Don’t Let Your Past Taint Others First Impressions Of You


When you’ve had a run of bad experiences such as being let down by others, denied opportunities for advancement you felt you deserved, or flat-out been rejected for jobs you feel you were perfectly suited for, you can start to feel cheated, robbed and hard-done by. Unfortunately, not only can you feel these emotions, but try as you may, they can start to manifest themselves in your behaviour, facial expressions and comments. In short, you can become unattractive to others.

Now this is extremely unfortunate when you meet others for the first time; others who may just be in a place immediately or shortly afterwards to help you out. However, you can well imagine that if their first impression of you is a brooding, negative, all-too serious kind of person with a permanently furrowed brow and constant look of exasperation, you likely aren’t going to be at the top of their list when openings arise.

Sadly, this my dear reader, might just be something you are blissfully ignorant of. It’s true! Now I can’t say for certain of course not having met you, but do yourself a favour and without noticeably relaxing your facial muscles or attempting to consciously smile, grab a mirror and look at yourself. Imagine you were meeting someone for the first time now and what would they see? Of course you might argue that if you were in fact meeting someone for the first time, you’d definitely put on a smile. Ah but wait; that facial expression and overall impression staring back at you in the mirror is the face you’re projecting to people everyday when you’re at your normal self; just walking or sitting around. This is what others see all the time when you’re being your authentic self.

There are clues of course that something is amiss. Could be that people are asking you if everything is okay, or if anything is wrong. Puzzled, you might say things are fine and ask them why they ask, only to be told that you looked troubled or upset. If you are just being your, ‘normal self’, and you’ve not had these kind of comments in the past, something has changed in how you present yourself to others.

Now again, you might have cause to feel the way you do; let down, perhaps kept down, held back from promotions, denied interviews for jobs you wanted or interviewed and rejected far too often. These setbacks are certainly frustrating and it’s hard not to take them as personally as they are after all happening to you. However, taken on their own as individual not connected events, these disappointments may well be not so much indicative of your qualifications or experience but rather the outcomes of a very competitive job market. In other words, more people are applying and competing for single jobs these days and many of those are highly qualified. So if you are applying for jobs, you’ve got a lot of competition.

Of great importance is to make sure the jobs you apply to in the first place are jobs you are truly competitively fit for. Ensuring you meet the stated qualifications – from an objective point of view mind – is integral to your success. Applying for jobs well outside your area of ability on the hopes that someone will take a flyer on you just isn’t going to meet with a lot of success. So if you do, you set yourself up to fail with a high degree of regularity.

Look, have you heard it said that many Recruiters and interviewers decide in the first few minutes of a first meeting if they like you or not? Sure you have. That first few minutes is nowhere near the time it takes to accurately check your education, experience, qualifications and overall fit. So what are they using to make these appraisals? They – just like you and I and everyone else by the way – use our first impressions. How you look, the tone of your voice, your facial expression, mood, dress, posture, personal hygiene and yes your attitude – these come together to create that first impression. After those first 2 – 5 minutes, the rest of the interview is really all about confirming or changing that first impression.

This is why it is so highly important that you don’t allow your past to affect your present if your past is a growing number of poor experiences. Yes, you do have to be authentic and real, not some phony, all-positive and artificially smiling person. Being ‘real’ is important. However, it could well be that given a chance to prove yourself in a job, or getting that promotion would see your old positive self return; the self you truly are most of the time.

Like I said, you might not be fully aware of how your body language and facial expressions have changed; what you think you’re covering up well may be very transparent to others. If you wonder just how things are, and you’re up for some honest feedback, ask people who’ve known you for some time and give them permission to tell you the truth. Could be they’ve noticed a change – and not for the better – but they’ve been reluctant to say anything out of concern for not wanting to hurt your feelings and strain a relationship.

Your first impression is one thing you have complete control over.

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My Christmas Post


Merry Christmas!

