120. Minimal effort, enormous return.

Last week we began a discussion on the power that comes with adopting The Habit of Paying Compliments.

It seems a number of readers agreed with the positive force behind this habit as I received many calls, texts and emails from folks wanting to share their stories of how being either a provider or recipient of a compliment brought great meaning to that particular moment in their lives, and sometimes well beyond.

From stories of complimenting restaurant servers on their appearance to complimenting others on their professionalism, intelligence, general niceness or politeness there was a common theme contained within each of their stories.

The theme that seems to prevail throughout is that whenever we take the time to sincerely compliment or praise a fellow human we experience an immediate uplifting of our own spirit which spurs us on to seek opportunities for doing more of the same.

There are few of us who do not enjoy being on the receiving end of complimentary words.

A long time ago I read an expression that said “human beings are nothing more than recognition seeking missiles.”

While we can argue that statement to be somewhat extreme and exaggerated, contained within those words are the seeds of truth that remind us that we do enjoy hearing of our own awesomeness.

Among the discussions I had this past week was one with Evelyn who reminded me of something that I believe to be an absolute truth.

She said the biblical saying “seek and ye shall find” represents absolute truth. Sadly, according to her, many of us, all too often, set out to seek the wrong things and we are never disappointed.

She mentioned how we label people and those labels never betray us. Once we have labelled someone as “stupid” then every word out of their mouth sounds idiotic and when we label somebody as being “brilliant” we see the genius in everything they say.

The point she was trying to make was blindingly obvious. If we truly set out to find authentic, sincere occasions each day to compliment others, we will be overwhelmed by the opportunities to do so for in seeking those opportunities, they will present themselves to us in abundance.

There is great wisdom in her words. When we set out to find fault – read the writings of professional fault finders posing as media editorialists – we will not have far to look.

It is so much easier and makes us feel so much better if we direct that energy into making someone else’s day and simultaneously make our day too.

The Habit of Paying Compliments never steers us wrong. In fact it will help us bring into our lives many of the events and experiences we wish for ourselves.

It costs absolutely nothing and makes two (or more) people feel really good about themselves.

It’s kind of like BOGO; Buy one, get one free.

It’s called a twofer and in my book that’s a heck of a deal.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

119. A great way to make someone’s day.

I was reminded of a powerful lesson this past weekend.

On Sunday my wife Gimalle and I were in the supermarket doing our weekly grocery shopping.

My job is to push the cart and say nothing. I am not to ask questions nor make suggestions, just push the cart.

Almost 20 years of this ritual has turned me into a pretty good cart pusher; so good in fact that I can multitask with great efficiency.

I can skillfully push the cart in the selected direction while paying great attention to everything else going on around me.

As I rounded a corner into an aisle, skilfully avoiding a cart being pushed by someone who clearly lacked my navigation skills, I saw an elderly lady bend down to talk to a little girl who was perhaps five or six years old.

“That is such a beautiful dress,” she said to the little girl with a huge smile causing this gorgeous young lady to produce a grin that proverbially stretched from ear to ear. The obvious pride felt by this young lady was blatantly apparent as she stammered a polite, “thank you”.

Seeing this reminded me of how much joy we can all bring into the lives of others and, simultaneously enjoy the good feelings that go along with frequent application of The Habit of Paying Compliments.

If we choose to take time each day and seek sincere opportunities for saying complimentary statements to other people we may never know how much we have contributed to making the world a slightly better place.

The Habit of Paying Compliments is one of the easiest to acquire as most often it will provide us with immediate feedback – instant gratification – telling us we have done something good.

I was first introduced to The Habit of Paying Compliments years ago by an elderly, wheel chair bound lady I used to see frequently around the neighbourhood back in the days when I lived in Vancouver.

My first encounter with her took place as we were walking by each other on the street. I was deep in thought and was broken out of my reverie be a cheerful voice saying, “It is a very lovely shirt you are wearing, young man.”

I stopped for a moment to say thank you and we started to chat.

