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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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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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