Snapshot from the Past

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Among the many perks of supervised self-education: studying in comfort and in the company of your furriest family members. Yes, Bryan always was the hairiest of humans in our family.

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An Expression of Frustration and a Petition for Practical Help

I never write in my journal, almost. But I did today. This must have something to do with the fact that Hannah mentioned her journal the other day. I guess it inspired me.

My journal has not been something I would ever worry about keeping under lock and key; I’ve haven’t been much of an every-detail-of-my-life-and-thoughts type when it comes to writing in it. However, today I decided to try being completely candid and detailed. I don’t know if this will cause me to cherish my journal more, or make me desire its destruction next time I read it—but it’s done now (six whole pages of detail) and I’m glad I did it.  

One of the topics of my journal entry was “conversation.” My frequent inability to carrying on decent conversation has been a frustration for me for some time. I love to talk to people when it works—But, unless I’m talking to someone who has a lot to say without being asked, talking with people is just not easy for me at all. This fact has been well punctuated by the many awkward conversations that I’ve had (or attempted to have) within the last few weeks. Here’s a typical scenerio: Someone asks me a question, I give a short answer, and then he/she is just left hanging. I don’t like to make people grope for something else to say, but I can’t help it because I’m busy groping myself. They had hoped that their question would get a more lengthy response, or would lead me to ask them a question. But I just don’t seem to be able to produce anything lengthy or think of a follow-up question on the spot. As a result, the conversation is awkward from the very beginning. I do often think of things I could have said, after it’s too late, but it’s rare for me to think of anything at the crucial time.

Perhaps one of the reasons for my struggle is that I don’t practice much at home. I’ve only recently realized that I spend a lot more time just listening to my family talk, then I do talking. I don’t mind this at all. I rather like it. But it’s difficult, when I’ve been mostly listening all week, to suddenly be immersed into a situation where I ought to be talking. 

Surely by now I must be considered by some people as “the hard one to talk to.” And that’s certainly not nice for me or the ones who try to talk to me. So, . . . moving on to the petition for practical help: I’m ready to “take steps” to conquer this, and I need your ideas of some “steps” to “take.”

Or, if you have the same problem I do, I’d like to know that I’m not alone.:)

(And yes, I did just use a smiley face. I thought it needed it. Take this as proof that I’m not all “baa humbug” about them.) 

By the way, I may have painted my situation a little bit over-dramatically.

-Laura

Which would you rathest eat?

Though I would rathe eat spinich tonight, I would rather eat tacos. But of all three of the options, I would rathest eat pizza.

Benjamin just looked up “rather” in the our huge Oxford English Dictionary. This was the interesting discovery: “rathe” was a word used to mean “quickly.” Thus to say “I would ‘rathe’ do this” was like saying “I would ‘quickly’ do this.” So “rather” really means “more quickly,” and “rathest,” “most quickly.”

Does it make you smile?

I am of the opinion that an excessive use of smiley-faces in writing is bad. You ask: “Why, what’s wrong with smiley-faces?” Well, there’s nothing wrong with them. I prefer cats to dogs, but that doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with dogs. This is just my preference. And as such, my desire is not to condemn the opposite opinion, but only to lay out before you the reasons for my bias so that you may consider them.   

First of all, I want to make clear that the real problem is not smiley-faces; it is the excessive use of smiley-faces. An occasional smiley is not bad. It serves a purpose. It lets the you know that the author meant to make you smile. And you do. But when a writer has been liberal in his use of smileys, the smiley perfectly placed no longer has special meaning. It has no purpose; It’s been ruined. When I’ve been made to believe that I should be taking great pleasure in every sentence of what I read, I don’t get as much pleasure out of the one sentence that really deserves it.

Secondly, I get tired of being shown when to smile. This may sound weird, but to me this is often the way it seems. I read sentence after sentence ending with: (smile here!), and it’s usually a bit over the top. I would much rather be prompted to smile by the words themselves, and not by the smiley.

Thirdly I believe that the use of smiley faces is promoting poor comunication skills. People are forgetting how to express emotion in writing without them. Are the Shakespeares of today the ones who know how to pen (or finger) the most fitting and unique smileys at the apropriate times? When people know how to express and make understood emotions through the words alone, this is when my most genuine smiles occur. It may be that the only way to revive truely emotive writing in the world is to back away from these grinning little theives.

Winning Friends and Influencing People for the Glory of God

I just finished reading a well known book by Dale Carnegie titled How to Win Friends and Influence people. Many believers consider this a dangerous book, and I think it can be. But I am going to contend that if you take good care not to read the book how it wants to be read—selfishly, with an aim to getting what you want out of people—but rather read it carefully with a view to using the advise for the glory of God, you will actually find it to be very valuable.

Tom Elliff, my uncle, testified that in high school he was somewhat of an introvert. He did not like much to talk to people, and often preferred just to be by himself. In fact, his best friend at the time was a deaf guy. Then he learned that Dale Carnegie was in town holding a course on “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” and he and a friend attended the lectures. My uncle said that there is no doubt the course had an impact in his life. It helped him to come out of his shell and really relate to people. To talk to my uncle now, you would be surprised to learn that he was ever anything other than outgoing and a good conversationalist. Now, as an evangelist, he travels often and speaks to many new people. God used the course in my uncle’s life to make him more effective for Himself. I really believe God can use this book to do the same for you.