She told me that years of ceaseless progression of an arthritic condition had finally caused her to be bound to a wheelchair and that her days were filled with enduring the pain.

The bright moments in her day, she told me, came whenever she found occasion to offer a sincere compliment to another person for, as she explained, it was in that brief moment that the pain would disappear and she would feel whole again.

The Habit of Paying Compliments paid such huge dividends to this lady while, at the same time, making someone else’s day, that I began to try it for myself.

Once I got over the feelings of awkwardness I too began experiencing the joy that comes from making someone else feel good and while I wish I could truthfully say that I have faithfully maintained that habit each day in the intervening years since meeting that fine lady. I have not always remembered to do so.

The look on that young child’s face in the store on Sunday reminded me of the importance of converting an occasional act into a daily habit and while it is only been three days since then, I have sought to do so at least three times each day and frankly, it really is easy work.

I encourage each of you to try this. At least once a day look for a sincere and genuine opportunity to offer praise. Then stand back and enjoy the experience.

Once you have done this a few times please let me know how easy this is and how good you felt while doing it.

Imagine for a moment a world in which we all did this, and how that simple act repeated billions of times each day would make our already great planet even greater.

Let’s do this.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

118. Vote for win/win.

Once again we are in the midst of a provincial election and we, the electorate, have front row seats in witnessing politics at its worst.

It seems that the ideal of democracy, having legitimately elected representatives guiding the way under the banner of a ruling political party – one with the highest number of sitting members – has long been lost and replaced by a completely different system.

It was always my understanding that the role of a politician is, to the best of their ability, and at all times, to make decisions and take actions that are in the best interest of those they govern be it citizens living in a municipality, province or an entire country.

Sadly those days – if they ever existed – are nothing but wishful thinking.

Today’s politicians seemed focused not on what is best but rather on what’s wrong.

It would appear that politicians take it upon themselves to find fault and criticize any and every proposal or decision put forth by those seated on the other side of the aisle.

They view their role as an adversarial one and their duty as that of a critic. What’s best for the people as a whole is no longer of interest or concern.

It seems that what is of interest to today’s politicians is simply what is best for the politician and the party he or she represents.

The thought of adopting The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions is, I am sure, anathema to modern-day politicians.

The way they strive to make themselves look good is to do everything in their power to make their opponents look bad.

Regardless of the merit of any ideas or suggestions put forth by their opponents, today’s politicians seem bent on finding fault.

They assume the role of critic and being a critic is the easiest job in the world for it requires no experience, no intelligence, no ability, no skill, no talent; only a desire to look for fault.

And as we all know when we seek to find fault we will always succeed.

Their role is not about doing the right things; it’s about winning a popularity contest.

It is unfortunate that our politicians see no merit in The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions for were they to do so, and were they to have the maturity required to set aside partisan politics and truly commit themselves to seeking and doing what is the very best possible for those they ostensibly serve, they would probably find themselves the beneficiaries of unparalleled support from those very voters who today shower them with contempt.

The long felt disdain that many voters have for politicians would begin to melt away and the apathy practised by so many voters may well turn, causing them to become willing participants in the democratic process.

The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions would not only enhance the careers of our elected officials, it might well make them better at their jobs for when we develop a mindset of seeking good and discard the mindset of criticising and finding fault, we all benefit.

Forgive me for fantasizing out loud. I know what I am discussing is unlikely to become reality. Our politicians are far too self-serving and far too concerned with gathering votes than they are with truly making our world a better place.

If I sound cynical, I am.

That nine members of a political party, including its leader, see fit to walk away from the values they have espoused for years and sell their souls to their very opponents they have spent their careers belittling, speaks highly of the lack of character prevalent in many of those who seek a career at the public trough.

My sense is that those folks would see The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions as a sucker’s game. Sadly they will never realize that seeking win-win solutions always, and I emphasize always, produces better results and benefits more people than does adopting an adversarial stance on every topic.