Now yes I know that in our 2017 politically correct, full multi-cultural societies where we have people from all manner of faiths and religions; where tolerance and growing sensitivity to the needs of all those around us would have us drop the Christmas from Merry Christmas and have it replaced with, “Happy Holidays”, I say nonetheless, “Merry Christmas” to you just the same.

I am not insensitive or blissfully unaware that not everyone celebrates Christmas. I am not ignorant that some who acknowledge Christmas and believe in the child of Christ are in a financial or emotional state to find it hard to be merry for that matter. Some find the Christmas season decidedly isolating; a poignant reminder of whatever state they find themselves in which may not be what they’d want or have imagined for themselves. I get that.

Yes some would have the world drop the word, ‘Merry’ from our greetings as well as the ‘Christmas’. While we’re at it there are those who don’t like Christmas lights – a blatant waste of both energy and money they say. I light up the dark nights of winter with my Christmas lights all the same.

You can understand I think why some find this time of year particularly challenging to deal with. They may be unemployed, underemployed, homeless or living just above the poverty line. For people who have been disinherited from families, perhaps cut out of family gatherings and estranged from those they once called brother, sister, mom or dad, yes it can be a constant source of pain to see everyone around them going about with a ‘Merry Christmas’ on their lips.

Me? I go about with a jolly ‘Merry Christmas’ just the same. In fact, I went for a walk at noon just yesterday and made a conscious decision to say just that – “Merry Christmas!” to several people on that walk. There was the guy walking towards me with his head down, hoodie on and hands in his pockets. There was the fellow who had a cigarette in one hand and just walked across the street on a full red light when the traffic gave him an opening. There was the woman who was rushing to go somewhere and had a furrowed brow and look of concentration as she navigated the clearest path to accelerate her walk. And the reaction I got?

Each and every person I said, “Merry Christmas” to said exactly the same thing; “Merry Christmas to you.” Each person also did something else; they made eye contact for about 2 seconds and smiled as they said it. 2 seconds….and a smile. Hmm…. Big deal you say?

Well, if everyone I met felt visible and smiled while saying, “Merry”, perhaps – just perhaps I say – wishing others a “Merry Christmas” isn’t so bad. Now yes, I could have been more thoughtful and stopped these people in their tracks and first asked them, “Excuse me, might I know your religious beliefs and if in particular you believe in the Christ child? You see, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas but I also don’t want to impose any kind of religious doctrine on you in doing so should you practice another religion, believe but not practice or perhaps be an atheist. And also good sir/madam, I do hope its not delaying you in any way or causing you to feel singled out and vulnerable to have a stranger talk to you in this public space and use the words, ‘Merry’ and ‘Christmas’ in the same sentence? You see you might not wish to feel merry – for that of course is your right, and it would be terribly presumptuous of me to wish you to be merry when that may not be what you’d wish for yourself.”

Yes, I suppose I could have said something like that in order not to cause any offence to anyone. However, the good people I wished a ‘Merry Christmas’ to on the streets of downtown Oshawa Ontario didn’t seem to mind. Now I don’t imagine these folks are very different from others who might wander the streets of your city or town. For I’ve no reason to believe Oshawa residents are somehow singularly patrons of Christmas or unifyingly merry for that matter.

How nice then I think to have a stranger wish them a merry Christmas. I wish someone had first said that to me on my walk. I’ve noticed though that people generally walk and avoid eye contact period, let alone say a word of greeting. Yes, it’s eyes averted, down on the ground, straight ahead – anywhere other than meeting the eyes of people they meet. But me? I’m different. I walk and make a point of looking at the faces I pass. I note that people generally see me coming (they aren’t blind after all), and then they purposely avert their eyes. Oh and it’s not that they reserve this behaviour for me alone. I see them do it with everyone they pass.

And I’m open to a Happy Chinese New year, Happy Chanukah, etc. too. Feel free to give one to me when the time is right. I’d like that. So I will continue to go about on my daily walks, look for people who could use a little, ‘Merry Christmas’ and give it to them. Oh, and you out there? A very merry Christmas to you!

