Halt Harmful Habits Now!

You think these quirks are harmless, but they might be preventing you from becoming the best version of yourself. Nix them in 2013!

We’re not talking about the usual suspects like smoking and living the couch potato life. We’re talking about things that you might think are just harmless little quirks, but which may stop you from being the best you can be.

Read on to find out what they are, and how to nix them.[nextpage]

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You’ve Developed Uhm-titis.

It happens even to the best of us: We’re in the middle of a well-prepared presentation when we go “uhm...you see, ah...” These verbal crutches can make you sound unsure of yourself, even when you do know what you’re talking about. They can hold you back from articulating those smart thoughts. Sayang naman.

“So, how do I, like, uhm, you know…stop?”
Stephen Eggleston, a public speaker and president and CEO of a US technology consultancy company, suggests an exercise:

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  • “Record yourself and listen for the ‘Uhm.’”
  • “Practice, listen, practice, listen... Repeat what you said, replacing the crutches with silence… A slight pause in your words is a great tool.”

Too tedious? Maybe. But it will be worth it when you see the impressed looks on your listeners’ faces.[nextpage]

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You Apologize For Everything

A real man knows how to say “I’m sorry.” A real woman, apparently, knows too well. Women often issue unwarranted apologies. Marin, 33, often says “Sorry, but can we consider…” when proposing ideas contrary to what others suggest.  Pat, 26, uses the S word before innocuous questions (“Sorry...sa’n ang Legazpi?”).

This seems harmless, but Linda Sapadin, PhD, author of Master Your Fears: How to Triumph Over Your Worries and Get On with Your Life says, “By taking responsibility for things that aren’t your fault, you denigrate your self-esteem.”

Think about it: when Marin apologizes before expressing her opinion, isn’t she indirectly saying she’s wrong to disagree with others?  When Pat says “Sorry” before asking for directions, isn’t it like saying she shouldn’t ask for help?

“I’m sorry, but..can you tell me how to stop saying sorry?” 

  •  Excuse you. Linguistics professor at Georgetown University Deborah Tannen, PhD, says, “Women are accustomed to using apologies in a social way…” Oftentimes, we use “sorry” as a social nicety, i.e. before asking questions on direction or time. Next time, replace “sorry” with “excuse me.” You still come off as courteous without saying sorry.
  • Memo to self: Not everything is my fault. In a conflict, ask yourself, “What do I know to be true about this situation?” suggests Helene Brenner, PhD, author of I Know I’m in There Somewhere. Don’t apologize if you honestly think you’re not at fault.
  • Get a “sorry” buddy. Strike a “sorry deal” with a friend you’re often with. Create consequences and make it interesting: say, five pesos for every wayward apology until it adds up to coffee for your friend, on you. [nextpage]
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Switch Off the Put-Off.

We all procrastinate at some point. If it’s a sporadic attack of the lazy bones, you’re entitled. But habitually putting things off may indicate a deeper problem. “I went for years not finishing anything… when you finish something, you can be judged,” says Erica Jong, author of Fear of Flying. Mark Goulston, M.D, who penned Get Out of Your Own Way At Work, adds, “At its core, procrastination is not merely putting off doing something, it is putting off making a decision.”

“I will stop procrastinating…once I figure out how.”

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  • Break it down. Often we procrastinate because a project seems so overwhelming. Slice it down into specific tasks.
  • Take it easy. Goulston suggests selecting just the top two tasks on something you’ve been procrastinating on. Too many tasks on your to-do list may overwhelm you.
  • Cross something off your to-do list everyday. If you’re busy, choose something easy, like a quick online look-see on that masteral program you’ve been wanting to take. [nextpage]

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You Can't Take a Compliment

So says Patricia Farrell, PhD, in How To Be Your Own Therapist. We think that acknowledging our positives makes us mayabang. So we turn to self-deprecation.

Mitch, 28, does this well. When praised for her alabaster complexion, she says, "Anemic ako, kaya maputla.” When she won an award at work for introducing a new system, she said, “Si Ma’am  ang nag-isip ’nun, ginawa ko lang.”

But our efforts to remain humble may backfire on us. “The messages we receive about ourselves, both from ourselves and others, can have a major impact on our confidence,” Martin Perry, author of The Confidence Booster Work-out, says. If we keep giving ourselves negative feedback, we will eventually believe it.

“Okay, okay, I’m pretty unsure I can stop. Tell me how?” 

  •  Accept the love. Perry recommends asking a close friend to write what he calls “confidence messages,” which should tell you what that person thinks is good (or great) about you. Read it often.
  • Mentally, stroke yourself. In The Babe Bible, Anita Naik suggests giving yourself five compliments a day. You’ll eventually see it’s okay to own your personal ganda points. [nextpage]

You’re Guilty By Default.

We’ve all felt guilty. But how often is it justified? Inah, 32, feels guilty when she “makes” her team work overtime, even though deadlines are not up to her. When she makes after-work plans, Lisa, 24, gets all guilty because she can’t bring Kaye, her neighbor, home.

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Guilt can have some serious consequences. “When you do things out of guilt, you can run into all kinds of walls,” Goulston writes. “You may have trouble saying no and overcommit... you may feel slightly paranoid...you may obsess about your mistakes.”

“Guilty as charged. How do I stop?”

  • Do unto yourself what you would do to others. If a friend felt guilty for having a lighter workload than her seatmate, you’d tell her, “It’s not your fault.” Do yourself the same favor.
  • See the boundaries. Al Dorskind, former top executive at MCA, said this about having to fire non-performing employees: “Why should I feel guilty? I’m not the one who did something wrong. They weren’t performing... People can feel hurt and it doesn’t mean you’ve hurt them.”


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