How to get along better with your coworkers

We work in teams for much of our work.  And if I adopted a parakeet for every time I hear “teamwork makes dreamwork,” I’d have an aviary.

But, I think that statement needs revision–they need to change it to “good teamwork makes dreamwork.”  Because, let’s face it, you’re not ultra productive on every team, and it can stem from different reasons.  But, one major hindrance that I’ve noticed personally and with my friends is that they have trouble getting along with their coworkers.

Sometimes, it’s actually no one’s fault if you don’t click with your coworkers; you may just have completely different personalities or styles of communicating, and you just don’t mesh together.  Other times, there may be distinct qualities we don’t naturally gravitate towards.  But in my experience, creating effective teamwork is much less about the work and more about the team.

You see, I think that with the right mix, a highly effective team could tackle some of the most complex and arduous tasks.  We can’t do every task independently, and collaboration is one of the keys to success.  The challenge is creating that bond within people, where they feel like they can rely on each other enough so that obstacles crumble in their midst.

So, insert the main 2 problems you might have with your co-workers: your personalities don’t blend well together, or there’s something specific you dislike about them (or both).  I’ve thought a lot about this problem–what’s hindering us from making really good relationships with our coworkers, and what’s in our power to change that problem.

Situation 1: Personalities Clash

You’re type A, they’re type B.  Sometimes, it just doesn’t mesh, and your basic thought processes don’t align well.  And, that’s okay.  You don’t have to be best friends with who you work with, but you do have to work together.

So, just work together.  Focus your conversations on work; this way, you’re both being productive and finding a common interest in your conversations together.

A big tip I learned from my supervisor at my internship this summer is to identify the coworker’s personality, and play to what they’re like.  For example, if your coworker is super professional and results-oriented, make sure you plan your meeting ahead, have the deliverables in front of you (or at least in mind), bring a pen and paper, and get to the point when you’re talking.  You can’t change them, but you can change how you interact with them by knowing how they operate.

Situation 2: “I don’t like that about you”

Sometimes, we find that a certain trait someone has just bothers us; it’s like you just can’t look beyond this one thing s/he always says or that one habit s/he has.  I used to come across situations like this, but I thought of a trick to help solve not being able to look past what you don’t like about someone.  And it’s not really about changing them–it’s more about changing yourself and your perceptions about them.

Let’s pretend you have this coworker who always needs to have the loudest voice in the room.  It may be annoying, but if you change how you view them from a negative to positive perception, like “they’re not afraid to be heard,” it plants that positivity seed in your mind.

Is it corny?


But, focusing on something you admire about your coworkers can help you realize why they’re on your team and what they bring to the table. Think about what your coworker brings to the team that the team wouldn’t otherwise have; what specifically does s/he add that everyone needs?  It helps you to recognize the value of your team which can give you more confidence in them.




Why you’ll keep getting smarter when you graduate school and start working

I love school.  I love to learn new about new things and how there’s always something you can know more about.  That was one of my favorite parts of college–being able to sit in a library, pick up any book, and find out something I never knew before.

I think, societally, we’ve developed this idea that schools are our only learning hubs.  And, sure, I don’t know if any other places have so many diverse subject matter experts and books in such small radii, but I don’t like that we often believe that the only place you can learn is school.

As I graduate this fall, I’m basically trying to figure out my next moves: what I want to go to school for next, where I want to work, and what I want to do (and attempt to enjoy life every once and a while with a vacation).  Like the origins of many existential ideas, I was thinking about this in my car on the drive to work: what’s the real difference between school and work?  Why do you need school before you can work?  Do you need school to continue learning, or does learning come in many forms?

That, friends, spawned an inner dialogue that pervaded the whole trip–and it’s an hour long drive.

School gives us the foundations for what we need.  To understand higher level concepts that you’d learn while working, you need to start with a bunch of relevant topics and work your way up.  Take molecular biology: you need to understand organic chemistry, cell biology, and calculus to get a grip on the subject.

Someone explained to me that building your knowledge base is more like building a pyramid than a ladder: when you solidly learn all the basics you need, you can become more and more specialized as you reach the top.  Your foundation is strong, and you have a broader wealth of knowledge beneath you as you climb the pyramid.  Conversely, ladders aren’t very steady; if you had a ladder instead, it could easily topple over if you lost your balance (or, in this case, went outside your subject matter element).

