Month: March 2008

How To Deal With Controlling People

The best thing to do when you need to deal with a controlling person is understand that the need to control comes from a place of fear, of weakness, not of strength.  A person operating from a place of strength has no need to control others.

The fear that causes someone to be controlling is generally one of two kinds:  fear of failure (if I’m not running everything, then it will all go to pieces) or fear of showing their weakness (if I don’t control this person, they will find my weaknesses and control me).  The way to treat those fears differs, although both involve letting go, but this isn’t about how to fix someone being controlling, it’s about how to deal with them.

Controlling people have a sliding scale along which they place each person they encounter, a scale that runs from vastly inferior to vastly superior, with the very center being those that are unknown.  People on the low end of the scale are safe to manipulate, while those at the high end are to be obeyed (and maybe even feared).

People are placed on this scale (and moved on it) based on their behavior… if your behavior shows strength and confidence, you move up the scale, but if your behavior shows weakness and uncertainty, you will move down it.  Much of this behavior is subconscious, and is even shared with many types of animals.

The girl in the picture, for instance, is clearly showing her submission… leaning away, head tilted downward, eyes raised and barely able to look at the man.  The man, on the other hand, is showing aggressive, dominant behavior… leaning forward to look down on her, teeth bared, finger in her face, etc.

There is also a place between these two extremes… your behavior can show your dominance without being aggressive.  If you stand with your back straight, confidently meeting the eyes of whomever you encounter, speaking strongly and clearly, then you will come across as being high on the scale, without having to be a jerk (though being a jerk to someone who is controlling can often place you above them on their scale, it is a temporary placement… they will not respect you, and without respect, they are simply looking for a way to maneuver around you to a superior position).

If you want to stop someone from controlling you, then, you need to adopt behavior which shows them that you are higher on the scale than they consider themselves (or so strong that you actually are off the scale, but that’s much harder both to learn and to do).  You can easily figure out what that behavior is by mentally picturing someone of strength and confidence… picture them standing, moving, and reacting.  The behaviors you picture are the ones that you should aim to adopt.

When you first change your behavior in this manner, the controlling person’s first reaction is often to try to drag (usually through guilt) or push (often through angry reactions) you back down the scale to where you were.  Don’t back down, though… even if you don’t feel the confidence you’re projecting, their very reaction shows that you are having an effect, and when you understand that, and that they are indeed seeing what you are projecting, that itself can cause you to grow into that very confidence.   In people behavior and attitude are interdependent:  as your attitude changes, so does your behavior, but the reverse is true as well… as your behavior changes, your attitude slowly follows.

The new strength and confidence that you find as you change your behavior can help you across all aspects of your life, too… it may give you the confidence to ask for a raise, or the strength to do something about the state of your relationship.

So, in parting, I’ll leave you with a small list of things that can help you project that image of the strong, confident person that you want to be:

  1. Stand Up Straight

  2. Meet People’s Eyes Directly

  3. Speak Clearly And Strongly

  4. Don’t Back Up When People Invade Your Personal Space

  5. Don’t Fidget

    And a mental one:

  6. Every Time You Think Of Failure, Think Of Success

More detail on that list may be forthcoming in another article in the near future.

How To Make Today A Better Day

Want to make today a better day?  It’s not that hard, it just takes a little prep work.

It won’t take long, but you do need five minutes in a place where you can sit quietly.  You’ll also need a pen and paper (you can type, but pen and paper work better).

Sit down and picture something that makes you happy… happy like the baby in the picture.  If you want an example, here’s one from my own life:  making a daddy sandwich.  That’s when my wife lays on one side of me, with her head on my shoulder, and my daughter lays on my other side, with her head on my other shoulder.

Visualize it as clearly as you can in your mind… sight, sound, smells, touch, even the way it makes you feel (as in emotions).  While you’re visualizing that, write it down.  The visualizing and the writing reinforce each other… writing it down sets the memory more clearly, while the memory associates with the actual written words (which is why a pen and paper work better).

When you have it written down, repeat the process to find at least two more things… five is better, but you don’t want to go overboard, because if you get to having too many items, it will dilute the power of each one.  Now, if you did use pen and paper, fold up the paper and take it with you.

