots.  Obviously, humans don’t have physiological wings, so we invented machines that could lift us into the air.  Just as all humans are not pilots, all sounds humans emit are not words.  Within the sounds that can be classified as words, there are subtle intonations and pauses.  When creating written language, earlier man decided these subtle intonations and pauses required special written markings, different from alpha characters.  Whatever name initially given, today we call them punctuation.  Like a pilot’s aircraft, punctuation is a tool to help words achieve their God-given purpose.  A pilot’s purpose is to accomplish a mission and he does so using an aircraft.  A written word’s purpose is to accomplish communication and it does so using punctuation.

With words and punctuation under my belt, I pressed onward.  What more could I synthesize?  I knew that individual words and punctuation didn’t communicate as well as a group of words, a sentence, does.  Equivalently, pilots and aircraft don’t accomplish missions in a single action–they need a group of actions.  So a sentence, then, is the coordinated cycle of takeoff/flight/landing.  Each takeoff is the capital letter and marks the beginning of an independent, complete thought.  The flight is that thought.  And the landing is the concluding punctuation.  (This is pretend world.  It’s okay if the punctuation is both the aircraft and the landing…think how a period can be both part of an ellipses and a period at the same time if you need to.)

But wait!  Stop here, and consider a new revelation.  Consider how an exclamation point has varied tones.  I said consider how an exclamation point has varied tones, silly!  Then consider how a perfect landing would be a soft, beautiful exclamation point as in, “Man, that landing was as sublime as an outdoor professional hockey game being graced by light falling snow!”  While a crash landing would be a hard, abrupt exclamation point found in, “Bam!”  At first daunting, the question mark still fits the metaphor.  Can you picture a student pilot attempting to land a helicopter?  Sometimes the student thinks he has landed just once, when the instructor knows it was at least twice.  After all, there is no place to record number-of-times-student-bounced-the-helicopter-before-finally-landing, is there?

Next, while it is possible that a mission can be comprised of just one takeoff/fly/land iteration, most missions include several such iterations.  Similarly, it is true that some sentences can be paragraphs themselves.  A more elementary view is that sentences need other sentences in order to be a paragraph.  A paragraph is usually a more effective method of communication than a sentence or word.  This, then, is the same as how missions containing several iterations of takeoff/fly/land are usually more effective missions.  Specifically, if a pilot flies to a destination to pick up someone, flies to a second destination to drop them off, and then flies back to the home airfield, that is more effective than just one of those three iterations.  One effective mission composed of three total flights.

This metaphor becomes ever easier as we move away from the basics, into the more subjective parts of written language.  Lexicon, or an individual’s dictionary, would be the capabilities of a particular pilot, whereas diction would be his or her style.  Metadiscourse, or the words and phrases that help the reader understand the writer’s meaning, would be a pilot’s clothing.  Is the pilot wearing a uniform, or just dressed in plain clothes?  Just as a writer’s intentional metadiscourse helps the reader understand the writer, a pilot’s clothes conveys who the pilot works for, how good he or she is, how experienced he or she is, and what type of missions the pilot accomplishes (passenger transport, combat, reconnaissance, etc.).

In the end, this assignment is over before it begins.  That grammar can be synthesized into any system shows that it can be synthesized into every system.  That’s because grammar is a system.  That’s the point, isn’t it?  The real trouble for sticklers of grammar, however, is not that people don’t use the system; it’s that life goes on whether people use or ignore the system.  This, just as life goes on whether or not human flight occurs.  If there is any overarching lesson this metaphor can teach us, it is that grammar is not a solution to a problem.  It is a tool to be used by those who care to use it.  Just like flying.

How To Listen

(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)

“What’d you say?” he asked.  Realizing he couldn’t remember crossing the bridge she created–the bridge over which her words matured into tears–he felt a great shame settle over him.  Leo Tolstoy wrote, “The tears seemed to be the proper lubricant without which the machine of mutual communion between the two sisters could not work successfully.”  Similarly, her tears contained the power to recapture his attention.  The tears also had the effect of making him want to listen.  He briefly wondered how anyone found his way without Tolstoy.

Hours later, he made it a point to determine if he’d always had difficulty listening.  At first, his ego caused him to deny such a charge and pointed out that he was an excellent student.  He also recalled how he excelled in a professional environment.  Both required the ability to listen.  Reluctantly, he opened the door Doubt was moments away from breaking down.  He didn’t have very many close friends.  He certainly hadn’t made any new friends in years.  Swallowing his just-a-bit-too-large-a-bite-of-food-which-chokes-but-doesn’t-kill pride, he finally admitted the truth.  He objectified people.

This was the only way he could make sense of it.  If the person he was with couldn’t help him in some way, his mind found better things to do.  Even before this revelation solidified, he had difficulty believing this was a deficient quality.  That difficulty became an uncommon resolve which he used to summit his problem.  At last he stood atop his terrifying realization.  This never-before-seen perspective decisively gave him the vantage point necessary for change.

Instructions for How To Listen:

Step 1 – Stop talking.

