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Posts Tagged ‘quality time

How a great conversation is like a game of catch

A TED talk. Jul 19, 2016

How a great conversation is like a game of catchideas.ted.com

As a radio host, Celeste Headlee has engaged in her fair share of discussions, and she’s thought a lot about how to bring out the best in a conversational counterpart.

When you play catch, you have to do an equal number of catches and throws, right? It’s not possible to play catch with somebody and throw more than you catch, for the most part.

Because then you’d just be throwing baseballs at them, which is not nice. This is the exact same ratio as a healthy conversation — you’re going to catch as much as you throw.

you’re going to talk 50% and listen 50%, and we don’t generally have that balance in our conversations.

Here’s the best way to start a conversation that you’re worried might end in an argument.

There’s a great study out of Harvard in which researchers discovered that talking about yourself actually activates the same pleasure centers in your brain as sex and cocaine.

That means it’s very pleasurable to us to talk about ourselves and what we like. You could walk away from a conversation like that and feel fantastic about it.

But remember — talking about yourself makes you feel fantastic. So you may have just walked away from a conversation in which you talked about yourself — that was awesome! — and the other person is walking away going, “Good god, that person would not stop talking about themselves.”

It’s a totally different perception, so you’ve got to remember you’re playing catch — find the balance.

How do you go beyond small talk to have a meaningful conversation with somebody?

Not every single conversation that you have is going to be in-depth and serious. And that’s okay! You should relax.

Eventually, while you’re sitting there talking small talk, something’s going to pique your interest, or something’s going to catch their interest, or they’re going to say, “Wait, what did you just say?” Or, “Why is it that way?”

And someone’s going to ask a question, and it’s going to lead you further into deeper subject matter. So it will happen, if there’s something there to talk about. Otherwise, be on your way — let it go.

What about that awkward silence when you don’t know what to say next?

By the time that you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. So by the time you’ve reached an awkward silence, something’s already gone wrong. But it’s not too late!

Very often, an awkward silence comes because either you weren’t listening or they weren’t listening, and therefore, you guys have kind of meandered off-topic to where you’re at the opposite ends of a football field.

The way to fix that is to say, “You know what, I’m sorry, I got totally distracted. Where did we start? Can you help me out here? I was just following a train of thought about Cheetos, and I got totally lost.”

What should you do when it is very clear from body language that the other person is not listening?

End it. Again with the game of catch.

That’s the equivalent of me taking a ball and throwing it over my shoulder instead of to you. Why would you want to keep playing? You have to have an equal partner in a conversation. Otherwise, walk away.

You make the case that all experiences are not equal. Are you saying that empathy is not useful in a conversation?

What should people do instead?

People always push back on this topic. I’m not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, but I believe that most of us are motivated by empathy. You’re with your friend, and you want to say, “Oh, I do understand you, because I’ve been through something similar.”

But the truth is, you haven’t — you haven’t been through something the same.

You maybe have gone through something kind of similar, but the fact of the matter is that you’re a different person from your friend.

So even if it was the exact same experience, even if you both almost went down on the Titanic, the way you experienced that is completely different. And these situations are most likely totally different.

Although it feels to you like you’re reaching out and giving empathy, what’s happening is that you’re talking about yourself again.

So you shouldn’t say, “I know how you feel”?

That’s the worst. You don’t know how they feel. They’re confiding in you, and all they want you to do is listen to them and say, “Wow, that sounds awful. There’s no way for me to understand what you’re going through, but you tell me what you need.”

What do you think is stopping people from having better, more meaningful conversations?

The elephant in the room is obviously polarization, and this is true not just in the United States, but I think Brexit and the migrant crisis in Europe tell us that it’s happening all over the world.

Oftentimes we’ll enter into a conversation, and somebody will say, “I’m voting for Trump in the fall.” Conversation over. You immediately say, “Nothing this person says is something I want to listen to, they have nothing to teach me,” and you end the conversation.

And if the conversation does continue, you’re not actually listening to them.

That’s what is often ending conversations now.

We have stopped talking to people that we disagree with. We basically want to be able to curate and edit our conversations the same way that we curate and edit our social media. If we’re talking to somebody that we don’t want to hear from, we want to unfollow them like we do on Twitter.