When something bad happens during the day, pull out your list and bring one of those memories back.  When something notably good happens, do the same.  If you have a few minutes when you’re not doing anything, bring it out again.

When you do it isn’t important… just spending the time to really remember something that truly makes you happy takes all (or at least a lot) of the sting out of something bad happening, and makes something good even better.

If your happy memories involve your family, it also makes you feel closer to them.  Whatever they involve, though, it brings more happiness into today than would have otherwise been there.

Which, of course, makes today a better day.

By the way, here’s my list (at least for today):

  1. Making A Daddy Sandwich

  2. My First Hug From My Wife When I Get Home

  3. My Daughter’s Arms Wrapped Around My Neck When She First Wakes Up

  4. Seeing Happiness And Excitement In My Son’s Face

  5. Quiet Time With My Wife

That’s mine… can you tell that I’m a family man?  Does anyone else feel like sharing?  Sometimes just reading what makes other people happy can bring up related memories of your own that make you happy, too.

The Importance Of Real Time Off

When is the last time that you had real time off?  Real time off doesn’t just mean time when you don’t go into the office… it means time when you feel no rush to do anything, time when you feel like you can take time, and not in specified amounts, to do whatyou want to do.

Real time off means you don’t have to go to the grocery store, or buy your kids clothes, or take them to practice, or fix something around the house (unless that’s what you enjoy).  You don’t have a vacation with a tight schedule, and for that matter, you don’t really have any schedule at all… you truly have leisure time.

I can’t really speak for ages past, but in the modern day, it seems to be harder and harder to disconnect and take time off from everything.  You have demands on your time coming from all sides… your job, your spouse, your kids, family, friends, people trying to sell you something.  It just never seems to stop.

You can, of course, make it stop.  Your time is your own… no one else can have any of it that you don’t give them (short of kidnapping you).  It’s all a matter of priorities… the higher on your priority list something is, the greater claims it can make on your time.

The problem is that we often forget to put ourselves on our priority list, or if we’re there, we’re way down near the bottom.  We need some of our own time, though.

When you don’t get any of your own time, when it’s all taken up by the demands of others, you begin to feel drained, and the longer it stays that way, the worse the drain is, until you feel absolutely empty inside, as if you were nothing but a shell.  The only way to get over that empty, exhausted feeling is to bump yourself all the way to the top of the priority list and take some time for you.

When you take this time, it doesn’t mean you have to sit around and do nothing (although that’s a valid choice, as long as it is a choice).  You can do anything you enjoy, just don’t give yourself a set time limit… don’t do something for just an hour, do it until that emptiness starts to fill, or hopefully fills completely, although that might take more than one time.

You can read, go fishing, play basketball, do something creative (write, paint, carve, etc.), or work on something that you enjoy.  The key is that it has to be something that you’re doing just because you want to, just because you like to do it, not because you feel like it’s something you have to do.

It also doesn’t have to be alone, as long as having someone with you doesn’t make you feel like the time is not your own any more.  In particular, I know that I can certainly feel like I have time of my own while still being with my wife.  That being said, I do occasionally enjoy some time that is just mine, with no expectations of me at all.

It’s been a while for me since I had time that I felt was my own.  I’ve been working a lot of hours, and of course that leaves little time for taking care of all the other things that need taken care of in a life.  I think soon I may take the time to grab a pole, go out to a lake, and see if I can find some dinner.

And I think I’ll give my wife some time off soon, too… I’ll take care of the kids, and give her time to do whatever it is that she wants to do.

That’s it… don’t forget to put yourself on your priority list for your time.  You can thank me afterward.

What Would You Do

A lot of people seem to be unaware of who they really are… they’ve never stopped to figure it out, just doing what they’ve learned that other people expect them to do, what they think they “should” do, rather than what is right for them.

If you would prefer to find fulfillment, rather than just trudging through life, you need to break that mold.  You need to really figure out who you are, and whatyou really want to do.

The good news is that it’s pretty easy to do, although some people have trouble with the concept the first time or two.  So… are you ready for it?  Do you want to know how to find fulfillment in your life?

All you need is a little directed daydreaming… you just need to daydream enough to answer this question:

If you had no responsibilities, no pressures, no need to worry about making money, paying bills, doing chores, or taking care of anyone… what would you do?

