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How To Spread Love In Your City in the New Year

How To Spread Love In Your City in the New Year

In the age of technological progress happening at the speed of Google Fiber, the world is more connected than ever, but we can feel completely disconnected from our closest neighbors, friends, and the people we walk by every day. Here are some practical and small ways that you can spread love in your city, not just over the holidays, but throughout the new year and beyond. We are all humans, we are all people, and we all deserve some love, comfort, and happiness in our lives. You don’t have to donate billions to charity to make a difference in someone’s life! Everyone can make a difference and contribute to another person’s happiness.

1. Fully Listening to People

There is a difference between hearing someone and really listening. Really listening to someone can be very powerful, and can show someone how much you care about them and their feelings. We all want to be heard and understood. How can you listen better?

According to Harriet Cabelly, a social worker and positive psychology coach, you first need to understand the difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is simple, listening involves the whole self – attentiveness, interest, and concern showing through. Stay present during the full conversation, ask questions, acknowledge the person’s feeling, it’s all part of truly listening to someone. Go forth and really listen to people, you may just find that you don’t know some people as well as you thought.

2. Smile

Smiles and laughs can be contagious. Spread positivity by radiating it! Smile at those harried people in line at Starbucks, as you’re walking down the street, and at your coworkers. A smile and kind hello can mean a lot to people, and can make someone feel good. When someone smiles at you, you feel as though you’ve been noticed, and a simple smile and “hi!” can make someone’s day a little brighter. This free and easy way to spread love will make you also feel better!

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Charles Darwin first posed the idea that emotional responses influence our feelings in 1872.

“The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it,” he wrote.

The idea that when we frown, we feel pain more intensely and when we smile, our brains believe us to be happier has been explored by psychologists at the University of Cardiff in Wales, who performed a study based on whether botox, since it inhibits facial expressions, also inhibits our feelings.

So, smile!

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3. Help Strangers

In a world full of 7 billion people, it is easy to get caught up in our own world. I life in New York City, and basically the entire city, teaming with millions, are strangers. But every day, I am awarded a beautiful sense of community when I give a homeless person a sandwich, or see someone helping an infirm person across the street, or giving the embarrassed person in front of you that extra quarter they’re missing. Little things like this give us a sense of connectedness, and helping strangers in small ways is a fantastic way to help people and spread love across the world. Help people without thought of compensation or reward, do it because you can and should.

4. Pay It Forward

Paying It Forward can happen in many different ways, but a way that it’s happening these days that makes the news is at Starbucks! Paying it forward refers to someone purchasing the coffee or order of the person behind them in line. At one Florida store, the pay it forward chain lasted 11 hours! It started at 7 am at the St Petersburg location and lasted an amazing 378 people! What could be the record for the longest pay it forward chain at a Starbucks in Newington, CT, where starting at 8 am on Christmas Eve in 2013, and lasted over 1000 customers. These small acts of kindness are said to inspire and influence people to continue performing acts of kindness, not just to the customers behind them in line, but to others in their lives.

Make sure to pay things forward in life, in general. When I was young, just starting in my career, I was given amazing training and mentorship by another employee, and have tried to pay it forward to new people throughout my career, hoping to assist people and help them gain not only understanding of their current job, but also of what it means to be part of a team and mentor others.

5. Offer Acknowledgement and Recognition

We have all felt what it’s like to do something and not get recognized. While you should not be doing good or kind things for acknowledgement or recognition, it is always appreciated when someone does recognize it. Mostly I refer to work situations. Recognize and give credit to your colleagues and employees. The people who work hard, achieve things in the workplace, and try to be great employees. Just like with children, most people want to be genuinely recognized and acknowledged for doing well at work and in life. When you tell someone “good job!” you’re showing them that you noticed and appreciated them and their hard work. As simplistic as it seems, many people every year leave good jobs simply because they feel unappreciated.

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In 2013, Forbes published an article stating that 2 million Americans quit their jobs voluntarily every month, and that according to a study done by Accenture, 43% of people quitting their jobs cite “lack of recognition” as the reason. This is a huge percentage and something that is so easily remedied. Appreciate your people! Just because you pay someone to do a job doesn’t mean that person doesn’t deserve recognition when they do it well. In a world where great employee retention is a huge part of success, you should not be losing anyone to them feeling unappreciated for their work.

6. Be Grateful

It’s not just for Thanksgiving! Spread love and positivity by expressing your gratitude in life. I like to tell my partner “We are so lucky. We’ve worked hard and we have a wonderful life. Look at all the things we have to be grateful for: each other, our families, our jobs, our friends.” Sometimes we all need a reminder that the little things and disappointments in life are not what’s important, and that we have a lot to be thankful for. Tell your friends you appreciate them, thank your boss for being a great role model and helping you, tell your parents you love them. Spread the love!

7. Use Good Manners

This one may seem silly at first, but how many times has someone bumped into you and you apologized? Or you saw someone wave or say hello at work and you were too busy or distracted to respond? Good manners are noticed and easy to do. Look people in the eye when you talk to them, call people by their names, and if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. The golden rule of life is to treat people as you wish to be treated. So wave to your neighbor, say hello, excuse me, please, and thank you. It seems simple and it is, but good manners make a difference to people and a difference in how people treat each other. Manners are an indication of kindness and respect for others, and this is a great way to spread the love.

8. Small Acts of Random Kindness

Put change in a meter that’s about to run out. Hold the door open for the person behind you. Hold the elevator. For goodness sake, use your turn signal! Donate your loose change to a local charity. Random acts of kindness can turn someone’s day around, and will cost you little to no time or money. Why wouldn’t you want to do small things that can help people? If you think of most people as inherently good, you should also want to do good things for people in the world.

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9. Do Pro Bono Work For a Great Cause

You can use your professional skills and do short term or long term work for your favorite local or global charity through CatchAFire.org, which connects people with the right skills to the nonprofit organizations that could use your help. Right now there are projects waiting for volunteers from everything from needing Marketing Strategies to Storytelling help, to Grantwriting to Website Construction. If you have great skills, some time, and a love of volunteering, these projects could be a great way to volunteer in a new and interesting way!

10. Donate Anything!

Donations are not all about money. You can donate anything these days, from clothes and shoes and purses to books and tools. Instead of throwing away anything, try to donate it to someone who could use it first. Homeless shelters often desperately need socks and hygiene items, women’s shelters always need things for the kids and teens like books and toys, animal shelters need pet toys, bed, and leashes, and Goodwill and Salvation Army will take almost anything. There are even services who will take your old kitchen appliances like refrigerators and microwaves! Why throw away something that works or still has life in it, when it can go to people who need it?

11. Visit An Animal Shelter

Spend time with man’s best friend and man’s animal that tolerates them by going to a shelter and walking some dogs or cuddling with the homeless cats! Animal shelters have more animals than humans, and often need people to help play with and take care of the animals. This would be a great date, or a fun day with your best friend. And you never know, maybe you’ll even find your next furry companion!

12. Love Yourself and Be Happy

This may sound trite, but the best way to spread happiness and love is by radiating it. Show the world love by loving yourself first. Spread positivity by first being positive. You being happy and appreciative and grateful makes it easy to spread that happiness and gratefulness to others. Be the best version of yourself by being thankful for what you have, by having a good work ethic and a strong will. Learn new skills and maybe you’ll want to teach others. You as a person are the best advertisement for happiness when you’re passing it out to other people.

Featured photo credit: Virginia Is For Lovers by Jon Cornwell via flickr.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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