The problem with that is that everybody knows something that you don’t. And so if you are stopping all of those conversations and only speaking with people who have similar experiences and opinions, you’re not going to grow, ever, and you won’t change your mind or your opinion.

They used to tell us, don’t talk about religion and politics. The problem today is that everything is religion and politics.

So what’s the best approach to start a conversation that you know might end up in an argument?

First of all, a lot of conversations end in arguments these days. But when I’m sitting down with somebody, especially somebody with whom I absolutely don’t agree, I sit down and I think through, “Okay, what if they’re right?”

Let’s think about what would change, and how my mind would change, if they are right and I am wrong. And as they start to tell me things, as long as they’re not completely made-up facts, I ask myself what it would mean if they’re right. And then I ask them too. I say, “Okay, let’s say you’re right. What does that mean?” And try to get inside what they’re thinking.

For instance, a lot of people ask me how to talk to Donald Trump supporters. It is a great question.

But here’s the thing: there’s an anger there among people — not just people who support Trump, but people who support Bernie Sanders, or the people who voted for Britain to leave the EU.

There is an anger there, and it could be fascinating and engaging and compelling to figure out where that is coming from. That’s not always going to be the case, and there are going to be conversations you have to walk away from.

But if you’re going to have an argument with someone, the best way to do it is with an open mind, assuming that that person can teach you something, and that you’re not there to teach them.

What should you say if you unintentionally offend someone during a conversation?

You say, “I’m really sorry, I did not in any way, shape, or form intend to offend you. I may be inarticulate, but let me try to explain what I thought I was saying, and then you tell me what you think I’m saying, and maybe we can understand one another.” That’s it, that’s all that you say. Be honest.

Is there a quick way to help a friend to stop obsessing about a negative topic?

It’s difficult to address specific situations, since context is so important. In broad strokes, though, people often repeat themselves when they feel as though they haven’t been heard. For example, when we tell our kids something important and they don’t acknowledge that they’ve heard, we’ll keep repeating it until they say, “Okay! I got it, Mom!”

The same things happen often in the workplace.

So, try telling your friend that you think you understand what he or she is saying: “Let me tell you what I’m hearing and you tell me if I’m getting it wrong.”

Then you can offer to brainstorm to find solutions. If he or she’s not open to that, then be honest. Say, “You’re telling me the same things over and over. I can tell you’re very upset, but we can also move forward from here.”

How can you turn a one-way conversation into a dialogue?

You can’t, really. There’s a couple of reasons for a one-way conversation. Sometimes it’s that the person is shy, and in that case, that’s totally fixable, you can draw somebody out, usually by finding out what they like, or self-deprecation is good.

I usually tell a joke or a story about something I’ve done that was really stupid — and I have a wealth of those examples. But if somebody isn’t in the mood to talk, you can’t fix that.

And here’s the thing that people are always surprised that I say: it is totally okay to not have a conversation. Having a real conversation takes energy, and it takes focus, and sometimes you just don’t have that kind of energy to give. That’s totally fine — don’t have the conversation, enjoy the silence.

So if you’re feeling like you really want to have a conversation and the other person isn’t matching that energy, you just need to let them have their time, and find somebody else who is ready.

What about when people really don’t seem to want to listen, but just want to talk about themselves and their experiences?

I’ve found that it’s good to very kindly address this head-on. Say, “It’s so great to hear all that. Can I tell you a little about what I’ve been doing?” Or any version of that.

Don’t assume that person is just trying to dominate the conversation. Give them the benefit of the doubt, because we all talk about ourselves too much. If you try to improve the conversation and they are resistant, then just accept that your conversations with that person will be brief and unsatisfying.

Just like a game of catch, you need two participants who are willing to take turns.

How do you get others to open up as much as you are opening up?

You can’t, really. For instance, when you’re opening up, is it mostly because you’re telling them about your experiences? Are you talking a lot about yourself, and not giving them an opening to talk about themselves?

Are you in any way, shape or form shutting down the conversation? In other words, does that person say, “Oh, you know, I had something similar happen to me the other day, it was really, really interesting,” and you say, “Oh, no, no, no, it wasn’t like that,” and then you go back to what it was you were talking about.

There are a million reasons why the person that you’re talking to may not be opening up. But often, it’s because you’ve shut the door in one way or another. The fact of the matter is it’s probably not them, it’s probably you.

