Monday, August 31, 2015

Good Eye Contact

Having good eye contact is considered very important in the culture of the West. Although there are some situations where eye contact is not required much, in other situations, such as job interviews, it is very critical to have good eye contact. The problem is that not everyone is comfortable with making  and maintaining eye contact. So, let's talk about eye contact today and I will give some tips for those of you who might benefit from this advice.

Eye contact is actually cultural behavior. In some cultures, such as Japan where I am from, having strong eye contact may be considered too much or even "rude." No surprise that people have much less eye contact in these cultures. Naturally, for people from such backgrounds, making good eye contact may be difficult.

In the United States, people are expected to make good eye contact out of courtesy and/or professionalism. This doesn’t mean, however, that all of Americans, even those born and raised here, find eye contact easy.

Anxiety in social situations, known as “Social Anxiety,” is pretty common for many people. Even if some people may have little anxiety in general, it may still be quite challenging in more serious, anxiety-provoking situations such as job interviews or presentation.

So what can you do for it? Well, you can practice eye contact with your friends and/or life coach or someone you trust to help you get used to making eye contact. Or, you can see a psychologist to understand what makes it so difficult for you and practice to overcome your difficulties. If you don’t like those options, let me share a couple of tips here with you.

1) Try eyeglasses. This is really interesting but very helpful, actually. If you wear eyeglasses, you can feel like you have a shield between you and the other person. If you already wear glasses, or if this trick didn’t seem to work for you, try ones with some small amount of tint on them. They still look appropriate and you feel less anxious. You may be surprised how much more at ease you feel once you put them on!

2) If eyeglasses did not work, or if you don't like the idea of hiding your lovely face or something like that, here is another strategy. Try to look at the person's mouth or philtrum, the area between mouth and nose, instead of the eyes; you can look at this area with it not being noticeable that you are doing so. You can try taking a look at the eyes of the person you are talking to at times when you can to gradually get used to maintaining actual eye contact. Even though it may not be perfect eye contact, people won’t notice. It’s much better than talking to somewhere without any apparent eye contact, and your anxiety will be much less.

Once you are used to doing the above, eventually you are likely to feel okay with having more and more direct eye contact. Eye contact has a strong power, and may even feel too much for some people at time. But once you can utilize it, you can take advantage of this power for your benefit, such as making a better impression, demonstrating a stronger presence, being more confident and persuasive, and even appearing more attractive! Keep practicing it until you feel comfortable. The more you do, the less difficult it is. Have fun and every success!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Communication as a Means to an End

We often talk about “communication,” and everyone would agree that communication is important. Yes, I also agree with that. Totally. However, many people appear to have some misunderstanding about communication. Let’s talk about that today.

A lot of people believe that communication in itself is the purpose. However,communication is just a means to achieve a purpose. Once you fully understand how communication works as the means to this end, rather than the end itself, your communication skills instantly become more effective and better, and so do your relationships.

What do I mean by this? Well, when you say something to someone else, you may want to be aware what you are trying to deliver to the person. In another words, what do you want the person to do as a result of this communication? To understand your feelings? To answer your questions? To give you a hand? To hurt the person’s feelings? To give a compliment? Or what?

Let me give you a very typical example. A wife feels neglected by her husband because he comes home late and does not talk with her much recently. So, she says to him, “You don’t care about us anymore. You are selfish and immature, and this is not the marriage I wanted to have!” You can imagine this kind of interaction, can’t you? It’s very typical and understandable. The problem here is that she failed to deliver the message that she really wanted to convey to her husband.

Let’s think about the purpose of her communication in this example. Yes, she wanted to hurt his feelings in retaliation and that part was successful. However, it was not the main purpose. The main message she really wanted to convey was to have him understand that she was missing him and that she wanted him to come home early to have more time together, right? Unless she has already decided to dump him, there was no rationale to make her marriage worse. Then how could she deliver what she wanted to convey more effectively? Can you think of any? Well, how about this for example? “Honey, we really appreciate that you work so hard for us and you are such a great husband. Just…when you are late, I miss you so much and feel lonely. If you can come home earlier sometimes, that would make me so much happier.”

Well, of course we don’t know if the husband can actually come home early or not. But at least he understands her feelings and he would be more motivated to have more time with his family than would be so from the previous accusatory version.

