Speaking Thinking and That Little Voice

When speaking, what we say matters, how we say it matters and who we say it to matters as well. When we think, what we think matters and how we get in touch with our thought process matters. It is easy to just go on automatic but our success depends on doing better than automatic. Let’s spend a few minutes considering what it means when we do better than automatic.

Just File Your Mistakes

There is a popular notion that advises that we can’t succeed without first failing. The idea is that we fail forward to success. There are other variations such as we learn best from our mistakes and this sweeping generalization from Herman Melville, “Failure is the true test of greatness.”

Since notions like “failure is a prerequisite to success” or “mistakes are prelude to positive outcomes” strike me as absurd, I think I will turn to Buddha for guidance. “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it — even if I have said it — unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” If you are reluctant to take this contrary thinking trip with me, let me remind you of Bertrand Russell’s take on contrary thinking. “In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” Or perhaps this from J K Galbraith, “The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.”

Sure, I’ve made my share of mistakes and there have been a few times when “failure” is a fair characterization of an unwanted outcome. That likely doesn’t distinguish me from you or anyone else. But that is not the question here. The question is whether the mistakes and occasional failure were necessary pre-conditions to my subsequent success.

It may help to make what I think is an important clarification. A mistake is an action or set of actions that get an outcome different than expected. In turn, a failure is nothing more than a mistake that has unwanted consequences that persist. It’s a continuum from trying something that doesn’t work to trying something that results in a persistent mess. Where along the way you choose to designate the outcome as failure is your call. The point is that mistakes are nothing special or unusual; nor is occasional failure. The only real difference is that failure usually designates the point on the continuum where you stop trying.

Here is the conclusion I draw. Mistakes are likely inevitable, but I have no reason to think they are either necessary or useful. Better would be to get it right the first time, every time. For me, this is obvious. My experience teaches me that the mistakes I have made have little value other than to be put into the folder where I file mistakes under “things to avoid in the future.” In this case, I do subscribe to the old wisdom that teaches, “If I keep doing things like I’ve always done them, what I’ll get is what I’ve already got: mistakes.” Thus, mistakes are to be remembered only as a reminder not to repeat them.

30 Tips for Better Personal Relationships

1. Be Accepting

This means you are okay with me as is, with no interest in trying to change me.

2. Be Affectionate

This means you find opportunities to be warm and close with me.

3. Be Ambitious

This means you are always on the outlook for chances to improve our lives.

4. Be Assertive

This means you speak up about what you want and need.

5. Be Attractive

This means you work to be someone I want to be with and do things with.

6. Be Considerate

This means you care about my feelings, interests and needs.

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Marriage Triangle

 The Marriage Triangle

“There’s one sad truth in life I’ve found while journeying east and west – the only folks we really wound are those we love the best. We flatter those we scarcely know, we please the fleeting guest, and deal full many a thoughtless blow to those who love us best.” –– Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Think of your marriage as a triangle with lovers, friends, and partners as its sides. Love, then, is the force that binds the sides together, the key to richness and risk, danger and opportunity; and you are the guardian of the key. But, what happened? You used to be friends, knew what kind of reactions you were going to get from each other and how things would go. Your world wasn’t always rosy; but the two of you could handle it. When things weren’t going well, you talked about it. You worked it out; but lately both of you are tied up in knots. You are always on edge; and you could cut the tension with a knife. Any more, you don’t even go through the motions of caring about each other’s feelings or acting like you care what is being said. It’s just one of those things; but if your friendship’s going down the tube isn’t anyone’s fault, then nurturing your friendship wasn’t anyone’s responsibility.

Your partnership is a shared responsibility too and can go down the tube with your friendship; so what happened? You used to be great partners, would talk and decide together what was important, what your priorities were. You were always up–front with each other about what you thought about things and were open to the other’s ideas and opinions. You didn’t always agree but it worked.

If there were problems, you worked them out and didn’t blame or accuse or threaten. You were a team, always found a solution you both could live with; but you were trying a little harder, gave a little more, and were more responsible than your partner. That wasn’t fair and is why you quit trying. Oh well, it’s just another one of those things, even though you know that when either of you gives up on your partnership, that is all she wrote, as they say.

It may be all she wrote for your being lovers as well. You know how it goes. It’s just one of those things. Sure, it used to be magic. You and your lover each knew what the other wanted, how to scratch the itch, so to speak. Love making was passion at its best and most intense. You were considerate of each other’s feelings, each other’s needs. No one was in charge, no one gave more or got less. It wasn’t that kind of thing anyway. It was magic and you took turns being the magician; but one thing lead to another and then to another and it was gone; but now you finally get it, even if a bit late. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, love is in the heart of the one who is loved. That is why when you feel the magic slipping away, you need to concentrate more on being a better lover than on being loved better. Dinah Shore really was right when she said, “Trouble is part of your life, and if you don’t share it, you don’t give the person who loves you enough chance to love you enough.”