 

Interviews: The Key Fundamental


We’re living in a world that’s become increasingly sophisticated; (feel free to substitute the word complicated for sophisticated if you wish).

While progress is often a good thing, it can completely intimidate some, leaving them far behind when it comes to interviewing. All these new interview formats and techniques have interviewees feeling overly stressed, resulting in many not interviewing at their best. Few people love interviews and so it’s easy to understand few take the time to improve their interviewing skills. After all, if you don’t like interviews, it’s not likely you’ll invest time voluntarily participating in the experience.

For you then, here’s the key to a successful experience; for no matter how complicated things seem to be, this one fundamental will help you reduce your stress levels and compete better. What is it?

See the interview for what it is. An interview is a conversation between two or more people. That’s it. You have conversations – and therefore interviews – many times during the day. Those are not high stress interactions. You’ll notice that although I’ve intentionally omitted the word, ‘job’ to this point, you’ve probably inserted it as you’ve read along. Thus you read, “See the job interview for what it is.”

A job interview is at its heart just conversation between two or more people where the agreed upon subject is an opportunity. Indulge me by re-reading that again. A job interview is a conversation between two or more people where the agreed upon subject is an opportunity. I’d remind you that this opportunity is not solely for the person applying for the job, but also for the organization conducting the job interviews.

If you are fearful and intimidated by the job application process; if you wish you could bypass the job interview and just get hired, it’s likely you perceive the interview very differently than those who embrace them. Yes, it’s likely you see the job interview as this unpleasant experience you must endure where the job interviewer judges you and decides your fate, most often rejecting you personally. If so, is it any wonder that even the subject of job interviews gets your stomach churning and you view them as a necessary evil to be avoided at all costs? No wonder there are people right now who hate their jobs but refuse to quit because it will mean choosing to put themselves through more job interviews!

Seriously, it’s just a conversation about an opportunity. In a conversation, participants contribute to the discussion; not always equally if you think about it, but both sides do contribute. A job interview is no different. The employer represented by the interviewer or interviewers, wants to learn about you, what motivates you, what you might bring and contribute to their organization. They ask about your experience, education and skills in order to flesh out as best they can who you are and most importantly how you align with what they know to be their needs.

You however? You’ve got a stake in this too. Your after information on perhaps the working conditions, the culture of the organization, the management style of the person you’d be reporting to, the autonomy the position demands, the benefits of working with the company, how they view the consumers of their goods and services. You’re likely to want to know the expectations they have, and in short whether this move would be a good fit for you for the foreseeable future. Hence, they’ve got questions and so should you.

Now think please of the first time you meet people. Back to the beginning when you two introduce yourselves. If the person you are meeting looks stressed and clearly uncomfortable, it’s probable that you’re first impression isn’t favourable and you’ll remove yourself early, ceasing to invest more time with them. You’ve sized that person up pretty quickly based on the limited information you gathered and you excused yourself.

Those who interview job applicants do exactly the same thing. Hence, it’s extremely important to make that all important good first impression. Get past the first 30 seconds with a smile, a friendly, “Hello, it’s very nice to meet you”, and an expression of gratitude for meeting with them and you’re on your way.

As you settle in, you’ll be asked questions and this is your opportunity to market yourself to their advertised needs. Doesn’t it stand to reason that those who best show that they’ll bring what the company said they want will be the best fit and get the job offers? They may ask the majority of the questions I grant, but you get to do the bulk of the talking as you phrase your replies. Remember to focus your answers on the questions asked, and the only way they will know you can do what you claim is to demonstrate via specific examples that prove to them you’ve got what it takes.

Essential to remember is that your body, at least as much as your words, communicates. Look engaged, interested, focused and dressed appropriately.

Instead of an interrogation where you voluntarily go to be executed, the job interview is your opportunity – and theirs – to determine if the match between the employer and you is a good fit for both. This fundamental shift in your thinking; how you perceive the job interview, may be the one thing you do that changes how you perform.

