Practical Happiness: Changes That Aren’t Overwhelming

We all have busy lives that are filled with junk that we don’t want to do. Many of us have work, school, and relationships that take up the majority of our time. On top of that, we have chores, cooking, exercise, self-care, and maybe trying to fit some leisure time in between. Frankly, feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and unhappy seems unavoidable for some people because of the obligations they find themselves having to fill everyday. Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft address those feelings in their podcast “Happier.”

I’ve listened to three podcasts this year, and Happier was by far my favorite. Gretchen and Elizabeth are both successful women that share their experiences as they try to be happier people. Gretchen researches happiness and has even published books on the topic (Better than Before and The Happiness Project), while Elizabeth is the “happiness guinea pig” and tests the suggestions Gretchen gives to her listeners. Each episode is short (about 20 minutes), so listening doesn’t seem like an imposition. There is a fairly structured format for these episodes, which I personally enjoy. Here’s the format:

  1. Tip of the day: Each episode starts with a tip that you can try out for the week. All of these tips were completely practical (i.e., making your bed in the morning, the “one minute rule,” or setting an alarm for bedtime).
  2. Stumbling blocks: Gretchen addresses stumbling blocks to happiness that are often overlooked. This includes things like free food, envy, and cluttered rooms.
  3. Know yourself better: I loved this section in every episode because she talks about the different groups people can fall into and discusses each one. The reason I loved it is because it’s so inclusive and allows everyone listening learn something. It also helps us understand others in a deeper way.
  4. Happiness demerits and gold stars: At the end of each episode Gretchen and Elizabeth take turns giving themselves demerits and stars. A demerit goes to things in their lives that detract from their happiness and stars go to people, objects, or places that bring joy!

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Just like the last two podcasts I discussed on Hello, Professional Girl!, I listened to 15 episodes of Happier and identified themes that are relevant to millennials like you and me.

Happiness is Attainable 

There’s a common belief that if you think about happiness too much, then you won’t be happy. Gretchen suggests that way of thinking is wrong. Think of it this way… How are you going to hit a target with an arrow if you aren’t aiming at it? In the same way, how are you going to be happy if you aren’t thinking about ways to reach happiness?

Fixing small things in our daily lives can lead to a life of happiness without taking up time and energy that we don’t have. For example, simply “aiming” for happiness by thinking about what makes us happy can get us one step closer. I personally enjoy making little changes instead of trying to change everything all at once, because it’s not as overwhelming for me. One suggestion I absolutely loved was to be very intentional when saying hello and goodbye to people. Make sure to give a warm greeting when you walk into the office, or an attentive goodbye to your family as you leave for the day. There is research that supports the fact that relationships with others is what makes us happy, and making the effort to cultivate those relationships is worth it!

Dealing with Negativity

When you’re happy, other people are more likely to be happy. However, there are always people who are in a bad mood and in a constant state of negativity. When grumpy people are put in our path, Gretchen suggests using emotional contagion to deal with them. Emotional contagion is essentially the idea that your emotions will trigger the same emotions in others. So the next time one of those grumps crosses your path, don’t let them bring you down. Try to lift them up by being your naturally positive self, and don’t feel bad about it.

Negative people tend to take the opposite view of whatever the other person is saying. For example, if you say, “Oh, that activity must have been fun!” Their reply would most likely be, “No, it was actually not that great.” To be honest, I am guilty of this. I think I take the opposite side of the conversation for the sake of keeping the conversation going! The problem with this approach is that you come off as argumentative. Gretchen reminds us that skilled conversationalists have a way of being positive and leaving you feeling better after talking to them. By being conscious of how we’re speaking to others, we can being more happiness into our lives and the lives of others.

Boost Productivity

In most episodes of Happier, Gretchen and Elizabeth talk about how everyone is different when it comes to what will make them happy and more productive. Problems with productivity come when people don’t recognize what kind of person they are, which will ultimately make them unhappy.

