Pay attention. I am not kidding. Really.

Tag: appropriate

Judging a Book by the Cover, Part 2

photo of slob in office, dressed inappropriately and making paper airplances

Not very concerned about his cover, is he?

Have you ever noticed how it’s okay for you to do something that’s not quite fair, but not for others to do the exact same thing? When they do it, it’s “grossly unfair.” When you do it, not so much. That’s the another conundrum of life: the dual standards we often hold for ourselves and others.

You know where I’m headed with this. It’s where Mom probably went. It’s the part in the drama where you played the It’s Not Fair card.

Pay attention:
you were both right.

Mom was right because other people are just as lazy as we are. They judge a book by the cover because they don’t want to take the time or make the effort to insure a more accurate first impression. They claim what you and I claim: “Looks are all I have to go on.”

You were right because if looks are all we routinely use to evaluate people and things, we’re being extremely unfair and supremely superficial.

Here’s what Mom was trying to say. A whole lot of life is unfair but – pay attention – sometimes we have the ability to make life a little more fair. When we have that chance, we should take it.

Oh, say, on job interviews,
for instance.

When that prospective employer looks you over in a 20-minute interview, he’s trying to cover a whole lot of ground. Maybe he’s an expert in culling details and clues. Maybe he’s like Malcolm Gladwell’s experts – an accomplished thin-slicer. Maybe not. Maybe he’s lazy. Maybe he’ll notice only that you’re dressed like a slob and figure your resumé and references are equally slobby, giving them only a cursory look. He won’t be fair.

If he calls you back for a second interview, you may get the chance to wow him with your expertise and rapier-like mind. But honestly, you know and I know that if he isn’t impressed by the “cover” in the first 20 minutes, he won’t be fair enough to give you a second 20 minutes to show him what’s inside your “book.”

It gets worse.

You do the same thing – to yourself. You judge you based on how your cover looks as you pass the mirror. When what you see in the mirror is hat-hair, makeup-less face, ragged t-shirt, and baggy PJ pants, how do you judge yourself? As a snappy, on-top-of-it professional?

I don’t think so. I rather think you see yourself as a slob and start berating yourself. When we slip into negative self-talking, seldom does good come of it. It seldom motivates us to start acting appropriately or professionally. Mostly, we just keep on acting the part of a slob – because we look like a slob.

Okay, the unfair reality is that we and others default to judging a book by the cover – even our own “books.” But there is something we can we do to stop others from forming erroneous first impressions of us.

Pay attention.
We can make
our “cover” match our “book.”
Now, there’s an idea.

  • If you care about getting that job or impressing the prospective in-laws, act and dress appropriately for the occasion. 
  • If you care about how people judge your thoughts and actions, BECOME a person of integrity.
  • If you really, really, really care about how people judge your thoughts and actions, be unafraid to let your integrity show through. Yes, yes, I know integrity is soooo uncool. Don’t care. You shouldn’t either. (It really is quite painless. You’d be surprised at how quickly you can become impervious to jabs from the rabble.)

If you want others to form fair first impressions of your “book,” think, act, and dress so that your “cover” accurately reflects what’s in your “book.” When that’s the case, it’s okay if others “unfairly” judge you on first impressions. For you, they’ll be fair and accurate first impressions.

©2015, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “The way we dress affects the way we think, the way we feel, the way we act, AND THE WAY OTHERS REACT TO US.” – Judith Rasband

From “America’s Image Expert” (caps mine)

Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. (Part 3)

photo of young woman and a desk full of bills

Probably not enough Should I? questions.

Can, Should, &
“Oh well, you only live once.”

Nowhere is this trend of doing what we can – just because we can – of greater concern to me than in the way we spend money. As you’ve noticed in previous blog posts, I think a great many of my compatriots have checked their brains at the door when it comes to making appropriate decisions about spending money.

Before making any buying decisions, ask Should I? And do try to be honest with yourself when you formulate your answer. You well know you’re playing head games with yourself if you quickly answer with a head full of rationalizations, especially if you’ve been doing a whole lot of everything, just because you can.

When I find myself playing this head game, I ask more questions. Why right now? Why should I buy this very minute? The answer almost always is, I don’t have to. Ah. A little breathing time, a little thinking time, so that my second answer to the Should I? question has a slightly better chance for a little more honesty. Sometimes not. If you’re like me, you may have to ask the Should I? question five or six times before Ms. Honesty shows her face.

Not asking and honestly answering the Should I? question means getting yourself in hot water with:

  • a spouse,
  • parents,
  • credit card companies,
  • your bank,
  • adult children who may have to bail you out,
  • and a host of others.

Need I point out here that getting into hot water is not exactly greasing the wheels of our relationships? Okay. Just wanted to be sure.

