All You’ve Got

“Don’t compromise yourself. You are all
you’ve got.” — Janis Joplin

Adjust to people and circumstances without compromising your
values, beliefs, personal style, position, or self-perceived status. You don’t
expect others to adjust to or accommodate to you, unnecessarily,
inappropriately, or unilaterally. You remain who you are regardless of who is
present or the specific situation but intentionally adjust your behavior and
demeanor so that others can perceive and relate to you in positive and useful
ways. In this way, you avoid any extraneous emotional or social clutter, thus
maximizing the opportunity available with each person and in each situation.

Who You Are

“Assertiveness is not what you do, it’s who
you are!” — Cal
Le Mon

Don’t let people take advantage of you. The issue here is
twofold. First, an unfortunate element of human nature is that letting people
take advantage of you encourages them to repeat the behavior in the future. The
more people take advantage of you, the more people will take advantage of you.

Second, being taken advantage of evokes anger, frustration,
resentment, and related energy draining emotions and feelings. Along with being
unpleasant, these emotions and feelings are unproductive and divert attention
and energy from cognitive processes and especially from intuitive processes.
The manifest cost of being taken advantage of is apparent but the hidden cost
to one’s intuitive capacity is even more disabling. For you, the bill
associated with letting people take advantage is quite simply too high.

Bridges To Cross and Bridges To Burn

“Pick battles big enough to matter, small
enough to win.” — Jonathan Kozol

In the realm of life’s little lessons, this seems axiomatic. The
problem is that many of the battles that are big enough to matter aren’t small
enough to win; and those that are small enough to win tend not to matter. The
challenge is in knowing when to fight and when to walk away. Kozol’s advice is
to fight if the outcome matters and you can win, otherwise walk away. Although
this is certainly a practical approach to self-preservation, it’s also a clear
cop out. There are battles that matter way too much to avoid, even though
winning is far from certain.

The more important lesson may be in David Russell’s observation,
“The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to
burn.” Life is full of conflicts and tensions, battles large and small, bridges
to cross and bridges to burn. Life is a journey; and usually, when it isn’t
working out, you can change direction, back up and start again, and generally
change your plans. Now and then, though, the bridge has burned and there is no
turning back, nothing to do but live with the choices you have made.

No, there isn’t an easy way to know when to cross that bridge
and when to let it burn, when to be decisive and when to equivocate, when to
hold back and when to make an irreversible choice. However, there are questions
that you can ask and answer before choosing.

1. “Am I burning any bridges by making this choice?”

2. “Are the bridges being burned ones over which I may want to
cross again?”

3. “If I cannot cross a bridge again, what will I do instead, if
the time comes when doing something else is necessary?”

4. “If I cross this bridge, how will I handle it, if things
don’t work out as I hope they will?”

5. “How will I be worse off if I neither cross the bridge ahead
of me nor burn the one behind me, including the lost opportunity cost?”

So, you have asked the questions. You have answered the questions.
What next? Stand up straight, take a deep breath, and deal with that bridge.
Cross it; burn it; take a different road; but whatever you choose, don’t forget
the old Chinese proverb, “Talk doesn’t cook rice.”

The Decisive Factor

“The direction of a man’s thought is always
the decisive factor in his personality. His whole outer life will be determined
by the inward inclination of his mind.” — Erich Sauer

You are firm, decisive, and definitely not wishy-washy. At the
same time, you are neither rigid nor inflexible. Rather, you are open,
receptive, and accommodating while remaining clear and steady about your views,
opinions, ideas, intentions, and beliefs.

Letting Others Become

“That I may care enough to love enough to
share enough to let others become what they can be.” — from John O’Brien

How do you do this at home, at work, and in the context of your
other important relationships? Consider the following strategies. They may or
may not work for you; but they are definitely worth considering.

Cooperation: Emphasize a helpful, supportive approach to all of
your relationships and activities with other people.

Bertrand Russell said, “The only thing that will redeem mankind
is cooperation.” You likely will want to set your sights a little less grandly
than redeeming mankind; but you nonetheless get the idea. Cooperation is
definitely the way to go and helping others is one of the best ways to get
there. What’s more, Charles Dudley promises added benefits for you if you are
helpful and supportive with other people, “It is one of the beautiful
compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another
without helping himself.” Now, that certainly sounds like the real deal, don’t
you think?

