“Do not past and present confront us with similar phenomena and with the same problems: to be a man, to have been born without knowing it or wanting it, to be thrown into the ocean of existence, to be obliged to swim, to exist; to have an identity; to resist the pressure and shocks from the outside and the unforeseen and unforeseeable acts — one’s own and those of others — which so often exceed one’s capacities? And what is more, to endure one’s own thoughts about all this: in a word, to be human.” – Ivo Andric
I’ve always felt that this segment from the speech Andric gave after receiving his Noble Price in Literature brilliantly illustrates the struggles of a creature aware of its own mortality, torn between its animalistic roots and a higher form of consciousness. We humans can create great works of art, harness the power of the universe, and change the world around us, yet this immense potential is all too often squandered.
We often mourn the loss of our promising youth in the twilight of our lives, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It is never too late to start making positive changes, but it is best to learn how to be honest with yourself and to understand what it takes for you to be happy and fulfilled while you are still young, so that you can avoid these terribly common regrets when you’ve come to the end of the line.Advertising
1. I was afraid to be myself, always fearful of what others might say
When we’re kids we constantly try to blend in and elevate our social status within our group, but as we grow we realize that everyone has their own unique little quirks, preferences, and tastes. It is important for us to find out what it is that we like, what makes us happy and what helps us to stay cheerful and motivated. Try sitting down and being honest about what you look for in life, in a partner, in an outfit, in a great Saturday afternoon, in a career. Only then can you forget about what others think, and express your true self.
2. I mistreated my body and spent half my life feeling sick and rundown
Laziness, hedonism, lack of adequate motivation, thinking that you are indestructible when you are younger, and a lack of awareness about physical and mental health can all contribute to us having worn out, sickly, and tired-looking bodies before we even hit 40. It’s easy to get “set in your ways,” so make sure that you start developing good habits early on. Work on losing that extra weight, eat healthier foods, train your muscles, and stretch to boost your metabolism and immune system, as well as strengthen the body, and do some meditation or have some relaxing alone time to allow your mind to recover.
3. I kept hanging out with people who were never true friends to me
A lot of the entries on most people’s “friend lists” are actually acquaintances who are looking for some kind of quid pro quo arrangement, or even worse, emotional leeches and toxic people who are only looking out for themselves. Avoid the unnecessary drama at work and at home. Be realistic about this and hang out with those that actually listen to you, encourage you, try to help out without standing to gain anything, and just generally make you feel good. Cut all ties with anyone that’s dragging you back or causing you pain and worries all the time.Advertising
4. I missed out on great opportunities because I was too scared to put myself out there
The things we most regret in life are the things we didn’t do, like not working up the courage to walk up to that cute guy or girl, not asking your boss for a promotion, not taking a risk and investing in that interesting business venture, and so on. Sometimes, you’ve just got to learn from your mistakes, and learn that making a mistake or looking a bit foolish is not the end of the world, but the rewards you get for giving things a shot are quite incredible.
5. I never devoted myself to mastering any fun or useful skills
People often lament the fact that they never really picked up a guitar and played for just 30 minutes a day, or took up martial arts, or learned their way around the kitchen. It doesn’t take much to learn new things if you set your mind to it and stay consistent, and there are tons of great jobs that you can teach yourself how to do, so just jump into it and start learning something new right now.
6. I drifted apart from my friends and family and made strangers out of them
Spending time with family can sometimes be tiring, and if you’ve already got work, a partner, kids, and tons of little chores to think about, fitting friends into your schedule can be a nightmare. However, don’t allow yourself to become one of those people who realizes that they’ve alienated their friends over the years only after breaking up with a long-term partner, or one of the sad and lonely old folks who lives alone in a big house. Make room for friends and family at least once a week and keep those bonds strong.Advertising
7. I never admitted I was wrong and listened to honest advice
Pride can sometimes get the best of you, but if you aren’t willing to admit your mistakes, say a few sorry’s now and then, and be open to criticism and helpful advice, you will live to regret it. It’s all too often that we look back on a situation and realize that our friends were right, or that we could have really used someone’s help. Be open to suggestions and try to consult with several different people when you are not sure how to proceed.
8. I spent a great deal of time hating the world for dealing me a bad hand of cards
The easiest thing to do when faced with adversity is to ask “why me?” and start shaking your fist at the world, cursing all those who have wronged you. Of course, no matter how much someone contributed to your current predicament, it’s important to admit that you’ve also played a role in it – even sitting there and doing nothing or rolling over and letting someone kick you while you’re down is a conscious choice. Take responsibility for your life, clench your teeth and take charge – no one is going to be able to solve all your problems for you, so you need give it everything you’ve got and face your problems with a cocky grin on your face.
9. I never saw the world and experienced different cultures
One of the things that people find most excuses for is not traveling more. Of course, financial issues, hectic schedules, and various obligations may not allow you to spend ten years traveling the world, but anyone can go camping, drive to another town, or find fairly cheap ways of traveling abroad. It’s all about being motivated to save up and make the time, and committing to leaving your home country at least once a year. You have to make travel one of your priorities instead of viewing it as a luxury.Advertising
10. I didn’t leave behind a legacy
This one kind of covers several of the other points on this list. In order to truly say that you’ve lived a rich and full life, and have managed to leave a legacy, you must constantly work on improving yourself, be it becoming a better partner and parent, mastering a skill, achieving academic or athletic success, teaching and helping others reach their goals, or anything else you find a worthy goal. Look deep within yourself and think about all your talents, passions, and skills, then try to work out what you could do to be remembered and respected by those that come after us.
There is no definitive answer to the questions that we ask ourselves late at night when we are alone and fragile, and there is certainly no easy way of avoiding huge regrets at the end of our lives. However, these points, difficult as they may be to put into action, will help you live a better life. It doesn’t matter if someone else finds it boring, vain, or needlessly adventurous, it’s your life and you want to make sure that you’ve lived the way you wanted to live.
Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com
Last Updated on May 21, 2019
How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship
For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.
If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:
You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.
You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.
In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.
You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.
People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.
You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.
You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.
The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.
You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.
Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.
If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.
Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:
- Understand your own communication style
- Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
- Communicate with precision and care
- Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger
1. Understand Your Communication Style
To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.
In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.
Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.
2. Learn Others Communication Styles
Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.
If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:
“How do you prefer to receive information?”
This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.
To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.
3. Exercise Precision and Care
A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.
On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.
Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.
I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.
I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.
In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.
The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.
Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.
4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger
Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.
In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,
“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”
Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.
Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.
It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.
It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.
It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.
Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.
Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.
The Bottom Line
When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.
I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.
More Articles About Effective Communication
- Conflict Management Styles for Effective Communication at Work
- 13 Best Communication Books for Stronger Social Skills & Relationships
- How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home
- 7 Most Important Communication Techniques to Master in the Workplace
Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com
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