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The 12 Most Important Lessons to Learn Before Your 30s

The 12 Most Important Lessons to Learn Before Your 30s

I look back at my life and I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to my teenage years – too much awkwardness. My 20’s sure were a lot of fun and then, as I approached 30, I got nervous. I wondered what I was doing with my life and what I’d actually accomplished during college, other than being a three-year running beer pong champion. But now that I’m in my 30s, I have to say this is great. I’m loving it!

Rather than focusing on what hasn’t happened focus on what has! These are lessons that everyone should learn before entering their 30s. By learning these lessons you’ll set yourself up for some fabulous years in your 30’s.

1. Know Your Way Around the Kitchen

Ramen and takeout were fine for your college days, but you don’t want to be doing this every night anymore. If you aren’t sure where to start, ask a friend who has mastered the art of creating delicious eats in the kitchen to give you a few tips. Or you can get a few of your best pals together and take a cooking class. If you’d rather learn right from your own kitchen, or if there aren’t any classes available in your area, consider taking an online cooking class instead.

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2. Have a Better Understanding About Permanence

It seems like the number of people with tattoos nowadays is far surpassing those without ink. If you are considering getting a tattoo, be sure it’s something you are prepared to live with forever. If you decide it’s what you want, make sure you give thought to the placement of your new ink. Getting one that isn’t easily covered by business attire may hinder future job opportunities.

3. Be Knowledgeable About Insurance Coverage

Nothing sounds more adult than insurance, right? You don’t have to be an expert on the subject, but it’s important for you to familiarize yourself with what kinds of insurance you might need throughout your life. If you’re renting, you’ll need renters insurance and then it will change to home insurance when you take that step. Other types of insurance that are important are health, life, and possibly auto, if you have a car. It may be overwhelming at first, but there are insurance experts who can help you compare and learn about the different policies.

4. Know How to Speak Your Mind

It may not have been easy to speak up when you were in a lecture hall in college, but you’re past that now. Before reaching the third decade in your life, you should be able to speak up in meetings. Sure, it may be scary and people may disagree with what you have to say, but it’s important to develop your own voice and believe in what you have to say.

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5. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Quit comparing yourself to those around you. It means nothing if you aren’t in the same place professionally or personally as someone the same age – or younger – than you. We are all walking individual paths, and our journeys cannot possibly look the same. Be confident in the path your life is taking and, if you want to change something, take action to do so.

6. Learn to Love Yourself

I know this is easier said than done. I remember wondering if I’d ever learn to love my thighs and, to be honest, I’m still working on that. But I certainly am learning how to embrace my quirks and flaws and I hope you can do the same. Once you do, you’ll see how those things make you who you are who you are is pretty great. It’s the uniqueness that makes people interesting and, as cheesy as it may sound, there’s no one else out there like you. Enjoy that individuality in yourself and be proud of it. That positive energy will certainly radiate from you and make people have that same love and admiration for you.

7. When it Comes to Alcohol, Everything in Moderation

In your 20’s, this rule certainly doesn’t seem to apply, but now you’ve wised up a bit and know it should. Alcohol is like salt – it adds to a good meal, but it’s not wise (or good for your body) to add it to everything. Your ability to party all night and still arrive at work the next morning is less impressive than it was at 22.

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8. Have a Handle on Your Finances

Don’t panic. I’m not saying you should have an abundance of money, but you should know how to create and stick to a budget. I also hope you know how to balance your checkbook and, hopefully, pay off your credit card on time so you aren’t spending your hard earned money on late fees and interest. There are lots of apps you can use to help you manage your finances straight from your smartphone. Download a few and get started, if you haven’t already.

9. Know How to Do Things For Yourself

You don’t always need to call the repairman. There are many small household tasks you can accomplish yourself for a fraction of the cost. Thanks to YouTube, you can find how-to videos to guide you through most home repairs. Many home improvement stores hold free seminars on how to do simple repair tasks as well. Not only will you save yourself some cash, you’ll gain the satisfaction of having accomplished something you didn’t think you could do.

10. Start to Eat Healthy

This one goes back to our first point. If you’re cooking at home more, you’re more likely to eat healthier. Having a healthy and well-balanced diet will pay off for you in the long run. But we certainly don’t mean you can’t indulge in a cupcake now and then. In fact, we encourage it, because hey – you’ve got to live life, too.

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11. Speak Another Language

So, if you’re almost 30 and haven’t done this one, don’t panic. Just know that now’s the time to start. You can expand your vocabulary at a local community college or by using one of the many online language tools. Not only will this give you a good reason to travel to a new place to put your new skill to use, but it will make you more marketable in the workplace.

12. Take Risks with Your Heart

It may get broken, but you may also find worlds of wonder that you never imagined possible. Putting yourself out there in love can bring you the one you spend your life with or it can bring you great stories to tell down the road. Either way, the risk is worth it. In the end, success is rarely counted by the money we have in the bank but by the riches of our hearts.

If you’re approaching your 30th birthday, I wish you happy birthday and welcome you to this great time in our lives. And, if you’re in your 30’s, what other life lesson advice do you have to add to my list?

Featured photo credit: Birthday Party via istockphoto.com

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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