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Op/Ed

How to sound smart when you feel dumb

Oh, the things we do to save face. In all kinds of situations, but especially at work, we often avoid asking for help or advice for fear of seeming stupid. But a new study gives us some surprising advice that makes you look smart.

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Oh, the things we do to save face. In all kinds of situations, but especially at work, we often avoid asking for help or advice for fear of seeming stupid. If you are new to a job, you may be very cautious about making a bad impression or seeming under-qualified. If you’re the boss, you may be attached to presenting yourself as all-knowing, and as someone who doesn’t need help.

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Your fear is a time waster

Fear of sounding dumb can cause us to waste time trying to figure something out when we don’t have enough information or knowledge. Or, we make mistakes because we try to complete a task that we don’t really know how to do.

In the long run, this is going to make us look even dumber, as well as costing us valuable time and money. All because we were afraid of looking dumb in the first place.

About the study

Luckily, our fears may be unfounded. New York Magazine’s Science of Us series just released a video (below) about what happens when we ask for advice. Scientists posed an experiment where 1000 participants were given a test of challenging brain teasers.

Participants were given the option to ask the advice of a partner who had already taken the test. Some participants were told that they could ask for advice without any repercussions, while others were told that their grade would be lowered if their partner thought they were stupid.

Only one third of the participants who had to worry that their partner might judge them poorly were willing to ask for advice. When the partner’s opinion was of no consequence, three-quarters of participants asked for advice.

“Cycle of circular ego-boosting”

This part of the study reveals what we already suspected – that fear of appearing stupid is a major obstacle to asking for advice.

In another part of the study, test-takers received a message from their partner before the test. Half of the time, the partner simply wished the participant good luck. The rest of the partners asked the test-taker for their advice.

Subjects were then asked to rate their partners.

Partners who had asked for advice were rated as more competent than those who didn’t.

Scientists believe that, when someone asks us for advice, it causes us to feel more intelligent, and that confidence boost makes us judge the person who asked for our advice more favorably, creating a “cycle of circular ego-boosting.”

Get respect (and help)

In other words, when you ask for advice, it doesn’t make you sound stupid. On the contrary, it makes it more likely that the person you are asking will find you to be even more intelligent.

So next time you feel clueless, ask for advice! Your coworkers will respect you all the more.

#SoundSmartWhenYouFeelDumb

Ellen Vessels is a Staff Writer at The Real Daily, and is respected for her wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when she's not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

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Op/Ed

A hugely dangerous challenge of the Internet of Things

(EDITORIAL) The Internet of Things is here, with all manner of soft AI voices and shiny Bluetooth bits. But how long can we count on it staying?

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So, robot apocalypse. The Internet of Things machines have their cold metal fingers all up in our data, our houses, our sand dunes and/or porn.

And for what? What do they offer in exchange for this unprecedented invasion of our day to day lives?

Seamless, user-friendly automation to help with a thousand daily tasks, demonstrably improving our quality of life.

That’s… that’s actually a pretty good offer! Nice work, robots.

It comes with catches, and we’ve covered those, but Day One bumps and blunders are part of owning tech. They generally get engineered out.

What I want to talk about is Day 100, or 1000. Because the important word in “Internet of Things” isn’t “Internet.” We have the Internet. We can confidently expect the Internet to continue being a big deal.

But “things” is an important word. Things are distinct from tech. With tech, buying the thing and futzing with the thing are part of the fun, especially for practicing nerds like your narrator. Tech is new, and the excitement of a new game or a new phone can take the edge off, say, a server crash or a quick trip to tech support and back.

What about things? No early adopter aura in history will get a customer to ignore a fridge full of rotten food. Fridges need to work, period. So does your thermostat and your car. All those things are charter candidates for the full IoT overhaul, and they’re all capital T Things, not tech. They aren’t shiny toys people can live without for a week or four. They’re expected parts of daily life, things that need to work on Day 1, 100, and 1000.

Are companies preparing for that? Are the startups rising out of the blue-light-white-plastic Stuff Renaissance prepared to rebrand as global service providers, doing the hard, unglamorous, absolutely necessary work of digital maintenance?

Bigger question: are they prepared to guarantee security while they do so? Because anything with digitized bits needs patches and updates to function, and if it can download patches and updates, it can download things that are not patches and updates. No one wants to chase a botnet out of their microwave. Are the companies invested in always-on Things standing up and saying they’ll take responsibility for indefinitely securing and maintaining the infrastructure they intend to profit from?

