Month: April 2023

Mindblowing: Could Good People Skills Be The Next Professional Field And Subject?

We teach our children how to brush their teeth, tie their shoes, and button their jackets.

One summer long ago, I got a call at work.

“Come pick up your daughter. She is being expelled …”

People together by Hurca! licensed from Adobe Stock

Yes, my daughter was expelled from the YWCA preschool at age 4 because, and I quote, “She pinched Bob with her scissors.”

Bob, age 5, was not injured.

“Honey, why did you pinch Bob with your scissors?” I asked my miscreant, delinquent, expelled child —

“He tore up my collage.”

I forgot: her other expulsion-worthy offense? She had licked another child’s shoe.

“Well, honey,” I said. “I would have pinched him too.” Thanks to my child being declared an anti — social delinquent before 5 years of age, I got to spend the best six weeks of my life at home with my little girl before she entered Kindergarten at Redlands Christian School and I started attending Chapman University full-time.

Meredith wasn’t the only kid who got expelled. Four of her little girlfriends and two little boys were also kicked out within a week or two.

The person with the problem with social skills wasn’t my daughter or the other little kids.

It was the new preschool director — unable to coach and lead teachers and with little to no knowledge of appropriate activities and structure for young children — she eliminated daily conflicts among toddlers and preschoolers with a flurry of expulsions and suspensions.

Of normal three, four, and five-year-olds.

By the next year, the entire program had shut down.

So, what’s the takeaway?

In my opinion, many centuries ago, somebody invented “math.” The first engineer is said to be Imhotep, the builder of the “Step Pyramid” in Egypt. No one knows who “invented” art, and Hippocrates is said to be the “inventor” of “modern medicine.”

Of course, these are just today’s versions of origin stories. Does it matter who “invented” anything? It matters more that people right now, do things to make their own lives, and the lives of others … better.

Most human activities are about making our own lives … better. Or, they’re about making the lives of those we love and care for better.

Some people are very concerned about artificial intelligence (AI) being dangerous to humans. They are also concerned about programs like ChatGPT or AI art programs taking over human jobs and eliminating professions like mine (writing) or like my friend John Picacio’s (illustration and art).

Yet I can think of one area of interest, and it involves creativity, intuition, persistence, and lifelong practice — where there aren’t many, if any devoted academic researchers — and no professional jobs in the area that I know of, as the jobs or roles we see are more like ripoff artists than actual professionals with defined duties and measurable results —

People Skills: AKA What Carl Rogers Knew And Taught

From the moment I first read the Rogerian Argument chapter in the college textbook I used for almost two decades, I was fascinated by Dr. Carl Rogers and always made sure to include assignments using his communication techniques.

I know we have “communications” departments and degrees. These skills are typically put to work in fields like advertising, marketing, and work “training.” Many people with communications degrees go to work for networks, streaming services, and government agencies. Communications and PR go hand-in-hand.

Those are one-way streets and one-way degrees. “Domination” or “Deception” might be better monikers than “Communications.”

The Machiavellian among us have a text written by their namesake which tells you everything you need to know about lying, cheating, doing others dirty, and maintaining a good public reputation with the ignorant and gullible rabble.

The people in our world who have the best soft people skills can sometimes be great salespeople. They can also be our favorite teacher, favorite counselor, and often, favorite friend. Good moms have excellent people skills. So do — sometimes — good dads. I was fortunate to have been raised by my grandfather, who is, to this day, one of the best with people I ever knew or saw.

Learning how to get along together and accomplish things together is the biggest challenge of the 21st century, and it’s going to continue to be the biggest challenge and hardest job as long as humans are around.

According to a 2020 article from the New York Times by Eric Ravenscroft, “Unlike topics like math or science, social skills are more of a ‘learn on the job’ kind of skill.”

Today’s social media is anything but “social skills.”

Social media was invented by, and it is owned and controlled by, people who have minimal social skills. Many workplaces are owned by people who have negative social skills.

Anyone who has been a server in any upscale restaurant, or a flight attendant, or a nurse, can describe the behavior of poorly-socialized people. All of those people know how to handle the poorly-socialized.