For example, some people are “marathoners” and some are “sprinters” when it comes to getting work done. Marathoners prefer to get things done slowly over time while sprinters prefer to be right up against a deadline. In school (at least in the US), everyone is taught to be a marathoner. We’re told that your best work can’t be rushed and, “There’s no possible way this assignment can be done in one night!” The fact is, some people truly do their best work when they’re rushed. It would not make them happier to think about and work on an assignment for an entire semester! If you’re not a marathoner, don’t feel bad about it. There’s no right or wrong. Embrace what works for you.

 My favorite piece of advice Gretchen and Elizabeth give about productivity is the “One Minute Rule.” If there is a task that takes under one minute to complete, then do it immediately. Examples of these kinds of tasks would be opening your mail and throwing away the junk, hanging up your coat and putting away your shoes when you get home, and placing your clothes in the hamper after showering. Following this rule will declutter your life, get those small tasks off your mind, and make you feel more productive!

Happier has taught us that there are small, practical ways we can improve and be happier without becoming overwhelmed. Remember, happiness is attainable, you are equipped to deal with negative people, and boosting your productivity can be done in just one minute! Let me know what you do to boost your happiness!

Makayla

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How to Be More Courageous, Intentional, and Self-Loving

Think about Ron Stoppable from the Kim Possible TV series (if you’ve never seen it, here’s the link to buy an episode for $3.00). Ron is completely friend zoned by Kim from day one, but they’re still best friends. They go on all sorts of adventures saving the world from villains… And Ron is terrified the whole time. He’s afraid to fight, afraid to take chances and risks, and afraid to tell Kim how he feels. Gathering the courage to have the life you want is often paralyzing and seemingly impossible, but there are people who do it everyday. 

Aileen Xu, the creator of The Lavendaire Lifestyle is one of those people. The Lavendaire Lifestyle is a podcast about personal growth and lifestyle design. Although Aileen wasn’t friend zoned and saving the world from villains, she was paralyzed by fear, confusion, and self-doubt that took a long time for her to overcome. Aileen’s goal is to help her listeners become artists of life by inspiring them to go after what they truly want. Like I mentioned last week in my post about Megan Tan’s Podcast (Life as Millennials: 4 Concepts We’re Too Familiar With), there are things I don’t agree with Aileen on, but her stories are relatable for people who are just starting out and want to be inspired, motivated, and receive a little advice too.  

I listened to 15 episodes of The Lavendaire Lifestyle this week. The first eleven episodes are more structured. They all begin with a story and from there Aileen gives pieces of advice for those types of situations. After those first 11 episodes, they become less structured and she brings on more guest speakers (who are all very interesting!). Aileen tends to give advice that is supposed to fit everyone, but there were some bits I didn’t think were applicable to my life. And that’s okay! This podcast was still entertaining and I was able to snag some of her thoughts that I thought were genuinely profound. You can listen to this podcast on Audible or CastBox.

Here are the main themes I found in the 15 episodes of The Lavendaire Lifestyle that I listened to:

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Have Courage

The first episode of The Lavendaire Lifestyle was about being stronger than your fears and insecurities. Let’s be real, everyone had fears and anxieties about things. Aileen suggests that we let our fears guide us! This was a very different piece of advice than anything I’d been given before. Basically, if you’re scared to do something, then it’s probably what you need to be doing. Facing your fears is how you grow because you’re not going to accomplish anything new or different while in your comfort zone. 

Part of having courage is acknowledging that you have gifts. You have to be strong enough to say, “Here I am! I can do this!” Obviously you can still be humble and continue to better yourself and your abilities, but take pride in the fact that you have something to offer the world. We all do. Sometimes we just have to “fake it till you make it!” Aileen suggests that we can have courage just by pretending we have it. Simply show up, believe in yourself, don’t overthink it, and have the mindset that anything can be figured out.

Be Intentional

The second theme is being intentional. Every morning when you wake up, you have the power to say, “Today is going to be a good day, regardless of what happens.” One of the guest speakers on the show mentioned that thoughts are like clothes. You can try on different thoughts to see how they make you feel. If they “look bad” or make you feel frumpy, then you can take them off and try on another thought. I absolutely loved that idea, because it shows that thoughts are not permanent and we have the ability to control how we think about different situations. We just need to be intentional about them. 

