Category: General (page 1 of 2)

Small talk and sociability

I admit it, I’m not amazing at what’s often referred to as ‘small talk’. I’m getting better, though, perhaps because I currently live in a row of terraced houses containing people of all ages. Small snippets of conversation about the weather, general health, and relatives are the lubricant of social situations.

The Finns, however, forgo such small talk. It’s not in their culture.

Finnish people often forgo the conversational niceties that are hard-baked into other cultures, and typically don’t see the need to meet foreign colleagues, tourists and friends in the middle.

[…]

“It’s not about the structure or features of the language, but rather the ways in which people use the language to do things,” she explained via email. “For instance, the ‘how are you?’ question that is most often placed in the very beginning of an encounter. In English-speaking countries, it is mostly used just as a greeting and no serious answer is expected to it. On the contrary, the Finnish counterpart (Mitä kuuluu?) can expect a ‘real’ answer after it: quite often the person responding to the question starts to tell how his or her life really is at the moment, what’s new, how they have been doing.”

This article explores whether the Finns need to adapt to the rest of the world, or vice-versa. Interesting stuff!

Source: BBC Travel

Issue [#319]: Operation Twilight

The latest issue of the newsletter hit inboxes earlier today!

💥 Read

🔗 Subscribe

"To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation."

(Chinese Proverb)

Experimenting with turning on comments for a week

Hello Thought Shrapnel readers! Some of you have asked over the last few months why the ability to comment on posts is switched off here.

Well, that’s mainly because I noticed a general downwards trend in the quality of online comments. For example, people would share their opinions on my blog posts without reading more than the title, or just link to their own stuff. And then there’s the perennial problem of spam.

This week I’m going to run an experiment and leave comments open. Everything I post from today to the end of the week you’ll be able to comment on directly.

I like the approach that Dan Meyer takes on his blog with adding ‘featured comments’ to his posts after the fact. I may try that.

Let’s see how it goes…


Image by clement127 used under a Creative Commons license

“Life is mostly froth and bubble, Two things stand like stone. Kindness in another's trouble, Courage in your own.”

Adam Lindsay Gordon

What do happy teenagers do?

This chart, via Psychology Today, is pretty unequivocal. It shows the activities correlated with happiness (green) and unhappiness (red) in American teenagers:

I discussed this with our eleven year-old son, who pretty much just nodded his head. I’m not sure he knew what to say, given that most of the things he enjoys doing in his free time are red on that chart!

Take a look at the bottom of the chart: Listening to music shows the strongest correlation with unhappiness. That may seem strange at first, but consider how most teens listen to music these days: On their phones, with earbuds firmly in place. Although listening to music is not screen time per se, it is a phone activity for the vast majority of teens. Teens who spend hours listening to music are often shutting out the world, effectively isolating themselves in a cocoon of sound.

This stuff isn’t rocket science, I guess:

There’s another way to look at this chart – with the exception of sleep, activities that usually involve being with other people are the most strongly correlated with happiness, and those that involve being alone are the most strongly correlated with unhappiness. That might be why listening to music, which most teens do alone, is linked to unhappiness, while going to music concerts, which is done with other people, is linked to happiness. It’s not the music that’s linked to unhappiness; it’s the way it’s enjoyed. There are a few gray areas here. Talking on a cell phone and using video chat are linked to less happiness – perhaps because talking on the phone, although social connection, is not as satisfying as actually being with others, or because they are a phone activities even though they are not, strictly speaking, screen time. Working, usually done with others, is a wash, perhaps because most of the jobs teens have are not particularly fulfilling.

I might pin this up in the house somewhere for future reference…

Source: Psychology Today

Issue #311: Under canvas

The latest issue of the newsletter hit inboxes earlier today!

💥 Read

🔗 Subscribe

“Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.”

(Terry Pratchett)

“You’re either a leader everywhere or nowhere”

I confess to not have heard of Abby Wambach, a recently-retired US soccer player, until Laura Hilliger brought her to my attention in the form of Wambach’s commencement speech to the graduates of Barnard College.

The whole thing is a fantastic call to action, particularly for women, but I wanted to call out a couple of bits in particular:

If you’re not a leader on the bench, don’t call yourself a leader on the field. You’re either a leader everywhere or nowhere.

People either look to you for guidance, or they don’t. You’re either the kind of person that steps up when required, or you don’t. Fortunately, I had a great role model in this regard in the shape of my father. He perhaps encouraged me a little too much to be a leader, but his actions, particularly when I was younger, spoke louder than his words.

You can’t be a leader at work without being a leader at home. And by ‘leader’ I don’t think Wambach is talking about ‘bossing’ everyone, but about stepping up, being counted, and supporting/representing others.

She also writes:

As you leave here today and everyday going forward: Don’t just ask yourself, “What do I want to do?” Ask yourself: “WHO do I want to be?” Because the most important thing I’ve learned is that what you do will never define you. Who you are always will.

Absolutely! Decide on your values and live them. I find reading Aristotle useful in this regard, particularly his views on Eudaimonia. Choose what you stand for, and articulate the way you’d like to be. Then seek out opportunities that chime with that.

Source: Barnard College (via Freshly Brewed Thoughts)

Estonia goes for free public transport

Estonia is pretty much already the home of free public wifi, so this is a logical next step. The council of the capital city, Tallinn, provided free public transport to citizens for the last five years after a referdendum. Now the idea is to extend that to everyone — including tourists.

This article mainly comprises of an interview with Allan Alaküla, the Head of Tallinn European Union Office. He makes a couple of important points:

 A good thing is, of course, that it mostly appeals to people with lower to medium incomes. But free public transport also stimulates the mobility of higher-income groups. They are simply going out more often for entertainment, to restaurants, bars and cinemas. Therefore they consume local goods and services and are likely to spend more money, more often. In the end this makes local businesses thrive. It breathes new life into the city.

In other words, allowing people to move around the city without thinking about the cost encourages people to do so. This has economic and social benefits.

Before introducing free public transport, the city center was crammed with cars. This situation has improved — also because we raised parking fees. When non-Tallinners leave their cars in a park-and-ride and check in to public transport on the same day, they [not] only use public transport for free, but also won’t be charged the parking fee. We noticed that people didn’t complain about high parking fees once we offered them a good alternative.

This is great, joined-up thinking: make it really easy for visitors to the city to do the right thing. Estonia really is at the forefront of citizen and pro-social innovation, as anyone familiar with their e-Residency scheme will be aware.

Source: Pop-Up City