This isn’t asking what would you do with a billion dollars, and answers like “be with my spouse” don’t really answer the question… the question is what would you DO, not who would you do it with.

There is no wrong answer… what you want to do may not be popular, or may even be looked down upon by society, but that has nothing to do with whether or not it’s right for you.

I’ll get this started by answering the question myself:  I would travel a bit (Australia and Italy are at the top of my list), go fishing (hence the picture), write fiction, make things out of wood (particularly furniture), and design clothing (See?  It doesn’t have to be an “accepted” activity.).

Once you figure out what it is that you would do if you were given complete freedom, why not see if you can work some of that into your life now?  I can go fishing, make things out of wood (at least small things, I don’t have room anywhere for a workshop), and write without doing anything more than spending a little bit of money and dedicating the time to it.  If I knew how to find software that would allow me to alter basic patterns, I might get started on the clothing, too (oh, and find someone to make it for me once I have the pattern… I don’t sew, other than patches on my uniform when I was in the Army).

I’m really curious… what would you do?  Anyone else for some nice relaxing fishing?  If you have any inclination to do so, please answer in the comments… I would really like to know.

PS – I read a really good article the other day at The Art Of Manliness that you may like.

When Is Too Early To Get Married?

That is a question that many people have, particularly young people… and it actually can be read two ways:  “Am I too young to get married?” and “Have we been together long enough to get married?”

The answers to both questions vary from person to person, of course, as does nearly anything so personal.  There are some general guidelines that it wouldn’t really hurt for anyone to follow, however.

What is too young to get married?

To be honest, giving an age would be silly, because the real answer to this question is not based on age, but on experience… more of a mental maturity level than a measurement of the amount of time you’ve been on this planet.  There are certain times in life that tend to push this maturity level higher, though some people react in the opposite manner.

There are many of this type of event, and some of them can happen at wildly different ages.  There are two that tend to happen at a relatively young age, though, that I think are good to go through before getting married: graduating from school and living on your own.

Graduating includes both high school and college.  Graduating from high school certainly brings changes, even if you are going to college, but the real changes are felt when you are done with school entirely, when you are pushed to enter real life.  This is also often the time when you first move out and live on your own.

At that point, you have the freedom, and responsibility, of choosing your own job and your own path through life.  You have the choice of where to work, what to do, and what work ethic you are going to have.

With this freedom, of course, come the consequences of acting upon it.  These consequences may be good or bad, but either way, they fall on you directly as a consequence of your own actions, rather than it filtering through your parents or teachers, forcing you to mature as you learn to deal with the impact of your actions directly.

Both of these events can, and often do, happen at about the same time, and both of them make you more aware of the world and yourself.  That makes you better able to judge whether someone is right for you, your soul mate with whom you will spend the rest of your life.

So there is no “magic age” at which it is okay to get married, and you don’t even need to wait for after you graduate and move out on your own.  The real secret is the maturity level, and if your maturity is high enough without those experiences (and only someone who really knows you could tell you), that’s great.  If your maturity is low enough, even being well into middle-age is not really enough.

Have we been together long enough?

This is the other side of the question, which also seems to come up more often for young people.  There is no universal answer for this one, either, but I have a couple of suggestions to make.

The first one, which I suggest VERY strongly, is that you wait for at least six months before you even get engaged.  The reason for this is simple:  the first few months of a new relationship are filled with euphoria, happiness, and a general tendency to not just overlook but actually blind yourself and deny that the relationship, and the other person, is anything less than perfect.  This can make you think you want to get married to someone, and spend the rest of your life with them, when a few months later you would see more clearly and know that you’re just not right, long term.

It’s also relatively easy to pretend to be someone other than who you are for a few months, but as time goes by your real self tends to come out, at least occasionally.  Seeing that in your significant other can really make you want to back off quick… which is considerably more difficult if you are engaged, and even more so if you are married.

My other suggestion is that you be engaged for six months or more before you actually tie the knot.  This gives you time to adjust to the idea of being together forever, which can alter the relationship and the way you interact with each other.   Taking the time while engaged lets you see if the idea of being together forever holds up when it is a lot more real.

So, is it too early?