I am unfairly painting all politicians with the same brush as there are many whose commitment to their role as servants of the people is absolute and unquestionable.

There are far more of us than there are of them so even if they choose adversarial practice over The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions, the rest of us don’t have to follow suit.

After all, most of us don’t believe we have to sell our souls in order to keep our jobs.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

117. A fruitful second chance.

It has long been known that mixing alcohol with testosterone seldom produces a good result.

Last week we talked about The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions and it prompted Martin to contact me and share a story of an experience, and a win-win agreement, that took place when he was a mere 15 years old and changed his life forever.

Martin described himself as a “not untypical small city town kid” who grew up in a community in northern Ontario.

Like many of his age and generation he had his moments of rebelliousness. He skipped school, experimented with drugs and once he discovered how uninformed in the ways of the world his parents were, he set out to carve his own way in the world.

Just a few days shy of his 16th birthday he snuck in the house at 2AM on a Saturday morning, “borrowed” (stole) his dad’s vehicle, met up with a couple of friends and “drank a ton of beer.”

Somewhere around 3:30 AM, having dropped his friends back at their homes, he was making his way back to his home when he lost control of the vehicle and smashed through the living room wall of a neighbour’s house some three blocks from his home.

The police were called, Martin’s parents were summoned and he spent the next few hours in a holding cell, alternately being read the riot act by a variety of police officers, the elderly couple whose home he had damaged, and, worst of all, his parents.

Martin, at 15, was still a juvenile and as the police were explaining to his parents what the procedures would be in dealing with him, the neighbours intervened with a suggestion of their own.

They generously asked the police if they would turn a blind eye to these events and not charge Martin if, and only if, he would agree to get a job, and also agree to repair all the damage he had done, by himself with no assistance from anyone and, once completed, paint the entire exterior of their house.

The job would provide him with income to purchase the materials needed for the repairs and they would provide the paint for the exterior work.

Martin’s parent immediately agreed on his behalf but that was not good enough. They wanted Martin to not only agree verbally to their terms but to also sign an agreement documenting his commitment.

Once he understood that the alternative was to spend time before a judge, potentially go to jail and have a criminal record he eagerly agreed to their terms.

It turns out that the gentleman was a retired carpenter and had recently sold a successful home renovation business.

As Martin set about repairing the damage to their home he discovered he had a ready-made mentor working alongside who helped him develop the skills necessary to not only do the job but to do it to a very high standard.

This gentleman also helped Martin get an afterschool job as a helper to the folks who had purchased his company and Martin’s afterschool hours were spent either hard at work at his job or diligently improving his carpentry skills.

He also discovered something interesting. He learned that the highs he had previously experienced by drinking with his friends were easily replaced by the sense of accomplishment that can only come from doing great work.

A few years later when Martin graduated from high school he began an apprenticeship and today, some 30 years later, has built a successful business building and renovating homes.

That experience also taught him to stay away from drugs and while he still enjoys a glass of wine once or twice a week with his wife he has never once been drunk since that fateful night.

The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions proved its value to all involved.

Martin learned a valuable lesson and gained a prosperous career. The elderly couple had their home painted at minimal cost and helped a young man redeem himself.

The police who attended that night were spared from both the arduous paperwork and the need to having to deal with this young man again.

Society was spared the cost of trying and incarcerating a young person.

Everyone went home happy which is what happens whenever The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions is deployed.

The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions will not apply to all conflicts but when it does, it sure beats all other available options.

And creates more smiles than scowls.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

116. Surely Win/Win beats Win/Lose.

An experience I endured yesterday reminded me of the importance and the necessity of seeking opportunities to utilize The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions.

Yesterday morning I suffered through two torturous hours of terminally boring and glaringly irrelevant questions during a legal process I was told was formerly known as a Discovery, then a Hearing and now apparently for reasons known only to the legal profession, a Questioning.

I serve as a member of the condo board in the building where Gimalle, my wife and I live and several years ago one of our residents (allegedly – a word used repeatedly during this process) slipped, fell and suffered a painful injury on our property.

