Monday, January 28, 2013

The Best Thing to Say When Someone Is Leaving

A few years ago, a close friend of mine was preparing to study abroad for a year, everyone was really excited for her. I was very happy for her as well, but there was something else that I had to tell her. Something really important that I wasn't sure how to bring up. So the night before she left, I wrote it an email. I explained that while I thought she would have an awesome time, she could always talk to me if anything was wrong. I said that it can be hard to talk about things that are a problem when everyone is expecting you to have a great time, and to know that I wouldn't think it was weird if she didn't like something.

This, to me, is one of the most important things to say when someone is going to college, going abroad, getting a new job, or doing anything new that everyone assumes will be a great experience. Looking back now, I would even add that I'll support the person if they change their mind and decide to return home. It's a hard topic to bring up because you don't want to talk about things going wrong when someone is excited, but you can think of it as preparation.  No matter how excited someone is about going on a hike, they should still pack a first aid kit in case someone gets hurt. You're not taking away from your friend's excitement - you're being part of their back-up plan.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Personality Test: Personal DNA

I love personality tests, and one of my favorites is the Personal DNA test. If you like quizzes, I found this a fun one to take. It does have some issues (like why masculinity and femininity are measured as traits), but I think my results are pretty accurate. Below is a link to the website and to my description:
My Personal DNA

Monday, January 21, 2013

What's with the Pictures?

Example of a picture -
 caught your eye, didn't it? :-)
Statistics show that posts with pictures or videos get more hits than posts with just words. I read this a while back, but since I'm not writing about what I did over the weekend or the new recipe I tried for dinner, I didn't think I had any pictures to post.  But then I started reading, which addresses different issues and, like my blog, does not just update the reader on the blogger's life. However, this blogger finds a picture to use for every post - in one post, the blogger used a picture of a two-headed turtle because they had two ideas on their mind.  I am attempting to do the same thing to add interest to this blog. It is hard finding concrete things to take pictures of when most of my posts are abstract, but I'm going to try to use as many pictures as I can.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Tips for Tagging Effectively

This blog is the first place that I have used tags to label posts and show my list of tags to the reader. I've had fun playing around with them. Here some things that I do to tag and organize my posts:
  1. Don't tag every possible word.  I used to tag every word I could think of for each post, but my list of topics was extremely long and it was hard to tell what the blog was really about. Now I limit tags to words that are either relevant to the blog, likely to be searched, or topics that I plan to write more about.
  2. That said, it helps to tag multiple words based on what people might search for, especially if a topic is popular. This is why I label "clothes," "style," and "shopping" separately even though they refer to the the same few posts. Some of my posts labeled "college" are also tagged under "school" to help students who are not in college to find school posts that are relevant to them. 
  3. Tagging is a great way to connect the common themes in your posts and give your blog a more coherent feel (if that's what you're going for). Look for topics that repeat often. A lot of posts had the theme of personal differences. These posts were often labeled under "peer pressure," "societal pressure," or "being yourself," but there was no one topic that linked all of these personal differences posts together. That's when I came up with "differences" as a tag.
  4. Be liberal with the tags you have created. Each time you create a new tag, look for other posts that could use the same label. While tagging every related word can lead to a lot of one-time tags, having lots of posts with the same tags will help establish what your blog is about, if you show your tag list to the reader. Every so often, I review all my posts and see where I can add tags. 
  5. Be relevant with tags. While it's good to use tags as often as you can, it can be annoying to the reader if some of the posts don't really fit the tag. Every so often, I check my tagged posts and make sure they relate clearly and directly to the topic.
These tips work well for the type of blog I have, but may not work for every type of blog. If you have a tagging method that works better for you, go for it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Not a Problem

See if you notice the difference between these two sentences:
1. "I spend a lot of time on the internet."
2. "I spend too much time on the internet."

The first sentence just states a fact, but the second sentence implies a problem. "Too much" indicates that the speaker wants to or thinks that they should spend less time online. The reason it's important to spot the subtle difference is because, while the second person may want to change their behavior, the first person may just be stating their behavior.  Much of the time, we hear these sentences as if they are the same. We interpret "a lot" to mean the same as "too much" and start offering the person advice when they don't want it. And it is very annoying to have someone try to change your behavior when you never said that you wanted to change.