Loyalty: Emphasize accommodating to the special needs and
interests of people and facilitating the resolution of problems.

It’s easy here to see how that benefits other people which, of
course, is the point. At the same time, though, you also benefit. Jean-Jacques
Rousseau said, “The most absolute authority is that which penetrates into a
man’s innermost being and concerns itself no less with his will than with his
actions.” Sure, if you accommodate to other people and help them work things
out, you will feel better about who you are and what you do. It’s like Josiah
Royce pointed out, “Unless you can find some sort of loyalty, you cannot find
unity and peace in your active living.”

Caring: Emphasize concern for and interest in the activities,
successes, and problems of other people.

Maxwell Maltz expressed it this way, “Take the trouble to stop
and think of the other person’s feelings, his viewpoints, his desires and
needs. Think more of what the other fellow wants, and how he must feel.” The
message is simple. Take time to care; and remember Fred A. Allen’s words, “It
is probably not love that makes the world go around, but rather those mutually
supportive alliances through which partners recognize their dependence on each
other for the achievement of shared and private goals.”

Sharing: Emphasize talking with other people, reciprocal
assistance, and mutual problem solving.

As you think about this, a developing theme may bubble up into
your consciousness. Listen to the message from Seneca, “He that does good to
another does good also to himself.” If you don’t quite hear it yet, let Samuel
Smiles say it again, “The duty of helping one’s self in the highest sense
involves the helping of one’s neighbors.”

Respect: Emphasize acceptance of other people’s beliefs and
values, receptivity to their thoughts and ideas, and sensitivity to their
feelings and interests.

This is a simple principle that Laurence Sterne stated most
succinctly, “Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides
our manners.” The underlying message was also delivered by U. Thant, “Every
human being, of whatever origin, of whatever station, deserves respect. We must
each respect others even as we respect ourselves.”

Trust: Emphasize giving other people the benefit of the doubt
without blaming, accusing, or threatening.

George MacDonald’s observation, “To be trusted is a greater compliment
than to be loved,” may or may not be true for you. Still, trusting others is a
gift you can give to people to let them know that they are valued. At the same
time, Shakti Gawain reiterates the “What helps other people helps you,” theme,
“When I’m trusting and being myself … everything in my life reflects this by
falling into place easily, often miraculously.”

Integrity: Emphasize keeping commitments to and agreements made
with other people.

Samuel Johnson said, “There can be no friendship without
confidence, and no confidence without integrity.” Johnson’s message is clear:
no integrity — no confidence — no friendship. The principle is easy; but the
reality needs your careful attention. Titus Livius said, “Men’s minds are
too ready to excuse guilt in themselves.” It’s just like J.R. Ewing from
the old TV show “Dallas”
said, “Once integrity goes, the rest is a piece of cake.” The take
home message here comes from Socrates, “Be as you wish to seem.”

Conflict Resolution: Emphasize identifying, understanding, and
working through conflicts and tensions people experience with you or with each

As you give this strategy your best effort, it helps to realize
that Pierre Beaumarchais was right, “It is not necessary to understand
things in order to argue about them.” This lets you know that reason
usually isn’t going to resolve the conflict. If not reason, then what? Seneca
found what is likely the essence of conflict resolution, “There is nothing
so disagreeable, that a patient mind cannot find some solace for it.” A
bit of solace and a lot of patience really does go a long way toward calming most
heated situations. Getting everyone’s attention and quoting Vernon Howard might
be slightly over the top, “We must become acquainted with our emotional
household: we must see our feelings as they actually are, not as we assume they
are. This breaks their hypnotic and damaging hold on us;” but your keeping Howard’s
point in mind certainly can’t hurt. Along with that, two additional grains of
wisdom will add to your odds of success. First, Andre Maurois said, “The
difficult part in an argument is not to defend one’s opinion, but rather to
know it.” If you combine that with the words of Elbert Hubbard, you may
not be on the exact, right track; but you are headed in the right direction,
“What people need and what they want may be very different.” Now you know and
there you go.