Each chapter in the book deals with one “principle,” and lays out for the reader one true story after another of people who used the principle and the results that came from it. I want to draw out a few of the principles and explain them. My hope is to get you to read the book yourself because I think if you do, it will help you to become more focused on other people,  a better conversationalist, a more effective teacher (if you teach), and in general just a more caring person. If you don’t read it, I hope that you will at least try the few ideas below. Here they are, with my own commentary:  

“Become genuinely interested in other people.”This is a perfect rule for those of us that often have trouble carrying on a fluent conversation with people, and actually it is a valuable rule for everyone. It is important to make people feel welcome and comfortable around you, and this tip usually works wonders.  It is also an excellent tip to use when sharing the gospel. Naturally, if someone is telling you something, and you are really interested in what they are saying, you will ask lots of questions. When you talk to people, all you have to do is sincerely want to know all about what they are telling you, all about them, or all about what they believe, and questions will automatically come to your mind. You do not even have to do much of the talking. Just be interested, and you may be surprised at how smoothly the conversation will go.   

 “Arouse in the other person an eager want.” I teach violin, and this one is really helpful. It is my duty to be the most effective teacher I can be. That involves getting people to do what I tell them to do. The only way I can get anyone to do what I tell them is by getting them to want to do it. I have often been guilty of telling them what I want. Instead, I should think about what they want. When I do remember to do this, it is usually enough to tell them how they will benefit from doing what I tell them (ie. “If you hold your bow correctly you will produce a much prettier sound and will have better control of your bow” or “If you are drastic with your dynamics (volume; loud and soft), then people will be very impressed. It is the people with drastic dynamics that are the most enjoyable to hear”). Other times it takes a concrete motivation, such as a prize, to make them eager to do what I say.

Carnegie tells a story to illustrate this principle:

For example: one day Ralph Waldo Emerson and his son tried to get a calf into the barn. But they made the common mistake of thinking only of what they wanted: Emerson pushed and his son pulled. But the calf was doing just what they were doing; he was thinking only of what he wanted; so he stiffened his legs and stubbornly refused to leave the pasture. The Irish housemaid saw their predicament. She couldn’t write essays and books; but, on this occasion at least, she had more horse sense, or calf sense, then Emerson had. She thought of what the calf wanted; so she put her maternal finger in the calf’s mouth and let the calf suck her finger as she gently led him into the barn.                

“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Carnegie writes: “Most people don’t remember names, for the simple reason that they don’t take the time and energy necessary to concentrate and repeat and fix names indelibly in their minds. They make excuses for themselves; they are too busy.” My parents and I have visited our sister church, Christ Fellowship of West Plains, a couple of times. I have always been impressed with how many of them remembered and used my name on our second visit, some of whom I barely even met on our first visit. I automatically felt a closer connection with the group because of that; I was right at home around them, as if I had been seeing them every day since I first met them. Though it was just a small way to show that they care, it was beautiful. Ever since that time I’ve wanted to be like that, to make people feel comfortable—like old friends—simply by making the effort to remember their names and use them.  

“Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.” Carnegie says: “If, as a result of reading this book, you get only one thing—an increased tendency to think always in terms of the other person’s point of view, and see things from that person’s angle as well as your own—if you get only that one thing from this book, it may easily prove to be one of the stepping-stones of your career.” This is a principle that will soften you in conflict. Even if you are sure the other person is wrong, remember that that person does not think that he is. There is no reason to rub it in that someone is wrong. The result would only be to make that person feel dumb and defensive. If you want to avoid many arguments, applying this principle will certainly help. After all, a good many arguments are just misunderstandings.

Like I said earlier, you should read this book with discernment. Selfish motives are the main appeal of the book. It is all about getting people to like you, and getting people to do what you want them to do. Carnegie does make the point that in every one of these situations both parties should benefit. This is true. Yet, the motivation for the believer should be the benefit of others and the glory of God. Keep that forefront in your mind, and you will learn many good things from this book.

Lollipops?

See full size imageApproximately three days ago, my thoughts turned from . . . actually I can’t remember what . . . to lollipops. It struck me as odd that my mental associations with the lollipop were not good ones. Most people probably think of the lollipop as something that uplifts the spirit, and would doubtless place it in a category with “raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens,” if you catch my meaning. But these were not my sentiments at all.

It was as this point that I decided to conduct a small study on the associations people have with certain words. You can begin to be a part of this study by commenting your thoughts on the lollipop (I’d also be interested in your thoughts on clowns). I have a feeling that such a study will yield fascinating, entertaining, and perhaps downright hilarious results. The first few about the lollipop, which I acquired via email with my brothers, are quite enjoyble. Read these and add your own:

Benjamin: “Just little kids in the amusement park. And hot sidewalks. Colorful spirals. Hot melting candy. Long cartoon tongues.” 
Bryan:  “Negative associations. Men with nets and long noses searching for innocent children, clowns, etc. Generally, I think of a lollipop as something with an attractive outward appearance that, if you fall for it, will turn into a trap.”
Myself: “I have similar associations to yours, Bryan. The guy with the curly hair and really long, pointed nose in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is my first thought. Then I think of spoiled, unhappy, selfish children, that demand from their parents more lollipops or they will have a tantrum. Lollipops always produce bad results in my mind. Funny, Benjamin, that lollipops aren’t spoiled for you.”
Benjamin: “I’m not saying that I approve of little children running around with sticky fingers and climbing under carnival tents. They shouldn’t do that. I just read half a book about a carnival accident. A little girl nearly got killed under the Farris wheel. Besides, lollipops are bad for you. But I had forgotten about that nosy creep. He’s like a nightmare that I’ve gotten over. 
Maybe I should try a lollipop sometime. Do you just take a bite out of it or do you let the bugs collect on it all day?”
Bryan: The nosy guy from chitty-chitty is definately the first thing that comes to mind. Lollipops give me the creeps. Cotton candy, too. Anywhere there’s carnival candy, keep an eye out for a trap.