So what if a conversation has run its course? How do you gracefully exit a conversation?

You gracefully exit by saying, “I need to go; it’s been so great to talk to you, and I’ll see you in a couple days.” Or you say, “You know what? I have too much on my mind, I’m really sorry, it’s been great to talk to you, and I’ll see you again in a couple weeks, but I’m going to head back.”

Or — what happens to me, because I have adult ADD all the time — “I can’t keep my mind on this conversation, I am so sorry, it has nothing to do with you, but I’m going to go sit in my office and try to gather my thoughts.” Don’t lie. No white lies! Just be honest, and gracious and nice, not condescending, and just end the conversation.

This is an edited version of a conversation took place at TEDSummit 2017 (see below). Moderated by TED’s Janet Lee, it includes questions from Facebook and from commenters on Celeste’s TED Talk, 10 ways to have a better conversation.

Note: A graduating girl could Not suffer talking to me for a good reason. Once, I started asking her pertinent questions about her thesis and the conversation lasted for hours and we were both very pleased of this quality time.

Prime enemies to Capitalist America: Well-adjusted and well-fed minority and educated working class kids

Note: re-edit of the article posted on September 12, 2010

The prime enemies to Capitalist America are well-adjusted and well-fed minority and the educated working class kids.

Parents in the US are witnessing a reduction of 40% of their quality time to caring for their kids.

Kids return home alone, eat frozen food, watch TV, play video games, and are isolated from their environment.

Parents have to work twice harder for longer duration for less than what they earned three decades ago.

Even national health care coverage for the downtrodden has barely passed Congress with drastic restrictions.

Kids are getting hooked to alcohol and drugs and are seeking gang-type protection against their loneliness and disorientation.  Fact is, most States that are satellites to the USA lack national health coverage and the schooling system is mostly privatized.

Why IQ is dropping dangerously?

James Coleman reached this conclusion: “Kids competence in school depend largely on the total effect of the environment (family, community…)  The effect of school programs and system are secondary factors.  It is basically the lack of environmental support and care that is driving kids stupid and dropping from schools:  Kids are being herded to the job market earlier than expected and working in minimum wage jobs with no prospect for advance for lack of adequate education.

For example, Bush Junior has started this program “No Child Left Behind” and is continued by Obama with a nastier restriction.  This program is meant to just teach kids to pass the test.

Kids are tested every couple of years and so are the teachers tested for “performance” of teaching to the test program.

Not only kids are not learning but teachers have been robbed of their educational rights to forming good minds, reflecting brains, offering various perspectives and point of views.

Students are to answer according to preset ideological programs.

Obama wants teachers to be evaluated by students!

Ignorant kids evaluating how well the teacher is preparing him to pass a stupid test. Teachers have to play kid among kids to earn his salary.

Kids are not learning anything in deep; the educational system does Not want to produce competent and creative kids:  Just kids proficient in passing tests.  Later on, proficient in scalping institutions and bypassing regulations by learning how the system works.

John Dewey (1859-1952), social reformer and influential in educational methods, was a prime US principal sources of inspiration to a progressive educational movement.  Dewey wrote: “The ultimate goal of education is Not consumerism goods but producing free men, associated as equals.”

Dewey stated in 1920: “Power resides in the control of means of production, of exchange, of publicity, of transport, and of communication.  Those running these facilities are governing the society. The quest for profit is managed and controlled by banks, landowners, and barons of industries. This quest for profit is reinforced by the press, journalists, and the other vectors in publicity and propaganda.”

The British mathematician and philosopher, Bertrand Russell stated: “Education has for objective to extending values contrary to domination; it must be forming well-advised citizens, in a free society; to conciliate patriotism and liberty with individual creativity.  This pre-suppose treating children as we treat a young shoot endowed with proper nature:  Requiring the right soil, air, light, and water.

The current educational ideology can be summarized as follows:

“Each individual, in an ideal configuration, seeks to a position of master among slaves.”

Relentless competition and the lure for quick gain are sure ways to destroying a sense of community.

Normal people are feeling insecure, afraid, and uneasy in their environment (and the rate of suicide is climbing dangerously).

People are claiming to be “apolitical” (in a bad connotation) because they feel helpless to performing any social changes:  They simply blame the political structure, government, and official.

