Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cultivating Relationships

After my undergraduate years were over, I have found that it is quite difficult to stay in touch with everyone that I used to spend just about every waking moment with. I am even in the same city! With dealing with the obstacles and learning curves of graduate school, internships, full time “big girl” jobs and overall being an adult, sometimes those relationships fall by the wayside. It makes you feel quite isolated, and quite frankly, old.

Now I know that we are all “busy” and we get “tired” from “working all day.” Have you said or heard that from a friend when trying to coordinate a lunch, dinner, HH or anything? Honestly, the “I’m really busy” excuse is ridiculous. We are all busy. We all have jobs, families, responsibilities, etc. I feel like sometimes when I ask people to hang out, they are just trying to come up with an excuse not to. I’ve been on that other side too, when someone wants to go to a HH, and I’d like to go, but all I can think about is crashing as soon as I get home. My advice is MAKE TIME to hang out with friends, boyfriends, etc. Making time isn’t necessarily easy, but make it a point to understand your habits and understand when you typically “flake out” from seeing people even if plans are on the calendar. 

I’ve noticed that once I get home, I am home for good. So instead of meeting friends later at the gym or at HH, I just schedule it so that I come straight from work, or I stay at work a little later. I also try and make plans only a week or so in advance. Then I won’t forget (which happens often if you aren’t put into my outlook) and also then it isn’t so last minute that I had already mentally decided what I was going to do that day. I also try and vary my time between people so that I can keep up with all of them. That also helps me to work around mine and other people’s schedules. Maybe lunch works better for them than HH. I also try to go to alumni events for my school or different groups I was a part of. Even scheduling an “Old UTD Cheerleader or Theta Alumni” hang out can help you to stay in touch. 

In addition, never feel bad for trying to rekindle a friendship that has gone on the backburner. While you may feel bad for letting it get that way, don’t ensure that the relationship will never again be what it was by simply not reaching out. I’ve found that people always appreciate me thinking of them. 

Cultivating relationships face to face is one of my challenges for the #StepUp30Day challenge. I tend to think that Facebook or Twitter only relationships are just as functional as face to face. While I think it is better than no relationship, making time for people means a lot to them and to me. I have never had a catch up “hang out” that I regretted attending. I always have regretted just going home and relaxing when I could have spent time keeping up with the people that I care about.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Voting for Dummies

I am honestly tired of the entire presidential election circus thus far. It’s not that I don’t care about the election, issues or system, I’m just tired of hearing report after report of things that quite frankly should not be included in my decision making process of who to vote for. If you know me or saw me at the Ms. Greek pageant in 2008, you’ll know that I am a HUGE American History buff/nerd. I can even sing all of the presidents, in order of term served, to the Gilligan’s Island theme song (shout out to Michael Patterson for that). So I have an appreciation for what was set up for us historically and how it was different from previous countries and how it has been pretty successful.

As per my last blog, I have many friends who have vastly different political beliefs and views. And if you think this is going to be a political debate blog, don’t worry, it won’t be. I actually like when those that have different beliefs ask me about mine, because it forces me to think about why I think the way I do about a certain issue. My beliefs are never 100% categorized into a party, and I really don’t think most people's are. Through those conversations, I understand what I think to be important to the future of this country and what will make life better for the future generations. What is important so that they can still live in the luxury of a free state. 

This is the first issue: I don’t look at what is best for me. It’s definitely hard and I have fallen into that trap. What is best for me is probably not best for most, sometimes it could be, but I’d challenge you to think about each issue and how each issue impacts the individuals within the US and how they impact other issues. All the issues are in a way, connected. The second piece of advice is to not let your emotions or passions cloud your judgment. Many people cannot have thoughtful conversations because of this. It’s hard to do, but I think once you get past that initial surge of feeling, you can begin to see where people are coming from. This isn’t changing your belief, just understanding any and all perspectives, whether you agree with them or not. Another thing to consider is that you will never have a candidate who represents your set of beliefs 100%. I wish it were the case, but it is not. That’s why some issues can be seen as “more important” than others. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are; it just means that maybe they affect more people or maybe it’s a longer term issue than another issue. Whatever the case, weighing issues is important too. 

