How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People 3/3

Continued from the previous article

So believing that you’re right in what you’re saying is what is causing you to lose friends and infuriate people. Maybe you’ve unfriended people when you believe you’re right. What are you basing that on…science? There’s a lot of talk on all sides of the political spectrum right now about using science with COVID-19. What is science? Who says science is right? Again, let’s use that same example. Science suggested that the world is flat, that there was an edge. Science later changed to reveal the fact that it’s not. So what was true at one point, according to science, is no longer true. Some other time, science has proven throughout history to be fluid. There is no hard and fast factual, consistent entity that you know of on the planet; it just doesn’t exist. The universe is still growing. It’s still expanding. 

The sun and our world might be shrinking, but the universe is getting bigger.

Our world may be shrinking. Our sun may be shrinking. We don’t know. I mean, global warming has been happening for the last 10,000 years, since the last ice age. Are humans contributing to the warming of the world’s climate? Probably. Yes. I don’t know. People would turn around and say, what does science say? Well, which part of science are you talking about? And from whose perspective? One doctor will tell you that drinking coffee is great for you; another doctor will tell you it’s bad for you. One doctor will tell you to actually go running, and work out and exercise. Another doctor will tell you that it only goes so far, because you actually need to eat less. So who can believe science anymore? There are so many different perspectives and opinions. There is no one actual result. If you believe you’re right based on science, then again, you’re not being empathetic. You’re not listening. And your opinion and perspective based on that science might actually be proven different later on by somebody else. 

We can’t actually believe that we’re absolutely, wholeheartedly right. However, you can believe that you could be right, and make a choice as to what you choose to believe in. It is always a choice. We all believe in something, whether we acknowledge it or not, but it is always going to be a choice. So here’s the thing about believing that you’re right. It’s okay to adjust your perspective in your opinion, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, you will probably garner more respect from other people. If you listen, if you consider other people’s perspective and opinions, you empathize with them. And then you consider the choices of what you believe in. And if it means that what you’ve stood for for decades is no longer the case, then fine, good for you. Well done.

But if you dig your heels in…

But if you just dig your heels in without listening to other people’s perspectives and opinions, without any consideration whatsoever of alternatives, then that’s how you lose friends and infuriate people. 

And the third thing is hiding. It’s very easy in today’s society to hide behind two things. Number one, we hide from conversations. And when I say a conversation, I mean with another person, not online. That’s not with a person, that’s through technology. You’re not having a conversation, you’re just blasting out opinions and perspectives. Have an actual conversation, preferably in person. If you can’t meet over coffee, as two individuals, six feet apart, then you know what? Get on the phone or some other device using today’s technology. You can actually use video, chat, FaceTime, or a multitude of other technological apps and programs where you can still see each other. And it’s important to actually see somebody else when you’re having a conversation. 

But if you’re using a platform where you can just type on a keyboard and share a thought, that is hiding from a conversation.  There is so much more to a conversation than just the words you say. Whoever you want to be online, you can choose to be, inventing a specific persona. And in addition, even if you don’t actually choose to be a certain persona online, it is happening with or without your consent. You are presenting a persona online that may or may not reflect the real you, how you actually feel inside. Only when you are face to face with somebody will you actually temper emotions, hold things back, actually think about what you’re saying.

We’re actually getting very lazy.

As long as you’re not yelling or screaming; as long as you’re listening. So if you want to lose friends, if you want to infuriate people, then hide from the conversations, hide behind the social media. Try to actually socialize in real life, not through the media. Another thing that we’re hiding from is the effort that’s required to be human. We’re actually getting very lazy. It requires effort to talk to someone, to listen to somebody, to have a conversation. It requires effort because everything is done for us. These days, everything that we buy is there to make our lives easier. We are shying away from the effort of having a conversation. It’s simply too much effort to think, to actually listen and consider that “maybe I could be wrong.”

So we don’t bother. We’re hiding from the effort required to actually converse with people. So I recommend that you literally just call someone, pick up the phone, arrange a time where you can have a conversation in person or meet using technology. Video is best, so you can actually see each other. Classic Jabber, as you know, usually has up to six people conversing at a time (no more than six, because then it becomes very difficult to have one conversation at a time and for everyone to contribute). So meet up with people. Most places right now are beginning to open up, where you can meet one, two, or three other people in a socially-distanced circle around a table. You can even socially distance a meet-up in a park, where you can see people and converse. That’s how you gain friends.

