On the boundaries of what’s appropriate between male hosts and female guests

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At what point does an innocent obliviousness to social norms give way to inappropriate conduct? When do many small transgressions set against a backdrop of kindness necessitate speaking out, and when would that seem petty, entitled, ungrateful, uptight? These are the questions I found myself asking during my stay with Daniel (name changed for privacy) in Eilat, Israel.

For the record, I’ve had exactly 47 couch-surfing experiences. I’ve hosted 29 people, surfed with 12, and arranged to meet up with six people. In case you’re not familiar with couch surfing, it means that after reading the profiles of strangers living…


The Reciprocity Effect and how to use it to build relationships

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Earlier today, I was thinking of this guy I went to high school with. His name was Alejandro Jimenez, and everyone liked him. All the girls had crushes on him, and the guys loved being in his presence, too.

I went to a nerd school for math and science geeks, and the smartest kids were generally the most popular. But Alejandro wasn’t at the top of the class, and he also wasn’t muscular or tall or hunky in a traditional way. He was short and scrawny and had unkempt, bushy curls. …


The tiny behavioral nuances that determine how others treat you

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All my life, I’ve been ‘the perpetual listener’ in a majority of my relationships. Once I get past the initial reciprocal-questioning polite small talk phase with a potential friend or romantic partner, more often than not we lapse into a dynamic in which they talk 90% of the time and I talk 10% of the time, mostly to validate or show interest in whatever they’re saying.

I literally moved out of the country over this. When I first took a long trip overseas to live in a hippie backpacker community in India for a few months at age 21, I…


Don’t be afraid to be a fool

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In Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People, communication expert Vanessa Van Edwards writes the following anecdote to illustrate the inefficiency of faking a skillset one doesn’t have:

“Imagine it’s your dream to play professional basketball. You’re fast and have great ball-handling skills. You also happen to be six feet two inches tall. You have two choices: You could play center, but the average height of an NBA center is six feet eleven inches. If you went for center, you would have to fake your height by wearing lifts during games and spending a ton of extra hours after practice…


Love maps: the most underrated social hack

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A long time ago on an airplane, an attractive long-haired older stranger suggested a book to me: The Education of Little Tree. It was a whimsical, poignant story about the life of a Native American kid. I must have been about 11 or 12 years old when I read it, but one theme has stuck with me through the ripe old age of 31:

Love and understanding are the same thing.

The more you understand someone, the book said, the more you can love them. You cannot love without understanding. Understanding is the very fabric, the substance of love.

Eminent…


Work with your mind, not against it.

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“I’m too ADD to meditate.”
“I tried, but I wasn’t good at it.”
“I don’t have the right personality for meditation.”

In nearly ten years of a fascination with meditation that led me from college classes to monasteries in Nepal and ashrams in India to starting my own meditation groups in new cities, I’ve heard those three sentences more times than I care to count. Each one of them is based on a misinterpretation of meditation, 100% of the time.

Meditation is often not about ‘quieting the mind’ or ‘thinking about nothing’. A long attention span is in no way…


And how it is often a prerequisite for economic sustainability

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During my years as an online English teacher, I have watched one of the companies with whom I work go from an industry leader to scrambling to get by. Along the same timeline, language trainers went from very happy to be working with the company, to fed up, bitter and jaded.

I’d like to tell you a story. It’s a story of a company that prioritized economic growth while neglecting social sustainability, and the resultant fallout. It’s a story with a moral, so that your company can avoid making the mistakes ours did. …


…And how you can use them to fortify your relationships

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Psychologist John Gottman was troubled by the high failure rate of traditional couples counseling. Baffled, he spent many years gathering data and probing into the heart of why some marriages succeed and others fail. He can now predict with 91% accuracy whether any given couple will stay together or divorce, and has created a data-based framework for understanding and improving human relationships. Many of the concepts he has pioneered are relevant across all human relationships.

The basic unit, the atomic particle, of any human relationship is called a bid for connection. A bid is attempt from one person to another…


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As our world becomes more globalized and businesses reach across the sea to collaborate with an increasing quantity of foreign partners, business success often hinges on our ability to understand and effectively communicate with our colleagues abroad.

I want to do an experiment. Call to mind the attributes of a typical German person.

What did you think of?

Did you imagine someone punctual and direct, who isn’t very keen on small talk?

Great! Those are indeed attributes of many German people. …


How a simple technique could transform the world

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Although conflict is an inevitable part of the human experience, it is possible to transform it into a growth experience by arming oneself with cognitive, emotional, and practical tools that can aid in conflict resolution.

Mindfulness, an ancient Buddhist concept becoming more popular by the day among jungle hippies and high-status business executives alike, is rapidly becoming more and more prolific in the literature on conflict resolution.

The concept of mindfulness has changed substantially over time; it was originally rooted firmly within an ancient Buddhist ethical, philosophical, and cultural framework. …

The Clumsy Gypsy

Long-term low-budget nomad writing about travel mishaps and adventures, relationships, sharing economy, and whatever else strikes my fancy that day.

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