. . . .

Think of your marriage as a triangle with lovers, friends, and partners as its sides. Understanding and succeeding in each dimension is the key to happiness, the foundation of the tie that binds. This article helps you understand the marriage triangle and strengthen that tie, strengthen your marriage.


Gary A. Crow, Ph.D. is the Executive Editor of Leadership Village Press and Leadership Village, a network of sites focusing on leadership, personal success, interpersonal excellence, family and parenting matters, and related topics. You can find contact information, training materials, and other articles from Dr. Crow at http://www.ParentsLead.com
You can receive a new article each month from the Leadership Village collection by subscribing at http://www.ArticlesByEmail.com


People Seldom Intend To…

How much better would your world be if other people just understood that you seldom intend to say or do whatever is annoying or frustrating them? Let’s think about how that might work.

People seldom intend to be jerks. I think we have all had to deal with someone who is just being a jerk. They are being difficult and impossible to cope with due to their seeming to be stupid, insensitive, hopelessly self–centered or clueless, or maybe all of the above. But are we ever the jerk in the picture? We sure don’t intend to be the jerk but we probably have our jerk moments, at least from the perspective of other people. As reasonable and as appropriate as we try to be, even nice people like us may slip into jerk mode at times.

People seldom intend to do less than their best. Do they always make an effort to do everything they can do as well as they can do it? No, people surely don’t do that. Rather, they usually make their best effort to do as much as they think is necessary and to do it as well as they think it needs done. The problem is that we may not agree that they have done enough or done it as well as we needed it done. Our issue is that we wanted more or better. From our perspective, the other person could have and should have done more or done better. It seems to us that we haven’t gotten his or her best effort. We have to deal with a shirker, with someone who is lazy or is sloppy and half does things. Of course we always give everything we do our best effort, always do things correctly and completely – or do we?

People seldom intend to offend us or to cause us to feel resentful or indignant. It’s hard to know how to respond to someone who says or does something that we find insulting or offensive. We are immediately taken aback and even quicker to conclude that the person provoking our reaction has a bad attitude and probably enjoys putting us down or simply ignoring us. I don’t know about you but I’ve occasionally not related to people in authority with the degree of respect and deference that they felt entitled to. Usually after the fact, I learned that they were offended or indignant. They definitely assumed that I had intentionally insulted them or disregarded their authority.

People seldom intend to upset us or make us unhappy. What upsets us or makes us unhappy varies a lot from person to person and from time to time. It’s hard for me to predict what causes you to tilt and vice versa. The point is that when we do get upset or unhappy, we frequently attribute our reaction to someone else and his or her actions or inaction, his or her intentions or thoughtlessness. You are upset or unhappy and it’s my fault, you think. I either knew or should have known that you would be upset or unhappy but Either didn’t care or at least didn’t care enough to behave differently.

People seldom intend to frighten or alarm us. There are several ways people frighten or alarm us on purpose. Think of haunted houses at Halloween, roller coasters, scary movies and adolescent pranks. There are other times when we are frightened or alarmed that are not so acceptable. The TV weather person emphasizes the worst possible weather event to keep us watching the weather channel and its commercials. The doctor’s office leaves a cryptic message not making it clear just how bad our condition is or isn’t. Telephone scams try to frighten us in a multitude of ways so we will give them money to prevent whatever bad outcome they are pitching today. Unfortunately, we also frighten and alarm each other through what we do or at times don’t say or do. Our behavior can and does frighten or alarm other people when there is no real danger or risk. Since this affect can be intentional or inadvertent, it’s open to interpretation. Attributing intention or indifference to someone else may be no more than a product of human nature, but we all do it at times.

People seldom intend to be late. As best I can tell, the importance of being on time and how much flexibility there is vary a lot, depending on one’s culture and the specifics of the situation or circumstance. Even so, at some point, late is late. For our purposes here, late is any time past the time others expected us. So what is our reaction when someone we were expecting is late? If you are like me – and I suspect you are – our reaction is negative, from a little to a lot depending on how late they are. We assume that they could have and should have been on time. Further, we assume that their intention wasn’t clear enough or strong enough to get them to arrange things so as to be on time. Being late is their fault and we are totally justified in being annoyed.

