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This Old Woman Has Lived On A Cruise Ship For 7 Years

This Old Woman Has Lived On A Cruise Ship For 7 Years

Would you want to travel the world every day of your life? That’s what 86-year-old widow Lee Wachtstetter has been doing for the last seven years. She calls the 1,070-passenger cruise ship Crystal Serenity her home. Mama Lee, as Wachtstetter is affectionally called by the crew, has been cruising since her husband died in 1997, but not before telling her, “Don’t stop cruising.”

Throughout their marriage, the Wachtstetters cruised the world. “My husband introduced me to cruising,” Mama Lee told USA Today. “Mason was a banker and real estate appraiser and taught me to love cruising. During our 50-year marriage, we did 89 cruises. I’ve done nearly a hundred more and 15 world cruises.”

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Dancing through life

After selling her Fort Lauderdale home that sat on 10 acres of property, Mama Lee had enough money to live on the high seas for years. High on her list of requirements for her permanent home was the entertainment available on the cruise ship. For Mama Lee, the only entertainment worthwhile on cruise ships is ballroom dancing with dance hosts. Mama Lee lived on a Holland America ship, part of a cruise line owned by Carnival, prior to living on Crystal Serenity. For three years, Mama Lee enjoyed her stay with Holland America. However, she soon had to leave.

“The day they announced they were stopping the dance host program was the day I decided to leave,” she said. Mama Lee decided to jump ship to Crystal Serenity. The luxury liner is one of two ships of Crystal Cruise Lines, a Japanese luxury cruise line consistently rated highly by Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure for 19 years. More importantly, they offer dance hosts for their passengers. Mama Lee told USA Today, “I enjoy dancing, and this was the best of the remaining ships that still use dance hosts. My husband didn’t dance, just didn’t like to, and encouraged me to dance with the hosts.”

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The cost of cruising

Being a permanent resident on Crystal Serenity is not cheap. This year, Mama Lee expects the high life on the high seas to cost her $164,000. That cost includes a single-occupancy stateroom on the seventh deck of the luxury liner, full board including the specialty restaurants on the ship, along with all of the ship’s services, amenities, and entertainment available. No mortgages, no groceries to think about, no other bills to pay. Isn’t that the life?

Been there, done that

Mama Lee has been to almost any country with a port, but rarely goes ashore nowadays. She just enjoys the quiet and solitude of having the ship all to herself when the rest of the passengers get off the ship to explore. That is, except when Crystal Serenity docks at Istanbul.

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“I can’t resist the Grand Bazaar,” Mama Lee said. “You can find gorgeously regal or glitzy outfits there, perfect for formal or casual wear and not terribly expensive. I have to restrain myself every time because of my limited cabin space.”

Whenever the ship docks in Miami, Mama Lee visits her sons and grandchildren and keeps in touch with them with her laptop. She remembers, “When my children were all young, I took them on cruises many times. Now they have families of their own and do what’s right for them.”

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Living it up

Mama Lee usually holds court in the Palm Court lounge doing her second love, needlepoint. She has been living on Crystal Serenity longer than most of the 655 crew members. The crew dotes on her, often accommodating her needs and wishes even if they’re not readily available on the ship. With her 87th birthday fast approaching, Mama Lee is looking forward to another great year on the ship.

“All the time I’ve been here I have never had a sick day,” she said. “I’m so spoiled I doubt that I would ever be able to readjust to the real world again.”

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Mama Lee certainly has figured out how to live out the rest of her life, and on the seven seas to boot. Have you figured out how to live yours?

Featured photo credit: Cruise Ship – Celebrity Infinity/blmiers2 via flickr.com

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Lianne Martha Maiquez Laroya

Lianne is a licensed financial advisor, Registered Financial Planner, entrepreneur and book author.

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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