We can also be intentional about the way we think about others. Everyone you meet is a human being that makes mistakes. Since that is the case, there’s always going to be someone that you don’t particularly like or get along with. People will say things that make you angry and upset, but you can’t control what they say and do. You can only be intentional about the way you respond.

Self-Love

There’s a common misconception that you have to hit rock bottom before you can start working on personal development and self-love. That is entirely untrue! Practicing self-love allows you to grow as a person and be honest with yourself. It helps you answer questions like, “What do I truly want in life?” Aileen explains that we have to be honest with ourselves in order to answer this question, and we can’t put on a mask. One of the most profound insights I gained from this podcast was that “you are you naturally, without even trying.” So what does being you look like? Are you constantly trying to play a role, or are you genuinely you?

Another major part of self-love Aileen mentions is loving your body. Easier said than done, but she points out that we need to be grateful for our bodies because they’ve always supported us even if we don’t treat them as well as we should. So how can we care for our bodies without setting extreme fitness and diet goals?

  1. Find a way to move that gets you excited.
  2. Give in order to receive. This means thinking of food as fuel and recognizing what your body needs so it can support you.
  3. Give your body the time, attention and care it needs. Don’t put yourself last. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others.

The Lavendaire Lifestyle isn’t for everyone. And that’s okay! The point is to find something that gives you courage, helps you be intentional, and promotes self-love. If Ron Stoppable can find his way, so can you.

Makayla

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2018 Professional and Personal Development Book List

Books written by driven and successful people are amazing resources for personal and professional development. Those authors have already experienced the feelings and trials we’re going through, and they not only got through it — they excelled.

I started Hello, Professional Girl! in December, and decided to read one professional or personal development book every month and write about how we can apply the guidance in our own lives. As the months go by, I will add links from my posts to this list.

I have chosen these books through recommendations from other blogs that I follow, and I am always accepting recommendations! Feel free to contact me if you have a book that I have to read!

2018: 12 Months of Personal Development Books (+1)

December

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Carnegie talks about the secrets to success through the experiences of people who’ve been there. His techniques can be applied to business, relationships, and every day communication. A great read no matter what age or stage of life you’re in. Check out my post on this book here.

January

The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter – and how to make the most of them now by Meg Jay, PhD. This book is a fast, informative read. The stories that Jay tells come from her experience as a psychologist working with millennials who are going through the same things we are. She is totally honest and doesn’t just tell you what you want to hear.

February

Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps by Allan and Barbara Pease. Ever wonder why your significant other acts the way they do? From a biological standpoint, the authors break it down for you. If you want a better understanding of the biological reasons behind your actions, this book is worth the read.

March

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. As a gerontology student, this book was a dream come true! The author recounts his final visits with his mentor, Morrie. What we’re left with are amazing life lessons from a man who lived a life worth living. Quick and easy read with plenty of stories you can visualize.

April

The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young. This book addresses the “Imposter Syndrome” that many feel as they become successful. Do I really deserve the success I’ve achieved? Was I just in the right place at the right time? If you’ve ever had similar thoughts, this book is for you.

May

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. This book focuses on personal changes you can make to become more effective in your life, including problem-solving skills related to business and relationships. Covey also emphasizes the opportunities that open up because of these positive changes.

June

I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This by Kate White. White aims to empower women to take chances and go after what they want. She uses stories from other people to give practical ways to achieve your own success and learn how to be happy once you achieve it.

July

The Power of Starting Something Stupid by Richie Norton. This sounds like a great book for people just starting out in pursuit of their dreams. It is said to instill courage and give tools to overcome obstacles even with limited time, money, and other resources (which is certainly common for people in their twenties!)

August

What the heck am I going to do with my life? by Margaret Feinberg. This is a book that gets right to the heart of your dreams, goals, and abilities. No idea what you’re doing? You’re not alone. If you feel stuck in your current situation, Feinberg will take you on a journey to discover what you really want.