It starts in the mind!

 

 

Be Nice


You may have big plans on where you see yourself in 2, 5 or 20 years from now. Conversely, you might not have a clue where life will take you; you have no idea what you’ll be doing in 3 weeks let alone years into your future. No matter what might be ahead in your future, one of the best things you can do now and along the way to wherever you land, you can do no better favour for yourself than to be nice along the way.

Now, already the ‘A’ type personality folks are assembling and some among them are saying that being nice gets you nowhere; that it’s a dog eat dog kind of world. Nice people are fodder to be chewed up and spit out, walked over and left on the lower rungs of the corporate ladders. They might say that nice guys finish last, that you’ve got to claw and fight your way up to every hand-hold you can clasp on the way up because nobody but nobody who amounts to anything will reach back and give you a hand up.

I suppose there are people like that; well let’s be entirely honest – there’s no supposing about it. Yes, there are people and professions that attract those kind of people with those kind of mentalities.

For the majority of us however, what is the price of being nice? Weigh any answer you come up with against the question, what is the price of not being nice? There’s the little gestures and the big ones of course. The big ones are the ones that most often make the headlines; the customer who drops a $3,000 tip for the waitress, the celebrity television host who treats the entire audience with gifts and goodies, makes wishes come true for ordinary people on the shows etc. They’ve got the untold wealth and corporate backing to be the face of niceness.

You and me though? Well, we’re likely just your everyday people; folks who work regular jobs, won’t ever gain widespread recognition. The emergence of social media has given us a platform to share our smiling faces with the world, and that’s likely the most public exposure we’re likely to garner.

Being nice can be self-serving of course and let’s be honest, it sure makes us feel good to do good for others. Drop some coins in a panhandlers cap, open a door for someone, give praise to someone who guts out a personal challenge and part of us feels good inside for doing so. Nothing wrong with making yourself feel good. Do more of it I say.

When you’re nice it can have some ripple effects too. You smile at me and I smile back. A few steps later, I give that smile to someone else and like the wave at a sporting event, it catches on and gets shared. Being nice is like that. I’ve seen first-hand people in cafe’s buy a drink for a stranger in line behind them and then that stranger do likewise for someone else. These aren’t just stories of the goody two-shoes types; these are real people. Sometimes the beneficiary of an act of kindness isn’t thankful true enough, but then again sometimes the beneficiary receives an unexpected act of kindness right at the moment when they needed it most; that reminder of the good around them. It can pull people sharply into the moment if they’ve been wandering around in their own little world, feeling ignored or invisible.

Being nice doesn’t have to cost any money whatsoever though. It can mean asking a co-worker how they’re doing and actually stopping long enough to show you really want to know. It can mean recalling something they told you two days ago and then following up with an inquiry about how that evening went or how that trip with the kids to the theme park turned out. Being nice could mean investing a tad of yourself in what that other person shares as important to them or meaningful to them.

Being nice might mean things that never get seen, never get recognized but nonetheless make things better for others. Maybe you do up a few dishes that aren’t yours at work, you make sure the toilet seat is clean every time you leave the washroom, you sharpen a few pencils at the Reception desk or keep the stapler stocked each morning so someone never gets frustrated looking for a pen.

I was saying to a colleague just yesterday that it was ironic that I was interviewed for a job years later by a woman whose children I supervised while working in a Boys and Girls Club decades ago. Good thing I was nice to both her and her kids! Who could have predicted that life would bring us back into contact that way in a completely different city and context?

Want to shock the person you’re in a relationship with? Send them an email or instant message that reads nothing more than, “Thinking of you just now.” Nice!

Yes, what if you did the odd thing or two simply with a goal and nothing more beyond being nice? You’d better watch out; you might develop a reputation for being a nice person!

Should you find that your acts of kindness go unnoticed or you get taken advantage of, be nice anyhow. We need more people like you.

