The Person I Don’t Want to Be …

This is the time of year that is rife with resolutions, and in that spirit, the contrarian in me drew up a list for the person I don’t want to be. The list covers a wide range of silly and serious, with some of my picks being aspirational. I can honk with the best of them, I too often finish people’s sentences, and my cell phone is my fifth appendage. Still, it is good to look inward, and establish some stretch goals.

The person I don’t want to be …

Stands in express checkout with 15 cans of tomato sauce, claiming it is only one item, and then still exceeds the “15 items limit” by a big amount. The underlying assumption? My time matters to me more than it does to the people behind me.

Sits on her horn, creating noise pollution and irritating other drivers. Typical root cause is that the car in front has not budged after the light has changed. Sometimes, the delayed car is the result of someone texting, oblivious to the green light.

Does not pick up her dog’s poop. This failing belongs in one of Dante’s circles of hell and is inexcusable. We should clean up our mess whether it is dog related or something more figurative, rather than relying on others to do our dirty work.

Forgets to look at you while either talking or listening because the screen in her hand is too addicting. Most of us intellectually know that communication has a large visual component, so this one requires curbing our addiction.

Lives in an echo chamber with like-minded individuals. Exploring a diverse range of views can be very uncomfortable, but the upside is that we’ve opened our mind and expanded a conversation. We’ve also shown some humility in the process.

Ghosts people. Whether this is due to avoiding confrontation, or simply forgetting that an interaction needs tending to, the problem with ghosting is that we have completely discounted someone. This is cruel and not how we want to be treated. Even if the communication will cause pain and sorrow, closure is helpful.

Sees only gray or never sees gray. That is to say everything is either pablum or strident sounding. The dance of recognizing the complexity of issues while still having standards is delicate.

Forgets how humor can heal. Importantly, this includes being able to laugh at oneself. Oh we’ve grown so serious these days.

Finishes people’s sentences. The perpetrator here has a mix of hubris and impatience. Do we really know the conclusion of someone’s thought, and if so, shouldn’t that person have the pleasure of saying it?

Asks how you are and then directly proceeds to discuss herself: In other words, the question, “How are you?” was only an obligatory preamble to the monologue.

Cannot apologize. Why is it so hard to own our mistakes and ‘fess up? Isn’t fallibility what makes us human? For the receiver, a sincere apology is worth one thousand hugs.

Lacks generosity. For many, our most precious resource is time. For others it is dollars. Small acts can matter in big ways, so we need to find them. An example I have recently experienced as a new author is people’s willingness to buy my book when attending a talk. It is much less about the money and more about feeling validated. I spent time on something people care about. Kudos to those showing me support, and I will pay it forward. After all, there are countless ways to be generous if we take the time to open our eyes and heart.

I can summarize all my resolutions into one phrase: Attitude Adjustment. I suspect I am like most people — pressed for time, carrying a long to-do list, and anxious on many levels, all of which conspire against me being the best I can be.

So I will aim to be more generous in acts small and large (but mostly small). I will seek to be more aware, more open-minded, and just like in the game of tennis, I will seek to play loose because then my best game will show up.

Jill Ebstein is the editor of the “At My Pace” series of books and the founder of Sized Right Marketing, a Newton, Massachusetts consulting firm. She wrote this for