September

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Have you ever wondered why you have certain habits? Through information and stories from interesting people, Duhigg explains why you have habits, how to change them, and how they can be used to your advantage.

October

Grit by Angela Duckworth. According to Duckworth, grit is a blend of passion and persistence that anyone can obtain. There is power in the thoughts that go through your head when you fail, and talent has very little to do with it.

November

Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want by Jenny Blake. This book is intended for twenty-somethings that want to take action and achieve what they want through actionable advice. This book hits just about every area of life for young people (click the link or picture for details).

December

The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. Although the Internet has some amazing advantages, have you ever thought about the potential downsides? Carr voices his concerns that the Internet is diminishing our ability to think deeply. What do you think?

Please feel free to join me this year as I read these books! I’ll be posting on Twitter each month what book I’ll be reading as a reminder (so make sure to follow!).

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Makayla

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Life as Millennials: 4 Concepts We’re Too Familiar With

It’s almost ridiculous to think about the future because of how little control we actually have over it. How many times have you sat down to make a plan and it doesn’t turn out the way you expected? I know how you feel, and so does Megan Tan. She’s the mastermind behind the podcast Millennial.

As Megan says, her podcast series is about something no one really teaches you about: maneuvering your twenties. This is the first podcast I’ve listened to. There are 47 episodes, but since I’m trying to listen to a new podcast each week, I ended up listening to 15 episodes (finished the first season and started the second). If you’d like to start listening to podcasts too, here are the links to CastBox and Audible.

Just so you know, I don’t agree with Megan on everything, but I respect what she has to say and I think that millennials from all backgrounds can gain something from listening to this podcast. At first, I picked Millennial because each episode was shorter than other podcasts I tried to start. But I ultimately stuck with it because it’s easy to picture what Megan’s describing, and she’s not trying too hard. She’s just simply telling her story. Although her life experiences might not be applicable to everyone, her feelings are incredibly relatable for someone in their twenties who’s ever said to themselves, “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

To break down the 15 episodes I listened to, I’ve decided to pull out themes and concepts that I noticed throughout the series:

The Future

I regularly find myself feeling unhappy and unsatisfied in the present because I’m worried about the future. We’re always being told that the decisions we make in our twenties will decide our future, and that thought is often paralyzing. This is especially true when there are so many choices that have deadlines and expiration dates (i.e., applying for jobs and colleges, accepting or declining offers, etc.). How do we know these choices are right? Or what if we aren’t sure what choices are even available?

At the beginning of the series, Megan received an email from the director of photography at the LA Times offering her an internship. A dream opportunity. The decision had a deadline and saying, “Yes!” would mean changing almost every aspect of her life. Of course she was excited, at first. Then all of those fears about the future came creeping in. In the end, she had to make a decision based on the information she was given and hope that it would have a positive impact on her future. Have you ever been in this situation? What did you decide?

Spaces

Finances

Megan explains that she stresses about her finances because she doesn’t want to end up in a situation where she needs to be dependent on others. I think that many of us share this fear because our families went through The Great Recession of 2007-2009, where we experienced what it was like to be in the presence of financial hardship. Personally, growing up during this time period shapes a lot of my actions. I am very nervous about debt, credit cards, and spending money in general.

Since that is the case, I’ve had to work some odd jobs. I’ve worked as a janitor, dishwasher, receptionist, and pest control technician (among other things). Megan spent more time than she wanted as a waitress. Yeah, some people our age are traveling the world while we’re doing these jobs… But it’s important to not worry about what other people think about what you’re doing. It might be a bummer that you’re a waitress while you’re figuring things out… but it’s a stepping stone. Be proud of what you’re doing to get yourself to where you want to go, even if it’s not glamorous.

Comparison

Comparison truly is the thief of joy. We all have social media accounts where we see polished versions of our friends and family. We see strangers with sun-kissed skin on tropical vacations and we think, “I wish that was me.” The reality is, no one has the perfect life or the 100% ideal situation.