Related image

But, at some point you’re done with formal training.  Like this picture, you have a bunch of knowledge clusters and you’re ready to put it to use.  That’s where working comes in.

When you’re working, you’re not only revisiting concepts you learned in school (assuming you’re doing something related to what you studied), but you’re connecting everything you learned beforehand.  You’re becoming smarter, because you’re starting to understand why you took a class in X or had to do a lab in Y.  You’re making new connections based on your previous knowledge, and you’re using these connections to solve meaningful problems in your job.

I took this class last year about how people learn; when you’re “passively learning,” you’re reading books or listening to lectures.  You’re not really retaining a whole lot, because you’re not engaging your brain.  It’s like your brain is a river bed, and the information to be learned is the flowing water.  Your brain isn’t getting a lot of time to interact with the information, so it isn’t going to remember it as well.  But, now pretend you’re a river bed in the water is moving more slowly.  Now, you have more time to interact with every water molecule.  This is the rough equivalent to “active learning”: solving problems, having discussions, and applying what you’ve learned.

When you start working, you’re making new connections to the seemingly random knowledge from school.  You gain an understanding for why you learned what you did, and you’re able to appreciate your discipline and its complexity.  And the more you’re exposed to as you continue working, the more connections you’ll form.



What to do if you graduated with a major you weren’t happy in (the spider web analogy)

Perhaps you just graduated.  Or you’re about to graduate.  And you’re looking at your degree audit and thinking “oh my lanta, how’d I make it through college studying this?”  Or, more importantly, “what am I going to do with this?”

When you’re 18, it’s a miracle if you can figure out your college’s convoluted bus system or remember the dining hall hours.  At 18, it’s incredibly difficult to know what you’ll want to do forever–without access to a crystal ball from your local fortune teller, how do you know what you’re thinking about studying will get you to where you want to be in 10 years?

We choose majors for different reasons, but whether you’ve known from the beginning what you’ve wanted to study, you based it on salary, you had influence from your family, or you just liked how it sounded, your major in college does have some effect on your life.  It doesn’t define your life, but it can open and close career doors.

As an electrical engineering major, you haven’t learned what you need to be a neuroscientist.  That’s not to say you can’t learn–just that your EE program didn’t prepare you for a neuro line of work.

So here’s the dilemma: when you’ve studied something you can’t see yourself doing for a year out of school, let alone forever, and it’s too late to switch.  You want to be the neuroscientist, but you’re trained as the electrical engineer.

You can only gain so much exposure by reading required course outlines or articles about what people in your major do.  And, often by the time you’re qualified enough to intern somewhere to test the waters, you’re too deep in the coursework to be able to switch out if you don’t like it.

It can be frustrating–it’s like when you take the wrong exit on the highway, because you can see in your mirrors where you should be going, but you just keep getting further away with time.

It’s okay if what you studied in school isn’t a perfect fit for what you want to do now–it just means that you have to find some connections between what you’ve studied to what you want to do.  It’s like you’re a spider, creating a bridge (your connection) between two tree branches (where you are and where you want to be).

There has to be something you’ve learned that applies to what you want.  Now, it’s your job to find it.

The key is to look at what you’ve studied through a different angle–for example, why your background in electrical engineering (what you are) gives you an edge as a neuroscientist (what you want to be) (your connections being analogizing logic signals to neuronal impulses, understanding how MRIs and EEGs work, and being able to think of the nervous system as a big circuit).

If you’ve found that what you thought you’d like at 18 doesn’t suit you at 22, that’s okay–after all, if our older selves could advise our younger selves, we’d never make mistakes.

But, your next objective is to figure out how to get to where you want from where you are with what you have.  Building that spider web-bridge could be as simple as jumping into your next job or more complex, where you’re building each strand at a time–and perhaps your time and resources needed depend on how far apart the branches are.  The bridge could require further education, a temporary job in the middle of what you want with what you have, or advice from someone who’s been in your situation before.



What to do when you feel like everything’s falling apart

The world is wonderful and beautiful, but that can be hard to see when a crisis punctures your perception of it.