No one can really make that call but you.  That being said, the advice above, if followed, can help you to be more ready for marriage, and more able to determine whether or not the person that you’re with is the one for you.

Marriage is the biggest thing in your life, once you enter into it… please take the time to make sure you get it right.

Wrenching Order From Chaos In Your Life

Sometimes, when enough things change in your life in a short enough time, you feel like you’re being overwhelmed, like you are lost amidst the chaos surrounding you.  It is a draining and very unpleasant experience, and it can make people who normally seem unflappable completely at a loss.

That feeling of chaos can come from many different areas of your life… changes in your finances, your relationship, your job, or any other major thing in your life can trigger it.  It generally arises more from changes you perceive as negative than ones you perceive as positive, but if the positive changes are big enough, it can alter enough other things to leave you with somewhat of a feeling of chaos, too.

I recently went through this feeling myself, much of which was due to massive changes in my job.  I still work from the same office, and I still have the same boss, at least technically, but much else has changed.

The company that I worked for sold off the piece where I worked, meaning that not only do I now work for someone else, but we have to take over things that were previously supported by the larger company… in the case of our department, this includes things like email and desktop support.  At the same time, my boss was moved from the facility where I work to the other facility that the company who bought us owns, and had enough new work piled upon him that I seldom see him.

That means, essentially, that there are now two people doing the work that previously was being handled by six people.  Add in to this the fact that the sale of the company was on again/off again and the general change and adjusting surrounding such processes, and it adds up to a large amount of change in a small time, meaning I started feeling that chaos was overwhelming me.

I got past this feeling by learning, or more accurately by being reminded, of one lesson:  If you want to wrench order from chaos in your life, you must take responsibility and you must take action.

Order, or at least the human perception of it, doesn’t come naturally.  Nature is full of chaos and random chance, not the planning and structure that our minds crave.  That means that someone, at some point, has to step in and take action to change the natural course in order for that structure to be built.

A structure can be built with action alone, but if you want it to be of study construction, there needs to be responsibility, as well.  Imagine a workplace filled with people who won’t take responsibility for their work or their actions (not too hard for some people to imagine, I’m sure)… the business will flounder, going nowhere due to lack of direction, and no one will want to work there because of the negative atmosphere.

The same thing applies to relationships, as well… if no one takes responsibility for taking the necessary actions to maintain and strengthen the relationship, then it won’t get done.  If it doesn’t get done, the relationship will gradually fall apart, with neither person particularly wanting to be in the relationship any more… although both may be sad to look back and see what they lost, see where the relationship used to be.

If you want order in your life, a solid structure upon which to stand and be confident, there is only one person you can turn to:  you.  You are the only person who is involved in every aspect of your life, and the only one who can take responsibility for the actions necessary to make your structure strong enough to stand up to the occasional hits it will take as you go through life.

If you feel like your life is in chaos, or if you feel like you’re not really getting anywhere in life, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself a question.  Are waiting for someone else to come in and hand you things on a silver platter, or are you taking responsibility for yourself, doing what needs to be done in order to move ahead?

If it’s the first, then be aware… even if you are lucky, and are the one in a million who doeshave someone give you what you want, you’re likely to lose it again before long if you don’t change.  Look at all the lottery winners who end up worse off than before they won… someone handed them money, they acted without responsibility, and they gained nothing.  They may even have not learned their lesson.

Do you want to be free from the chaos in your life?  Do you want to be, and feel, successful?  All it takes to start down that path is to take responsibility for yourself and your actions… when you see something that needs to be done, stand up and take that responsibility and get it done.

You’ll make everyone who is still waiting for someone else to fix things happier!


What Matters To A Girl On The First Date

There are a lot of books, magazine articles, and other such writings that will try to tell you what a girl really wants, and what is important to her.  The problem with an awful lot of them is that they are based on polls of hundreds or thousands of girls.

Why wouldn’t you want to ask as many girls as possible?  The answer is simple, but not necessarily something everyone thinks about when they read such polls… when you run a large poll, you get a lot of people answering the way they think they are “supposed to”, rather than the way they actually feel.

If you want to know the truth, you have to ask people who are comfortable enough withyou to be candid.  The list below is compiled from conversations with the girls I know (and have known) well enough for them to tell me about things like this.

