Difficult People Need Love

 Imaging if you could deal with difficult people – effectively, with dignity and grace and love in your heart. You can – if you use reason and science and LOVE! 

I was just chatting with a friend. They helped their mother in law, who is often angry with them, figure out how to stream a video service on their tv. They did this over the phone. Her husband overheard and said it was crazy. This woman is apparently rather cranky and uptight and difficult to deal with.  My friend just helped her with love and compassion and even when the woman was upset and frustrated, just giggled and continued to help, eventually resolving the problem in just under 20 mins. 

Why did this work?  Well - compassion works. Love Works. And yes, there is some science behind that. Specifically, behavioral science.

Cranky people are cranky because something is wrong. In this example, what was wrong, was the tv. If she expressed anger and frustration at my friend, it wasn't because my friend had done something wrong. It was because the cranky person wanted to watch tv and couldn't. 

My friend didn't get angry or frustrated too. She just continued to help her mother in law fix the problem. And eventually, it worked.

PS - if you want to learn how to do this or you want to teach your staff how to do this - check out my course - How to Handle Cranky Customer Problems.  https://humanistlearning.com/crankycustomers/

Meeting frustration with frustration only makes for more frustrated people.

Human interactions are a dance of stimulus response. Someone does something (stimulates you), and you respond. The key to really understanding these interactions is to understand, your response is a stimulus to the other person.

It doesn't matter why the cranky person is the way they are. It's likely not about you. You are just the convenient person for them to vent to. Lucky you.

Responding as if impersonal attacks are personal, doesn't fix the problem. Recognizing the pain the other person is in, doesn't justify their behavior. What it does is help you respond in a way that fixes the problem so that their crankiness - is no longer a problem - FOR YOU!  

That puts you in a position to help them. With love and a smile on your face.

So - the next time you find yourself dealing with a difficult person, don't take it personally. Accept that they are cranky and treat them the way you would want to be treated if you were cranky - with love and kindness. It goes a long way.

False Dichotomies

 I've been chatting online with a rather smart individual who has been wanting to understand humanism and is asking me Socratic questions to try and understand it better.  The problem, he keeps posing things as false dichotomies.

So, let's start by understanding what a dichotomy and a false dichotomy are. Then discuss why I as a Humanist balk at them so much.

A dichotomy - is "a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different."   According to wikipedia - A false dilemma, also referred to as false dichotomy or false binary, is an informal fallacy based on a premise that erroneously limits what options are available. The source of the fallacy lies not in an invalid form of inference but in a false premise. This premise has the form of a disjunctive claim: it asserts that one among a number of alternatives must be true. This disjunction is problematic because it oversimplifies the choice by excluding viable alternatives, presenting the viewer with only two absolute choices when in fact, there could be many.

An example of this when discussing humanism might be asserting that either communalism or individualism is the key to understanding Humanism. That's a false choice. We can do both. Neither. Something else entirely.

Part of free thinking as a practice is to free your mind to think of other choices. That is how we creatively get out of problems and solve them.

Often, the choice is both and. It's not either or, its both and.  In the example above, Humanism as a philosophy is concerned about both the individual and the community in which the individual lives. Humans are autonomous individuals embedded in society. We are dependent on society for our well being. To create flourishing, requires balancing the needs of the individuals within the community with the needs of the community itself. Where that balance best lies is a matter of vigorous debate. And it's a debate totally worth having.  

Why do I balk at false dichotomies? They cut off the debate. They assert it must be either one or the other and any choice made will be simple, but wrong.  I don't know what the right and best answer is. We may need to experiment, but what I do know is that choosing one extreme or the other will probably lead to unnecessary suffering and that's unacceptable.

Situational Ethics

And, like all things, the idea that all dichotomies are false is itself false. Sometimes, we have enough experience to know something is just wrong and harmful and no longer need to entertain it. Trickle down economics is one such thing. Nationalism is another. Supremacy of any kind is another. We don't have to weigh the good and bad and figure out how to integrate any form of supremacy into our solution. Doing so - even a little bit will cause more harm than good and we know this through experience.

So - looking for other answers that integrate both extremes is often a good strategy - but sometimes it's an insanely bad strategy which is why the situation and the specifics matter. If you try to integrate something that is demonstrably false, you will have problems.  


Which is why nuanced thinking is good thinking. To know whether you should try to integrate or not - you first need to think of the likely pros and cons. And we use humanist ethics to help us think of the pros and cons.  Does the solution help or hurt humans in general and in specific cases.

Nationalism and supremacy may help certain individuals but they actively and aggressively harm many others to do so - so it's rejected.

Compare that with a discussion on where to find the right balance between community and individual.  There are benefits and problems with both approaches. And it's possible to discuss how to find balance between the 2. Every nation and culture you look at finds the balance point in different places. There is no right answer to the question of how to balance individual rights vs community responsibility. 

