One Trait to Make Good Communication Possible

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“ I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant” ― Alan Greenspan

Take a minute to read that quote again and let it sink in. It’s so true – good communication can be quite challenging and often elusive. So how can we get our point across? How can we strengthen our relationships and build trust with those we love?

The way I see it, the most important and impactful thing we can do is:

                       Listen without judgement

Easier said than done, huh? Think about it, though. Communication is a two-way street. If one person is talking, someone else has to be listening. Most of the time we may look like we are listening. We lean in and nod our heads, but in reality, we are thinking about what we want to say next. We can’t wait for the other person to shut up so we can make our point.

So, the next time you truly want to have an effective conversation, LISTEN. Once you can do that, it actually becomes a conversation. One where each person shares their views and opinions without apprehension. A conversation where you can state your message clearly without fear of being judged. It is soooo hard. One trick I use is to lightly bite my tongue to stop myself from interrupting. Notice that I said “lightly.” You don’t want to draw blood! But this little tactic helps me focus on the listening.

Honestly, listening without judgement will truly make a difference in your relationships both at home and at work. And who knows, you may even learn something in the process.

 

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Celebrate Your Victories

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Normal looks a lot different these days, thanks to 2020. Spending time at my favorite coffee shop, hugging my friends or going to a concert are put on hold for right now. But because this pandemic has been going on for over six months now, I’m actually getting used to a few of my new routines

Did you know that it takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. I’m not making this stuff up. This is a real study that was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology. So, I ask you, what new routines have you developed over the last several months. What new habits have worked their way into your life that you would like to celebrate. It doesn’t matter how small they are or that they may seem a bit strange. Hell, this whole year has been strange. It’s time now to celebrate your wins

What’s yours? Maybe you’re getting used to your pet sitting on your lap during one of your MANY Zoom calls, or it could be that you’ve become a better cook. Personally, I’ve tried some amazing dessert recipes that have been in my “recipe pile” for years.

This is a time to recognize your new habits and celebrate them. Please tell us: I’d love to hear at least one small win that you are proud of.

 

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Find the Familiar

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I miss my mundane routines, even the ones I used to do every day and sometimes dreaded. Like running errands whenever I felt like it, buying toilet paper whether I needed it or not, talking to the cashier without a plastic shield between us.

This social distancing, time of quarantine and feeling of isolation is taking its toll on me. I grieve, yes grieve, for all we have lost. Things like touch, travel, hugging, meeting friends, and some sort of normalcy. Ah yes, remember that? Normalcy!

Think about it. Right now, we are dealing with the loss of the world we knew. So, how do we cope? How do we deal with our grief when there is so much uncertainty in our future.

Well, recently I discovered something that has helped me, even if it’s only for a little while. I find that surrounding myself with something familiar really helps. Right now, I am wearing an old sweatshirt that my father gave me and it brings back such wonderful memories of the times we spent together. Another thing that helps is looking through old photographs of times I spent with friends and family. Having physical photographs I can hold rather than looking at them on a computer bring me more of a sense of calmness. Also, watching old movies or listening to music can stir sweet emotions.

You get the idea. Find something that is familiar to you; something that brings back lovely memories, and spend some time wearing it, looking at it, sitting in it – whatever it takes. See if those past, pleasant memories can help you through this time of uncertainty. All we’re looking for right now is getting through this one day at a time. Because with each day, we get closer to a cure, to some sort of normalcy, and to a time when we can look back at all this and tell our story of a lifetime.

 

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The Upside of Aging

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Now there’s a twist. Most people don’t think of putting the words aging and upside in the same sentence. Looking at the news and advertisements, you’d think that getting older is all doom and gloom and it’s all over by the time you hit 40. But I’m living proof to tell you otherwise. Here are some of the benefits I have experienced as I age:

First, I have better skin. As I get older, my skin produces less oil – and that leads to less blemishes. No more unwanted or unexpected pimples that come out of nowhere. What a relief!

Second, my headaches have nearly disappeared. When I was in my 20s, I suffered from migraines and I felt like my head was going to explode. Well, with age, those intense headaches have disappeared completely, and on the occasion when I do get some pain, it is minor.

Third, and most importantly, is my mindset. Yes, I have a much better outlook on all the crap that life sometimes throws my way. And you know why? Because I have been through it before and know that I have survived. Over all those years, I have gained the knowledge and the skills to cope with anything. Does that make my challenges any less scary and painful? NO! But what it does do is give me the confidence to know that I will survive and this too shall pass. And that is the greatest gift of all.

So, you see, like everything else, aging comes with its pros and cons. You can’t control getting older, but you can control how you embrace it.

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An Unexpected Friendship

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It never should have happened. I was taking my morning walk – she was getting her mail. A simple smile was exchanged, then “hello,” followed by idle chit-chat. But somehow, someway, we connected that day. On any other day, when I usually walk with my husband, this never would have happened. But on that day, a new friendship was born.

Now we are sharing laughter and building memories.

It makes me think about all the opportunities was face every single day. About all the times we can help someone or learn something new, but somehow let it slip away. I truly believe that there are always opportunities in front of us. Sometimes we just don’t see them.  We’re not ready to venture down that path.

Think about the different connections you have made. I bet that there’s a story behind each one of them – a story of chance and where you could have kept on walking, never stopping to give it a second thought.

My hope for you is that during this time of isolation and confusion and loneliness, that a light shines down on your path and you find the courage to follow it; to try something new and form a new relationship, even if it’s with yourself.

Anais Nin said it best: “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

Thank you for your friendship, Cindy.