People are sensing after frequent crisis (preemptive wars, financial crashes, and reduction in opportunities and salaries) that governments are but shadows to the capitalist structure favoring private multinationals.

Capitalist enterprises impress upon governments the policies and laws that suit their monopoly and reducing common people to serfdom.

The media is not doing an honest job:  They are not pointing the finger to the proper sources of people’s insecurity and inequality in opportunity and wealth.

For example, David Moss of Harvard Business School compared two graphs extending for a century.

The first graph showed statistics of the gap between the rich and the poor in America over the years.  The second graph showed the tightening of financial regulations and financial crisis.

The two graphs matched completely.

In 1929, 10% of Americans hoarded 50% of the wealth (the 1% of the richest Americans disposed of 24% of the total wealth). In 2007, exactly the same gap between the classes were observed.

In Europe, more factors inter in times of crisis because the States are involved in supporting the downtrodden in matters of health, schooling, and subsidies to the less fortunates.

While in 1930 the gap shrank between the classes, this gap has not changed since 2007.  Most probably, the crisis is not over until the Federal government support the less fortunate in work opportunities and better salaries.

Note 1:  You are encouraged to read Noam Chomsky’s “For a humanist education”

Note 2: This ratio of 1/10 of the richest classes hoarding the vast majority of a country wealth in the capitalist developed (colonial powers) is steady, and what changes slightly is the rate of wealth. Actually, in all the non-developed States that claim to have “liberal economics” and claim to have a faked “democratic” system have the same ratio, but the members of the rich clubs rotate around the close family ties of the monarchs and dictators.

These  so-called “liberal economies” are meant to encourage the exploitation of the country by multinationals in order for the “elite class” to receive new quick foreign financial incomes.

Can a Robot emulate human emotions? That should not be the question

A robot programmed with an artificial intelligence that can learn how to love and express emotions is feasible, and highly welcomed.

A child robot David can acquire and follow the various stages of kids emotional development, all the way to adulthood.

The question is why scientists should invest time and energy creating robot that would exacerbate the current calamities experienced and witnessed by men on human emotions and love consequences and trials?

Have we not gotten enough of negative jealousy that generates serious pains, frustrations, beating, castration, killing…?

It is getting evident that parents will no longer enjoy the adequate quality time and opportunities to caring full-time for nurturing the kids.

A kid nurturing robot at home will be the best invention for the stability and healthy emotional development of isolated kids in the future

If robots have to convey emotions and feeling, and they had better extend proper nurturing examples that kids at home may emulate…

Robots must learn to listen to the kids, ask  questions, circumvent human shortcomings in failure to communicate, overcome the tendency of kids in building negative fictitious myths and role played empathy projected in relationship…

The movie “AI” of Steven Spielberg investigated the limits of man and machines confronted at the ineluctable problems:

1. The child separation from family members, particularly the mother early emotional attachment…The moment we discover that our mother is not perfect and our father is a coward…

2. The moment it dawn on the child that we are not unique, perfect, really loved…as we wished it should be…

2. The moment we realize that we are no longer the center of the universe and that community is too busy to care for our future…

4. The moment we accept that we are “All alone” and we have to fend for our health, safety, mental sanity…

5. The moment we feel that we were left bare and unprepared to face the desolate world around us…

Should the kid robot replace the myth of the “Blue Fairy?”  This fairy supposed to:

1. Heal the torn parts in the separation with family members…

2. Render possible what we came to learn as irreversible, irreparable, and almost unfeasible…?

3. Convince us that there is always a person out there who will love us, be a true friend for life

4. Bring our way this person who suffered and felt wounded as we are…

5. Keep at bay those cannibals, ever ready to sacrifice man and animal under the pretense of “celebrating life

We do need such a robot to nurture babies into adulthood for empathy, communication, expressing gratitude…

A child robot with unconditional devotion, soft-spoken, cultured, patient, and willing to listen to our lucubrations…

The happy ending that teaches us to grasp and grab on the fleeting moments of rich happiness, to taste the powerful instants of tenderness…

Freed at last from illusion, myths and these comfortable peaceful world views we thought we had acquired in childhood…

We do live on the assumption of recovering what we had lost, learning that what we lost “Never existed” in the first place…

At least, a compassionate kid robot would extend, now and then, at critical difficult moments, a glimpse of our childhood innocent belief system, of a world of goodness, sensibility, and wonder…