When we’re in crisis, we often shut down and repress or blow up and stress.  Neither helps us get back to our goal of feeling good again.  From someone who’s felt her life was in shambles more than a tempered glass windshield after a hail storm, many things that feel like the end of the world are actually components of a new normal.

1.  Cut out the what-ifs:  My brain loves what-if statements.  “What if I’d done this instead?” “What if I hadn’t said that?” “What if I hadn’t thought like that before?”  Giving your mind infinite imaginary scenarios is letting it play alone in the playground of anxiety.  When you’re in distress, you want your mind babysat.  You need to keep track of what it’s doing, so you can keep yourself focused and correct any misconceptions later.  And, when you play what-if games, you’re not dealing with reality anymore.

2.  Hold your horses:  Take a minute and breathe.  It’s like trying to eat chips and salsa while you’re riding a bike: each needs its own time to complete, and you can’t do both at once (either you’ll spill your salsa or fall off your bike which leaves you hungry and hurt).  Poor analogies aside, you need to deal with one thing at a time: the crisis and life.  When you’re feeling like things are falling apart, this is something that probably needs attention, because it’s affecting how you feel.  And how you feel affects basically every other part of your life.  Stop what you’re doing for five minutes and think about what’s wrong.

3.  Don’t expect to solve your problem in those five minutes:  The only problems that get solved in five minutes are the ones you find the Quizlet answers to from the semester before.  You need to dedicate more than a Starbucks order waiting time’s worth of time to fix what’s wrong with how you’re feeling.  Give yourself time to process what’s going on, analyze how you can solve it, and enact your solution.  This can be really helpful, because a lot of the times these crises come with a lot of anxiety, and giving yourself just a couple minutes to make your move is an unnecessarily stressful deadline to put on yourself.

4.  Don’t feel like you need a solution right now:  Going along with the part about anxiety, don’t come up with unrealistic deadlines and expectations for yourself.  You’re already having a hard enough time, so giving yourself a little bit of leeway and letting yourself process the situation before acting takes some of the pressure off.

5.  Understand that everyone feels like this at some point:  It’s isolating when you feel like you’re the only one going through an experience, but you being solo is rarely the case.  Even just that thought, that someone else has faced a problem like yours and persisted can bring you solace.  There’re people you can talk to who want to help and listen, and your only obstacle is finding those people.



6 life lessons I learned from my toughest semester ever

Wow.  It’s been a while.  3 months and 12 days!  103 days!  I could go on with the conversions, but my point is that there hasn’t been a post on here in too long.

The gap in semi-interesting thoughts spawns from a semester that was perhaps the most difficult I’ve ever taken at Penn State.  Classes gave me trouble that I didn’t expect, and there were plenty of sleepless nights and less-than-wonderful days.  I hate taking breaks from blogging, because it’s one of my favorite things; alas, the things you do for an undergrad degree.

However, I learned so much from the past 15 weeks that I thought I could combine some of it into a post to celebrate the return of your favorite (and perhaps only) fake blonde, sunflower-loving, engineer/blogger girl.  So, here it goes: 6 life lessons I learned from my toughest semester ever.

1. You don’t have time for toxic friendships: I’ve talked before about how to spot and handle a toxic friendship, but this advice gives more perspective on that post.  When you have limited extra time to give to people, you want to give as much as possible to those who make you feel good about yourself.  And of course this isn’t to say that just because you don’t talk to all the good people in your life all the time that you’re subconsciously saying they aren’t worth your time.  This point focuses more on giving people who don’t add to your life less attention.  Especially when you’re stressed, you need really good people to fall back on and tell you things are ok.  That’s what’ll get you through.

2.  Rejection is inevitable, but it feels amplified when you’re stressed: When you’re working so hard for something and it doesn’t end up working out like you wanted, it’s easy to become more discouraged.  It can make you feel like you’re ill-equipped to handle what’s being thrown at you.  When you’re stressed, your judgement is clouded and you aren’t thinking like normal.  Moderate rejections and closed doors feel like crises, and it’s hard to shake off.  But, the key to getting through this is using perspective.  Look at your track record–you’ve prevailed over rejection before, and all that one closed door means is that you’re meant for a better opportunity.