I have gotten a few responses along the lines of, why would you bring the subject up if you don't want to change it?  That doesn't make sense to me. Is it only socially acceptable to discuss things you want to change? People talk all the time about things that interest them, things they've done, things that have absolutely nothing to do with changing. Being told that you shouldn't bring up the subject just means that the subject is something that most people won't accept.

Although I don't agree with it, I do avoid bringing up certain subjects if I think someone will try to "fix" what is not a problem, but some of these things just come up.  Someone wants to meet at 7:00 a.m. on the weekend and I have to tell them that I sleep till noon. Someone has a dog and I have tell them that I don't want it anywhere near me. We just can't always get around these topics, and we shouldn't have to.

A person's tone of voice, word choice, and the context of the conversation can give clues as to whether or not something is a problem. If you're uncertain about whether a person wants to change, you can always ask something like, "Do you like your schedule?" But don't just assume that someone wants to change when they have merely stated a fact.

Good vs. Bad Suggestions

This is another take on the Encouragement vs. Pressure issue:

Good Suggestion: You love Harry Potter? You might also like the So You Want to Be a Wizard series.
Bad Suggestion: You love peanut butter? You should try switching to almond butter.

What makes a suggestion good or bad has nothing to do with the suggestions itself; it's about how the suggestions are given. In the good suggestion, the person is not saying that their friend should stop reading Harry Potter - they are recommending another series that their friend might like, in addition to Harry Potter. In the bad suggestion, the person is telling their friend to "switch" to almond butter, which means eating less peanut butter. Unless the friend said that they were looking for a substitute, it is not logical to assume that someone who loves peanut butter wants to stop eating it.

Good suggestions add to what a person likes, and are based on what you think they might enjoy. Bad suggestions replace what a person likes, and are based on disapproval of what they do, and what you think they should do instead. The exception is if a person tells you that they want to quit doing something and would like advice, in which case a helpful suggestion would be good.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

We All Have Our Reasons

When I was younger, I loved playing in McDonald's playplace. It was a great place to go in the winter, when it was too cold to go to playgrounds outside. I didn't really like the food at McDonald's, but it was worth taking a few bites to play in the playplace. If the playplace had ever closed down, I would not have continued eating at that McDonald's, and that would have been my personal choice. It is not for anyone else to tell me that I should eat even though the playplace is closed because eating is the real reason to go to McDonald's.

I get responses like this all the time - not about McDonald's, but about other things. When I say I'm not interested in going to school if I can't do theatre, people tell me that the point of school is the learning part. I don't care about learning. I'm not interested in any of the core subjects. Why I continued going to school every day was my own business. People can do things for any reason that they want. How would you like it if a shoe store was giving out free passes to Disney World with every purchase, you buy something to get the free pass, and then find out that they aren't giving the free passes anymore? Just because the "point" of the store is to sell shoes doesn't mean that they can change their mind about something that effects a lot of people and not say so before you make your purchase.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Personal Essays

Long before I had a blog or an online journal, I always liked writing personal essays. My private journals consist mainly of three types of entries: fictional stories and ideas, lists of memories, and personal essays. I kept ongoing lists of things like fun summer events and meaningful moments with my friends, so that I could remember lots of important things without having to write about all of them in detail. When I did want to write about something in detail, I wrote it like a personal essay. For instance: say I had a crush on a person and had been recording a list of moments we'd shared together and signs that the person might like me back. And then one day, that person asked me on a date or did something that made it obvious that they liked me. Instead of just going home and writing what happened in my journal, I felt like I had to start at the beginning: I would write a long essay beginning with all the early signs that the person liked me, leading up to that moment when I knew it was for real, even though I already had those other moments recorded. In my middle school journals, I would never make references that only I understood: Instead of saying, "This is just like that time last summer," I would always explain exactly what happened last summer, as if I was writing for someone else who wouldn't know what "last summer" referred to. Even when the topic was too personal to be of interest to other people, I just liked to write everything this way. And when I reread the essays in my journals, I can tell that what I'm writing now is very similar. I had always secretly wished that I could share my writing with people. And now I can :-)