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When I let small talk with strangers spiral into something deeper, it became a book about memorable interactions. Here’s what I learned.

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The best conversations crack us open. They leave us tender and reeling, alive again with possibility, mesmerized by the uncanny nature of things. When you really “get there” with someone, you reach what my friend once referred to as the wilderness. You may not know where you are anymore, but you know it’s a place of mystery and beauty. You know you want to keep going. I felt this most acutely a few years ago when I kept having unexpected interactions with strangers. I wrote a book about those experiences — No One You Know, which is very much a…

The power of saying ‘You don’t need to respond to this’

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Earlier this year, when I had Covid, people naturally checked in on me by text during my illness and recovery.

All of the messages came from a place of caring. But they all kind of stressed me out, too.

I loved receiving and reading the support, but I felt overwhelmed by the expectation, either implicit or explicit, that I respond. How was I feeling, people wanted to know? Too overwhelmed and tired to answer any texts, was the honest answer.

This went on for weeks. It wasn’t until after I felt better that I realized how to avoid inflicting this…

Nine phrases to try for yourself

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I have finally learned how to say “no.” I am 43. It’s taken 25 years of my adult life to get comfortable with these two tiny letters. Why? Three reasons, the combination of which is the perfect storm for someone like me: 1) I am a people pleaser; 2) it’s human nature to be really needy and demanding, even more so now that we’re trapped at home; and 3) We live in a “say yes to life” culture. But, of all the things that the pandemic has taught me, this is probably the most powerful one: “No” is the new…

🤐 Today’s tip: No “buts” allowed.

Here’s a great example of how not to apologize: “I’m sorry you felt upset about that, but it wasn’t actually that big of a deal.” It looks like an apology; it smells like an apology; but an apology it is not.

And yet, while they can seem tricky, a good apology is not actually that hard to master. As Nikki Campo writes on Elemental: “Validation underpins all good apologies (accepting the other person’s reality as true, without judgment), believability matters (no “buts,” defensiveness, or excuses), and the undesirable behavior must change in the future.”…

There’s power in the inbox

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Most people see email as a strictly transactional tool, using it only when they need something or owe someone something. That’s exactly why you should use it to stand out.

Taking a moment to send these seven emails every week can help you strengthen your connections, stay top of mind as opportunities come up, and learn about industry trends. (Slack messages and texts also work, but I’m into email because most people have their inboxes open all day anyway.) …

What having Covid taught me about prioritization

Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash

It’s already halfway through February, but on my desk, it may as well be January 1. I’m getting back into my normal rhythms after coming
down with Covid alongside several members of my family a couple months
ago. Thankfully, everyone is on their way back to health, but, wow, did it knock me out for a while. And leave me with a mountain of work to be done.

It’s not as bad as it could have been, though. I work for myself, which means that, for me, having some sort of maintenance mode in place was the least stressful way…

A therapist explains how to stop trying to be a mind reader and focus on being a ‘mind knower’

Woman talking to her friend.
Woman talking to her friend.
Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

One thing I’ve observed with my therapy clients over the course of the pandemic is that many of us have become anxious mind readers, constantly certain that our friends think we’re terrible or our co-workers think we’re lazy. A tiff between siblings suddenly feels irreparable. A Zoom session with a grumpy boss feels like a guarantee that a firing is on the horizon. In isolation, we read every sign as pointing to the same conclusion: Someone is probably upset with us.

Being able to predict how other people are feeling is a useful skill to have. But when we’re cut…

Photo: Leonardo Laschera / Getty Images

I’ve recently developed a new laugh and it’s hideous. So hideous, in fact, that if a normal laugh knew I’d just evoked its good name to describe the emission, it’d spite-block me on social media and start an internet rumor about my mother. To avoid any such drama, I will rebrand it The Cackle.

I should note that I still have my non-hideous regular laugh, which comes out in the rare event that I experience pure, unfettered joy. Lately, though, most laugh-like vocalizations emerge in the form of The Cackle, and exclusively at moments where most people would consider laughter…

Woman on the phone while holding a piece of paper.
Woman on the phone while holding a piece of paper.
Photo: 10'000 Hours/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Perhaps someone in your life needs a little bit of convincing to get a lifesaving, pandemic-ending vaccination. Their reasons may be grounded in something real, like historical trauma due to the health care system’s legacy of racism. Or they may be the byproduct of — as you see it, anyway — complete, incomprehensible boneheadedness.

Whether your first reaction is to nod in sympathy or to recommend that they get their heads checked for brain worms, you’re likelier to change their mind if you first ask yourself some questions about your own motivations and tactics.

The productivity and creativity expert Barry…

‘Am I adding to the panic or being a calming influence?’

Photo: Rene Asmussen/Pexels

“Think before you speak,I told my 6-year-old son, Liam, earlier this week. I immediately regretted saying it as it’s often a generic phrase that parents give their kids when they say something rude, and I know I didn’t like hearing it when I was young. Regardless, I’m glad I said it because instead of nodding his head and scurrying away to play, Liam stopped and asked me an interesting question: “What should I be thinking about before I speak?”

At the time, his question caught me off guard, and I told him he should always ask himself if what…

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