Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 227, July 2018)

A free monthly newsletter about balancing life, work, and relationships based on the books and popular workshops conducted by Alan Weiss, Ph.D. Past copies are archived on our web site:
Copyright 2018 Alan Weiss. All rights reserved.
ISSN 1934-3116 

Balancing Act® is our registered trademark. You are encouraged to share the contents with others with appropriate attribution. Please use the ® whenever the phrase "Balancing Act" is used in connection with this newsletter or our workshops.

Balancing act is in four sections this month:

1. Techniques for Balance

2. Musings

3. The Human Condition: Introductions


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• Use Alexa or an equivalent. It makes even Google seem like a snail.

• Don’t panic if your credit cards are lost. Your legal liability is $50. That’s why the card companies keep bothering you if they think the card has been charged $30 by someone else.

• Learn the polite language to cut a conversation short. Don’t be a language martyr. (“I’m sorry, I wanted to say ‘hello’ but I owe my spouse a call about now.”)

• Don’t ask the servers what they recommend on the menu. Ask the manager, and ask if there’s anything special beyond the menu and the daily specials.

• When everyone is a VIP, no one is a VIP. Be careful to whom you grant special status. This is the problem with the airlines, where a hundred people “qualify” for Group 1 boarding.

• On long air trips, I’m at the point where I want to know whether the aircraft has onboard WiFi.

• Read a good history book. The ignorance I’m seeing in younger people (I don’t know how better to describe it) is going to undermine their future success. It’s not too late for any of us. Quick test: If you can’t recall the sequence of the British, American, French, and Russian revolutions without asking Google or Alexa, you need some help. (What years were the American Civil War? World War II?)

• Every time I see someone smack another person with their backpack I imagine that they have zero sensitivity to the world around them.

• If you want to meet someone, pay them a compliment, whether a restaurant manager, reporter, police chief, hospital administrator, etc.

• If you are eager to see a special play or performance, pay extra to get the really good seats. It does make a huge difference.

I tripped and fell heavily in my usual hair salon, now my former salon. No one attempted to help me up! One stylist, without missing her scissor cuts, asked from afar, “Are you okay?” The manager came over to see what the noise was, saw me on the floor, and simply walked back to the desk.

Once I got up, I decided to see if he would accept payment and my stylist accept his tip. They both did. For all they knew, I had a concussion, and was about to drive (my car was right in front of the shop). I wasn’t asked to sit down, given water, given ice, or provided with any other support. There was no apology.

The cause of my fall was that my stylist had carelessly allowed the hair dryer cord to wrap around the bottom of the chair and of the adjacent furniture, so that it had become a taut “trip wire” about four inches off the floor.

So, no apology. I wrote directly to the salon owner, told him what happened, and explained I could have him closed down for inspection. I could sue him. I could ruin his reputation. Two weeks later, no response.

I then did what we often do these days: I went to the internet. I wrote a blog and a tweet. I suggested that it wouldn’t be a surprise if the staff allowed a plugged-in hair dryer to fall into the sink during a shampoo, given the lackadaisical attitude. I also posted three negative reviews with explanation on sites such as Yelp.

Three days after that, the manager sent a written apology with a refund of fee and tip (which I contributed to the Animal Protection League).

The salon owner has an excellent reputation as a stylist, but he’s a pretty awful businessman. The apology stated that the staff has since been trained in improved safety measures.

But it’s the owner who needs the real improvement.

If someone is treated poorly, or unsafely, or disrespectfully (shades of Starbucks) err on the side of too much attention. No one I know of has ever complained that a business was overly concerned about his or her well-being.

I was listening to Robert De Niro’s scabrous invective directed at President Trump when he took the stage at the Tony Awards, ostensibly to introduce Bruce Springsteen and his honorary Tony, which he eventually got around to after his attack. I’m all for free speech, but I’m also for civility. I believe the president is often uncivil and rude, but I don’t believe you descend to that level to combat it.

And, of somewhat major import, De Niro’s diatribe dishonored Springsteen, who was there to be accorded a great tribute, not to serve as the premise for someone else’s harsh political polemic.

This was an egregious example, but I see it frequently. Many years ago, a woman who was a very good speaker but not in the upper echelons of the profession was asked to introduce a quite famous speaker. She decided to take the occasion to deliver a four-minute, “mini keynote” which featured her speaking skills. While, again, ostensibly introducing the person we had taken our seats to hear, she in fact delivered her own material so as to attempt to “wow” the audience.

Once the novelty of her approach was absorbed, everyone started doing this. I had to tell people introducing me to read, verbatim, the 30-second introduction I gave them, and then eliminated the introducer altogether. (Before one memorable keynote, at the morning rehearsal, I had worn jeans and hadn’t shaved yet. My introducer was done up like a donut up on stage getting accustomed to the lighting. I was asked which one of us was actually speaking. I replied, “I guess I’m harder to introduce than I am to listen to!”)

We’ve all heard these self-absorbed, never-ending introductions. Attending an award ceremony for Robert Redford, I had to suffer through a 20-minute introduction by no less a personage than the Tony-winning, outstanding playwright, Tony Kushner. Perhaps he became confused and began to read his next play.

Whether at a school board meeting, the Rotary, the chamber of commerce, a keynote, or an informal session, if our job is to introduce—which means to make someone “known”—we should tend to it crisply and with brevity. And we should make sure we limit our own introductions.

Frankly, the longer the intro, the more suspicious I get.

I'm departing San Francisco for Honolulu last month on the new United “business first.” (It can’t compared to first, which they’ve discontinued.) I notice that my right armrest, under the window, is depressed and won’t come up to arm level! I try everything and finally ask the flight attendant.

He tried everything, convinced there’s a button on the submerged arm rest. He goes online and it doesn’t help. So he calls another flight attendant, who asks me to stand in the aisle while the two of them try brute force.

Nothing. They promise they’ll “do something for me,” but I remind them the booze is already free!

Five minutes later, having consulted some thick books, they return and one pulls my arm rest down from behind my shoulder. “So sorry,” he says, “but below you is not the armrest. The armrest is behind you.”

We all laughed, but I was wondering if the pilot goes through that same sequence if he has to lower the landing gear.

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Expressly for those who have no partner at home or a partner who is uninterested in your work. I’ve helped thousands of people with this lack of intimate support, and now I’m doing it “cabaret style,” with food and drink in my suite in New York. Join us in a relaxing atmosphere to find out how best to create a support system. Let’s talk.

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Balancing Act® is a monthly electronic newsletter discussing the blending of life, work, and relationships, based on the popular Balancing Act workshops and writing of Alan Weiss, Ph.D. Contact us for further information at: [email protected].
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© Alan Weiss 2018

Balancing Act® is our registered trademark. You are encouraged to share the contents with others with appropriate attribution. Please use the ® whenever the phrase "Balancing Act" is used in connection with this newsletter or our workshops.


See Writing on the Wall, featuring Koufax the Wonder Dog.





I’ve always thought that people who avoid eye contact have something to hide. 

Alan Weiss