3.  Sleep, meals and exercise should be scheduled like a class: You’re not a robot.  You have basic needs that help you function at your best.  It can be easy to cut out one of these components, because you might not see immediate consequences like you might if you miss an assignment or don’t study for an exam.  Consequences in your health take longer to appear than two class periods.  This is something I struggled with, because sleep and exercise are usually the first to go when I have too much work.  But, good health is what’s going to take you beyond those assignments, and poor health has lasting effects.  But, penciling in a bed time or a 30 minute exercise session and sticking to it could fix this–it’s something I’ll try (and probably write a post on) next semester. 🙂

4. Showing you’re a leader isn’t “how many leadership roles can you take on”:  Instead, it’s “how well can you do in the ones you take on.”  This goes back to the value of your time; you could spend your time being mediocre at a bunch of things, or you could be really impactful in fewer things.  This concept isn’t revolutionary–I’ve seen it be used everywhere, but it’s really relevant here, especially when you’re managing an operation.  It’s different from a class, because if you take on too much during a semester, you’ll just get lower grades (read: yourself).  But, in a leadership role, if you don’t have enough time to dedicate, you risk affecting an entire operation (read: other people).

5. If possible, don’t make major life decisions when you’re in the middle of a stressful situation: This ties into our talk about rejection with clouded judgement.  Try to wait until things have died down until you make a life-altering choice.  This way, you’re making sure that your stressors aren’t influencing your decision, because in many cases, the decision’s consequences last longer than the effects of the stressors.

6. Try your best: You might not ace every class.  You might not get an amazing performance review every time.  You might not get the internship you’ve been wanting forever.  But, you’re trying, and that’s where you should be proud of yourself. Sometimes, we set our expectations for ourselves higher than we can actually achieve. Even if you don’t reach your perfect-world goals, you’re still achieving so much.  When you try to improve yourself, whether it’s with school or exercise or anything else, you’ll create a better version of yourself than you had yesterday.



6 life lessons I learned from living in Seattle for a summer

I spent the summer living in Seattle, so you don’t have to.

Just kidding, I loved it!  Seattle is one of the most unique places I’ve ever visited.  The local culture is so vibrant, and there’s an mist of nonchalance that covers the air when the fog burns up.  Seattle is a city that its residents are proud to represent, and this gave me the perfect environment to do a little soul-searching and self improvement.  I’ve never spent a summer focusing solely on personal growth and where I want to go life-wise, and at the risk of sounding too much like a blurb off Instagram, taking three months to learn more about myself and what I really want has been enlightening.

Now that I’ve sprinkled this post with so much mozzarella, let’s get onto the point of your visit here: 6 life lessons from living in Seattle.

1. You can be easygoing and ambitious at the same time:  Simply put, you don’t have to constantly feel like you’re about to have a coronary from anxiety to have goals.  I think it’s a common thing to associate Type A personalities with high ambition, but wanting success isn’t necessarily a trait specific to a personality type.  It’s okay to roll with it; you’ll still get things done! 🙂 Seattle is possibly the most collectively relaxed city I’ve ever visited–much different from the east coast in a sense that that insatiable need to get onto the next task is diminished.  It’s taught me that you don’t always have to be on the go to want to achieve.  Which leads me into my next point…

2. Not everything needs to get done right now:  Not everything on the bucket list has to be done by tomorrow or this weekend.  Take your time, and take breaks when you need it.  It can be daunting to look at all the things you want to accomplish and become intimidated.  For a while, I often felt like I was going to be constantly racing against the clock to get all of my school completed, and it was frustrating.  Once you reframe your mindset to realize how much time a year or five actually is, you realize that you’re doing just fine, and your pace is probably perfect for you.

3. Everyone can use another friend:  I’ve made so many wonderful friends this summer, and I’m so grateful for them.  I used to be one to keep my friend circle pretty small, but learning to branch out has taught me how much you can gain from new friendships.  Genuinely connecting with people can be unusual, so it’s amazing when you find people who you feel like you can be yourself around and enjoy your company.  This isn’t to say that you’re required to become best friends with everyone you meet, because that obviously isn’t realistic.  But, you can never meet too many good people.  Knowing someone cares about your wellbeing is a warm feeling, and you never know how much a friendship means to someone who feels they don’t have enough support or really needs it at the moment.