If on a regular basis you can try to be more aware of the “purpose” of your communication, and come up with a thoughtful manner to deliver it, you will have better communication with your friends and family as a result. It costs you nothing to do this and the outcome is great! Try to utilize communication as a skill set, and see what happens in your life!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Be More Self-Centered - Part III

We have discussed the importance of being self-centered. I hope you are now feeling like trying it more. But then you may wonder HOW CAN I? If you are so used not to thinking of your own needs over others’, you may have difficulty realizing your own voice. It’s quite common. So let me give you some tips.

The most helpful strategy is to have another you in your mind when thinking of others’ needs. For example, let’s talk about Michael. When Michael hangs out with his two friends, he tends to think of their needs first, while ignoring or not even noticing his own. What Michael can do here is that he can create “Mike” in his mind and wonder what “Mike” would appreciate the most first. So, when his two friends wanted to go another bar, but “Mike” felt tired and wanted to rest, Michael pays attention to “Mike’s wish” first, and just said, “Sorry guys, I am tired and I will go home tonight,” instead of “sure, let’s go.”

Having another you in your mind and respecting him/her first really helps for many people, because they can see their desires more clearly. Until you get used to accessing your own feelings and needs, this strategy helps you realize yourself more. It may sound too simple, but it really works. Give it a shot, if you are interested.

Another strategy is to just decide to trust in the people you associate with, and experiment with different approaches. We are more fearful than bold, and we want to avoid taking risks in general. That’s normal. But if you just decide to trust your friends, and “just do it”, you force yourself to overcome your fear. Usually, once you try it, you find that it was not a big deal at all and you are surprised by how easy it was and how well it turned out. The issue is often not your friends, but your own fear.

Are you still afraid that you will become a selfish diva or jerk whom everybody hates? Being self-centered in this context and “selfish” are different things. Finally for today, let me explain that briefly.

Unless you are pathologically narcissistic or psychopathic, you most likely want for those you love and like to be happy as well, because that makes you happy, too. You don’t feel great when your they are miserable and suffering. Am I right? So, caring about your needs first actually includes your friends’ happiness as well. Therefore, being self-centered doesn’t mean that you no longer care for them. Being self-centered really means that you understand that it is simply part of your needs, necessary to maintain a better balance in your life. It’s not about overly sacrificing yourself for others only to regret it later. You take care of them to the degree you don’t sacrifice yourself unnecessarily. Does this make sense?

The irony is that if you are “self-centered,” you can enjoy the company of your friends and family more and you have better relationships. If you are “others-centered,” you may be able to maintain harmony, but you will not enjoy their company and may stop hanging out with them eventually. You care for others so much, but then ironically, you won’t like being with them in the end… Isn’t it tragic?

So how are you feeling now? Do you feel like you want to try to be more self-centered now? Be more self-centered - you are the center of your own universe!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Be More Self-Centered - Part II

Last time, I wrote that many people care for others more than themselves. I asked you why you would do that. What do you think? I will share my thoughts below.

One of the most common reasons could be that you are supposed to be “nice” to people. Culturally, religiously, or because of the parenting you received, you may feel you are “supposed” to be this way. It’s like an absolute fact of life that you have never doubted. Another reason could be that you are afraid of being disliked or excluded by those people; if you voice your opinions, they may not like you anymore. Or, you may say to yourself, “it’s not a big deal. Why bother?” So you just let it be. You may have other reasons but these appear to be quite common.

So what’s the fundamental problem with it? I can think of two major problems.

One problem is that you tend to overestimate the risk of hurting others’ feelings, and try to avoid it even when you don’t need to. This means that even if they are totally cool with voicing your opinions or needs, you just don’t think to do so or you are afraid that it may “upset” them. As a result, you stay this way unnecessarily. But wait, would you want the ones you love to sacrifice themselves unnecessarily this way so as not to “hurt” your feelings? You probably want them to be open and honest with you, don’t you? If so, don’t you want both sides to genuinely enjoy each other’s company?

In short, if you don’t want them to be that way towards you, your loved ones most-likely don’t want you do the same either.

Then you may say, “But Cathy would not like me doing this way. She wasn’t happy when I expressed myself honestly.” Yes, that can happen. Even if you respectfully express yourself, some people never like it. The fact is that this kind of person may not want you to be yourself, because that won’t be convenient for them. In this case, here is my question for you: “So what’s the point of being with people like that?” I am not talking about your boss at work. I am talking about your personal relationships. You don’t need to be with someone who needs you to just be a “doormat”. They are your relationships and you can choose whom you want to be with.

