Not everything can be a longish blog so here are a few assorted ideas collected over the past few days and the experiences that prompted them:
1) Print mailers must have a coupon. Don't waste money sending "awareness" flyers. If you're good you can do both. Example: Sephora @ JC Penney sends a mailer telling me about 30 different kinds of lip gloss. No coupon. Disregard. Payless sends a mailer with a coupon for 20% off. Better, but Payless still seems low-class. Hold because perhaps they have a good throwaway shoe for work. Bed Bath & Beyond sends enormous purple coupons always with a coupon attached. Best, because it brands them as a cool place to go and I have a reason to go there.
2) Always question the process. This week we ended up in the emergency room due to a home repair screwup. During which we decided that if a little Drano is good, a lot must be better. (See "When The Solution Is Worse Than The Problem.") Sitting in the ER at 3 a.m. watching my husband hooked up to a very scary gizmo washing chemical fluid out of his eyeballs, I said to myself, next time I will ask more questions, such as: Is it really a good idea to stand over a toilet near overflowing with septic tank treatment solution, with a coat hanger, trying to find the clog?
3) Use people's names. Last night I had a discussion with my daughter about email. Are you supposed to use the person's name when starting the email, as in: "Jane, what is on your plate today?" I said, "I just like to start the email without the name." She said, "I learned just the opposite in communication class." I remembered hearing that people find the sound of their own name the "sweetest sound in the world." It seems to me that using names is a good idea. If you forget people's names like I do, just ask.
4) Everybody is interesting somehow. In this same conversation (#3) I admitted to my daughter that I find it difficult to listen to other people talking. She asked me why. I said, "Because often what they have to say is boring." She said, "Everybody is interesting if you listen hard enough. Everybody has a story." I realized that she was right. The issue is that you have to get past the phony stuff and talk about things that are real. Of course the skill is in doing that in ways that are useful and appropriate for the situation, and also diplomatic.
5) Not everybody means well. I have a tough time wrapping my brain around this unavoidable fact, but it must be confronted: Some people are just plain bad. And to make matters worse they can be tricky in their badness. Just as it's biased to believe that people are naturally evil (as some people do think), it's also biased to think they are naturally good. You may not be able to tell good from bad in any given situation but at least recognize that you probably have a bias.
6) You can help other people do things you'll never master. One of my roommates many years ago was a marriage counselor in the process of getting a divorce. It may be hard to understand how she could not master the skill of marriage herself yet could help other people do so. But she could. Similarly I find that there are aspects of religion I rejected a long time ago. But I teach them to my daughters and they seems to find it helpful to at least know what Judaism actually says as opposed to what they hear from other people who did not have the benefit of a yeshiva education.
7) Listening to unpopular views makes you smarter. The other day on Quora I read a question about the status of the State of Israel in Jewish law. The tone of the question was somewhat anti-Semitic, e.g. aren't there Jewish people who think that Israel is an illegal state? But I took the time to read the answer because the commenter seemed to be providing a neutral, usable answer. Indeed I got a whole mini-dissertation on the parallels between rabbinic law and American law, and the basis for determining legality and illegality in both systems, and so on. In the process a lot of misperceptions and ideas that had bugged me for a while were addressed. I felt like I learned something not just about Israel but about jurisprudence. But I had to overcome an emotional block against the question itself in order to do so, because it was offensive to me.