Step 2 – Stop objectifying people.

How To Respect

(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)

He couldn’t be sure, but it seemed there was at least a correlation between the two.  He thought it was more likely cause and effect than correlation though.  But he knew it didn’t have to be.  He knew that laziness was the real culprit.

Of course, he couldn’t blame anyone in particular.  It certainly wasn’t the aggregators fault; they were just amassing the information.  Likewise, it wasn’t the people who provided the information’s fault.  All they did was volunteer knowledge–itself a pretty harmless action at worst.

There seemed to be no other option.  It had to be the individual.  Was the individual person the guilty party?  Yes.  He was sure of it.  He knew it all along.  He tried to pretend the responsibility didn’t fall on a single person’s shoulders, but it was clear now.  As much as he wanted to shrug off the burden, a singular sensation passing through his body signaled that he was right.  Everyone was accountable for the lack of respect permeating the culture.

In an instant, his mood changed.  He felt cheery and seemed to see the world in a different light.  If the problem had been identified, there could now be a solution.  Of all people, he should have seen this bright conclusion earlier.   It mattered not.  He wouldn’t allow these thoughts to dampen his mood.

Up until recently, there did seem to be a direct relationship between how much information a person knew, and how wise they were.  Naturally, the information age has saturated mankind with data.  As a result, everyone acted on the belief that there were answers to life’s problems.  People thought that information was wisdom.  The mistake is forgivable.  Nonetheless, it must be addressed.  The starting place, is re-learning how to respect another person.  He knew this point was tricky, as not every person behaves in a way that deserves respect.  He also knew that people rise to the occasion, and in this country every person has the same inherent right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  In this manner, at least, all people deserve respect.

So how does one give respect?  See below.

Instructions for How To Respect:

Step 1 – Listen.

Step 2 – Ask, “What are you going to do?”

How To Raise A Toddler

(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)

Okay, bedtime story complete; she’s down.  What the?  Why would they make something a toddler is supposed to put in her mouth out of cardboard?  It took less than two hours for her to flatten the red-party-favor-blower-thing with her brimming with saliva little mouth.  Gross.  Yep, I’m throwing it out.  I’ll just deal with her tomorrow.  She probably won’t even remember that it existed. (#1)

“Daddy!”

Yup.  She’s awake.  I’d guess that it’s probably around 8:00 am.  It’s got to be.  I already heard my housemate leave for work.  Let me just check my phone to see what time it is…  7:00 am!  Oh well.  I want waffles this morning anyhow, so I could use the extra time.

“Daddy?”

“What is it?”

“Where’s my red thing?”

“What red thing?”

“Daddy, can you turn on the light in your room?”

“Just eat.  When you’re done, you can turn on the light yourself.  You’re a big girl now.  You can reach all the light switches in the house.  Turn them on and off yourself as you please.”

“Daddy.  I’m done.  Peez I get off the table?”

“You’re done?!  You haven’t finished your waffles.  How are you going to have enough energy to make it to lunch?”  (#2)

“Daddy.  Peez I get off the table?”

“Fine.”

“Daddy.  Where’s my red thing?”

“I threw it… it probably got thrown away.  It was broken.”  (#3)

“Who breaked it?”

“It’s ‘broke’, not ‘breaked’, ‘broke’.  You did.  Don’t you remember?”  (#4)

“I breaked it?”

“‘Broke.’  Yep.  You sure did.  You should be more careful next time.  Okay, hurry, you have to go to school.”  (#5)

“But I didn’t break it.”

“The point is, it is gone.”

“Are we going to the mountains today?”

“No, you have school today.  We’ll go to the mountains on the weekend.”

“Oh.”

“Okay, let’s get moving.  I’ll get your clothes, time to go potty.”

Not quite making it to school (daycare) on the first trip, I was back in the driveway needing to grab the bathing suit I had told myself  not to forget.  Leaving her in the running car on the drive during the short trip into the house, I thought of all the morons who’ve car-jacked a car with a kid in the back.  Not even fully closing the front door for fear of locking myself out, I might as well have put out the bat-signal.

Feeling the front-door give a little as I twisted the just unlocked handle, I pushed further only to curse myself.  Apparently I didn’t remember to lock the deadbolt this morning before leaving like I told myself I would last night during a bout of all-too-common laziness.  Who invented deadbolts that require a key to lock it on the inside of the house anyhow?  Safe neighborhood, I’m sure.

Upon approaching the car, her child seat was empty.  More curious than concerned, I saw movement on the other side of the seat.  Good for her.  She finally knows how to unlock the seat-belt.  Finally, we made it to the ‘Early Learning Center’.

Crying , she wrapped my pinky and fore finger in her left and right hands which had acquired the grip of a python overnight.  I pried my fingers free and left her in the arms of some accented foreign lady who is her teacher.

This is probably not doing any long-term damage to her.  (#6)

Instructions for How To Raise A Toddler:

Step 1 – Lie as much as you can to the toddler and yourself.

Step 2 — Use the fact that all other parents are also lying as reassurance that you’re on the right track.