People seldom intend to disappoint us. There are a lot of ways people can and do disappoint us now and then. The one thing all of those times have in common is that the other person failed to meet our expectations. We expected them to do something or to conform in some way, defined by us of course. But they didn’t and we are disappointed. When we’re disappointed, it requires an accounting. Since the other person disappointed us, they must have done or not done something we wanted and are thus culpable. Their performance and judgment were to some extent deficient. Naturally, when others are disappointed with us, our reasons are good and sufficient. For others though, reasons are usually little more than lame excuses.

People seldom intend to be rude or inconsiderate. So what’s the deal, since we frequently need to put up with people being both rude and inconsiderate? You know how it works. People have abominable manners, little to no social graces, behave as if what they want or need is more important than what anyone else wants or needs, disregard the rights and interests of other people, say and do things that are totally inappropriate and, as my grandpa says, let everyone know that they have had no fetching up. Since we know how to behave, how to treat others and seldom commit social faux pas, there is no good reason why other people can’t do as well as we do.

Okay, so much for that. Now let’s check out these tips for those times when we assume that other people’s intentions may not be as honorable as ours.

For jerks: When you’re being a jerk, to myself I’ll mention, being a jerk probably isn’t your intention.

For shirkers: When you’re cutting corners and not giving it your best, I’ll give thinking that you’re just being lazy a rest.

For the offensive: When you’re being insulting and I’m feeling indignation, I’ll give thinking that you are doing it intentionally a little vacation.

For people who upset us: When I think you’re the reason I’m getting upset and feeling bummed out, I’ll try hard to give you the benefit of the doubt.

For people who alarm us: If I’m getting up tight and anxious due to an action or omission, I’ll remind myself that this wasn’t your intention.

For being late: Since I know you have a busy life with a lot to do, I’ll cut you some slack when I have to wait around for you.

For disappointment: Disappointment usually can’t just be brushed aside; but I’m always okay with you, since I know for sure you tried.

For rude or inconsiderate people: If you are rude or inconsiderate today, I’ll assume that you have a understandable excuse for acting that way.

Now you know so there you go.


Even if I have been putting off posting, at least I discovered “cunctation.” That is definitely not one of my walking around words. I ran across it in the dictionary. You’re right. Checking the dictionary was just one more thing to do instead of getting around to writing this post. Yep, I was shilly–shallying which combined with procrastinating suggests possible, nay likely dilatoriness, along with way too much time perusing the dictionary.

As you may or may not know, my muse abandoned me a while ago and I am on a quest to get her back. She is nowhere to be found today. If you have time to check out a few more posts, perhaps you will conclude with me she has popped in from time to time but has just not returned on a permanent basis.

I am pretty well convinced she will only pop back in if I get past telling myself it is nothing but a temporary case of writer’s block. My message to me goes like this, “Don’t worry about it. You’re just experiencing writer’s block. Keep busy and don’t obsess over it. If you relax and go with the flow (whatever that means) your muse will return and then you will find writing easy and nearly automatic.”

Talk about excuses! How do you rate that one? I put it right up there with notions like “Everything will work out if only you have faith and are patient.” Faith is more than important; it is essential. A large measure of patience is right up there on the must have scale as well. Even so, it takes a very large dose of hard work along with perseverance and a few other associated personal traits before its time to talk about things working out.

It may be time to bring out a couple of those old saws we grew up on but now seem too trite to mention. For example, “It is more than happenstance do comes before done in the dictionary;” or “Someday is not a day of the week.” I could also give a nod to George Claude Lorimer who said, “Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible.”

There are a hundred excuses for not getting started,

And a hundred and one for not getting done.

When listing the reasons motivation departed,

Put TRIFLING alone in row number one.

Test Your Parenting

Diane Loomans once reminisced, “If I had my child to raise all over again, I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later. I’d finger-paint more, and point the finger less. I would do less correcting and more connecting. I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes. I’d take more hikes and fly more kites. I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play. I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars. I’d do more hugging and less tugging.”

Being a parent is both satisfying and challenging. Knowing exactly how to handle any situation can be very difficult. Sloan Wilson captured the central issue this way, “The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.”

Although being a parent is very complex and will have many twists and turns over the years, knowing how you and your child are doing through the process is less daunting. If the following statements are most always tru for you as a parent, both you and your child are most likely making the journey rather successfully. Before we get to the statements though, there is a point that needs emphasis. Joyce Maynard made the point for us this way when she said, “It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours.”

Okay, here we go. Think about each statement and honestly decide if it is true for you. If it is, you and your child are probably doing just fine. If not, you definitely have some work to do and possibly changes to make with your parent relationship with your child.

1. I am reasonable and fair when disciplining my child.

2. I know what my child needs and what is important to him or her.

3. I am able to get my child to cooperate with me.

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