We’re losing friends and infuriating each other because we’ve stopped listening, because we believe we’re right, and because we’re hiding. I do hope that you’ll take this seriously. That you’ll consider what we’re looking at today in society. And that you’ll actually start listening, that you believe that you could be right, but may be wrong as well, and that you no longer hide from having difficult conversations and making the effort to listen more than you talk. 

We’ve got some more fabulous episodes of Classic Jabber coming up soon, some more interviews. If you’d like to be interviewed, if you’d like to have a chat with me about classical music or everything surrounding it, then just let me know, send us an email. Contacting me on any of my social media pages is fine, or use my contact page.  In the meantime, have a listen to some previous episodes, jump all the way back, listen to some of the older episodes that you may have missed in the past. They’re quite fascinating. And who knows where we’re going to be in a year’s time from now. But what I can tell you is that classical music WILL be a part of people’s lives. And if that includes you, then great, wonderful, welcome. Let’s stay in touch.  Let’s build our friendship and let’s be nice people.

How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People 2/3

Continued from the previous article

That is actually what is happening – we are losing friends and infuriating people once close to us. That’s our current reality, and I’ve noticed there are patterns, three behaviors people are demonstrating without realizing they are losing friends as a result. (If they even care. That would be truly sad.)

But the reason that we’re losing each other, the reason we’re disconnecting, is because we are infuriating each other. The original title was how to lose friends and piss people off because we are really annoying each other right now. And of course, I’m not talking about absolutely everybody. There are exceptions, of course, but across the board, there is so much bad news. There is so much anger and yelling and shouting, or just sheer walking away.

Walking away doesn't solve anything. It's infuriating.

It’s pointless. There are no conversations happening right now. That’s an exaggeration; there are very, very few conversations happening. There’s yelling and screaming from a soap box and I’m saddened that people are not open to hearing anything else. So, what are these three behaviors that I’ve noticed on how people are losing their friends and infuriating other people? 

Well, the first thing is that we stop listening. If you choose to actually stop listening to anything, then you’re going to lose friends. You’re going to infuriate people. And of course, there’s a big difference between listening and hearing. This is a big theme in my life. It’s something that I’ve been sharing all along. I just recently spoke to George Marriner Maull. It’s something that he taught me when I was a teenager; hearing is not the same as listening. Hearing means that there is sound going into your ears, and that there’s something going on. Listening means you now take that sound and internalize it.

There is a difference between hearing and listening

You’ll actually create thoughts of some kind. Maybe even if you’re lucky, goosebumps, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that there is a difference between hearing something and actually listening. So when you’re talking, you cannot hear; you can’t even hear somebody else’s perspective when you’re talking, too. 

There’s a lot of news right now. I’m watching interviews, news programs, all that kind of stuff, with a huge amount of delays going on: communication delays, technological delays. And often, the hosts are talking over their guests. They can’t hear each other. How can anyone respond? It’s so frustrating to see that.

Yes, I’m going to use a cliche here, okay? Because all cliches are born in truth. And this one is so true. It’s unbelievable. You do have two ears and one mouth. Therefore, you should be listening twice as much as you talk. That’s hard to do. It’s really very hard to do. So when you’re talking, you cannot hear and you stop listening. But when you just hear something, as opposed to listening, you cannot be empathetic. Now, let’s get this clear about empathy. We’re not talking about sympathy, which is when you actually can identify with the same experience. You’ve had a very similar experience, and you can identify with that. You’ve been through it yourself. Empathy is a little different. It means that you can appreciate what the other person might be going through. That does not mean you have to agree with them. Empathy does not mean agreement. Empathy means understanding.

You understand the other person’s perspective, whether or not you agree or disagree with it. But if you’re just hearing noise, if you’re just hearing somebody talking, and not listening, you’re not internalizing it. You’re not thinking about it. You cannot be empathetic. Therefore, you have to be perfectly honest. If you are not willing to understand the perspective of the other person, then you’ve got no right to share your opinion. You’ve got no right to share your perspective or your judgment. Empathy is absolutely essential to any comprehensive sane, normal human discourse. 

What can you do?

