The best advice for uncertain times

trumpocalypseThe Trumpocalypse is officially here.

I was astonished how many people refused to watch the inauguration. I’m not sure if they believed by watching they were endorsing what was happening before their eyes, or if it just sickened them too much to witness the carnage.

As a history major, I wasn’t about to miss this historic moment and witnessed Trump get sworn in with Dave and some colleagues at the Brew Pub, swilling our sorrows in beer.

It was all so surreal. Trump’s stump speech, evoking the vision of a country in decline and decay when unemployment is at one of the all-time lows and the United States is enjoying a period of strong economic growth. The cutaways to delusional loyal Trump supporters, crying in the sparse crowds of the Mall, fooled into thinking this man will make America great again.

The most fascinating part of Friday’s proceedings was seeing the reactions in the faces of the former Presidents and first ladies.

Bill Clinton had a plastered smirk on his face. Hillary sat by his side, with pursed lips and a glint of condemnation and disbelief in her eyes.

Barack Obama probably played the part best, and true to self, was gracious, putting the situation above himself.

But it was Michelle Obama who spoke volumes without uttering a word in her every move, gesture and look. Her sideward glances, lowered eyes and stalwart, I will get through this façade were those of a woman crestfallen, who knew everything she loved and cherished and had fought so hard to build would be disassembled in days by a man she abhorred.

Yes, the Trumpocalypse is here, but don’t despair. There are news reports by the dozens of Americans who are depressed and angry about the state of their country.

The best advice I’ve seen for weathering this storm is from advice columnist Ann Landers. A 24-year old woman wrote to Ann to say with all the conflict in the world and uncertainty, she was experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety.

Ann’s advice to her is this week’s #HappyAct: volunteer in your community. Do something to confirm or restore your faith in humanity. We can’t control the world around us, but we can make a difference and help make the world a better kinder place in our own backyard. It’s a start.

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Say what you mean

cat in the hat say what you meanWhy can’t people just say what they mean?

Being clear and honest would solve so many problems.

Relationships would be stronger because we would forge stronger connections from shared understanding.

There would be less uncertainty and confusion in the world.

We would make less mistakes.

We would save precious time from trying to interpret what the other person is saying or what they want.

Saying what we mean could also help advance our interests.

Look at Donald Trump. One of the key reasons he has gotten this far in the U.S. presidential race is because he says what he means. If Hillary Clinton stopped playing the political game, and just once, came out and blasted him, and said what she really felt, I wonder if she would see a spike in the polls in her favour.

Our reluctance to say what we mean is even more of an epidemic at work.

There are some professions where I swear they actually train you to speak in euphemisms and jargon. It drives me crazy.

Last week I got an email from a colleague. The first line was, “Here is the PPT that I presented to the RLT based on the work that the INV team did.”

Now, as it turns out, I actually understood the email because sadly, I’ve worked there long enough that half of these terms are second nature to me. But god help any new person in the organization, or someone who isn’t exposed to jargon and acronyms as much as I am.

Saying what you mean is even more important for some people, for instance, people with autism.

Because Grace has a tendency to interpret everything I say literally, I’ve learned to be as specific as possible in my language. For instance if I said, “I don’t care if you want to do X, you have to get your homework done first” or whatever the issue we were discussing, she would literally interpret it that I didn’t care about her. Having an autistic child makes you think about your language choice very carefully.

Of course, there are times, when it is better to not say what you mean. Here are some golden rules of communication to keep in mind:

  1. Think before you speak.
  2. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
  3. Always think about whether your words could be interpreted the wrong way or how they would make the person feel.

As Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to say what you mean, keeping in mind the golden rules. Share a comment. Why do you think people don’t say what they mean?