Whenever we realize that the conversation is going downhill, it is important to ask ourselves these questions:

  1. What is this person reacting to? Are they perceiving me to be disrespectful, biased, or narcissistic?
  2. Am I acting like the kind of person I want to be?

We must remember to act according to our deeper values instead of blindly reacting to situations and always ask the other person to do the same.

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Emotional Reactivity

This is the behavior that makes it difficult to stay positive around negative people. It's where we tend to overreact negatively to normal situations due to stress, exhaustion, or an emotional disorder.

Just as how we offend other people because we feel offended and both sides of the dynamic think that they're merely reacting to the other. It happens in any relationship, familial or social.

This is the extreme form of emotional reactivity. What happens is that:

  • We tend to recall past disputes with revised dialogues (when they said this, I should've said that);
  • We imagine arguments that haven't taken place yet; and
  • We feel that other people make us angry and are trying to get on our nerves.

Emotional reactivity spreads as quickly as lightning due to the salience of negative emotions and their vast contagion.

Feelings Vs Accurate Perception

Negative emotions like anger and anxiety are processed much quicker than rational judgment. We are filled with confirmation bias that makes us overlook contradicting evidence.

Most of the thought process during this behavior is about justifying what we're feeling rather than testing the reality of its perceptual influence.

Know your message

When you speak off-script, you may worry that you will go off on a tangent.

But getting straight to the point and sticking with it comes down to knowing your message. When you are sure of your message, you can change your words without ever losing the thread.

  1. It's one idea. Focus your idea on the one point you want your audience to buy into. Too many ideas will produce confusion.
  2. You can express it in a single, clear sentence. If your message is more than one sentence or a long sentence, your listeners won't "get it."
  3. It's engaging. Your message should engage the hearts and minds of your listeners. It means you know what your audience wants.
  4. It carries a message you believe in.
  5. It's positive. Your message should move the room in a hopeful direction.
  6. Ensure everyone can identify your message. "My view/point/message is..."
The broader view of gossip

All humans partake in gossip in some form. Everyone talks about other people. One study found that male participants spent 55% of conversation time and female participants 67% conversation time on socially relevant topics.

People like to think of gossip as the same as malicious rumours, but researchers define gossip as talking about people who aren't present.

  • It helps us get information about people from others when the network is too big to get it firsthand.
  • Gossip offers teachable moments and provides examples of what's socially acceptable and what's not.
  • People want to be seen positively by others and fit in socially. Gossip can help to keep people in check morally.
  • Gossip can spread the reputation of someone.
  • Gossip facilitate bonding and closeness.
  • It can also serve as a form of entertainment.

Some types of gossip should be avoided, such as harmful gossip that serves no greater purpose.

There's also a physiological distinction between active and passive participation in gossip. A study showed that when subjects heard about another person's anti-social behaviour, their heart rates increased. When they actively gossiped about the person, it helped calm their body.

Gossip gives people the ability to spread useful information to large social networks. Without engaging in these discussions, we would be unable to maintain societies.

A 2019 meta-analysis found that of the 52 minutes a day the 467 participants spent gossiping, most of it was neutral. 15% was considered negative gossip, and 9% was positive.

  1. Set a total word count. 40,000 - 60,000 words = standard nonfiction/novella book. A long nonfiction book/standard-length novel contains 60,000 - 80,000 words, and a very long nonfiction/long novel contains 80,000 - 100,000 words.
  2. Give yourself weekly deadlines. Make it a word count and celebrate the progress you've made.
  3. Get early feedback. Have a few trusted advisers such as friends, editors, or family that will help you discern what's worth writing.
  1. Decide what the book is about. Write the argument of your book in a sentence, then turn that into a paragraph, then into a one-page outline. Then write a table of contents to help guide your writing. Break each chapter into a few sections.
  2. Set a daily word count goal. John Grisham began writing when he was really busy as a lawyer and new dad. He got up an hour or two early and wrote one page a day until he had a novel. A page is about 300 words.
  3. Set a time to work on your book every day. Consistency makes creativity easier.
  4. Write in the same special place every time that is different from where you do other activities.
  1. Write and publish one chapter at a time, using Amazon Kindle Singles, Wattpad, or sharing with your email list subscribers.
  2. Start small. Write a shorter book of poems or stories.
  3. Start a blog to get feedback early. Eventually publish all the posts in a hardcopy book.
  4. Keep an inspiration list to keep fresh ideas flowing. Read regularly, and use a system to organize and find the content you've curated.
  5. Keep a journal, then rewrite the entries in a more polished book format, but use some scans of the journal pages as illustrations in the book.
  6. Deliver constantly. Don't wait for inspiration. Inspiration is a byproduct of hard work.
  7. Take frequent breaks.
  8. Remove distractions.
  9. Write where others are writing, like a coffee shop or library.
  10. Don't edit as you go. Write without judgment first, then edit later.
What it takes to write a book

The hardest part of a writer's job is sitting down to do the work. Writing happens in three phases.

  1. Beginning: You have to decide what you're going to write and how you're going to write it.
  2. Staying motivated: You will face self-doubt and overwhelm. Planning ahead will ensure you won't quit when the obstacles come.
  3. Finishing: Nobody cares if you almost wrote a book. They want to read what you actually finished.

Your book could have helped people, brought beauty or wisdom into the world, if only your book came to be. Or worse, you wrote a book, but nobody cared about it.

Producing a work that sells is not just about writing what you think will work. It's about finding an idea that will excite you and your audience. You have to write a book that is worthy of being sold. To maximize your chance of finishing your book, you need a proven plan.

  • Commit to shipping. No matter what, finish the book, then release it to the world.
  • Embrace failure. Writing a book will be hard, and you will have failures. Be okay with that and give yourself grace.
  • Write another book. Most authors are embarrassed by their first book. But without a first book, you will never learn the lessons. Put your work out, fail early, and try again. It is the only way to get better.

A way to carry on a conversation is to skip over the expected response.
Instead of:
Ron: "How was your flight?"
Carlos: "My flight was good."
Carlos could be bold and say, "I'd be more intrigued by an airline where your ticket price was based on your IQ."

Ask open-ended questions that invite people to tell stories, rather than one-word answers.

Instead of "How was your day?" try, "What did you do today?" Other open-ended questions to try:

  • "What's your story?"
  • "What's the strangest thing about where you grew up?"
  • "What's the most interesting thing that happened at work today?"
  • "How'd you end up in your line of work?"
  • "What was the best part of your weekend?"
  • "What are you looking forward to this week?"
  • "Who do you think is the luckiest person in this room?"
Awkward conversations with strangers

In a situation where people are gathered together, it always involves people trying to talk to each other. In these moments, we often fall short and can't think of anything to say, or worse; we fumble through with the aim of not crashing.

However, we can soar in conversations and learn to turn small talk into big ideas.

When small talk dries up, it's often due to "mirroring." In our efforts to be polite, we answer questions directly, repeat their observations, or just agree with whatever they say.

For example, one person would say, "It's a beautiful day," and we might answer, "Yes, it's a beautiful day." Instead, we could practice the art of disruption. To move the dialogue forward, we could reply: "They say that the weather was just like this when ... happened (insert a historical or personal moment)"

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