Another problem of being this way is that if you care for others first, you don’t take care for yourself, including your feelings, your needs, your body, your health, your schedule, your preferences, your wishes, and so on. What makes you believe that you are that worthless? You care about them so much that you treat yourself like nobody and ignore yourself. This tendency keeps hurting your “being.” You may feel scared, fearful, reluctant, unhappy, unmotivated, sad, unconfident, and so. There is nothing more important than yourself, since you are the only being you will stay with until the end of your life.

Therefore, if you don’t respect yourself, your life sucks.

Then someone may say, “I don’t want to be selfish!” or “I don’t want to be a monster who doesn’t care for other people!” That’s very fair. Actually, however, sharing your opinions does not mean others are expected to automatically agree with you. Let’s use the examples above. If your friend wants to go eat cheeseburger and you wanted to eat something lighter, you voice your preference, you both talk about the options, and you may end up going to some restaurants which have both kinds of food, instead of just going to a burger stand. If you tell your mom about your situation and give her 10 minutes, she may be able to keep it short for you so you can go back to your work (if she won’t, that’s another issue between a child and parent. I may discuss it in future). In short, this is not selfishness. You just respect both your friends and loved-ones and yourself, instead of leaving yourself out of the picture.

I hope you now feel somewhat motivated to be a little more self-centered. In the next post, I will share some ideas how to be more self-centered.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Be More Self-Centered

I strongly encourage you to be more self-centered - Part I

“What?! What’s wrong with this guy?” If you felt this way when you read my opening sentence, then yes, trying to be more “self-centered” could be particularly beneficial for you. Most of us worry about other people’s feelings too much. And that can be a problem for us.

It is really important to be considerate and avoid unnecessarily hurting other people. I don’t disagree with that at all. If you don’t care about this basic part on human interaction, you are probably considered rude, unlikable, immature, or something like that, and people don’t want to hang out with you.

The problem, however, is that you may tend to care about others’ needs more than your own, and end up sacrificing yourself for them. For example, you want to avoid greasy food because your stomach is uncomfortable. But when your friend says, “Let’s get a chili cheeseburger and fries at the burger stand,” you may just respond, “Okay.” Or, you have some project to submit tomorrow, and your mom calls you to talk for a long time about non-urgent matters. You want to but can’t hang up and end up staying up until late. Another example could be that you are hanging out in a small group. You are listening to them chatting while smiling, although you are not enjoying it at all…

Very sweet and kind of you, but you are not sweet or kind to yourself. Why do you have to take care of others’ needs more than your own? Have you ever really thought about it? It appears that lots of people have never questioned such behavior. What makes you do that? Why would you ignore yourself? Why do you have to be so “nice?” Let’s think about it.

In the next post, I will share my thoughts about this tendency.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Read Me First

Hello. Welcome to my Blog, “Enjoy a Simpler & Happier Life by Dr. Riichiro Miwa.”

I am a Psychologist and I provide not only psychotherapy, but also life-coaching, lectures, and clinical supervision. When I am working with my students and supervisees, they often love what I say and want me to talk more about my “twisted” thoughts about a variety of things. It appears that my personality, experience, and multi-cultural background bring to me a unique perspective on things, and they appreciate it. Their response inspired me as well, so I finally decided to document what I have in my mind here.

In this blog I am sharing my personal beliefs about how to simplify your life to become happier. You won’t find me writing about a number of research findings or theories from books – I’ll leave that to others. Here, what you’ll find are just my thoughts based on my own observations and experiences as an individual who has always been curious about formulas for a quality life.

I will try to explain my points as easy as possible: I will use some examples utilizing real-life experiences to illustrate my point. I will also express myself in a more casual and “rough” manner, instead of in professional way, but that’s intentional. I would like to deliver my message in as simple and understandable way as possible.

That being said, please understand that this blog isn’t intended to be and cannot be a substitute for psychological treatment. Please seek the advice of a mental health professional if necessary. Likewise, I am unable to provide any answers to any of your questions or give advice about your particular diagnoses and/or specific situations. I am not working as a clinician here, so please keep that in mind. Of course, if/when you have any general questions or thoughts to share that may inspire me, please feel free to leave your comments. If that stimulates my thought process, I would really appreciate it and I may write about the topic in future. I just do not guarantee to respond to all of the comments, and I reserve the right to delete any for whatever reason. Last, I am not writing this blog to prove how absolutely correct my beliefs are. Some of you may find it helpful, and others may not. That’s totally fine. Just take whatever is useful to you from it, and disregard the rest.

My hope is you will find it beneficial and make yourselves happier. Hope you enjoy it!