The last point I’d like to make is that we as a country seem to typically vote for the best “actor” rather than the best fit for the position. We vote for people who look like presidents, senators, politicians, etc. who say and do the “right” things. It seems to me that candidates almost create a caricature version of themselves worthy of movies, TV and political cartoons.  Ok history nerd coming on: An example of this is the Nixon v Kennedy debate (first ever aired on television). Nixon had a horrible cold and looked horrible (he refused to wear makeup, etc.) while of course Kennedy is good looking and well spoken. The interesting thing about this debate (regardless of your affiliation) is that the majority individuals who listened to it on the radio saw Nixon as the clear winner, while those who watched it on television pegged Kennedy to win. This isn’t a slight, merely an observation. We need to understand how our perceptions and misperceptions affect us. Maybe someone who doesn’t look or act the part could be the best fit, but currently, we probably wouldn’t give them the time of day as a less qualified candidate who looks and acts like a leader. Merely an example of how perceptions change your conclusions. 

I am not saying I have all the answers, or that I addressed everything within this tiny blog. I just wish people would have shared with me these things much earlier in life. To have the self-awareness to know those tendencies is more than enough to overcome then. While this is particularly about voting, that can be applied to everything in life. Regardless of your opinions, I hope that everyone can embrace the challenge to understand exactly and explicitly why you are putting the US and its future in a set of leaders’ hands.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Controversy is My Best Friend

One of my New Year’s Resolutions associated with Stepping Up (#StepUp30Day) is to write about issues that I’ve thought about that may be very controversial. I tend to think about a lot of these types of issues introspectively but honestly am a little apprehensive to talk about them with others (I know, out of character). One of the reasons this is, is that when you choose to discuss an issue centered on race relations, gender relations, politics, humanitarianism, war, etc., you run the risk of being labeled something extremely negative very quickly. In addition, because people have very passionate and emotional responses to those types of issues, they can decide that if you hold that view or perspective that you shouldn’t be counted in their circle of friends. 

For those reasons, I’ve been overly cautious with approaching subjects such as these on such a permanent and public forum. And then I have been thinking that it is absurd to not discuss issues because I’m afraid of the outcomes. If we are to continue down the path of mutual respect and understanding of each other, sweeping hard subjects under the rug isn’t going to get there. The topic I wanted to start a discussion about centers around race relations and just what I have observed, experienced, etc. 

I recently had a very negative experience on Facebook on my friend’s status asking about apartment suggestions around the city. I suggested the area in which I live, which is relatively inexpensive and close to major routes. Then one of her friends commented in all caps, to stay away from my suggestion because it is in the “projects.” Regardless of whether this assertion is true or not (I don’t think so) I decided to respond, as I think it’s ridiculous that someone would say that on a public forum. Long story short, this girl continued to say more and more that it was the projects, that she was laughing at my expense, etc. Now as I said earlier this is an open racial discussion, and during this entire ordeal, I kept thinking that if our races were reversed (I am white and she is black) that she would have immediately been labeled a racist or some other such negative term. 

I thought that was rather interesting that merely switching a race that such a different outcome would most likely occur. So, I went researching. First, I proposed a question to my Facebook friends to message me if they thought that there was a racial double standard within the US (because that is most of their home country and where most of their experiences would arise). I left the question vague because I wanted to see how people would interpret it. 

One of the best responses (I thought) that I got pointed out that we use the word double standard when talking about race, and there are definitely more than two within the United States. In addition to that, many people brought up differences including the availability of jobs and scholarships, social interaction (as in what is ok or what is not ok to say, do, etc.) to even identifying with your race and how it differs for the majority versus minorities. They provided me with articles, studies, blogs, and other resources to help me to understand their views. It was also mentioned that many so called “racist” behaviors are determined to be racist by more or a preference or belief of specific individuals, but not necessarily shared across a group of the same race. So engaging in such behavior with one group of individuals may have a very different outcome when doing that with other individuals. It was highlighted that openly talking with your friends about various things and being honest when something bothers you or being open about your intentions is crucial. Things taken out of context can have detrimental effects.  I honestly was blown away by how many well thought out responses that I got from a very diverse sample of individuals. 