I am not going to be the “inventor” of the official field of “social skills” or “empathy.” But I am someone who recognizes that for everyone’s lives to maintain their present comfort and for our country to move forward into the future with a good life for our children and grandchildren, these skills can’t be taken for granted any longer.

We don’t rely on parents to exclusively teach their children trigonometry, computer programming, or brain surgery.

Formally Teach and Learn Social Skills in School

It’s about time that we formalize the teaching and learning of social skills in the U.S. There are many precedents in other countries: in Singapore, high-priced international schools emphasize social skills and give direct instruction and practice in “how to get along” and work with others.

In Denmark, students meet for an hour each week and share a “Class Hour cake.”

During Class Hour in Danish schools, the entire class comes together, eats their simple cake, and relaxes. If a student has a concern or problem, they say what it is, and the whole class talks about a solution together.

Because I live in today’s America, I know what the reaction of many people will be to this.

And it will be negative because the reactors are unhappy, miserable, isolated people who lack the ability to even shake someone’s hand or greet them appropriately while passing on the street.

The majority, of course, aren’t like that.

The majority of us suffer daily because unfortunately — there are too many unsocialized, low-social-skill, unhappy, miserable, angry, self-entitled, greedy, mean, selfish others out there —

So, we do not expect kids to learn how to do trigonometry or brain surgery because their parents taught them how to make change at the store or do the dishes.

And — I’m about done with the angry, mean, dumb, tone-deaf others out there: the men’s rights advocates, the diehard political adherents of any politician, the backstabbers and the gossipers, and the garden variety liars and cheats.

The only way any of this will get better is if those of us who aren’t this way and who recognize that our own health and happiness comes from our own strength, wellness, and well-being —

Work on these skills ourselves, and support these skills being formally developed and taught in our schools.

My friends, there is a reason why ultra-conservatives want to eliminate public schools.

It’s because they are greedy, evil, dishonest, and bigoted (at best) and want society to return to the angry, dangerous, risky, genocidal and murderous days of the “Wild West.” Most people did get along back then: if they didn’t, we wouldn’t be here today.

But I doubt the majority of people would like their neighbors to be like John Wesley Hardin, a serial killer who shot a man in the head in the hotel room next door …

because the guy was snoring.

Social skills. It’s a thing. It’s like math. Thousands of years ago: no math. Then somebody started marking lines on a stick.

Like it or not — that’s the low level in this field of endeavor — we are at.


Alexander, Jessica. “Teaching kids empathy: In Danish schools, it’s … well, it’s a piece of cake,” Salon, 9 August 2016, url:

Ravenscraft, Eric. “An Adult’s Guide to Social Skills, for Those Who Were Never Taught,” New York Times, 23 January 2020, url:

Can Getting Outside Save Your Life And Make It 2 Times As Happy?

Research shows: yes, 120 minutes a week in nature benefits many aspects of health

Gasparilla Island, SW Florida — photo by author

Cognitive Function and Brain Activity

Have you heard of the term “executive functioning?” In psychology, executive functioning refers to the ability of our brain to manage the things we need to handle: setting goals, planning, and getting things done.

Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Health

Nature is so good for our blood pressure and heart health that some psychologists are even using the term “Forest Therapy” to describe its relaxing effects. A 2018 study of patients at a Louisville, Kentucky heart clinic showed that out of hundreds of patients, the ones who lived in greener areas healed more quickly and had lower blood pressure than the patients who lived in more urban areas lacking trees and grass.

Mental Health

In 2019, researchers from the University of Exeter in the UK studied 20,000 people from throughout Great Britain and Europe. The study showed that if people spent 120 minutes in nature or more each week, they had better psychological health, were happier, and had less anxiety than those who spent less than 120 minutes. The two-hour amount of nature time was a real boundary, according to the research. If people spent less than two hours, they didn’t share the mental health boost the people who spent more time outdoors received.


Scientists now recognize that our gut microbiome is an organ like our heart, kidneys or liver. The microbiome plays such an important, complex role to benefit (or harm) our bodies, minds, and even spirit.