If you have stopped listening, if you do find yourself in a situation where you’re not listening or other people are not listening, then what can you do? Well, obviously listen, internalize, think about it. But the way you can do this physically is to start deliberately asking more questions; keep asking questions. After a while, you may find yourself just hearing noise again, as opposed to listening. There’s a lot, but it’s the best way to actually avoid losing friends. Ask them questions and let them respond. Listen, internalize. Think about what they’re saying and then find that empathy. 

So that’s the first thing. The second thing that I’ve noticed as to how people lose friends and infuriate people is because they believe they’re right. Well, of course, Stephen, what do you expect? Well, here’s the issue with believing that you’re right. And again, this does hark back to the “Righteous Mind” (Jonathan Haidt). You may not be right, there is always a possibility that for somebody, somewhere on the planet, what you’re saying is not actually helpful. What I recommend is that you believe that you could be right. It’s not necessarily a fact. And we’ve seen things in opinions and perspectives change over time. If you met somebody today who absolutely insisted that the world is flat,  you’d call them out.

You’d think, where have they been for the last 500 years? Well, they haven’t lived for 500 years, and neither have you. But, if you come across somebody who’s absolutely convinced the world is flat, that there are edges, that we go so far and then it just drops off, that it is not a continuous circle or a globe, you wouldn’t get upset. You’d just stop listening. But they’re convinced that they’re right. What if you actually think that you could be right, that the world is flat? Well, then you’re open to looking at other perspectives, other opinions that may suggest it’s not flat.

Read more in part 3, coming soon.

How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People 1/3

I’ve noticed recently that fewer and fewer people are having conversations with each other.

It’s a problem.

So permit me to tackle it as one, small, impacting voice.

How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People

Usually, my musings about life, the universe, and everything are done in a small group enjoying breakfast which is then recorded and shared via my classical music podcast, Classic Jabber. 

On this topic, though, I went solo. 


Well, I’ve had some people who listen to my podcast say, “Where’s the classical music?” After all, they know how passionate I am about it, and that I desire to see the world become a better place through more accessible, inclusive and appealing live concerts (the ones without artificial amplification, that is).

But there’s more to music than music. 

Many performers have spent a lot of time, probably even decades, working on their craft, talking about the specific details, but because there is more to music than just the music, I like to talk about everything else.

Because very few people do.

Topics such as: for the human race, what is music? How does it affect us? How can we present it? How can we do it better? How can we share it with others? And what are people’s perspectives of it? Why is classical music, particularly, no longer part of everyday life, as much as it used to be, and so on. All of these topics contribute to the discussions that happen when I meet with my friends for breakfast.

But since we have been prevented from meeting for meals in groups like that, it seems society at large is losing the ability to converse. Maybe our ability to have discussions with each other has been deteriorating over time without my noticing because I make a concerted effort to keep listening and talking. Maybe it is as sudden as it seems. 

It just looks and feels like there is a lot of shouting going on. 

Everyone seems to be on the defense all the time, because they feel attacked. There’s a lot of pushing and shoving and anger being expressed. 

It doesn’t feel good, and an increasing number of folks around me are unsettled by the fact that a lot of people in the world are yelling, screaming, shouting, and stamping their feet, and are no longer communicating. There is often good cause to let off steam, but that’s a whole different discussion.

If you have read “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt, then you understand what it is we’re talking about: that people seem to have this thing that they are absolutely, unequivocally, irreducibly right. Their perspective and opinion is the only one that matters, and boom! you had better darn well believe it. 

Well, that’s not a society. 

That’s not a community. 

And you cannot have classical music in an environment where there is no society or community. You’ve got to have other people participate in music because it’s a form of communication. 

Most people view music as the language of emotions, a way to express emotions. It’s a way to share emotions. It’s a way to help other people understand their emotions. It is a fundamental form of communication between human beings that doesn’t require words or symbols. But the point is, you actually need at least two people in order for music to mean anything. 

So with people literally pushing each other aside and just yelling and screaming and walking away, it’s very difficult, indeed, for any music to get out at all, let alone help people communicate. 

A lot of people are struggling

Yes, of course, we’re watching tons of stuff online, and you can listen any time you want to specific pieces of classical music. And although we know the in-person experience is very, very different to a recording of the same kind of music, you can still be affected by it. But a lot of people are struggling not having the in-person moments with music, including classical music. 

So we’re not communicating with each other right now using music, but what I’m noticing is that we’re also not communicating with each other generally, across the board.