Short answer, no. They’re not. Operations departments tend to be vanishingly small, painfully understaffed, spectacularly underpaid. Let’s be real,: we don’t prioritize stuff like that. We’re talking the digital equivalent of the guy who chases the raccoons out of your HVAC, and that sounds entirely too much like work.

Maintenance is not sexy.

But it’s absolutely necessary. It’s generally just the beginning of a thing. It gets the wheel rolling, and that’s not to be undersold.

But the IoT wheel is most definitely rolling. The issue is keeping it in motion, making it a wifi-level universal usage standard, not a 3DTV fad.

That won’t get done in a meeting. That gets done through long term adoption, and long term adoption will be about attracting, training, and retaining people willing to do the hard work of maintenance and customer support.

The Internet of Things wants to be a major step forward in the infrastructure of daily life. I am incredibly in favor of that. But daily life works because it’s the full time job of a whole lot of people to make sure it does so. So to Internet of Things companies, I say – pay them, treat them well, make your organization the best place in the industry for them, or be left behind by the people who do.

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Op/Ed

Incorporating less stress into your work day

(WORKPLACE) Telling someone to chill when stressed at work is useless advice, so let’s discuss meaningful, tangible ways anyone can stress less at work.

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You can’t avoid all the stress of a job, whether you own your own business or work for someone. It’s important to deal with chronic stress. Long-term, stress will affect your immune system, causing you to get sick more often. It’s linked to heart disease, heart attacks, low fertility and many other health problems. It can make asthma and acid reflux much worse. You have to manage your stress.

How can you incorporate less stress into your work? I have dealt with anxiety all my life. Here are a few of my most effective solutions:

1. Set boundaries

No is a complete sentence. I know my priorities and have to make myself say no to even simple requests. I’ve learned that the less I explain, the more likely I’m going to stick to those boundaries. I can’t stop people from asking me to do something, but I can make sure that I’m getting my work in on time.

2. Don’t wait until the last minute

I’m a horrible example to follow, because I can procrastinate with the best of them. But I’ve found that when I work ahead of deadlines, I am far less stressed. I set imaginary deadlines for myself. If I miss it, I still have time to work. If I don’t, I sleep better because the project is done.

3. Get up away from your desk at least every 60 minutes

Just getting a fresh cup of coffee reminds me to stretch and move. Five minutes away from my screen can help me stay focused on the next project I need to finish. I also try to look away from the computer screen every 10/15 minutes. This reduces eye strain.

4. Leave your work on your desk

Okay, I’ll admit I read emails after hours, but very seldom do I act on them. I’m finding that I need to shut down at 5 or 6 in the afternoon and forget about work. We’re so connected these days that it can be difficult to separate. But you have to. Your family will thank you. Your sanity will thank you.

I’m sure there are more things you can do to relieve your stress. Get a massage. Exercise. Eat healthy. All those things your doctor tells you to do. But before you can practice self-care, you have to prioritize your time and deal with work stress.

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Op/Ed

4 questions to ask yourself every day to change your life

(EDITORIAL) Ask these four questions of yourself daily to improve your personal and business life in a meaningful way.

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introspection ask yourself

My therapist says that people who can be introspective usually get farther in life because of their adaptability. Merriam-Webster defines introspection as “an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings.”

It’s not easy to look deep into yourself, but it offers many benefits. Through introspection, you can see negative patterns in your life before they get out of control. You can define your own life on your own terms. And you can stop worrying about things you can’t control.

If you need help focusing your introspection, here are some of the questions to ask yourself to make sure you’re on the right track: 


What good shall I do this day? 


Ben Franklin asked himself this question every day as part of his daily routine. I think it’s a great way to remember that your life is about more than your responsibilities and duties. The good you do doesn’t have to be show-stopping. Sometimes, just buying someone a cup of coffee or remembering to stop and smile can make the day special for you and the other person.

Why am I feeling….?

When I get angry or resentful, I know that something is out line. Usually, it’s not because I’m really mad at the other person, I’m upset because I feel as if my boundaries are being infringed upon. Instead of destroying a relationship, I sort out my feelings and try to resolve the problem in peace.

Why am I choosing to do…?

In my family, we used to have a system where we’d give events a score on how much we wanted to do it. This was really helpful when everyone seemed to apprehensive. If we couldn’t get 10 points between all 4 of us, we probably shouldn’t go. (This only works with optional events.) It’s good to ask yourself why to remember you have options.

Who am I spending my time with?

If your friends and family aren’t validating, inspiring and helping you to do better, why are they in your life? It’s hard to breakup, but when people aren’t uplifting, consider minimizing your time with them. Don’t put up with people who drag you down.

Asking these four questions of yourself every day leads to a more introspective life which can improve not only your personal life, but your business life.

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