4. It’s easier to be outgoing when you’re confident:  This is probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned this summer.  I’ve always been pretty quiet, but I’ve slowly begun to grow out of my shyness.  Developing self confidence is something that’s helped me in talking to people–but that sounds intuitive, doesn’t it?  When you feel comfortable with yourself to the degree that you’re not afraid of people’s reactions, you’re more likely to approach them as the truest and calmest version of yourself, because you know you’ll be okay if they don’t like what you’re saying.

5. Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t like you: You’re not everyone’s type, and sometimes your experiences are so different that you can’t relate to each other.  It’s nobody’s fault–it’s just the circumstances that make you guys incompatible.  It doesn’t mean you both aren’t amazing people.  You won’t have a connection with everyone that you meet, and that’s ok; it’s what makes those friendships more special.

6. Trust your intuition:  If something feels right, then go with it.  If it doesn’t, don’t.  Your instincts are biologically engrained into you to keep you safe from dangerous situations. If you feel like something is wrong, then it probably is, and you shouldn’t ignore your feelings, even if you risk coming off as impolite.



How to rebuild self esteem

Almost everyone has come across something that knocks you off their balance: a situation or a series of events that make you unsure of yourself.  Or maybe, you never had a lot of self esteem in the beginning, so this brings you a little lower.  Either way, I believe two things: people should do more of what makes them happy, and they should feel better about themselves than they usually do.  Today, I want to talk about the second.

Since I’m writing this post, you can probably infer I’ve had experience with damaged confidence.  I won’t pretend that it’s only happened once or that I’ve bounced back immediately, either.  Learning to view yourself in a positive way is difficult, because it’s so easy to focus on what you aren’t good at or need to improve on.  I believe that some personalities are more susceptible to lower self esteem: perfectionism, shyness, sensitivity, and social uncomfortableness are characteristics that I’d peg–mainly because I had them just like my friends who felt like me.

Give them some tools for self-improvement and a couple confidence boosting moments, and you’re on your way to watching their opinion of themselves flourish before you.

People can glue seemingly shattered fragments of their self worth back together.  But it takes time to fit those pieces back together, and a little more to let the glue dry.  I don’t like the phrase, “picking up the pieces.”  You can pick up a mess in an instant; to make order of the chaos is completely different, and it takes time.

I’m going to share some advice on how to build self esteem.  While this isn’t all you can do to rebuild your confidence, it’s a great start.

1. Do something nice for someone: When you help someone accomplish something, you feel useful.  People value what you offer them, and it proves to yourself how much you contribute to making peoples’ lives better.

2. Ask a friend for a pep talk:  Your friends want you to feel good and succeed.  There’s nothing wrong with asking them to give you a couple words of encouragement when you’re going through a rough time.  Friends are there to support you, so they’d probably be happy to tell you how amazing they think you are!

3. Work to understand your emotions:  This has been really helpful for me over the years.  Trying to gain an understanding of what emotion you feel and why you feel it is a good way to better understand yourself.  Your emotions are a key part in how you see the world, and understanding those can help you figure out who you are and how your mind works.

4. Compliment yourself:  There’s nothing wrong with looking at yourself in the mirror and saying you look fantastic.  Or looking at your last A-grade paper and commending your intelligence.  Or looking at your significant other and recognizing that your flexibility and understanding is helping to make the relationship work.  This goes along with becoming your own best friend–learning how to see the good qualities about yourself is the base of self worth.  And by creating this solid base of self-love and appreciation, you’re building a mountain of confidence.

5. Take good care of yourself:  When you’re eating foods that nourish your brain, stretching your muscles on a walk, practicing good grooming and hygiene, and taking a mental break when you need to, you’re benefitting your health and body.  These habits are what’re strengthening and refueling you to take on new challenges.  Physical and mental health are synchronized, so moving one forward can often affect the other.

6. Get more sleep:  There’s no question that you feel lousy when you don’t get enough sleep.  Your brain feels cloudy and you can’t think like you normally do.  It’s like being in a state of disorientation until you get to go back to sleep.  How are you supposed to build yourself up if you aren’t feeling well?  Hormonally, your cortisol levels are totally out of whack, which can make you end up feeling nervous and uneasy.  Not the best environment for enlightenment.