 

Make Kindness Count


Show kindness to the people you come into contact with each day and you’re doing something thoughtful for both them and yourself. That sounds like a pretty good thing to me. Showing some kindness to customers, co-workers, animals, the environment, strangers, friends and family; it all translates into making the day a better one for all involved.

Need some ideas to get you going? Fair enough. Please comment and add some of your own and pass this piece on to others – maybe an act of kindness on your part!

  1. As you approach a door, take a glimpse behind you to see if there isn’t someone you can hold the door open for. Whether you let them pass ahead of you or you enter first and hold it ajar for them, it delays you for 4 seconds tops.
  2. Acknowledge people with a smile as you walk along a street. Some of the most fragile people in our society feel completely invisible. Yes, something as simple as eye contact and a smile conveys, “I see you” and sends a positive vibe.
  3. Send an email to one person today expressing something you admire in them.
  4. Leave a note of appreciation for the night cleaners who empty your garbage can, dust your furniture, clean your cubicle or office. You may never meet them, but you can imagine the surprise when out of the blue someone unexpectedly says thanks.
  5. Get up and offer your seat to others when on transit. Be they elderly, pregnant, in poor health, or perhaps entirely able-bodied and young, it’s still a nice thing to do. Kindness doesn’t discriminate.
  6. Drop your change into the charity collection box which is probably on the counter by the cashier or just under the drive-thru window.
  7. Turn the tables on the drive-thru employee and as they hand your food to you, look them in the eye and say, “Thank you for this! I hope YOU have a great day!”
  8. If you hear the recycling and garbage trucks coming up the street, walk out to meet the people picking up what you’re disposing of and thank them for doing their job.
  9. On a blistering hot summers day, offer the people picking up your trash a bottle of cold water.
  10. About that clerical support you benefit from each day; tell them how much you appreciate what they do just loud enough so a few of the people around them hear the praise. Keep it genuine and short.
  11. Go through your clothes closet when there’s a change of seasons and bag up any items you no longer wear and drop them off in a charity box or second hand store. Be kind; wash and dry them first.
  12. When others are rude, give them the kindness they may not deserve anyhow. What they are doing might be entirely out of their norm, they might be under extreme stress and pressure.
  13. Schedule family time and make family a priority.
  14. Cut your lawn and keep your weeds down. Neighbours will thank you.
  15. Put a lid on your recycling bin if it doesn’t have one. No one appreciates picking up your plastics and paper which has blown all over the neighbourhood.
  16. Let the faster vehicles pass unimpeded. Does it really matter if you’re not the fastest car? This keeps their road rage down, gets speeders out of your rear view mirror and if someone’s going to get a ticket, let it be them! Be kind to yourself.
  17. Cook dinner; something they love even if you don’t.
  18. Clean up your room without being asked. This goes whether you’re 14 years old at home or 47 years old at the office.
  19. Acknowledge the customer in line if you can’t get to them immediately.
  20. Answer the phone with a smile; it translate better on the other end even though they can’t see your face.
  21. When a co-worker has a particularly challenging time with a problem, offer to lend a hand.
  22. When you walk in to the boss with a problem, have a possible solution to suggest.
  23. Share the road with others whether they are on a bike, walking, jogging, driving a car or truck.
  24. Keep from getting behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking or using drugs. Whether on the lake or the roadways, you’re endangering lives and risking hurting the ones who care about you back home.
  25. If the food or service isn’t up to par, let owners know without being rude, loud or obnoxious. Take the high road and tell them in a helpful way so they can be better.
  26. Thank the newspaper carrier, the postal worker, the hair stylist, the car wash and gas station attendant.
  27. Extend an apology when you know you had a part to play in what went wrong.
  28. Give credit where credit is due.
  29. Praise publicly.
  30. Discipline privately.
  31. When you ask someone, “How are you?” stick around long enough to hear the reply.
  32. Make time for the people you don’t have time for.
  33. Do something fun for no other reason.
  34. Get healthy so you’re around for those who love you and would miss you.
  35. Visit dad and mom; call if you can’t.
  36. Laugh often; your heart will thank you.
  37. Bag your own groceries and speed up the checkout line.
  38. That check out line for people with 1-12 items is for people with 1-12 items.
  39. Recognize the good in others and the good in yourself.
  40. Pat the dog and get out for a walk.