Other Ways to Strengthen Health

The many benefits of being in nature made me think of other ways we can benefit our health. I recently took a fun stretch limo trip with about 50 of my friends. Traveling with a friendly, happy group is more relaxing and enjoyable than traveling alone.

I Just Burned 320 Calories Walking — Can I Please Eat a Donut Now?

Food quality is more important than calories for health and wellness

I just got back from a brisk one-hour morning walk with my 16-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, Gambit.

Here’s where we went and how fast we went (this accounts for pee and sniff stops) —

Map of our 1 hour walk
Speed, distance, estimated calories “burned”

I was happy with this pace, because Gambit likes to stop and sniff and I don’t want to deny him this pleasure, but I also want to get a little bit of cardio in as well. This was our typical Tuesday walk at one of our nearby Environmental Parks.

So, I burned 312 calories according to my brand-new Garmin Vivoactive 4S.

All right! I can have a donut now!


Not so fast.

That’s the way I was thinking during all that time I was eating Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups every night. I was not only not losing weight despite calorie counting and eating relatively decent meals — I was slowly gaining weight.

How is this possible? Had I slowed my metabolism so much that I could be advancing my cardiovascular health and doing over 11,000 steps a day, every day — and over 300 minutes of weekly cardio exercise as well as strength training —

How on earth?

Check this out: here are my last 12 month totals from Garmin. Yet only in the past three months have I begun to lean out.

All of my recorded fitness activities (I record about 90% of them) last 12 months
As you can see, my daily goal is 11,000 steps and I average significantly more steps

I eat approximately 1,600 calories a day. I log nearly everything I eat and drink, and have been for over a year.

Here are my calories burned: it averages a little over 1,850 calories a day

I was eating fewer calories than my fitness tracker told (and tells) me I was burning and still gaining weight —

I’ve already written about the metabolic harm that strict, short-term dieting does to the metabolism. When scientists studied people who had been on the television show “The Biggest Loser,” they discovered that their metabolisms had slowed to adjust to the low-calorie, high activity weight loss program. This phenomenon is called metabolic adaptation.

I think that my Garmin fitness tracker is accurate: these are close totals for the calories I am actually burning.

Many women may be shocked by how few calories they burn, even if they are quite active. But I don’t think I had “metabolic adaptation.” I wasn’t dieting strenuously, and I’ve only done that a few times in my life.

I have, however, counted calories nearly my whole life.

What was I doing wrong?

Eating highly processed foods every day: notably, my evening Reese’s Peanut Butter “Big Cup.” I was so fond of this treat that I’d work out harder so I could eat not just one, but two Big Cups. Bruce loves me so much he was buying them for me.

Thanks to the way our bodies handle highly-processed foods, especially ones as sugar-laden as a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, I was “magnifying” and increasing the effect of these sugar-filled, highly-processed calories on my body, my digestive system, my microbiome, and inflammatory responses.

I can work out 20% more each week, and my fitness tracker shows me a measly 1 or 2% increase in calories burned.

This is because fitness and weight are two different things.

I was pretty fit all those times I worked out. I had good cardiovascular health and low blood pressure.

But I was moving toward prediabetes and also scoring high triglycerides.

This is due to the way our bodies digest highly-processed foods. The older we get, the more difficult it is for our bodies to handle these foods without developing insulin resistance and all of the other related problems that come from chronic inflammation.

Part of this phenomenon is certainly due to our microbiome and its composition. There are sugar-loving microbes that predominate in the microbiomes of most people in the U.S., especially those with obesity and metabolic illness.

So, I might have been loving that Reese’s and my gut microbes were too.

Today, I did enough cardio exercise to be able to eat a donut.

But I’d rather eat an apple instead. Followed by a handful of nuts, and maybe a few carrots.

That way I know I’ll continue to feel energetic and well.

And I won’t be training my body to crave sugar and processed foods and be slowly, inexorably, turning into a human Weeble. I’d rather not wobble, and at my age, the last thing I want to do is fall down.


Pugle, Michelle. “How Your Body Tries to Prevent You from Losing Too Much Weight,” Healthline, 28 January 2022, url:

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