Now after collecting a lot of this information, I got to thinking about what I can do to contribute to making this issue be less volatile and generate more positive discussion to help people move forward. While I can’t change all negativity at the drop of a hat, I can do my own part to diminish it. I actually got my answer from a friend (who happens to be a different race) who allowed me to talk about this with her.  She said, yes there are differences and yes there are struggles bases upon your race. Highlighting them will do nothing. Pushing them aside and being successful regardless of those differences will. In addition helping those that you see struggling, supporting them and not holding onto initial judgments or stereotypes, regardless of how you can “classify” them as will help diminish the negativity. 

I like to end with a challenge. I challenge all of my readers to discuss a “controversial” topic with your friends constructively. You will be very surprised at what comes of it. What I learned while discussing this with my friend is that I felt that I had a level of understanding I didn’t have and it increased my “closeness” with her. It made our friendship stronger and means something. 

Note: Thanks for reading! While I was researching this blog, I saw a video poking fun (not in a bad way, or at least I didn’t take it that way) around this issue. The video is S*** White Girls Say to Black Girls. She apparently gets funded based upon the number of clicks and I thought it was brave of her to make this parody. I found it funny (and that sometimes I have fallen victim to some of the quotes), so I hope you do too!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Stepping Up!

Every year, it seems like everyone asks me what my New Year’s Resolutions are. In the past, they seemed to be centered on ways that I can make myself “better:” Work out more; stop biting my nails, etc. And every year I try my hardest to do those things, get a gym membership, have a work out buddy, join a team, get bite it and regular manicures and while I may improve over the year, it isn’t to what my expectations were. This year my New Year’s Resolution was to “be more awesome,” and while cool-sounding, I needed operationalize (haha, I’m a psych nerd) or define what that means. 

I recently attended the People Report Best PracticesConference and had the pleasure of hearing Dr. John Izzo talking about the notion of “Stepping Up.” His version of stepping up isn’t just doing big worldy things (though that is included) and also not completely focused on the individual. Rather, my interpretation was that you do things that will make a positive impact on others (no matter how big or small) and you understand how your actions fit into a bigger whole. 

My strategy to “Stepping Up” was to think of every facet of my life and how I want to make an impact.
  • Business/Work: Use my expertise in HR and my passion for Social Media interaction to redefine HR. I mean this: In HR functions, they are typically (no t always) very silo-ed off from each other and other departments. I think understanding your candidates and what they expect and treating all of them like humans rather than numbers. 
  •  Personal: Don’t take my relationships for granted; make time for each and every person that is important. That also means to take “cyber” relationships that have developed over Facebook, Twitter and other platforms and make them “real” by seeing these people IRL (in real life). 
  • Another Personal: Be 100% independent; financially, personally or otherwise. This doesn’t mean to cut people out, just to be self-sufficient. I think this will also help with the previous goal of not taking people for granted simply because I’m dependent on them. 
  •  Volunteering: I joined a non-profit cheer team to help with this personal initiative, but my plan in this area is two-fold. Find more events my cheer team can support and support other things individually.
  • Building Leadership: Take on more controversial topics in my blog to open discussion about them. I think a lot of times; people are very hesitant to discuss touchy issues because they are afraid of being labeled something negative. I say GO FOR IT!
  • Worldly: Try and understand another culture though language, etc. Also, travel to (at least) one foreign country during the course of the year to experience something different. 

While these are yearly goals, my 30 day goal is to accomplish at least one of these for a full 30 days. I’m thinking that the two personal ones can be done rather easily, so I’m starting there!

Join us in Stepping Up!

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