 

 

Be Beautiful


Physically beautiful is nice; inner beauty is always better. It takes some people years to accept and believe this, while others get it right from the start. Let’s not start with the assumption that the all the physically beautiful people of the world have a flawed inner self; that’s an erroneous assumption and gets us off on the wrong point. Inner beauty is something we have full control over and this is where it differs dramatically from natural outer beauty.

I write as you may know with a purpose of helping people find and keep employment. So you may or may not immediately get what writing about being beautiful has to do with finding a job or getting ahead.

Inner beauty is all about being nice; attracting to you the good in others by shining brightly with your own good attitude and good works. You know these people of whom I speak. No doubt you have some in your workplace; you may well be one yourself and if you are, I applaud you.

The folks with inner beauty are the ones who always lend you help when you need it if it is in their power to do so. They say hello when they see you and ask how you are and most importantly you feel they really mean it. They smile and laugh easily and while this doesn’t mean they don’t have their ‘days’, they don’t have many of them and they certainly don’t seek misery and sympathy. They just get on with what they have to do the best they can.

Those who shine their inner beauty are good folks to have around. They lift you up, make you feel better just by having them around. They can be at any level in an organization too. Yes, right from the CEO at the top, they can be in the mailroom, the service desk, hold the keys to the office supplies, sit at reception or if you’re lucky, share an office with you or if you’re extremely lucky they could be your boss.

Inner beauty is something you can cultivate and nurture or you can shut it down and refuse adamantly to bring out. Be careful I warn you because you’ll recall how I’ve said many times in the past that once people have their view of you it’s tough to change how you are perceived. It’s not impossible of course, but well, you know about first impressions right?

Radiating goodness is what inner beauty is all about. A sincere willingness to help others and looking for opportunities to do just that is how inner beauty manifests itself. “Let me help you with that”, “Really it’s no problem; it’s my pleasure” and “You’re good at what you do” are the kind of comments you’ll hear them say and others like them. They are helpful, they do delight in being of assistance and they pass out compliments to others often but always with sincerity.

They look for the good in others too. In fact the one thing that might annoy them most is when they interact with other people who are not just indifferent but who are actually negative, mean or mean-spirited. Those with inner beauty will many times even in these situations kindly point out to the person concerned that they could be more pleasant – and they’ll do it in a way that isn’t a condemnation or value judgement. They just do it naturally.

Now think about where you work and see if you aren’t thinking of someone or some people who fit this description.  If you’re out of work, think of places you’ve worked in the past or somewhere you volunteer your time. Think of people you know in your personal life, maybe a good friend or family member. These kind of good people aren’t rare (thankfully) and they may be all around you.

Two things I offer by way of suggestion; for one, thank them. Thank them while you have a chance because showing your appreciation encourages them to continue to be the beautiful people they are. It costs you nothing to do so too. They probably would love a card or flowers but a word of genuine thanks is what they’d most like. Secondly, I’d suggest you do more to bring out your own inner beauty.

Guys can be beautiful too you know. Why not? The beautiful is not reserved for the women of this world. “He was just a beautiful guy” is a statement I’ve read again and again when a man passes away who others admired. Why not share your admiration with the living while they are in your presence? Even better however is why not choose to be a beautiful person now – now – while you have the power to decide and be whomever you want?

Go about your day with some positivity; encourage others, do good work, work with integrity and be on the lookout for others doing things you can applaud. Imagine if you did so and soon their were two or three others doing the same. Then it caught on and the  atmosphere in your workplace changed for the better; the ‘like attracts like’ syndrome starting happening. Your workplace culture would shift, the work environment would improve and a happier place would emerge to work. The cost? Nothing but a little effort. What’s the cost of suppressing inner beauty?

