“How are you?”

The question we all ask most often, that sits stale on our tongues and is received with numb ears and returns to us with an equally unoriginal response. We find it suitable for passing, as it’s been reduced to a courtesy rather than a conversation. It’s the most inquisitive we are usually willing to be.

Einstein once said, “I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious.” And it is this kind of passionate curiosity that allows us to learn; it’s the same practice seen in scientific research, in job interviews, in seeking a faith, on a first date. We cannot know answers until we ask questions.

But our society somewhat lost the art of asking questions when answers are google-able and social media reveals much of what we want to know. There seems to be little left to discover, and this attitude becomes especially problematic as we interact with the world and people around us; we become overly self-involved and lacking in curiosity.

Health care reform, abortion, immigration, US involvement in the Middle East, changes to marriage laws and religious freedoms.

These are examples of highly emotional issues that have been on the public agenda in America these past few years. It’s likely that you have an opinion on most of these topics. Some of your opinions may be stronger than others because the issue is more important to you.

Do you feel comfortable openly expressing your views on these issues? Or, do you remain silent when these topics are brought up and keep your opinions to yourself? If you fall into the second camp, are you looking for a way to find your voice when faced by opposition?

I can still remember standing in line for dinner at summer camp. My best friend and I had just met six other teenage strangers who we would share a cabin with. As our counselor had asked us to do, we’d gone around the circle to share our name and a few details with each other.

Standing in line for salad and lasagna I said rather brazenly, “Oh my gosh, how annoying was that girl sitting next to you!? Ugh. I can tell she wants to be our best friend, but no thanks. Couldn’t they find another cabin for her?”

I laughed, we agreed — and then I turned around.

Some people are energized when they enter a party, maintaining a posture of confidence as they approach each conversation. They remain self-assured and emboldened as they socialize throughout the evening. However, many people do not feel this sense of excitement when they approach large gatherings. Instead, a sense of insecurity and dread settles in at the mere thought of working the room at a party or business meeting.

Whether you are someone who is comfortable with large parties or someone who gets nervous at the thought of even attending one, we are wise to keep a few things in mind that are sure to help us work a room and intentionally connect with other people.

Social media allows us to share some of the deepest and most polarizing opinions with the push of a button. The ease of challenging others or upholding values while masked by an online identity is convenient, but such an environment could also lead us to miscommunicate, dehumanize others, or come across more harshly than we mean to. That’s why we need to ask the question: can our preference for online communicating hinder us when it comes to engaging in person on hotly-debated topics?

Having a round table discussion may prove as a more worthy and personal way of discussing differing opinions. For topics warranting more time and care, round tables remind us that behind every opinion is a human with feelings, a face with a background, and a soul worth listening to.

Participating in these personal, sometimes confrontational, discussions can be difficult, especially when we can anticipate that we’ll be met with someone who doesn’t agree with us or holds a stance that is opposite of ours. We may not prefer situations like this for a few reasons: if we need extra time to process, if we sort thoughts better by writing, or if the thought of intentionally approaching someone with whom we disagree brings on anxiety. On top of all of that, physical distance can make having an in-person discussion near impossible in some cases.

However, which better helps us grow and widen our horizons — continuing to be affirmed by people who always agree with us, or offering to be challenged and questioned by people who don’t?

Continued from Color-Ful, a guide to practical color psychology. Associations: Trust (true blue), wide expanses--ocean and sky, clarity, loyalty, wisdom. Effects: Calming, helps sleep, cooling; helps with mental control, enhanced productivity, and heightened creativity. Physical Effects: Lowers blood pressure and stimulates the pituitary gland, which regulates sleep patterns and

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