I have no doubt the alleged experience for this person was painful, the recovery slow, and the cost considerable in terms of work hours lost.

The individual in question is a delightful young person with whom I have had many pleasant conversations over the years, so I was somewhat surprised when approximately two years after the incident – the time frame in which must be filed – we were served with notice of a lawsuit.

Not only was the condo corporation being sued but the common practice, as I am told, is to cast the net as wide as possible and anyone with even the remotest and faintest connection to this incident is named as a party to the lawsuit.

My blog today is not about this matter. My opinion of our resident is unchanged and I wish them well.

My blog today is about how we as a society have for years perpetuated an adversarial system that requires someone or some entity to be wrong in order for someone else, or another entity to be right.

The can be no victor without a vanquished, no win without a loss.

This young person did nothing wrong in commencing this process and certainly did nothing different from what thousands of other people who have been injured have done over the years; They sought out a lawyer willing to represent them (I suspect there are no shortage of these) and, on the advice of that lawyer, asked for an outrageous sum of money leaving the door open to reach a negotiated settlement.

The question I raise is why have we as a society allowed it to become okay to accept this as the only way to resolve these types of situation.

I don’t believe this to be the only way, and it most certainly should not be the first way we go about addressing issues of this nature.

My own sense is that had we been approached with an explanation of what the known direct costs were and anticipated future costs from this incident, we could have discussed a dollar amount and presented it to our insurance company.

I personally believe we would have negotiated a settlement which would have been to the liking of all and this could all have been accomplished many months ago.

Instead, yesterday morning, I sat in a room with four lawyers each of whom, I assume, have charge-out rates of at least $300.00 per hour suggesting a cost of around $1,200.00 per hour for the day, plus all cost for their time spent in preparation and future review of additional information requested by them during this Questioning.

Those of us questioned yesterday were asked to answer the same questions over and over again by three of these lawyers each of whom was trying to position their questions so as to best favour their client.

Other than the fact that scenes like this are replicated in hundreds of offices across our country each day meaning dozens upon dozens of lawyers are making a fine living – as is their absolute right – I see no value in this adversarial method as a solution.

To me, The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions is a far more viable avenue to explore for the following reasons:

Firstly, the pathway to resolution is much shorter and is reached in a far timelier manner.

Secondly, the degree of animus is significantly reduced as the environment shifts from an antagonistic one to a shared desire to reach an amicable solution.

Thirdly, the needless waste of time and money spent in gathering information and the use of high-priced help who work hard to find and attach fault, is reduced or eliminated.

Fourthly, The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions encourages participants to complete this event quickly and move on with their lives.

The experts (whoever they are) tell us our adversarial system, which dates back some 2,500 years has served us well, and perhaps it has, but I just wonder whether we would not be better off if we embraced a win-win system – one in which in order to have a winner we would need another winner.

The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions is a simple function of all sides agreeing to quickly, expediently and as economically as possible find a solution to a situation, agree upon it and implement it.

It really is simple.

I do of course have another use for our existing system. It is one that could save our healthcare system tens of millions of dollars.

Instead of holding these adversarial and meeting in stuffy offices they could be relocated to operating rooms in major hospitals.

Patients can be wheeled in and placed on a table surrounded by lawyers and their clients.

These hapless patients will then be forced to listen to the ongoing droning of participants and will, in but a few seconds, lapse into deep unconsciousness thereby saving the system the cost of an anaesthetist and sparing the patient from the potentially harmful effects of anaesthetic drugs.

My only concern is that some patients, whose health is already compromised, may lapse into comas from which they would never recover.

Perhaps I am overreacting to what happened yesterday but I would certainly be interested in hearing from you and whether you think an adversarial system, such as the one we presently have, is really in our best interest or if, in fact, we all agreed to work towards acquiring The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions our lives would be enriched.

I wonder how many lawyers will support this notion.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.