Posts Tagged ‘Saturday Night Live’

Managing Our Pinch Points

April 23, 2015

We all go through life with certain sensitivities that wax and wane according to how we evolve. Sometimes, these sensitivities arise from our experiences, others simply burble up as a result of our individual temperaments. What bothers me isn’t necessarily going to bother you and vice versa, and we don’t always realize what those triggers are—for ourselves, let alone for others. I’ve found myself in situations where I unintentionally stepped on somebody else’s hornet’s nest, and boy, did I get stung! Yowza.

The other day, I was at the gym adjusting the hamstring machine when I noticed a warning illustration about pinch points. It depicted a finger, pulsing red, caught between two unpleasant looking disks. While I’m pretty careful about operating pieces of machinery, the same can’t be said for all of my interactions with people. I don’t go about trying to ruffle feathers or upset apple carts, and yet it occurs on occasion. My high school reunion is approaching and although I’m not totally ra-ra about it, I’m excited to have a chance to see some of my classmates, so I spontaneously offered to host a casual cocktail party on the first night. The response has been less than overwhelming with a couple of reply-alls encouraging our classmates to attend another event, instead.

It amazed me how fast I felt thrown back into the pit of high school popularity contests. I tensed as I read a couple of the emails sent back and forth to the group, ignoring my offer and cajoling others to go elsewhere. Once I recognized that I was worrying about the fact that people I haven’t seen in decades may prefer to do something else with their time, I told myself to get a grip. Pinch Point! Who knew?

While we can’t do anything about other people’s pinch points, we can control our own. A significant advantage to not being an insecure and ambitious seventeen year old is that we don’t have to react that way, either.

I have watched untold numbers of grown adults slip into defiant, petty personas when their pinch points get hit. Men who refuse to respond because the woman’s tone of voice reminds them of their mother. Women whose snark factor ratchets up exponentially after they detect some note of disrespect in another’s comment or behavior. Our pinch points are equal opportunity targets: we can get hit by people we know all too well or total passing strangers. These offenses can be about anything, but what they have in common is their ability to send us into a foul mood that sends warning signs throughout our system—our stomachs tense and our eyes widen, we set our jaw or clench our fists. Any of this sound familiar?

When was the last time one of your pinch points was hit? Do you remember what it was? Do you remember how you reacted? What did you do next?

The reason I bring up my high school reunion example is because it’s so universal. We all know what it’s like to face the competitive herding instincts of our classmates. Ugh, it makes me glad I’m not back in high school. As a determined re-booter, what I did in this particular instance was remind myself to slow down and not read so much negativity into the emails I was seeing. The lackluster reaction of a few doesn’t translate into universal condemnation, and even if my idea of hosting a cocktail party was the worst idea in the world, SO WHAT? How could anything be less important? Now, my panic makes me laugh. What a waste of time and energy to fret over this—good thing I nipped it in the bud.

It’s the nipping I want you to think about. What strategies do you employ when irrationally upset? (Deep down, you know if you’re getting upset over something inconsequential.) How often do you find yourself fuming over a hill of beans? Just to be clear, neither gender is immune to this inanity.

One of my default reactions—and, thank God, I have this instinct—is to search for the funny or ridiculous in any situation. I’ve mentioned this technique before, but when you find yourself irrationally upset, think about how Saturday Night Live might perform the scene. How might the actors carry on, exaggerating your thoughts, expressions, and reactions to whatever has just happened? If you try this out, I promise you’ll laugh and start to feel differently. Laughter is an excellent diffusing technique—it provides perspective when we are sorely lacking any, it distracts us from our foul mood, it lightens our energy. And, yes, you can be every bit as ridiculous as I.

The other side of this coin, of course, is to recognize that when someone flips out on us, their pinch point has been hit. It’s their finger that is throbbing. Recognizing this enables us not to overreact to their overreaction. All too often, we forget to give others the benefit of the doubt. When was the last time someone didn’t give you that benefit? It didn’t feel too good, did it? Do unto others… Even we, re-booters, are not vulnerable to pinch points, but we do a much better job at managing the pain.

 Pinch point

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Dealing with the Turkeys Who are Our Relatives

November 24, 2014

Due to impassioned pleas from desperate followers, I am sending out a short, emergency post for re-booters who are dreading spending time with their families. Do you feel like you’re hanging on by your fingernails, the last shreds of your sanity having packed up and vamoosed a few days ago? I bet. That’s why I’ve decided to bliss out with a “family free” Thanksgiving. Ha! Jealous??? Alas, such tranquility is not for you. Instead, you find yourself marching towards the gallows. To quote Bill Clinton, “I feel your pain.”