7.  Stop talking to people who make you feel bad: We’ve talked before about spotting and handling toxic friendships, so this may seem repetitive.  However, I can’t tell you enough how important it is to surround yourself with really good people who care about and support you.  They’re the ones you’re going to go to when you’re feeling down, and they’re the ones you’ll go to when you need advice.  You need reliable people and ones who want what’s best for you.  After all, people often slowly become more like the people they hang out with.

8.  Forgive your failures, but don’t forget them: Originally, this point was labeled “forget your failures.”  However, after thinking, that’s always the most constructive way to move forward.  We’ve talked about failure a lot on this blog, and I think it provides good lessons–mental nourishment for your future self, even.  I don’t think you should discount your wealth of experiences, no matter how badly you failed.  Each has taught you something about life or how to think, and each should be rewarded with remembrance.  This isn’t to say you have to think about them every day or torture yourself over what you did wrong.  Life would be a lot easier if we could live it backwards–then we’d never make mistakes.  But give yourself a break; you did the best you could, and now you know what you can do better.  Forgetting the experience altogether eliminates that crucial, second part.



Should you take an internship near or far from home?

Interning over the summer is my favorite part of college.  It gives you more time to dedicate to making money, networking, boosting your resume, and making a name for yourself in your field of interest.  Interning is also generally short-term employment which leads to it being relatively low commitment–not in a sense that you don’t have to show up for work, but more that it’s not a big deal if you don’t love what you’re doing, because you’re only working there for three months over the summer.

There are a variety of aspects to consider when analyzing an internship offer, and one of the most obvious is where you’ll be working.  Some students prefer to intern near home, and others specifically apply to openings somewhere far away.  There are benefits and drawbacks to each, and I want to inform you guys thinking about interning next summer and beyond about which situation is best for you!

For reference, I lived at home during my first summer of college to take classes and run The Candid Closet.  My second summer, I did a research internship at Texas A&M in College Station, TX.  This summer, I took another research internship at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA.  Each has been different (especially working pretty far to very far away), and I’ve gotten a general idea about what both situations entail as well as information from friends who’ve interned before.

The Benefits of Interning Near Home

Unless your parents are charging you rent, chances are you’re pocketing much of the money you make from working without worrying about rent, meal, or laundry expenses.  Also, this situation simplifies transportation to/from work.  At least this summer, it’d be a huge hassle to have driven my car to Seattle all the way from Pennsylvania, but if I lived near my parents, I could use my car or ask them to drive me on their way to work.

When you’re living at home, is you’ll probably have childhood friends and family who are also home for the summer that you can reconnect with.  Home is familiar–you don’t have to worry about adapting to somewhere new, so it can ease the process of adjusting to your new job.

The Drawbacks of Interning Near Home

Living at home might not be the most adventurous and exciting way to spend your summer.  Also, you may feel like you just got an independence downgrade from when you were on your own in college.  Depending on family dynamics, you may keep a schedule you wouldn’t normally make for yourself or be exposed to unnecessary family drama.  It may be difficult to readjust to answering to someone other than yourself, like you likely do in college.  Ultimately, I think it’s a practicability for independence tradeoff.

The Benefits of Interning Far From Home

Exploring somewhere new is exciting, and it’s one of the main reasons I haven’t applied to internships near my hometown.  When you’re on your own, you’re learning how to take care of yourself in a way you wouldn’t think of at home.  It helps you to grow and develop self reliance and resourcefulness.

In my case, Interning far from home let me visit new places I wouldn’t otherwise think to see (and get paid for it).  I’ve made friends from all over the country and networked in person with spectacular people I would’ve otherwise only known online.  My weekends gave me the chance to explore this new area and take on that part-time tourist role (which is a lot of fun).

The Drawbacks of Interning Far From Home

Things can definitely get more complicated and expensive than being at home.  Exploring somewhere new can cost money, and even if your program is paying for your travel and apartment, you often still have to cover your own meals and transportation around town.

