Saturday, March 18, 2006

Television can be hazardous to your wealth

I recently drove back to my home in upstate New York from a business trip to the Washington DC area and, for a change of pace, listened to a simulcast of CNN Headline News on my car’s satellite radio. Over the next couple of hours, I heard:

-Nancy Grace deep-sighing her way through a couple of recent true-crime stories, seemingly blaming everyone within 100 feet of these crimes, and angrily blasting guests who dared bring up piddling details like who did and didn’t actually break the law.
-An hour-long entertainment show whose host kept promising to tell us “why Paris Hilton’s 15 minutes of fame were up” – with the answer ultimately being, well, because they said so.
-An interview with a quote-unquote Mafia expert on why Tony Soprano would make a lousy mobster in real life, because he is “too sensitive.”

What we’re all hearing on television these days may be entertaining, but at another level I feel it is pure, unadulterated poison to being successful in your own life.

Why? Because psychologists tell us that we often “model” what we see around us in our own behavior. And when you feed on a steady diet of watching Bill O’Reilly interrupt and talk over his guests, or Sean Hannity scream about people being traitors, or people like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter insult everyone who doesn’t share their political beliefs, you start to accept a level of incivility and divisiveness that, if you stop and think critically, has also gradually been creeping into our lives and workplaces.

In my own books and training courses, I devote a lot of attention on how to speak to another person’s interest, in ways that ultimately benefit you as well as them. This style of communication will never get me a gig on a major television talk show, but it creates more happiness on a day-to-day basis than you can possibly imagine. And when I see entire groups of people speaking and interacting that way, with customers and with each other, the results are nothing short of magical.

More important, the people who know how to connect with others are often the ones who succeed in life, while the ones who mimic their favorite TV hosts tend to stay mired in hard feelings and limited opportunities – which, of course, they never understand because in their minds, it’s all someone else’s fault. And in a sense they are right, because the most highly-rated media figures seem to fail miserably as role models for success.

So, turn off your television once in a while – curl up with a good book (I can recommend at least one :) – and look thoughtfully at what you say to each other. The results can change your life.

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