Little robot David should learn how and when to inject a healthy dose of emotional adrenaline to keep us sane, and ready to face the real world with more courage, more determination to disseminate what is good in us, the compassion needed to sustain and maintain our hope in a better future…

Note: This post was inspired from an article in the monthly Lebanese magazine Sante/Beaute #21. The article was not signed, but the source maybe www.shaomi blog.net

Capitalism redefines Time; (Mar. 21, 2010)

            The dividing line between present and future is invisible for the capitalist spirit: the past is passive and inefficacious to revert to and the future is mobile and evolving.  I saw an old American movie a couple days ago: a customer is checking a Cadillac and asks the salesman: “Is it this year model?” and the dealer to reply: “This is next year model you are sitting in”

            Capitalism captured the western cultural guiding rod in the last century: Time was no longer the enemy to mankind and time should be considered as the main dependent variable when studying nature, life, evolution, and development while space, temperature, climate, and the multitude of other independent factors were meant to explaining time. Time (and what correspond to time such as speed, rate, and turnover) is a directive God, the one notion that essentially defines all the other phenomena in the universe. Time and timeline are the measuring guideline to all human activities: work, distances, history, space, production, marketing, investment, liquidity, and budget. All other societies had to keep up with capitalism rhythm of what became the standard terminology and behavioral routines.

            Power is no longer essentially related to borders, raw materials, dimensions of a nation, or even larger armies.  Power is rate of return, turnover rate, and quickness in planning and starting production; power is quickness in distribution and consumption, quickness in gathering information and timely intelligence, quickness in analyzing and interpreting data, and quickness in relaying and disseminating information and intelligence.  Power is how Time is tamed and used as the most potent ally and tool.  Power is how to discover the best method to control and manage Time.

            Oil, as a raw material, is no longer an intrinsic power; the value of oil is how quickly deposits are located, excavated, drilled, produced, refined, distributed, and consumed. Geopolitics, as a political power status, has changed its laws into chrono-politics for the flow of signals, dissemination of intelligence, and turnover of fundamental research into applied sciences.

            Multinationals that represent the spirit of capitalism have tamed the most potent power tool: Time.  Multinationals have set the rules of the game on how to compute, evaluate, account, and transform liquidity into ready investment; on how to change the concept of interest to periods of computing it; on how profit is defined as turnover rate of products and services.  Multinationals have set the rules of how to do business, how to think business, and how to dominate with other people’s money and raw materials.

            You cannot fight and win an enemy who adopted and tamed Time as its ultimate potent God while your arsenal is still limited to inert space and your notion of time is reversed toward the dead past, a past that is incorrectly read and synthesized.

            It does not mean that capitalism cannot be defeated the way it is practiced as rules of the game but in the first phase you need to get trained to capitalism efficacious arsenal and then insert other dimensions to reform and transform the current ideology of capitalism. The new civilization capable to counter the enemy has to work toward a more viable quality of life such as earth sustainable ethics, eco-ethics, quality time to knowing yourself, quality time to listen intently to your communicator, quality time to focus on reading books relevant to man emotional development, and respect of the ancestors. 

            Most important to countering the enemy is learning to reserve peaceful time to reading the past without the need to superimpose your current obsessions and difficulties in order to interpret the past correctly and not tend to finding mythical solutions in the past that do not correspond to current realities:  the fainting fits in reviewing the past is one of the magical behaviors because we mostly fail to read correctly our traditions and history. In order to endeavor reading the past we first must feel comfortable and well rooted in our present. It is important to read the past as a hobby in hours of distractions; otherwise, we end up projecting our current problems on ancient texts  which distort proper focus on the initial content and context of the texts.  I am reminded of a saying by Teddy Goldsmith (1928-2009): “We can destroy Earth without violating a single law: it is illegal to protect nature!”

Note: I extracted this notion from the French book of Fatema Mernissi “The political Harem”.  Mernissi relied on the Moroccan author Mohammad Jaberi’s “We and our heritage” who criticized Moslem societies and imputed to the Western civilization the potent usage of time as its directive for modernization.  I thought to redirect the topic to a more specific ideological/economics concept that is more adequate to describing the trend in the last century since Western nations were very much attached to nationalism and still are in many instances.


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