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To My Single Mom, Here’s What I Want To Tell You For So Long

To My Single Mom, Here’s What I Want To Tell You For So Long

Dear Mom,

This is my last winter break at home before I go back to school for my final semester. Things are going to change a lot next year. I will have a real that will most likely be out of town, and I won’t be coming home for all of the breaks.

Both of our lives are going to change. For one thing, your finances are going to improve. Also, I will be much more on my own, unless you keep sending me those “care” packages you have for all of my college years.

I’ve had some time over this break to really think about all of my growing years, and I want to tell you about some things you may have totally forgotten, but things that have stuck in my mind all of these years.

They say more about who you are than your career success, degrees, or leadership of that food pantry you have made so successful. They speak to your unfailing courage, your stamina, and your commitment for setting priorities and always making me a part of those priorities. I know being a single mom was tough. So here it goes.

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Do you remember?

When I was six, I was invited to Lillian’s house for a sleepover.

This was one of many sleepovers, of course, but here’s why this one stands out for me. At about 5 p.m., you were getting my bag ready. I was really upset because my favorite pajamas were in the dirty clothes. You stopped everything, took those pajamas, and put them in the wash.

Some might think this was spoiling me, but you got it right, mom. You knew that I was nervous about leaving home overnight and you wanted me to have every bit of comfort possible. Having those pajamas was important in that moment.

When the divorce was final, we had to move.

Even though it was only a few blocks over from the house I grew up in, you knew that it was like the other side of the planet for me. You walked me back and forth from our former house to our apartment and back again, over and over, until I understood that it was not so far away. On top of that, and I don’t know how you did this, you found that same wallpaper and re-created the same bedroom I had at the old house. It might have been a small thing to you at the time, but it was one of the most important things in my little selfish world.

I never understood that you were exhausted most of the time.

You went to work every day. You came home and cooked my favorite meals. You sat with me while I did my homework. You packed my lunches and through all of that, you found time to go back to school, so you could get your Master’s and make a better life for me. You scheduled your classes on nights I was at dad’s, so you wouldn’t take away time from “us.” I want you to know that I understand this now, though I did not then.

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You always made bedtime special.

That story was never skipped, and I still did not understand how much you had to do after I went to bed – studying, laundry, cleaning. You were just amazing, and this little girl didn’t have a clue.

I went to dads every other weekend. I can only imagine what you did during that time.

I know that I always came home to a spotless house, all of my clothes washed, my favorite foods in the pantry, and I never figured out how things got that way.

As I grew older, I was able to do more for myself, but the demands on you didn’t lighten up – they just changed.

You were my chauffeur, in charge of entertainment for my friends who always seemed to gather at our apartment, and always the mom who said “yes” when we wanted a ride to the mall or to go to the skating rink. You always said “yes” when I wanted 2-3 friends for a sleepover. You made the popcorn and the pizzas. You made sure there was plenty of soda, you were up and cooking breakfast for all of us. At the same time, I never felt like there was too much parental control and you allowed me to decide what to do and when to do it.

You were the mom who drove us to that concert 40 miles away.

Do you remember that evening? We piled out of the car, as you pointed out exactly where you would pick us up in 3 hours. What you did for 3 hours we never even considered. But when we did get picked up, you had a CD in the player of the band we had just gone to see. That’s when Cheri leaned over and told me, “You have the coolest mom ever.” I don’t think I ever told you that.

Not all times were great.

We had our differences and our squabbles, like the time I came home to find Familoop parental control has been installed on all of the devices in the house. I screamed and yelled about my privacy and freedom. You just remained calm, and I knew that battle was lost. How you could stay so calm always amazed me.

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Remember when I joined the swimming team and decided to quit after three weeks? You put your foot down big time then.

And you made the stakes pretty high. If I quit the team, I could expect no chauffeuring that summer to anywhere else. No concerts, no nothing.

The truth is, other moms were not willing to drive us around like you. Other moms didn’t sing in the car with us. Other moms didn’t listen to our gripes and moans about teachers and “first loves” and give us words of wisdom. I stuck it out with the swim team and was actually pretty proud of the blue ribbon I took in the 100-yard butterfly. You obviously were too, because there you were in the bleachers, cheering and whistling.

Here’s the thing, mom. You were never a quitter, not even once.

When money was tight, you always found a way. When you probably couldn’t go one step further, you took that step anyway. And you taught me these same things.

Living with me as a teenager couldn’t have been much fun at times. When things were bad at school or with a boyfriend, I always managed to take it out on you.

And there you were, knowing that you were not the reason for my anger. Always, your response was, “Why don’t you tell me about your day?”

You knew if I got it out, things would be better. And do you remember the two phrases you said to me always? I do. “This, too, shall pass away,” and “If it will matter 5 years from now, then it is something you should get upset about.” I will take those two phrases to my grave after I have used them on my own kids.

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Have I ever told you what a good listener you have been?

I don’t think so, but I need to tell you that now. Without your listening ear, life would have been so much harder.

Do you remember when I got my first speeding ticket? You had to go to court with me. I remember the judge asking you, “Does Dianna realize the seriousness of speeding?” And I remember you saying, “She understands that I will pull her license long before you do.” The judge chuckled, but your words stuck. I knew you meant what you said and that you would follow through. I knew that because, in all of our years, when you said you would do something – get the treats for the school party, take my friends and me to that movie, save up for a big blast vacation to the beach when I graduated from high school – you did it. Not once have you ever let me down, mom, though I have let you down many times.

One of my best memories, though it wasn’t at the time, was when you found pot stuffed in my underwear drawer. You didn’t say anything – you just took it. Of course I was panicked looking for it – tearing my drawer apart. After all, I was going to a party that night. You just sat on the deck, calmly looking out over the yard, enjoying my distress. When I came out onto the deck, probably looking very unhappy, you told me that you had taken my pot for a little experiment. You had heard that birds sang much prettier when they ate it, so you put it all in the bird feeder and mixed it up with the seeds already in there. You were waiting to see if that were true. It is on moments like these that I look back and realize what a great parental control example you were for me.

You always had the best way of letting me know I had been caught – no screaming or yelling, just taking action and then explaining to me what would happen if I repeated that mistake.

So, now we’ve made it. You have a successful career, and I will soon have that degree. You have been my teacher, my confidante, my biggest cheerleader, and my hero.

You have taught me by example, even when those lessons were hard to learn. You pushed me. You said “no” when you had to and “yes” whenever you could; you did and did and did for me. But most of all you have loved me more than anything else in this world. I am safe, confident, and ready to meet any challenge this world may throw at me because of you, mom. You did good!

From the daughter who doesn’t say thank you and I love you enough,

Dianna

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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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