There is definitely a wrong answer though. In places that are out of balance - where they go to an extreme - either extreme individualism or extreme communalism - suffering is always the result. Always. 

Nationalism is problematic because it's an extreme form of communalism. Supremacy is problematic because it marries extreme individualism with extreme communalism.  These view points are extremist because they are predicated on a false either or scenario. Either you dominate or are dominated.  A humanist knows those aren't our only 2 options.


The questions this new contact is asking are interesting and thought provoking but also annoying because everything is posed in the form of a false dichotomy so I'm endlessly saying - it's not either or.  Environmentalism? It's not  - we do nothing or we go to an environmental extreme. We can transition and use our intelligence to solve our problems, but only if we don't shut off debate by insisting we either do nothing or we make things worse, which is how the right shuts off debate on climate. Heck - I'm in Florida - we aren't even legally allowed to discuss climate change. The words are banned in all government documents. It's silly and harmful. 

Don't fall into a false dichotomy trap. Recognize when yo are being given false choices. 

We have the ability and therefore the responsibility to create change

Whatever it is you don’t like that is going on in your professional or personal life – you can change it.

The ability to choose your response is a core humanist idea. In fact, human agency is key to the entire philosophy.

Humanists believe we not only have the ability to choose our responses, we have a responsibility to do so.  How you choose to respond, can create positive change in your life, and your circumstances. You don't have to accept the status quo, if the status quo - sucks. 

The challenge is choosing responses that will work. For that, we need critical thinking and science. The more your choice align with good ethics and the more they are based in reality and not on assumptions, the more successful you will be.

As I wrote this, I realize it sounds a LOT like - positive thinking, but it is not like that at all. For a Humanist, there are no guarantees in life. You can do everything right and still get bad results.  All choosing wisely does is increase the odds of good things happening to you.

There is no magic solution to fixing problems. You have to analyze them, figure out what will really work to fix your real problem and then do the actual work required to actually fix your real problem.  That is all any of us can do.

Does this work? Most of the time. It is certainly better than leaving things to fate, though, sometimes that is exactly what you should do.

Confused yet?  There are no hard and fast rules in life. Humanism is a situational ethic. Meaning, the situation we are in dictates what an ideal response should be. Sometimes, it's best to take a wait and see approach. Sometimes it is best to take action. Wisdom is knowing when to take which approach.

But I digress. The purpose of this post was to encourage you to not accept things you cannot accept and to do the work required to change it.  To learn more about how Humanists tackle the eternal problem of - how to fix our problems I have a few courses that might help. They are available as online courses, streaming videos and books.

The first is Planning for Personal Success. - This course will help you learn how to live your values fully, using critical thinking to improve your odds of success and to remove the fears that overwhelm you.

The 2nd is Reality Based Decision Making for Effective Strategy Development.  - This program will help you learn how to answer the three most important questions for any strategy. What is your real problem? What is really causing it and what will really work to solve it?

If you want to learn about how to create change in yourself and others, I have a program called, Why is Change so Hard? - which will teach you how to utilize behavioral psychology techniques to help overcome resistance to change in yourself and in others.

And finally, if you want a Humanist Life Skills course for your personal development - there is my Living Made Simpler program -  If you want to learn more about how to be happy and how to think more effectively about the choices you make, this program will help.

Creating Happier Workplaces

 Wouldn't it be nice if your workplace was both happy and productive? Without being - toxically happy. And yes, toxic positivity is a thing and it really is toxic. The idea that you need to be happy all the time, is performance, not happiness.

I was talking to some colleagues on a board meeting I participated in. And I talked about how happy participating in the group makes me. And the work I do for them, doesn't feel like work because it's so fun.  One of my colleagues remarked that where she is, if you appear to be having fun, they don't think you are working hard enough. I felt so bad for her.

Work should be fun and can be fun. People who cultivate a harried, put upon sense of self, that they are so busy they just can't, are hurting themselves and others. Happiness is hard to come by.

One of my favorite quotes is by Robert Louis Stevenson. He said, "There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy, we sow anonymous benefits upon the world, which remain unknown even to ourselves, or when they are disclosed, surprise nobody so much as the benefactor."

Think about the people you interact with throughout the day. If a barista is happy, it helps make you happy. You share in the joy, it helps you feel connected to another human, no matter how briefly. We should be encouraging happiness as a norm. Not as an oppressive performative norm, but just - it's ok to be happy. Being happy is precious.

Now to blow your mind. The way to create such a culture is, paradoxically, to allow for unhappiness. To share in people's struggles as well as their joys. No one is happy all the time. Life can be hard. This is why the sharing of happiness and the sharing of struggles is so important to creating a good work community. Making space for people to be fully messily human, allows people to share their emotions (good or bad) and to experience the connections that help us feel safe. And that, helps create happiness.

If you want to learn more - my video program - Creating Happier Workplaces Using Humanism and Science is now available for free streaming at: https://vimeo.com/747308545

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