 

The holidays should come with a warning label: Danger! 100% Likelihood of Exacerbating Unresolved Family Conflicts. If it makes you feel any better, from coast to coast, I have friends confiding how tired they are of pretending to like their relatives. No Norman Rockwell scenarios here, I assure you.

 

So over the next 2-3 days, you get to steel yourself for the garden variety of familial sniping, posturing, eye rolling, or good old fashioned exhaustion. We’re all fed up with the bullshit, whether it’s from our whiny kids, our demanding parents, our unhelpful spouses, or disapproving siblings. We seek refuge in too many glasses of wine and then heartily regret our actions. So, here are a couple of things you might want to try to retain your calm and maybe even entertain yourself.

 

Strategy One: It’s great to watch comedies like Caddyshack, Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, A Fish Called Wanda—the more ridiculous the better. Everybody can laugh and it’s humor that makes otherwise difficult times bearable.

 

Strategy Two: Before you pour yourself that third drink, try this instead–look around at all these characters you’re marooned with for the day and imagine how Saturday Night Live would spoof what’s going on. Take whatever inane thing you observe—whether it’s an argument over how to prepare the sweet potatoes to snipes about supporting the wrong political party or football team and imagine how it might be portrayed on tv. How would Steve Martin exaggerate what’s going on? He’d make it funny, not mean. That’s what you need to do, too.

 

Strategy Three: pretend you have an extra thick, woolen coat on when you interact with the people who grate on you. Whatever their barbs are, you’ve got that coat on, so they can’t penetrate. Ignore them. Don’t take the bait. It’s not worth it.

 

Ok, so I hope this helps in terms of desperate times with relatives. For those of you who just LOVE everyone in your family, well, you’re a rare bird, indeed…We’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming of re-booting tomorrow.

 

Through another’s looking glass

May 7, 2013

Aspirational re-booters know that an effective behavioral self-modification tool is to do the following: think of the way you normally conduct yourself; now imagine how others would imitate you.

How do you like them apples?

If the specter of such parody behavior makes you wince, I suggest that perhaps a modest course correction may be in order. As I have had the opportunity to learn on more than one occasion (heh heh), delivery is nearly as important as the message itself. What, exactly, are we telegraphing?

It’s easy to miss entirely the impact our behaviors have on others—we’re sending messages we may not even realize we’re sending. Where I am striving to be efficient and clear, others may perceive bossiness and a short temper. Where someone feels lost in his feelings of disappointment and heartache, those close to him may perceive immaturity and a mood disorder. Or how about the woman who is always perky and highly engaged in social justice advocacy? She may not recognize that her actions telegraph an attempt at emotional distance and avoidance of dealing with painful family matters closer to hearth and home. How about the person who continually runs themselves down, offering you multiple chances to reassure them?

But there’s an upside to this sort of examination, as well. Fortunately, there are many examples of people whose behaviors we admire—not across the board, perhaps, but situational behaviors that we respect. For instance, the man who remains calm and doesn’t yell when things go awry. Maybe I could do that, too, we think wistfully. Or the coworker who, despite other personality quirks, always finds some humor in a situation, making us laugh. How about the time your friend stopped what they were doing and pulled off the side of the road to help the motorist change a tire? And the high school basketball coach who reassured the player that being careless in a game was not a life sentence.

Having provided a couple of examples for you to consider, let’s turn the camera back on you. I want you to think about some of your typical behaviors—from morning routines to how you reply in conversations or express unhappiness. If one of the cast of Saturday Night Live were to portray you, what might they exaggerate? Would your family members secretly smile and nod in approval? What does this tell you about how you carry yourself? Are you cringing right now?

What personality quirks have your siblings or children or others mentioned to you? Maybe you act a whole lot more bitchy than you realize. Or perhaps your speeches do get a bit preachy. Is it possible you over dramatize things? Is it imperative that you stay quite so busy 24/7? When does the surfer-dude laid backness shtick turn into a vehicle to be sloppy? Is your tendency to be clueless actually a means to remain blind to uncomfortable realizations?

Of course, there’s plenty of room for each one of us to improve how we convey what we want to convey, and there’s room for us to do it in our own style and manner—which, just because it differs from someone else doesn’t make it bad or wrong–even if chaos drives some folks crazy doesn’t mean that it isn’t ok for you. But, if you’re anything like me, you have a sense of where you come across a little more exaggerated than you intend. So this is when it’s useful to force yourself to see these behaviors through the eyes of others and to seek out examples you admire. By keeping such positive examples in mind, it is possible to alter how you do things. You needn’t be stuck in the familiar grooves of old.

Here’s a homework assignment: force yourself to imagine SNL enacting a skit about you—what jumps out? Now, take that self-same quirk and scan your roster of people you know for someone who does the same thing in a way you admire. Keep this is mind as a positive example of a new approach. It gets easier with practice.


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