If there’s an emergency, being far from home means you’re likely dealing with the situation yourself–something you might not feel ready for.  There’s also that initial, uneasy feeling you get when you’re somewhere totally new–in my hometown, I knew which sides of town were safe and which to avoid.  When you go somewhere you know little about, you might unknowingly put yourself in danger just by walking down a particular street, simply because you don’t know better.  Danger can take many faces, and it might be one you hadn’t recognized until you’re in trouble.

In my experience, interning far from home was an excitement for convenience tradeoff.

Ultimately, though, wherever you take an internship, it’s going to be a great experience for you.  Where you’re working during the summer is a temporary thing, and if you go somewhere and decide you hate it, you’re not required to go back! 🙂



What’s conflict and how do you deal with it?

It isn’t a question that conflict is unavoidable.  Plans don’t go as scheduled, personalities clash, everyone’s tired… whatever it is, there’s a disagreement, and you need to know how to soothe the tension to get everyone back on track.

Conflict is a clash or a disagreement that inhibits progress.  It can stem from an infinite amount of sources, and, bottom line, it keeps things from getting done.  It’s also expensive; whether money-wise or relationship-wise, it’s unnecessarily costing you.

The most important thing to know is that you have the power to diffuse conflict.  Now, you may not be able to turn everyone’s feelings into those of Christmas Day—but sometimes, the only thing that’ll mend bad feelings is the clock.  There’s the potential for disagreement in almost everything you partake in: at the DMV, on a project, or on the internet.  Knowing how to pacify an argument is an infinitely useful skill and vital for fortifying good leadership skills.  I’m not an expert at solving conflict situations, but I have experience with a bunch that I feel I’ve learned a lot from.  Here’re the top tips I’ve learned for diffusing disagreements:

1.  Empathy is key, so try to understand: It’s easy to think in terms of right and wrong in a world of black and white.  So, cue empathy: your best friend when dealing with a dispute.  When you work to understand what and why the other person is thinking differently, you’re exercising the precursor to compromise.  As long as both of you continue to think that the other is wrong, you’ll never get anywhere.  This isn’t the time to be stubborn; it’s the time to be open-minded and caring about what the other person thinks.

2.  Communicate respectfully: Saying what you feel is important, because leaving things unsaid can either lead to an unhelpful compromise, or it can just lead to you feeling unheard.  And both are avoidable if you just say what you mean.  If you’re not talking about what’s bothering you specifically, that person will never know and won’t be able to help you solve the problem.  Bottom line, “Say” by John Mayer has the message you’re after.  On a separate but related topic, make your respect towards who you’re talking to evident.  I’m not saying you have to curtsy when you see them, but keep this in mind: you both win by talking it out, but as soon as you call the other person names, you’ve lost.  If you want the conversation towards a place of betterment, keep in mind that people don’t respond well to being talked to like they’re nothing.  The objective of compromise isn’t to make the other person realize that they’re wrong or right, but it’s instead to come to an agreement that satisfies both of you.

3.  Don’t be afraid of confrontation: Confrontation often gets this reputation that you have to bring swords to this battle of who’s typing the report or whose house you’re staying at for the holidays (or whatever the source of conflict is).  Confrontation doesn’t have to be scary; it can lead to positive, constructive outcomes if executed a certain way.  I won’t pretend I don’t understand how confronting someone can be intimidating and uncomfortable; sometimes, it feels like you’re calling someone out, or you’re afraid of how the person will react to what you’re saying.  Granted, in my experience, it’s been that how someone reacts to being confronted is more in your delivery than what you’re saying.  Being calm and respectful in your approach is the easiest way to drive anger out of their response.

“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to Hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” ~Winston Churchill

4.  Figure out what the exact issue is:  Simply put, you’re going to put at least one conversation into talking about the issue you’re disagreeing about.  If you’re not actually talking about the problem, or you’re pretending that it’s something else that’s bothering you, your progress is significantly diminished.  This goes back to advice #2: if you want to solve the issue, talk about that issue.

5.  Listen and pay attention:  Value what the other person is telling you; if they’re genuinely explaining what bothers them, then it probably means they want to fix the problem, too.  When you listen, you learn.  When you talk, you inform.  In solving conflict, there’s a nice balance between listening and talking that’ll give you your best outcome.  Listening  and observing closely to a person can also give you clues to what they’re thinking, even if they won’t tell you—their pitch, body language, and mannerisms can give you a much better look into how they feel, because those unconscious gestures give more insight than conscious word choice can.