So let’s address not so much that wonderful book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” but reflect what’s actually happening in the world today. And point out that we are losing friends. 

I have recently seen a number of people unfollow or unfriend each other on Facebook – friends who used to be best buddies and know each other well. But because of a new or particular ideology or expectation, they are choosing to no longer converse and be a part of each other’s lives. Instead, they are just pushing away everyone with a different worldview. It’s the opposite of what Dale Carnegie’s book was supposed to help with.

Which is where this topic comes from: “How to lose friends and infuriate people.”

Read more in part 2, coming soon.

Don’t forget emotional health!

One thing I’ve noticed throughout this pandemic is the emphasis on physical health and well-being.

Rightfully so.

And there’s even been cursory mention about behavioral health, too.


But nada, diddly-squat, niente about our emotional health.

There have been suggestions that because we have been isolated from each other and our loved ones and NOT dealing with our emotional status, that our responses to all the bad news, bad politics, bad violence has become far more exaggerated than it otherwise might have been.

As Pinellas County Commissioner Gerard said in a public COVID-19 response meeting this morning, “emotions are running high.”

This issue is fascinating to me because, if you have followed me for any length of time, you’ll know how much I respect Ravi Zacharias’ statement that music is the “language of the soul,” but that most of us see it more as the “language of emotions.”

So why does society continue to neglect it so much?

Especially now.

And here’s the kicker:

Music is the #2 increased activity

Also this morning Culture Track released the preliminary results of a survey they ran throughout the USA mid-April to mid-May, which attracted 124,000 respondents (making it probably the largest formal survey about culture, ever).*

Are you ready for their findings?

Interestingly, 653 arts organizations were represented by the 1/4 mil. respondents, the most coming from museums (336) and the performing arts (285). Only 25 arts schools or services were represented, 4 visual arts organizations, and 3 film, radio & TV orgs.

Nevertheless, 45% of respondents indicated they felt ‘bored’ or ‘less connected’ than before the pandemic began, and 54% wanted more connection and fun, with 53% miss ‘having fun’ the most.

During the 30 days previous to completing the survey, the NUMBER ONE ACTIVITY respondents were doing more of, was cooking.

The NUMBER TWO activity was music.

Yes, music.

More music – especially singing. Be it alone, with others online, or even with others while social distancing.

More people participated in more music activities than they did visual art, knitting, physical exercise, and so on.

60-68% of respondents had found value in online activity, too, including watching performances from before the pandemic, as well as live streamed performances.

Online workshops are most valued

But 68% (the top response) found value in online workshops, because they generated community, intimacy, connection, and learning, all together at the same time.

Thank goodness one of the organizations I work with has been delivering weekly and monthly workshops since March!

While 96% of respondents are looking to cultural organizations for emotional help, it’s fascinating that they observe only 1 in every 3 arts organizations actually doing any activity since events began to be cancelled.

But while almost everyone expects some help, only 13% have paid for digital content.


And I have to agree – it’s a problem.

Our own workshops have been free. Oh, sure – we’ve asked for donations, and one online festival we produced attracted over 5,000 viewers, but we received barely over a hundred bucks.

Overall, 31% of boomer respondents say they’ve lost income during the pandemic, whereas 44% of Gen Xers and Millennials have lost income. That’s nothing compared to 70% of the Gen Zers who say they’ve lost their income. But then again, that’s age 8-23 according to the survey, so I’ve no doubt their parents have lost pocket money income, or their part-time college temp jobs have disappeared.

How does THAT work?

So, if 96% of 124,000 people surveyed are looking to cultural organizations for emotional support (to laugh, relax, distract, escape and get a break, according to comments in the survey), yet only 13% are willing to pay for it, how does that work?

How are the organizations and the people who work for them who actually create and curate the content supposed to pay their bills?

It’s nice to think that arts for all might mean arts free for all, but no landlord or electricity company cares about that – they want their money because they have their own bills to pay, or they’ve already paid out and need to recoup.

I say, we musicians – pro and amateur – should stop giving away our direct emotional health and well-being services, in a similar way most behavioral health and physical health providers don’t provide their services for free, and CHARGE for how we help our society.

96% of society, it seems.

You are invited to share your own thoughts about music, the arts, and emotional health & well-being, but I expect you to retain dignity and integrity.

