My New Year’s Resolutions

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My New Year’s resolutions are the same every year. I have two.

The first is never to be annoyed at the bad manners of others. I know, I know; it’s impossible to keep. But it gives me the right attitude. If I find myself getting annoyed, I work on not being annoyed. The chances of correcting someone else’s bad manners are always slim at best, but if you’re annoyed, they’re zero.

If someone cuts you off in traffic and you think, “I’ll teach you!” and you speed up and cut them off, the chances of you teaching them anything are nil, and you might end up dead. Any parent who says to a child, “I’ll teach you!” is not imagining any form of erudication. They’re only going to make matters worse.

If, on the other hand, I focus on not being annoyed, I’m going to be a lot better off and there’s even a chance I can improve the offender’s behavior through the power of humor.

For part of the time I worked at Yankee Candle, I had a terrible boss, which was unusual at Yankee. Not surprisingly it was because they had made an exception to their rule of always promoting from within. The company really wanted this guy’s wife to run their fitness center, so they agreed to bring him in as a manager. He pissed off everybody, not just me, and eventually he was fired.

But while I worked for him, he used to get to me. Then I learned to keep my mouth shut and go home and take a 20-mile bike ride. After ten miles, my terrible boss was no longer annoying. He was funny. After twenty miles, he was hilarious. Then when I went back in to work, he could tell I was on the verge of breaking out laughing, and he’d leave me alone. No one likes being laughed at.

My second resolution is never to claim to know the answer to other people’s problems. There are a few exceptions to this, like, “Car won’t shift out of Park? Try putting your foot on the brake,” or “Computer’s dead? Try plugging it in,” but generally, it’s obnoxious.

I was married, briefly, many years ago, and when I talked to my unmarried brother about marital difficulties, he would say, “Just say (whatever it was).” It wasn’t helpful.

When you blithely spit out a simple solution to someone’s problems, you’re strongly suggesting that they’re stupid, and there are lots of alternatives that are more polite and constructive.