The importance of being your own best friend

There are even professions dedicated specifically to helping us form better relationships with ourselves.  But still, sometimes more often than we want, we feel like we aren’t enough.  Like we aren’t significant.  Like we’re failing.

It’s taken me a while to become someone I like.  Some of my teen years were tougher than anything, and I didn’t think I was worth much at all.  But now, things are different—and I think that has something to do with the relationship I’ve built with myself.  Learning how to love yourself—it’s not something you learn in school, but it’s so important for your happiness and success.  It’s as if we’re expected to come to that realization by ourselves and automatically know all the steps to take.  But it’s about forming your identity, and it’s more than just figuring out your favorite music or clothing brand like you usually do at school age.

I think becoming your own best friend has to do with understanding your own emotions and what you want.  Forming a good relationship with yourself is about knowing what you want out of life, what you stand for, and who you want to be to people.  Forming a good relationship with yourself is about being able to spot when a relationship with someone else is hurting you and being able to walk away from it.  It’s all that self-realization stuff: those existential questions people are afraid to ask and even more are afraid to answer.

If no one else has told you yet, you’re doing a great job.  You’re not failing—you’re doing your best, and you’re trying to figure things out with what you know.  But, let me tell you, if you haven’t tried it yet, becoming your own best friend can lead to that positive tape playing eternally in your head.

Here’s why your relationship with yourself is so important: bottom line, you’re with yourself until your death.  Relationships may leave, memories may fade, but you’re always going to be with yourself through whatever you do.  Sometimes, you’ll feel on top to the universe and you won’t need a pep talk.  Other times, you’ll be in a valley, and you’ll need some support.  What you need is a cheerleader to get you through what you’re doing in every stage of life.  You need to be your own support system and talk to yourself in a way that’ll help you feel better and motivate you to continue.

And, unlike other aspects of life, this isn’t necessarily a characteristic that grows with age.  I’ve met people my age who love themselves and adults three times my age who don’t.  Becoming your own best friend requires persistence, but anyone, no matter the stage of life, can learn to be a self-cheerleader.

So, onto the DIY part.  How can we make you your own best friend, so nothing can hold you back?  Here’re a few tricks I’ve used:

  1. Don’t regret things you did or didn’t do: A really wise friend told me this after I’d been angry at myself for not saying something when I knew I should’ve.  She told me that, when you’re in that moment, you’re doing the best you know how to.  It’s easy to go back and figure you should’ve acted differently, or things would’ve turned out better for you if you’d just done that other thing instead.  But thinking like that isn’t doing you any favors.  Looking back and regretting how you acted is silly, because it isn’t constructive towards who you are now.  For things you regret doing or not doing, remind yourself that you were doing all you could in that moment—you didn’t fail yourself.
  2. Talk to yourself the way you would someone you love:  If someone you care about had hardship, you wouldn’t beat them down with all of the mistakes they made to get them there.  You’d tell them how strong and smart and amazing they are, and how they’re going to make it through this.  That you’ll be with them if they need anything.  That they’re so special, and you want to see them happy.  Do.The.Same.For.Yourself.  You need that too.  Be understanding of yourself when you’re in a struggle, and be cognizant that not everything’s in your control—sometimes, even if you acted differently, you’d still be in the situation you’re in.  You deserve some of kindness you give everyone else.
  3. Recognize a toxic friendship:  As much as we deny it, we become who we associate with.  If you’re surrounding yourself with someone who makes you feel like you’re nothing, soon, you’ll start to feel like you’re nothing.  And it isn’t something wrong with you—it’s something wrong with them.  Surround yourself with people who’re excited and inspired to see you accomplish things.  Surround yourself with people who recognize how special you are and who make you feel good about yourself.  Their voices are the ones you want in your head.
  4. Create a personal mantra:  When things get difficult and you don’t know what to say, it helps to have something prepared.  Having a word or phrase that makes you feel safe or strong can help take lost/confused/scared-you out of the bad situation and put in the version of yourself who knows they’ll get themselves out of it.  Forget if it sounds cheesy; if it’s helping you, it’s helping you.