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7 Crazy Things That Over-Thinkers Can Relate To

7 Crazy Things That Over-Thinkers Can Relate To

Imagine this: You sent a text to a person that you just went out on a date with, and it said you had a great time and would love to hang out again. Then, 20 minutes later, the person replies with a smiley face :) You think, “OMG, what does that mean? It’s a smiley face, so that’s good, right? That must mean he wants to see me again too! But wait. He didn’t actually say that. Maybe he really doesn’t want to see me again and didn’t want to hurt my feelings, so he thought it was easier to say nothing and just send a smiley face. But wait. Maybe he’s just busy and didn’t have time to write anything, and he’ll write again later saying he had a good time too. But wait. If he was really interested, he would have made the time to write back even if he’s busy … But wait …”

Does this sound like you? If it does, then you just might be an over-thinker.

And here are 7 crazy things that you will be able to relate to:

1. We always make assumptions.

“She rolled her eyes at me, she must think I’m stupid.”

“He didn’t text me back for 3 hours … he must be doing that on purpose. He’s trying to blow me off!”

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“I haven’t seen my fried Mary for 3 months, and she’s probably mad at me for not calling her.”

These are assumptions. They are not necessarily based in truth. But an over-thinker’s mind makes all sorts of assumptions. That’s part of the problem. Usually, making assumptions creates more problems – and more over-thinking. Then you get caught in a nasty downward spiral. Instead, us over-thinkers should live by this rule: “DNAA” … Do Not Assume Anything. Instead, ask people for the facts. Don’t jump to conclusions.

2. We always assume the worst.

“He was supposed to be here by 5:00. It’s now 5:12. OMG what if he was killed in a car accident? I wonder who I would call to find out? What route was he driving? Let me go check the police and traffic reports online to see if everything’s okay. Oh, that’s ridiculous. He’s only 12 minutes late. Maybe he just lost track of time. But maybe he didn’t. OMG what’s wrong?!?!”

Usually, the worst doesn’t happen. Sure, it does sometimes, but if you think about it, 99% of the stuff we over-think and over-worry about doesn’t actually come to pass. So wasting so much mental energy trying figuring out why people died or were captured by an alien really doesn’t do us any good.

3. We always think in terms of “What if…”

“This guy asked me out, and I don’t really think I like him, so I’m not going to go. But what if he’s really my soul mate? If I don’t go out with him, I’ll never know! But he’s kind of short. Oh that’s stupid – am I really not going to give him a chance because of that? Oh, but what if I go out with him and he’s a bump on a log. Then I’ve wasted a few hours of my life. And if I went out with him, what would I wear? Nothing too sexy because I don’t want him to like me THAT much. But what if I really do like him, then I will want him to find me sexy….”

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There are literally infinite “what if’s” that could occur. And we imagine every little teensy tiny scenario. They drive us over-thinkers crazy! We’re afraid to make a mistake, so we think about all the things that COULD happen. So we should try to practice living in the NOW. Because that is really all we can control.

4. We always stress that we can’t control things.

“My son loves baseball. I HATE baseball. But what if he took guitar lessons and started a band? I would love that … because I love music! Oh, but I can’t take way his baseball, that would make me a bad parent. Maybe he would like football? At least that’s not boring. Oh but what if he gets a concussion and has brain damage. That would be awful. What other ways can I make sure that I don’t have to go watch boring baseball games? Oh, if only I could wave a magic wand and make things happen the way I want them to!”

We can’t control anything or anyone but ourselves. Over-thinking about how we can change things so we can be happier, or life will be better somehow, just sends us into another crazy cycle of spinning our mental wheels.

5. We are frequently wrong.

“After days of sleepless nights because of over-thinking it, I am convinced he doesn’t like me!”

“That little jerk! I’m sure he said that because of …”

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Because over-thinkers imagine SO many different possibilities and scenarios, statistically speaking, we’re often wrong with our assumptions. Because if you come up with 100 different possibilities in your head, there’s going to be a 99% chance that you are wrong – because only one of those actually WILL be right. So don’t convince yourself that you are right – or wrong. Most of the time, you will never know the truth with your own over-analyzing.

6. We get sick of our own “analysis paralysis.”

“OMG, just stop it! You’ll never figure it out.”

“I know I’m torturing myself … but I just can’t stop it!!!”

“My head hurts and I’m exhausted from thinking about this!”

Over-thinkers say these things to themselves very frequently. Running things over in our minds over and over really does lead to exhaustion! Sometimes we really wish there was an “off switch” in our brains so we can stop. When this happens, try thinking about something else. Or doing something else. It really can distract you and calm you down.

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7. We seek other people’s opinions to help us over-think (or help us stop).

“I’m going to forward this text to Julie and see what she thinks he means.”

“I got a job offer, but I can’t make a decision because I can think of too many pros and cons! Let me ask 5 of my friends what they would do … ”

Because over-thinkers get stuck in “analysis paralysis,” they often look outside themselves for answers. They either get sick of themselves, exhausted, or the situation just becomes so cloudy from the over-thinking that they can’t think straight. It’s during that times that over-thinkers turn to other people to help them make decisions, and even to calm them down. This is actually a good thing to do. It helps put some objectivity into our minds, and/or distracts us from our own craziness.

Over-thinking isn’t necessarily bad. It says we care. It says we have complex minds. It shows that we know there are multiple scenarios that can play out in life. But the secret is to gain control over your mind so it doesn’t run out of control. And you can do this, it just takes some effort!

More by this author

Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and 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!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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