 

Experiencing Mental Health Issues?


Be positive. Look on the bright side. Turn that frown upside down. You’re never fully dressed without a smile. See the glass as half full. Don’t be a sour puss.  Things can only get better. You’ve got nowhere to go but up. Nobody wants to be around a grumpy Gus.

Sayings from the past and present that all send the same message; look at things with a positive point of view and present yourself to others with a cheerful disposition. Easier said than done for some folks; at least for some folks some of the time.

It’s likely true that most people do enjoy being around other people who are upbeat and positive. When you surround yourself with optimistic people who are positive, you feel some of that positivity rub off on you. When you walk away you feel better, encouraged, hopeful and in a better mood. Whether that feeling lasts but a moment or you carry it forward for a while depends entirely on you.

On the other hand it’s also the case that if you spend some time with someone who is moody, brooding, negative and talks about doom and gloom, you’re likely to walk away feeling down yourself. Given the choice of the two, most would certainly choose to surround themselves with positive people.

The challenge for some people however is that they are not accustomed to smiling or looking positive. When they are at ease, their faces take on what the rest of us might consider a serious countenance. They look intense, maybe even uninviting; radiating a, “I’d rather be left alone thank you” impression. Unfortunately this may not be how they are really feeling at all, but they come across this way and they know it. They know it because people have told them over and over for ages to smile and look happy.

This issue becomes compounded of course when they experience stress and pressure, especially if it lingers as in the case of a prolonged period of unemployment or financial hardship. As job searching can be fraught with highs and lows, built-up expectations and dashed hopes, it becomes even harder to stay upbeat and hopeful. That advice to put on a smile and fake it until you make it just sounds near impossible.

Empathizing with people who are anxious, depressed, edgy, stressed and immobilized means in part to accept them where they are; appreciating the circumstances in which they find themselves and having a measure of respect. Unless you’ve experienced what they have experienced – (and if you recognize that each person experiences things in their own unique way) it’s difficult to understand sometimes why they can’t change.

Telling someone to just snap out of it and expecting they’ll immediately slap a lasting smile on their face is unreasonable. If it were that easy, they’d have figured that out on their own. They’re likely to think or say, “Don’t you think I would if I could?” What if perhaps this condition you later discovered wasn’t so much a conscious choice the person is making to come across as sad and morose but rather an ongoing mental health issue?

What continues to be difficult for many to truly appreciate is that sometimes this mental health condition isn’t one of choice. No more than say, telling someone with a broken wrist to, “just write or type with it anyhow”, or “suck it up buttercup and deal with it.” That would be insensitive, and at the first sight of the cast on their wrist and forearm we’d be much more likely to acknowledge their injury and perhaps offer our help, extending some empathy or at the very least some sympathy.

But a mental health issue is so much less obvious isn’t it? We don’t know if a person is behaving the way they are by choice or not. Unlike seeing someone with a cast on their wrist and making small talk about how it happened, it’s highly unlikely we’d go up to someone who looks depressed and say, “Are you just sad or are you coping with a mental health disorder?” The other person might be so shocked at this that they wouldn’t know how to respond. They might respond with a, “Mind your own business”, “Is it that obvious?”, or possibly a, “Thanks for asking, actually I am…”

Imagine how much energy it would take to mask and attempt to cover up a condition like social anxiety or full-blown depression. Picture yourself having to force an insincere smile and generate some artificial laughter with those you meet, feeling that to fit in you have to be someone you’re not at your authentic core. That would be exhausting. How long could you keep that up? Could you pull it off? Don’t we all want others to accept us for who we are; aren’t we being told again and again to just be ourselves?

Many people who experience mental health issues are getting some form of help. They are doing the best they can to fit in but their not always successful. They experience the world around them from their unique perspective which may be different from others. Treatments vary as does the outcomes of these interventions.

If you don’t understand it or get it, can’t really empathize with them but wish you could, don’t compound things. Tolerance; acknowledging and accepting them as they are is a start.