Megan experiences this throughout the series, both on social media and in her personal life with her boyfriend Ben. Ben starts to become successful at a faster rate than Megan, landing a position with a high-budget commercial. This leads to thoughts of being inferior to her significant other and resenting the idea of being “just he supporter.” By the end of the episode, she changes her tune and realizes that they are more of a partnership that needs to support each other, which gets rid of the resentment. The only thing comparison will do is keep you from becoming your best self.

Opinions

Everyone has opinions. Your mom, dad, significant other, friends, doctors, neighbors, church leaders, coworkers, and siblings have opinions. And they all think they know what’s best for you. They care about you and want you to succeed, but in the end YOUR opinion is the only one that matters.

In the second episode of Millennial, Megan’s boyfriend’s father explains that you need to establish what your “line” is. Essentially, you need to decide what direction you’re going and where you want it to lead you. Once you’ve decided, don’t let others get in the way of what you’ve decided success is. It’s not going to make sense to a lot of people, but it doesn’t have to. Your opinion is the one that matters.

These four concepts are all too familiar for millennials. Tell me about your experiences. Would you add anything to this list?

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

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Makayla

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3 Reasons Podcasts Are for You

Phone headphones podcasts

Perhaps I’m slow on the uptake, but I just recently learned about podcasts. For those of you that are in my boat, a podcast is a series of audio files that a user (you and me!) can listen to. Most of the time the files are uploaded in “episodes,” sort of like a TV show, but without the visuals.

At first I wasn’t very fond of the idea of podcasts, because I thought it would be (1) boring without the visuals, and (2) hard to get other things done if I was spending time listening to audio. However, I quickly learned that both of my concerns weren’t a problem. 

After listening to multiple episodes and deciding what length of time I wanted to spend on each episode (20 minutes per episode is about perfect), I decided that podcasts can be really useful for personal and professional development. Here’s why:

They’re convenient.

I spend a lot of time on trains because my university and job are in the city. Let me tell you, podcasts are fantastic for transportation! They can be downloaded before you leave the house, so you won’t need to be connected to WiFi or data. I personally use a free app called CastBox, which allows free downloads and has just about anything you’d ever want to listen to. I know many people that use Audible as well, and they say really great things. Podcasts are also great for multitasking. I was able to get quite a bit of work done while listening (mostly repetitive tasks like data entry, but still!), and it made the work deem less mundane.

 

Inspiration and Motivation.

Although podcasts are edited, they’re more raw than other types of media. With our blog posts, we get the chance to edit as much as we want, and disguise some of our vulnerability if we want to. With podcasts, it’s a little different. They do have the chance to cut things and edit a bit, but it’s their voice that they’re putting into the world, and that takes guts. There isn’t as much room for misinterpretation because you can physically hear the emotion the producer is trying to portray and visualize the scenes they’re describing.

wildflower (1)

So far, one of the most powerful things I’ve gained from listening to podcasts is that people have different experiences and views that we can learn from and gain hope from. For example, hearing that someone else started out from where you are right now and made something of themselves is inspiring! It helps us recognize that we can forge our own paths. Find someone who’s story speaks to you, and learn from their experiences.

Good for Your Mind and Body.

How much time do you spend sitting in front of a screen? My guess is, like most of us, you spend too much. Podcasts are a welcome break from screens, and open up a new way of gaining valuable information without straining your eyes. Also, podcasts are extremely portable since they’re right on your phone. Go for a walk or run while listening to a couple episodes to rejuvenate.

They also make you think. You’re sitting there listening to someone else’s perspective for at least 20 minutes… You will naturally make judgments and form opinions of your own. Spend time evaluating those opinions and judgments; why do you think that way?

Goal.

I’ve decided that every week I’m going to listen to a podcast series while on the train to work. I’ll try to post a review every Sunday evening (starting next week). I’m going to start with a podcast called Millennial by Megan Tan, which is a pretty popular one, from what I’ve researched. 

Alright, Professional Guys and Gals… I want to hear from you. Do you listen to podcasts? Which podcasts are your favorite? Do you find them beneficial?

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Makayla

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5 Ways to Ensure Success

Books personal development

There are so many ways to better yourself professionally and personally. Reading books written by successful, well-spoken people is certainly one of those ways!

