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Opinion Editorials

How to deal when you have to work with (or sell to) people you hate

(OPINION) It can be exceedingly difficult to talk to someone who evokes feelings of hate, particularly in situations where you don’t have the option to leave or ignore them. So what can you do?

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frustrated hate

No place for hate…

When I was in 4th grade I remember obnoxiously lamenting how much I “hated” someone, and my friend’s dad overheard. We both received the classic “hate is a strong word” lecture.

Of course, I had gotten this talk from my parents, but you never want to listen to your own parents when you’re ten. Since then, I try to check myself whenever I’m feeling hateful about others.

But sometimes you can’t help it.

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…Except when there is

I work in retail, and around the holidays things get crazier than usual. Customers are needier, more frenzied, and come at you like a group of people seeking refuge from the zombie apocalypse when the doors open. It’s hard to stay calm and loving when someone is nagging me about how I picked the wrong color ribbon for the present I’m wrapping, or that it’s my fault they ran into a display.

It can be exceedingly difficult to talk to someone who evokes feelings of hate, particularly in situations where you don’t have the option to leave or ignore them.

Author Jay Neinrichs details some techniques to deal with situations where you’d rather murder someone than talk to them. He suggests identifying your goal and audience with every interaction, combating your own feelings of hate with aggressive interest in what the other person is saying. If you act out of sympathy and (faked) love, it’s easier to feel less icky about the situation.

Goal setting

One of my goals is to keep my job. Technically I have a choice about how I respond to customers who tell me they need something for their grandchild who’s smart “because he’s half Chinese” or ask if we have any Silly Putty “for girls” because the only color left is blue. I could launch into a rant about how wrong they are, but that would potentially lead to a negative Yelp review.

In these situations, I ultimately have to consider that I am not just representing myself, but the company I work for. While I would love to hold a combined Sociology/Feminism 101 course in the play area, I don’t have that luxury. Instead I have moments in which I can act out of love and understanding despite my feelings of frustration. My other goal is to not end up in jail for assaulting a customer with a robot claw. So how do I achieve this?

Uncanny valley

I created a survival game for myself. I call it Uncanny Valley, based on the phenomenon where humanoid replicas are eerily human, but something isn’t quite right. The rules are simple: be horrifyingly kind, even when I want to throw everyone into a lava pit. I win if I can be the nicest.

I go out of my way to be what I consider disgustingly nice, actively repressing the horrible thoughts I have. For my coworkers who know how irritated I actually am, it’s borderline creepy. I can go from trash talking to answering the phone with a face-busting smile in a matter of seconds.

Whoever is on the other end hears a sweet, attentive employee who wants nothing more than to describe every detail of all the dolls in the store. But look into my eyes and you will see the depths of Mordor.

All the store’s a stage

Technically my audience is everyone in the store, but ultimately it’s myself. I’m the one that has to deal with how I act and react to people that frustrate me. Playing into my feelings of hate is a really quick downward spiral. I’m not going to change their worldview in a twenty minute interaction. What I can control is how I act, and in turn that helps assuage feelings of hate.

I try to consider why someone is mad at me for their kid breaking something. Yes, their child is being awful, and that’s unfortunate for me in that moment. But they have to live with that kid full time. So while I can’t make their four-year-old heathen a shining example of good parenting, I can provide a moment of calm and understanding.

Am I seething inside? Absolutely. But they don’t need to know that. I almost always win Uncanny Valley.

#UncannyValley

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Opinion Editorials

Serial procrastinator? Check your mental energy, not time management

(EDITORIAL) Need a hack for your time management? Try focusing on your mental energy management.

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productivity

Your author has a confession to make; as a “type B” personality who has always struggled with procrastination, I am endlessly fascinated by the topic of productivity and “hacking your time.”

I’ve tried most of the tricks you’ve read about, with varying degrees of success.

Recently, publishers like BBC have begun to approach productivity from a different perspective; rather than packing days full of to-do items as a way to maximize time, the key is to maximize your mental energy through a different brand of time management.

So, why doesn’t time management work?

For starters, not all work time is quality time by nature. According to a study published at ScienceDirect, your average worker is interrupted 87 times a day on the job. For an 8-hour day, that’s almost 11 times per hour. No wonder it’s so hard to stay focused!

Second, time management implies a need to fill time in order to maximize it.

It’s the difference between “being busy” and “being productive.”

It also doesn’t impress your boss; a Boston University study concluded that “managers could not tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who just pretended to.” By contrast, managing your energy lets you maximize your time based on how it fits with your mental state.

Now, how do you manage your energy?

First, understand and protect the time that should actually go into deep, focused work. Studies continually show that just a few hours of focused worked yield the greatest results; try to put in longer hours behind that, and you’ll see diminishing returns. There’s a couple ways you can accomplish this.

You can block off time in your day dedicated to focused work, and guard the time as if it were a meeting. You could also physically retreat to a private space in order to work on a task.

Building in flexibility is another key to managing your energy. The BBC article references a 1980s study that divided students into two groups; one group planned out monthly goals, while the other group planned out daily goals and activities. The study found the monthly planners accomplished more of their goals, because the students focusing on detailed daily plans often found them foiled by the unexpected.

Moral of the story?

Don’t lock in your schedule too tightly; leave space for the unexpected.

Finally, you should consider making time for rest, a fact reiterated often by the BBC article. You’ve probably heard the advice before that taking 17 minute breaks for every 52 minutes worked is important, and studies continue to show that it is. However, rest also includes taking the time to turn your brain off of work mode entirely.

