I’m a writer integrating spirituality and practical communication principles living in a small seacoast village on the northeast coast of Scotland. I grew up in New Jersey, Boston, and Long Island and went to college in Ohio.
In my twenties, I started to practice meditation, following the teachings of an Indian guru. For ten years, I lived like a monk, renounced all the worldly pleasures, lived in ashrams through the U.S, and traveled the globe teaching meditation. Finally, in my thirties, I reentered the mainstream and raised a family while building my sales, consulting, and executive coaching career.
There’s a lot to disagree about these days: politics, shutdowns, masks, travel restrictions, vaccines—you name it. And then there are the more mundane disagreements in everyday life, the little things, like setting the thermostat.
Someone wants to turn it down. You want it up. Someone says, “It’s too hot in here.” You say, “It’s not hot. It’s cold.” Before you know it, you’re in a silly argument. None of us need more aggravation, especially right now.
In order to express yourself respectfully and defuse arguments before they start, it’s important to understand the difference between facts, opinions, and toxic opinions.
That was my 10th grade English teacher, Joel Kabatznick doing his “Words of the Week Club” routine. Every Friday, he’d spend about ten minutes teaching us words we didn’t know, like “idiosyncrasy” or “meretricious.” And, every so often, he’d slip in his brand of sex education, which would make every teenager squirm and blush when they had to say things they thought about but would never say in public, much less in a room full of kids they didn’t really know.
Mr. Kabatznick was by far the most memorable, inspiring, and hippest teacher I’ve ever had…
Words create our reality. Once we put them out there, we can’t take them back. Expressions like “I didn’t mean to say that” or “I was only kidding” come too late.
So why do couples get into needless arguments? Jeffery S. Smith, MD, writes in Psychology Today:
The cause of arguments and fights is a lack of mutual, empathic understanding. When empathy is not engaged, then people revert to a self-protective mode and become judgmental. The result is a bad feeling on both sides and no happy ending.
People want to be understood, not just heard.
I was 21 when I learned to meditate. After graduating from college, I moved into an ashram to study and practice the teachings of an Indian guru, Prem Rawat.
Five years later, he invited me to be a meditation instructor. After completing a three-month training program with a dozen other young people, I went on tour for four years throughout North America, Europe, Africa, and Australia, speaking at nightly meetings and helping people from all walks of life learn how to meditate.
After 49 years of practicing meditation as well as teaching, counseling, and observing others, I want to share…
Many people influence our lives — friends, bosses, colleagues, teachers, lovers, strangers, and family. Of those, my mother was particularly influential — she let her enthusiasm for art, music, literature and self-reliance shine through, and it shaped my life.
She kicked some serious ass.
One of my earliest memories as a four-year kid living with my parents in a small highrise apartment in Yonkers, New York, was listening to my mother sing along to Bessie Smith records as she was doing the ironing. She had a wonderful voice and did her best to keep up with the fantastic Bessie. Nothing…
As I parked the car outside the U.K. driver's license agency, I thought I passed the road test — things seemed to go well. The testing officer was chatting with me as we drove through quiet neighborhoods, congested areas, and a few roundabouts, these traffic circles prevalent here in Scotland. I’ve had a lifetime of driving experience in America. How hard could this be?
When I turned the engine off, relieved it was over, the officer turned his head toward me and said, “Donald, you failed the test. Do you know why you failed?” I said no. …
A friend of mine posted a picture on Facebook recently, mocking people with different beliefs than his. I was disappointed but not surprised. This happens when you believe you are right — to support your position further, others who differ with you have to be wrong.
And it’s much easier to do when your beliefs are the same as a larger group because you’ve got the majority standing with you—power in numbers. Groupthink. It’s easy to criticize others when you feel little risk of retaliation.
Social bullying is wrong, harmful, and divisive.
But the perpetrator feels justified because they believe…
People typically shut down when someone talks for more than 40 seconds. I’d recently read that from Mark Goulston, author of Just Listen, and this past weekend I had a firsthand experience of it.
My houseguest, someone I didn’t know very well, turned out to be quite the talker. As we sat together after dinner his verbal stream of consciousness washed over me, and I wondered when he might pause to take a breath. He didn’t.
I felt myself shutting down, losing interest not just in listening to him but also in saying anything. The nonstop talking continued at breakfast…
I slid my lunch tray along the chrome rails, grabbing a mini pizza instead of the mystery meat in brown sauce, and added a carton of chocolate milk and an ice cream sandwich. Now I had to find a place to sit. As I neared the end of the cafeteria line, anxiety turned to panic.
My eyes scanned the dining room — dozens of long tables with six chairs on each side, filled with kids, none of whom I knew. I put on my best I-know-what-I’m-doing look — pretending to find the friends I didn’t have while I searched for…