 

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What Do You Mean You Don’t Agree With Me?

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These days I find myself a little more testy, more direct and voicing my opinion more emphatically. I wonder what’s causing this? Maybe it’s the continued self-solation – or maybe it’s just old age.

Either way, I don’t want to become that little old lady who screams at the top of my lungs: GET OFF MY LAWN. So now I’m trying to dial down my directness so I can stay open minded. Easier said than done!

One thing that has helped me is to fine tune my listening skills. Recently, a dear friend told me about the debate team he was involved with in high school. He said that after his team given a question, researched the facts and prepared for the event, they were then asked to argue the opposing side. What a great idea! I’ve always believed that there are two sides to every story; that there is always good with the bad. I thought this was a great way to embrace the different points of view and sometimes even see colors other than black and white.

So, now when I hear someone’s opinion that does not align with mine, I bite my tongue and ask them to tell me more. In the end, I still may dismiss it. But there are those times when I learn something new; there are times when my world is enhanced.

 

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What Boat Are You In?

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Recently I had coffee with a friend. During our conversation, she suddenly said: “We may all be in the same storm but we’re not in the same boat.”

Wow – that really struck a chord with me. Think about it. We are all definitely in the same storm named COVID. How we navigate our own boat or the actual experiences we are having are all different.

Personally, I don’t have children so I don’t have to navigate school and lessons and how to become a teacher overnight. Also, I’m not in the same boat as those trying to learn the ins and outs of working from home. Although it may sound sooooo inviting, you soon begin to understand that you need to set boundaries so you can stay motivated.

For me, my greatest challenge has been the isolation. You will find me in the boat with all the other extraverts, trying to figure out how to survive without other people. I even love interacting with strangers. I’ve been told that I can make friends while standing in line at the grocery store. Well, I don’t have that option anymore. Now things have changed so much that people are hesitant to speak to each other. For an extrovert who get their energy from other people, that is torturous.

So, you see, there are all different kinds of boats. The trick to survival is knowing what boat you are in, taking the good with the bad, reaching out a helping hand to those who are going a little more crazy than you are, and remembering that we are all in this together. It sounds trite but it is so true, so I’ll say it again:

We are all in this together.

 

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If You Could Do It All Over Again

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What is your do-over? C’mon, I know you have at least one. Is there something you did or didn’t do; something you said or didn’t say, and you would like another chance to do it differently?

For me, I wish I would have asked my father about his garden. It sounds so simple, yet something I never did. He took great pride into covering every bit of ground in our front yard with brilliant geraniums and beautiful marigolds. I’d love to know why he enjoyed it so much; why did he find such peacefulness there.  More than anything I would love to connect with him over something he enjoyed doing so much.

So, if I could do it all over again, that would be it — I would ask my dad about his flowers and what he loved about it so much. Why he found such joy in that small but mighty garden in front of our city home. I did not inherit my Father’s green thumb, but what I do treasure are all the beautiful flowers in my yard that my husband has planted. Maybe, in some form, I am entering into my father’s world, seeing the beauty that he planted year after year, and absorbing some of the peacefulness he must have known through his own garden.

Yes, that would it. That would definitely be one of my do-overs.

 

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Objects are Smaller in the Rear-View Mirror

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When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, we all said things like:  2020 isn’t the end of the world, it’s the start of a new one.

I, for one, was very thankful for the unexpected time off. I felt like I had been given a gift to reevaluate my life; try some new adventures and finish some projects that I had put on the back burner. I was energized.

But now? 120 days into this pandemic with no end in sight? I’m wearing out.  I have to work harder each day to keep my positive attitude. I have to try harder to keep from being consumed by stress and uncertainty. So, to help calm the crazy, I play a game with myself. Maybe this will help you as well:

When I’m feeling scared and overwhelmed, I think of the rear-view mirror on my car. I know that sounds strange, but please play along with me. What do you see when you look into yours? Do you notice that the images in your rear-view mirror are distorted, smaller and even fading away? Well, that’s how I like to think about this pandemic. With each day that passes – I acknowledge that it is behind me, out of focus and getting smaller. Eventually, it will be out of sight.

So, I encourage you to think of tomorrow as a new start. Think of all this as preparation for what lies ahead.  Slowly but surely, we will shift our attention to our windshield, looking forward and focusing on what lies ahead. The past and what we see in the rear view mirror will only be a memory.

 

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Productivity During the Pandemic

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How’s your energy level these days? Are you feeling a little sluggish? Sleeping a little more than usual? Well, you’re not alone.

When this pandemic first started, it was a novel idea to work from home.  Wearing casual clothes every day was fun, and seeing the cat prance across your colleague’s desk as they were giving a presentation was certainly different. But now? Now it’s not so cute anymore. If I’m honest with myself, I’m tired and confused and have lost my energy. With this pandemic and the uncertainty of when things will get back to some sort of normal, I don’t have a definite time limit to complete my projects and I’ve certainly lost my focus.

So, if you’re in the same boat as me how do we fix it?

Well, here’s one tip that might help. You’ve probably heard this one before but it doesn’t hurt to review:

Start your day with the one thing you dread the most. Something that you need to do but, for some reason, haven’t gotten around to it. Make a point of finishing it first thing in the morning before you get sucked down the rabbit hole of emails and social media. If it’s part of a bigger project, at least you can get it started. Take a deep breath and just do it. That way you will get a sense of accomplishment and you don’t have to agonize over it all day long.

Well, that’s my plan. Starting tomorrow I will pick the one thing I dread the most and just get it done first thing in the morning. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

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