The BBC article quotes associated professor of psychiatry Srini Pillay as saying that, “[people] need to use both the focus ad unfocus circuits in the brain,” in order to be fully productive. High achievers like Serena Williams, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates build this into their mentality and their practice.

Embracing rest and unfocused thinking may be key to “embracing the slumps,” as the BBC article puts it.

In conclusion, by leaving some flexibility in your schedule and listening to your body and mind, you can better tailor your day to your mental state and match your brainpower to the appropriate task. As someone who is tempted to keep a busy to-do list myself, I am excited to reevaluate and improve my own approach. Maybe you should revisit your own systems as well.

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Opinion Editorials

6 skills humans have that AI doesn’t… yet

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It’s not unreasonable to be concerned about the growing power and skill of AI, but here are a few skills where we have the upper hand.

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Man drawing on a roll of butcher paper, where AI cannot express themselves yet.

AI is taking over the workforce as we know it. Burgers are already being flipped by robotic arms (and being flipped better), and it’s only a matter of time before commercial trucks and cars will be driven by robots (and, probably, be driven better).

It may feel unnerving to think about the shrinking number of job possibilities for future humans – what jobs will be around for humans when AI can do almost everything better than we can?

To our relief (exhale!), there are a few select skills that humans will (hopefully) always be better at than AI. The strengths that we have over AI fall into 3 general categories: Ability to convey emotion, management over others, and creativity.

Let’s break it down: Here are 6 skills that we as humans should be focusing on right now.

Our ability to undertake non-verbal communication

What does this mean for humans? We need to develop our ability to understand and communicate body language, knowing looks, and other non-verbal cues. Additionally, we need to refine our ability to make others feel warm and heard – if you work in the hospitality industry, mastering these abilities will give you an edge over the AI technologies that might replace you.

Our ability to show deep empathy to customers

Unlike AI, we share experiences with other humans and can therefore show empathy to customers. Never underestimate how powerful your deep understanding of being human will be when you’re pitted against a robot for a job. It might just be the thing that gives you a cutting edge.

Our ability to undertake growth management

As of this moment, humans are superior to AI when it comes to managing others. We are able to support organization members in developing their skillsets and, due to our coaching ability, we are able to help others to grow professionally. Take that, AI!

Our ability to employ mind management

What this essentially means is that we can support others. Humans have counseling skills, which means we are able to help someone in distress, whether that stems from interpersonal relationships or professional problems. Can you imagine an AI therapist?

Our ability to perform collective intelligence management

Human creativity, especially as it relates to putting individual ideas together to form an innovative new one, gives us a leg up when competing against AI. Humans are able to foster group thought, to manage and channel it, to create something bigger and better than what existed before. Like, when we created AI in the first place.

Our ability to realize new ideas in an organization

Think: Elevator pitch. Humans are masters of marketing new ideas and are completely in-tune with how to propose new concepts to an organization because, you guessed it, we too are human. If the manager remains human in the future (fingers crossed!), then we know what to say to them to best sell our point of view.

Using what we know, it’s essential for almost all of us to retrain for an AI-driven economy that is most likely just a few years away. My advice for my fellow humans? Develop the parts of you that make you human. Practice eye contact and listening. Think about big pictures and the best way to manage others. Sharpen your mind with practicing creative processes. And do stay up to date with current trends in AI tech. Sooner or later, these babies are bound to be your co-workers.

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Opinion Editorials

Your business model doesn’t have to be a unicorn or a camel to succeed

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It’s not unusual for people to suggest a new business model analogy, but this latest “camel” suggestion isn’t new or helpful.

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Camels walking in desert, not the best business model.

This year in 2020 I’ve seen a great deal of unique takes on how our system works. From 45 all the way down to children instructing adults on how to wear masks properly. However, after reading this new article published by the Harvard Business Review, I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so out of touch with the rest of the business world. Here’s a brief synopsis on this article on business model.

The author has decided that now of all times it’s drastically important for startups and entrepreneurs to switch their business tactics. Changing from a heavy front-end investment or “startups worth over a billion dollars” colloquially called “Unicorns” to a more financially reserved business model. One he has tried to coin as the “Camel”, using references to the animal’s ability to survive “long periods of time without sustenance, withstand the scorching desert heat, and adapt to extreme variations in climate.”

The author then goes on to outline best practices for this new business plan: “Balance instead of burn”, “Camels are built for the long haul”, “Breadth and depth for resilience”.

Now I will admit that he’s not wrong on his take. It’s a well thought-out adjustment to a very short-term solution. You want to know why I’m sure of that? Because people figured this out decades ago.

The only place that a “Unicorn” system worked was in something like the Silicon Valley software companies. Where people can start with their billions of dollars and expect “blitzscaling” (a rapid building-up tactic) to actually succeed. The rest of the world knows that a slow and resilient pace is better suited for long term investments and growth. This ‘new’ business realization is almost as outdated as the 2000 Olympics.

The other reason I’m not thrilled with this analogy is that they’ve chosen an animal that doesn’t really work well. Camels are temperamental creatures that actually need a great deal of sustenance to survive those conditions they’ve mentioned. It’s water that they don’t need for long periods, once they stock up. They have to have many other resources up front to survive those harsh conditions the article writer mentioned. So by this analogy, it’s not that different than Silicon Valley’s strongly backed “startups.”

If he wanted to actually use the correct animal for this analogy, then he should call it a tortoise business plan. Actually, any type of reptile or shark would work. It would probably be a better comparison in temperament as well, if we’re talking ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ Whatever you do, consider your angle, and settle in for the long haul.

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