How to become a better person in one easy step--the red chair rule

I hate nearly all varieties and iterations of "self-help" books, lectures and seminars. "Becoming a better you" is rarely achieved through "four easy payments of $24.95." According to a slightly outdated Forbes article:
Americans spent $11 billion in 2008 on self-improvement books, CDs, seminars, coaching and stress-management programs–13.6% more than they did back in 2005, according to Marketdata Enterprises, an independent Tampa-based research firm that tracks everything from adoption agencies to funeral homes. Latest forecast: 6.2% annual growth through 2012.
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that most self-help strategies place one's self at the center--it is "self-help" after all. Slogans like "Listen to your heart" and "Think positively to achieve your dreams" predictably communicate that happiness is achieved through some sort of "inner will" and made the authors of these strategies millionaires. Also predictably, I think this is utterly asinine.

So I decided to come up with my own self-help strategy--a strategy that actually focuses on other people. The best part is, it's only one step and I GUARANTEE (or your money back) that it will actually make you a happier and "better" person.

Listen, REALLY listen to people.

Sounds simple right? But I bet you would be hard-pressed to name more than a handful of really good listeners in your life. When I'm at my "best", I listen to every word my wife says, and actually care what she is telling me. Think of the best bosses, coaches, friends, coworkers, etc you've every been around. I'd be willing to bet that the names that just popped into your head were all good listeners.

Now granted, this is extremely hard to do. I for one, love talking about...myself...To combat this, I've started to implement the "red chair rule", which is as follows. I have a red chair in my office. When someone sits in said red chair, the first and only question I'm allowed to start the conversation with is, "How are you?" It's actually really hard for me to remember to do this, but (I think) it's help me become a better listener and, hopefully, a better person.

So there you have it. Want to become a better person? Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on books and seminars, drive to Ikea and buy a red chair. I think it's actually a better investment.


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