I could literally fill a book with more examples of people doing really stupid stuff – just because they can. So could you. In fact, maybe you should. Okay, not a book’s worth; a page might suffice. Key a whole page of things others do – just because they can – that irritate the heck out of you. And then make a note to yourself not to do those things yourself. You can’t stop there, though.

Here’s the pay-attention advice
you knew was coming.

There are boatloads of irritating scenarios you won’t think of. Here’s my humble and simple remedy: repeat the maxim just because I can doesn’t mean I should – over and over this week and next week and the week after. Make it an ingrained and instinctual habit before you:

  • dress for an occasion,
  • answer that vibrating cell,
  • slide your credit card,
  • open your wallet
  • speak, or
  • make a decision about anything.

Analytical types like to call it “intentional living.” Regardless of what you call it, adopting the habit of making conscious, thoughtful, appropriate decisions about can and should will endear you to others, continually greasing the wheels of your relationships and making your life far less stressful. It’s mind-magic that leads to relationship-magic.

Whew, this series could easily turn into another Russian-doll set of blog posts like the Odd Series. Really: I could go on till Russian Doll #864, but then you’d all be nodding off. Best to call this post the end of just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

red box of white text: "Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom?" – Proverbs 17:16, NIV Bible

Wisdom = asking and answering Should I?

The next blog post is already done, as I posted it prematurely. 😒 It’s a bit of a sticky wicket, if you must know, because it’s about that thing plenty of us avoid: making decisions.

©2015, Teresa Bennett

Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. (Part 1)

photo of guy's legs sticking out from under a pickup

How can THIS be relevant?

Sorry. I know you’ve heard the above proverb lots, but hang with me.

Like you, I’ve recited it to myself a bazillion times and STILL, I find myself doing something simply because I can. I zoom right past should-I? and jump recklessly into can-do. Even though I know better, I don’t do better. Sound familiar? Okay, so we know this stuff, but we don’t do it.

What makes us persist
in such muzzy behavior?

Beats me. Maybe because knowing and doing are two entirely different kettles of fish? Or maybe we can chalk it up to our propensity for our smartphone-induced partial attention to life – never fully paying attention to much of anything? (I doubt this is the culprit, since the condition we’re discussing is The Human Condition, predating smartphones by thousands of years. But, hey, it’s a literary transition. It’s here for reasons that will become clear in Part 2 of this topic.)

I could keep on speculating but the wretched truth is this: I don’t know why we persist in this self-sabotage. All I know is that we do and, as a result, tons of things are broken in our society. One of the most broken, due to our knowing and not doing, is the concept of appropriate behavior. Because of that, I think it’s a concept which requires a whole lot of unabashed harping. And just so you know, I HAVE asked myself Should I? and the answer, as you can see, is an emphatic, harpy yes!

Can, Should, &
“Here I am – barely made it.”
Pant. Pant. Pant.

Just because a guy can go straight from tinkering with his car to a friend’s wedding doesn’t mean he should. (See, the photo does have relevance.)

I know what you’re thinking. “Who would do that?” Actually, lots of guys.

I’ve been to hundreds of weddings (really) and truly, I’ve seen guys who looked as if they’d just crawled out from under their pickup, jumped in, fired it up, and roared into the car park for a wedding ceremony they’d apparently almost forgotten. What these turkeys should have done – regardless of what they were doing – is shower and change into appropriate clothes for The Most Important Event of a friend’s life – his wedding day.

A guy can’t get into too much trouble with his friend if he shows up at his friend’s wedding dressed the way he knows his friends and relatives expect him to dress. Guys who claim they don’t know any better are shameless liars.

On the other hand, a guy can alienate his friend’s new bride, embarrass his friend in front of his new in-laws, and do damage to a friendship going back to junior high when he defaults to the jeans-and-T-shirt uniform. Guys who do this clearly think so little of their friends that they don’t stop to ask themselves, Should I?

But it’s our right!

Yes, our society does give us all license to behave as badly and as inappropriately as we like. Besides, who are we to tell someone else what’s appropriate? Why even worry about what’s appropriate and what isn’t? Isn’t that just being hypocritical, hypercritical, and superficial?

No, as it turns out, it is not. Here’s the pay-attention bit to the much-ignored can-versus-should dilemma that I intend to harp on till we’re all sick of if. Caring about how our actions affect others is a good thing because:

doing what’s appropriate
greases the wheels
of ALL our relationships.

(Check out this post if you care about dressing appropriately purely for self-serving reasons.)

Next up is another prime example of people not paying attention and forgetting to ask Should I? It’s one we’re all supremely familiar with – either as blatant perpetrators or as hapless victims. Warning: if you’re a perpetrator, I’ll be asking you to be honest enough to ‘fess up and start asking Should I?

©2015, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.” – G K Chesterton

A 1900s English theologian’s can-and-should

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