To start off my new career, I decided to read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

The book was incredibly rich with suggestions regarding how to be successful in relationships, business interactions, and everyday communications. At first, I was so nervous to read this book. It seemed daunting to potentially change the way I communicate with people. Also, reading something and realizing, “Man, I’m really not good at X, Y, or Z” is hard, and I wasn’t sure if I was prepared for that.

Even though I had those initial concerns, I am so glad I read this book! It was enlightening, and allowed me to set goals for myself that weren’t too daunting. If you want to ensure that you’re successful in your relationships, business interactions, and everyday communications, take a look at these five points:

Be enthusiastic.

If you want to be successful, you need to be able to win people over to your way of thinking. What better way to do that than sharing your excitement and passion? This requires no manipulation or coercion on your part, it just requires your dedication and confidence in your cause. Enthusiasm makes people pay attention. It motivates them to look into your product, business, or friendship and assume that it is worthwhile. Why else would you be so enthusiastic about it?

I think this point can be especially applicable to those of you trying to start businesses and blogs. My guess is that you’ve noticed how difficult it is to get reach the audience you want, and even when you do, how to keep them interested. You certainly need to do your part and offer a great product or service, but being enthusiastic will get your foot in the door until your product can speak for itself.

Listen and be interested.

I’ve found that the best mentors, friends, and colleagues have a knack for making us feel empowered after having a conversation with them. How do they do that? One thing they undoubtedly do is listen wholeheartedly and actually take interest in what you’re saying. I think we can all agree that when we’re listened to and empathized with we feel valued and important.

I realized the importance of this principle last week when buying a new car. The first dealership we went to had a great car that I was super interested in, but it was a little out of my price range. As I talked with the dealer, he was set on his original price and would not bend at all even though there was a dent in one of the doors and the interior hadn’t been detailed. The next dealer I went to spent time getting to know me and what I was looking for in a car. He suggested multiple cars in my price range and have me both advantages and disadvantages, including how it would be able to drive across the country. This was particularly important to me since I’ll be moving this summer.

Obviously I bought a car from the second dealer, because he listened and took interest in what was important to me.

Spaces

Be agreeable.

This is a tough one for me sometimes. Most of us, even if we’re generally kind people, have an unfortunate first instinct… Which is to be disagreeable and defensive. Since this is the case, we need to try our best to think before we speak. Mind-blowing, I know. This can be especially difficult when we have completely different views from the person we’re talking to. Here are a couple tips for staying agreeable

  1. Avoid criticism. This is the exact opposite of being agreeable! When trying to win someone over to your way of thinking, you want them to know that you value them and appreciate the work they do.
  2. Focus on the things you do agree on… and reinforce those points often. Even if you disagree on some points, bringing up the points on which you agree will help you come off as the reasonable person you are.
  3. Don’t be a downer. People want to be happy, so give them a pleasant conversation that leaves them in a better mood than you found them in.

Give Praise.

In addition to being enthusiastic, agreeable, interested, and a great listener, it’s important to give praise to others. Make sure when you give compliments that you’re being sincere. Sincere praise makes people feel valued and reinforces to them that their efforts are acknowledged and appreciated.

This is a great tip for being successful in any kind of communication, even in problematic situations. For example, if you have a family member or employee that consistently has behavior problem of performs poorly, it could be beneficial to praise the things you see them do well. This will give them a desire to improve, because they will see that they can! Praising them every step of the way, even with slight improvements, and remembering not to criticize will improve help you be a more successful communicator.

It’s about them.

This point seems to go without saying, but try not to make the conversation about you. Don’t brag about your accomplishments or vent about your problems. Everyone has accomplishments they want to talk about, and everyone has burdens… And their accomplishments and burdens are much more interesting to them than yours. This may sound harsh, but it’s so true! People will get bored with you very fast if you spend the whole conversation trying to make yourself seem important. Your job, instead, should be to make THEM feel important.

Let me know how these tips go for you! Try to set some specific goals and see if your success in relationships, business interactions, and everyday communications improve. Do you agree with these points? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Makayla

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