Might I suggest you take a look at my comments policy first…?

*Culture Track “Culture + Community in a Time of Crisis” published and accessed 7/7/2020

Out of the pan into the fire

There is much to worry about right now…

  • The spreading of a virus we have no treatment for or protection against, 
  • Economic upheaval,
  • Societal unrest,
  • Political alienation,
  • Unbelievable (literally) news and social media,
  • Coordinated violence against our own neighbors.

But what I want to share with you today is, actually, not much.

There are days I believe the world wants to hear my voice, my global perspective as an immigrant who has lived and performed in multiple cultures on multiple continents, my empathetic “gentle strength,” perhaps even advice.

But today is not one of those days. At least, not in any sort of upbeat, energetic, positivity-spinning “here’s a solution!” sort of way.

Why not?

Because I don’t have a solution right now.

I have plenty of ideas, certainly, and some confidence in ways we might overcome our current fears and concerns.

However, sometimes the voice we need is the one that simply says, “I’m here, and I’m listening.”

When I think about it carefully, that’s what my nearest and dearest have been saying to me over and over again, for decades. Close friends, loved ones, mentors, my really good business and performance coaches I come back to time and again.

These are the people who have enough space and strength to let me be who I am and let me do what I’m going to do, without interfering, without trying to change me, without quashing my own dreams and desires to help musicians ignite their passion and find the confidence to unleash spectacular performances.

And I want to reflect their precedent and say the same to you, to anyone who may be struggling or afraid or downright confused at this time:

I’m here. I’m listening.

Tell me your worries, your concerns, your fears, as well as your celebrations, in confidence. 

Let’s enjoy a virtual pot of tea, and send me an email. I’ll get back to you in a few days, just letting you know you’ve been heard, if that’s all that is needed.

We each contribute to making our community what it is. Let’s not let go of that responsibility. Together, let’s keep our community strong.

I do hope you continue to be cautious, caring, and optimistic as our society transitions from one crisis to another.

Be well, deliberately.

Exploit those fridge visits!

Have you found yourself visiting the fridge a little more often than usual, now you are stuck at home at lot more?

There are enough folk telling us what not to do… “Don’t this!” and “Don’t that!”

And there are lots of cartoons and memes making light of it.

But what if you could embrace those visits to grab a boredom snack instead?

Here are my top 5 reasons to exploit your extra visits to the kitchen:

1 – Enjoy one meal a day

That’s right. Instead of breakfast, lunch and dinner, how about just having a big breakfast? Or, as in the case today, Easter Monday, a large lunch of leftovers? The rest of the time you can snack. Your metabolism will thank you. The problem comes when we eat like we normally do AND throw in a few extra visits. One meal a day also means less cooking, prep, and washing up, too.

2 – Mix it up

One thing I’ve found is that denial sets in really quickly. Pretending that our bodies don’t need or crave sweet things, or the occasional manufactured food, is unrealistic. So, among the plums and pears, little bowls of blueberries and walnuts, it’s OK to grab half a cup of Life cereal (with or without milk), or some chocolate cookies. As my doc says: eat what you want, as long as you didn’t eat it yesterday.

3 – Walk it off

How many times did you walk up and down the stairs yesterday? Add two more trips today. Honestly, stairs provide the most amazing and easiest cardio exercise you could want, without needing a mask. No stairs? Walk around the house or the block once. Just once! Not because it’s healthy, but because you want to make room for that cup of tea and little snack you’re going to head for when you get back… as a reward. Actually, you might find yourself forgetting that particular trip to the fridge, so well done you!

4 – What’s new?

When approaching your fridge or pantry, keep your eyes open for something that’s new. Look for the sell-by date on everything you can get your hands on easily. If it’s at least next month, put that item at the back of the shelf and bring something else forward. That way, you get to use stuff up and also avoid having to throw away food you’d [conveniently] forgotten about.

5 – Give it a good scrub down

When was the last time that shelf had a good clean? On your next visit, just start taking everything out as you consider what’s immediately snack-worthy. Only leave it out until the shelf is absolutely empty! And while it’s got your attention, get one of those nearby handy disinfectant wipes and give it a good clean. Perhaps even change the liner if you have one. Then put everything back by sell-by date order.

There… you’ve actually EARNED a snack, now!

Happy exploiting those fridge visits 🙂