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7 Struggles Only People Who Live Miles Away From Their Family Will Understand

7 Struggles Only People Who Live Miles Away From Their Family Will Understand

Families are usually what they would term “dysfunctional” in old sitcoms. Spending a few hours in a room with granddads, grandmas, uncles, aunts, your parents and siblings who like to tease you, can make you lose your cool and want to hit yourself over the head with a rock. However, as I’ve found out when I left my small, yet warm-hearted and proud country nestled deep in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula and spent a couple of years in London, family ties run really deep. You don’t even realize how much they mean to you or how much they contribute to your mental and emotional well being until you’re cut off, and get to see them only a couple of times a year. Here are a few big struggles that people who live far away from family have to endure.

1. We can spend an afternoon on Skype with our family, and still feel like crap afterwards

A common misconception is that getting some face time with your close ones can help curb that shadow of nostalgia that keeps cutting into our hearts. You see nostalgia can have certain benefits, but it can also be very emotionally draining. The problem is that, sometimes, seeing someone and having a great talk that reminds you of the good all days only pushes that shadow into overdrive an hour later, and you start to create an idealized image of the “good old days” and that beautiful hometown that no place on earth can compare to.

2. We can’t share some of our little moments with our new friends

There are certain things that you grow up with, common interests that you only share with your closest family. For me it was always boxing and wrestling with my dad, and our hunting trips. We’d spend the weekends leading up to the hunt sighting in our rifles, shooting 40-50 rounds down range, and just having a blast. I can still hear the characteristic clack-cling of dad’s old Zastava Arms Mauser 98 bolt action. Unfortunately, none of my friends and acquaintances in merry old England really understood the thrill I felt, and a lot of them would even gasp at the fact that someone would shoot and eat a live creature.

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3. We get irritated when we hear someone moan about a family dinner they have to attend

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that not everyone has a close relationship with their family, or even a psychologically healthy relationship for that matter. However, no family is even close to being “normal” in the 50s Hollywood family sense, namely because only aliens or deeply troubled psychotics trying to blend in with these strange “Hu-mans” would look like that. Everyone’s got problems, but for most of us it’s all about little annoyances like your folks pestering you about work or your love life, a few serious rows from the past and a perhaps one or two skeletons in the closet.

So, when I hear someone mope about “having to” go see their family, I just want to punch them square in the jaw. I wish I could sit there and try to dodge questions about when I’ll get married or change that stupid haircut, because I know we’d eventually get to lighter topics and I’d be happy I saw those irritating and judging goofballs.

4. We are limited to sharing exciting parts of our lives through images and the odd video

Where I once tried to always keep my family in the loop, living through both tough and happy times with them, and sharing my experiences as they happened, they are now left with only a few pictures on Facebook, a short talk on Skype and the occasional postcard as an insight into my life. I, in turn, get to look at their trials and victories through a smartphone screen that fits neatly into my pocket.

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While a nicely made slideshow or goofy collage does put a smile on my face in those moments of nostalgia, I long for that real human connection at times. Bringing my sister along on camping trips and parties, spending a good part of the night having a long drunken talk with my dad about life or talking to mom about this cute girl I met, these are life’s quirky little scenarios that help set the tone and cement a conversation in my mind. Pictures and Skype pale in comparison.

5. We can never get our heads around the fact that people keep changing

Kids grow, rebellious teenagers cut their hair and get sucked into the academic lifestyle, strong and vibrant father figures weaken with age, quirky little sisters get married and baby-faced little brothers, who you wrestled around the yard with, outgrow you and get jobs. When you’re in the same town, even if you don’t get to see them that much, you tend to pick up on these changes sooner, and the transformation seems gradual. When you are halfway across the continent, however, these things just hit you like a hammer, leaving you confused and at a loss for words.

6. We can’t really choose what to do on holidays

With all this talk of missing my family, and wanting to punch people who see family get-togethers as obligations, you would think I’d look forward to seeing them every chance I get–and I do. However, at some point you lose the freedom to choose how to spend your free time from work, as you are expected to come see the family for Christmas, Easter and basically any time when you’ve got a week or two to spare. The worst part of it is that coming back home can be more depressing than leaving, at least for the first few days.

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You don’t want to look like a hypocrite or a heartless bastard, so you rearrange all other aspects of your life to make a family reunion fit your schedule, even though sometimes you just want to blow off some steam partying or take your girlfriend on that trip to Barcelona you’ve been talking about for the past few months.

7. We keep hearing about how we’ve changed and how weird we look and sound

Okay, so every culture has their own slightly different set of social rules, ideologies, and general ways of doing things. It’s a fairly simple concept to grasp, but for some reason as soon as you go even a little bit against the grain you are accused of (*drum roll*) changing! You forget a word in your native tongue and suddenly it’s “ooh la la, look at the stuck up Englishman” or “we’ve got a nobleman at the table, mind your manners kids.”

The clothes you wear, that slightest change in your accent, or the fact that you keep referencing places and people no one has seen, been to or heard of, turns you into a bit of a clown that everyone can poke fun at. We get so used to people seeing us an a bit of an outsider when we move away, so when our family start to react similarly we kind of feel like we are caught up between two worlds.

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These are just some personal musings, but I hope that all of those who had to leave home and spend a long time hundreds of miles apart from their family can relate to this, and that this article can at least help them get some of that load of their chest. It’s a tough situation, but finding the freedom to chase after your dreams and discovering who you truly are is never easy.

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Nemanja Manojlovic

Editor at MyCity Web

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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

Reference

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