Keep in mind that, as the title says, this is what matters to a girl on the first date (and possibly the second or third)… not what matters long term.  The two are definitely different things, although most of the same things still matter, it’s more a matter of which areas are more important (ie looks are far more important at the beginning than later in your relationship… but they DO still matter, even years later).

What Matters To A Girl On The First Date

  1. Looks

    Most women, when polled, will say looks aren’t that important.  Most women, when speaking to someone they know, admit that they are important.  Let’s face it… when you are attracted to someone physically, you look for reasons to like them mentally and emotionally.

    Looks affect everything else on this list… because people subconsciously overlook minor bad things, and emphasize minor good things, when they are dealing with someone whom they find attractive.  This holds true whether you’re interested in a relationship with them or not… that’s why attractive people do better in jobs with a lot of personal interaction (like sales).

    Oddly enough, it works the other way, too… after you get to know someone, if you don’t like them, you’ll find them less physically attractive… or if you DO like them, you’ll find them more physically attractive.

  2. Conversational Ability

    Another thing that women will notice immediately is your conversational ability.  If you speak well, and can speak about a wide variety of things, you will leave her interested and wanting to talk to you more… especially if your skills are great enough to allow you to direct the conversation based on her verbal and non-verbal communication.

    If, on the other hand, your speech is filled with “uhhh” and “ummm”, she may become bored and start thinking about other things… and if you want to leave a good impression on a first date, you have to keep her focused on the present.

  3. Cleanliness

    Another thing that women notice nearly immediately is your cleanliness.  Unless the date is to do something physically demanding together, you should be clean and smell good… and it wouldn’t hurt at all to start out that way, even if you ARE doing something physical.

    Keeping your facial hair under control is important, too… you should shave or trim regularly.  In other words, whatever facial hair is on your face should look like it’s there intentionally, not because you’re too lazy to take the time to clean up.

  4. Attention

    This is one of the most common ways to ruin an otherwise good date… whether it’s your first or not.  When you go on a date with someone, your attention should be on them.  That means you shouldn’t be checking out other people, but it also means that you shouldn’t be taking calls on your cell phone, or talking about work, etc.

    If your attention starts wandering during a date, you are essentially telling the other person that they are not important to you, though that may not even be the case… it’s still what you are communicating.  And they WILL pick up on it… believe me.

  5. Clothes

    Another thing that women will notice, especially on first dates, but later in the relationship as well, is how you dress.  Make sure that everything matches and is clean, and also that you dress appropriately for the date.

    Even more importantly than that, though, is making sure that your “level” of dress matches hers… it will make most women very uncomfortable on a date if you are dressed either much more formally or much more casually than she is.

  6. Fun

    One of the biggest things, maybe actually the biggest thing, that a woman will remember about a first date is how much fun she had.  If you set up a fun date, where you have something interesting to do for the time you are together (without having to rush from place to place with no time in between), it shows that you feel she is important enough to spend the time and energy to plan such a thing.

    It also leaves you associated with that fun in her thoughts… when she thinks of it, she’ll think of you.  Being linked, mentally, to good times and fun is nearly invaluable in building relationships.

  7. Her Importance

    All of the things above (with the exception of #1), when taken together, paint a picture of her importance to you.  When you go out of your way, spending extra time and attention on getting yourself ready and on the date itself, it tells her that she matters to you, that you place a high value on her and your time together.

    That perception of her value to you is the key to using a first date as the start of a strong relationship.  It is also a major piece of the strength of an ongoing relationship… no one wants to feed their time and energy, their heart and emotions, into a relationship where they don’t feel valued.  So take the time to make her feel valued on your first date… and then continue that on every date afterward, for the rest of your relationship.

The impact of how important you feel that you are to the person that you’re with cannot be overstated.  It’s not just important to a good date, or even a good relationship… it plays a major role in your overall mental and emotional health.

All of the things above that you have control over affect that feeling of importance to you for the girl that you’re with.  Good looks can make her feel even more special (silly but true), but really have less impact on the overall feeling than the rest of the points… especially after the first date.

Anyone disagree with any of the items on my list?  I’d like to hear from both women and men… did I list something that really is of no importance (remember, this is not “shouldn’t matter”, it’s actually doesn’t matter), or leave off something of significance?