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How Mentally Strong People Solve Communication Problems

How Mentally Strong People Solve Communication Problems

Communication and Long-Distance Relationships

In my early twenties, I said goodbye to my family in New York City and moved to Boston for graduate school. While I’d been living in my parents’ house, I talked to my mother, father, and teenage brother all the time, and felt really good about doing so. After I moved out, I wanted to stay close, so I called my family often. However, phone calls with my brother proved a major challenge. I called him regularly but he usually did not call back. My mother encouraged me to keep calling him, and reminded him often to call me – which he rarely did. I was upset and confused by this, as you can imagine, and when I visited NYC and pressed my brother to call me, he apologized, and said he would call back when I called. He did so for a bit, but then stopped again. My mother was distraught, and I was too. Negative feelings and thoughts kept running through my head: why didn’t he call me back? Didn’t he love me? Didn’t he care about me?

This issue festered for a couple of years, until I decided to deal with it directly. On my next extended visit to NYC, I sat down with him, and had a serious conversation. It turned out that my brother really dislikes talking on the phone. This form of communication just stresses him out. He has a much stronger preference for instant messaging as a mode of communication. Moreover, his Elephant brain developed an “ugh field,” a variety of negative emotions, around communicating with me. This was due to the combination of pressure he experienced from my mother and me, and the guilt and shame that came from him failing to call.

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What I Should Have Done

I really wish I knew how he felt! What I should have done was notice that he was not calling me back, and have a conversation about the problem with him right away. I should not have insisted that he call me, but instead express curiosity about why he did not. That way, I would have found out about his anxiety and stress around phone conversations. He would not have felt guilty and pressured. I would not have felt sad and confused. Everyone would have been better off!

Broader Relevance for Communication and Relationships

This story illustrates the importance of adapting one’s communication style to one’s audience. Much has been written about the vital role of communication in the workplace and in civic engagement, especially analyzing and targeting the preferences of your audiences to meet your communication goals. Research shows that such communication is also vital in our personal lives, such as ensuring healthy romantic relationships. Studies of family communication have likewise shown the importance of communicating well and especially being flexible about one’s communication style and preferences.

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Flexibility and Anchoring

Such flexibility was the missing ingredient in my communication to my brother. I had the goal of cultivating my relationship to my brother, but was trying to reach this goal in a way that was not intentional. So I decided to be more flexible and started exchanging Facebook messages with him, using Gmail chat, and other instant messaging services. We grew closer and had a much better relationship. We even worked to solve occasional problems that would come up between one of us and our parents!

Now, why did this problem occur in the first place? Well, from my background growing up, I developed a reference point, in other words a perception of what is normal and appropriate, of the phone being the “right way” to maintain and cultivate relationships with close people. I suffered from the anchoring bias, a common cognitive bias, the scientific name for thinking errors frequently made by our minds. The anchoring bias occurs when people rely too heavily on information they got early onward, and do not move away from this anchor sufficiently based on new information. I had to acknowledge that I failed at my brother’s mind and forgot that my mental map does not match his mental map.

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    Dealing with Anchoring

    So how does one deal with the anchoring bias? A useful strategy is remembering the benefit of re-examining our cached patterns. This term refers to habits of thought and feeling in our mind that we absorbed uncritically from the social environment around us, as opposed to conclusions we arrived at by our own intentional reasoning. Re-evaluating our cached patterns of thought and feeling enables us to see reality more clearly, make more effective decisions, and achieve our goals, thus helping us gain greater agency in personal relationships and other life areas.

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    So whenever you notice yourself confused or upset by something that you did not expect, stop and think: what is the origin of your confusion? Is it coming from some sort of cached pattern, where you think something is the only “right way” of doing things? Think about whether there are any alternative ways of achieving your desired outcome. (This is part of a broader strategy of dealing with common thinking errors by considering alternatives, which research shows is a very effective way for avoiding thinking errors.) Try listing at least 3 alternatives, and describe why each of them can be valid and right, at least for other people if not for you. Remember, relationships are a two-way street, and you need to respect the other person and their preferences in order to communicate well.

    Questions for Consideration

    To help you internalize this information, gain long-lasting benefit from reading this article, and use it effectively in your everyday life for improving your thinking, feeling, and behavior patterns, reflect on and answer the questions below.

    • Can you identify any ugh fields you developed? How do you deal with ugh fields?
    • In what ways, if any, can you be a better communicator in your professional, personal, and civic life areas?
    • Are there any instances where the anchoring effect caused you to make sub-optimal decisions?
    • Do you think you have any cached patterns that might be harmful to your mental well-being?
    • If so, what steps can you take to deal with these cached patterns?

    Featured photo credit: Phone via flickr.com

    More by this author

    Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

    President and Co-Founder at Intentional Insights; Disaster Avoidance Consultant

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    Last Updated on June 26, 2019

    13 Ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently

    13 Ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently

    Let me begin by being 100% frank with you – everyone is capable of happiness.

    Happiness is first a choice but it also takes persistence to maintain. Happiness is our birth right and my mission is to help as many people as I can live their happiest life.

    My mission is to spread the message that everyone deserves happiness.

    To live a happy life; however, you must do the work, gain the necessary knowledge, and increase your awareness.

    You must fully embody this state and begin to think and feel happiness on every level of your being.

    Often times, excuses present themselves and our mind gives us the reasons why we can’t be happy:

    “I am too busy right now to focus on happiness”

    “I will be happy when I finish school, when I have the money, when I am in the right relationship, when I have kids, when my children are older….”

    “I would have had a happy life if this traumatic event had never happened”

    “I don’t deserve happiness”

    EVERYONE deserves happiness. The reason that you are here right now is because you have a purpose and you are on the earth to enjoy your journey.

    Think BIGGER than your excuses. Push FARTHER than your complaints.

    Don’t be pulled away from greatness. Get uncomfortable. At least these are what happy and successful people do on a daily basis.

    If you would like to begin embodying this life-changing state, then… Here are the 13 ways happy people think and feel differently:

    1. Happy People Put Happiness First

    Happy people have made the decision that their end goal is happiness.

    Every situation, event, bad day ultimately ends with happiness.

    To them, happiness is equivalent to sleep and water – it is a necessity to their life. To live an unhappy life is to have never lived at all.

    The happy person asks,

    “What would be the point of living if every day and moment were filled with negativity?”

    “Why would I deplete my energy on negativity when I expend less to be positive?”

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    They make happy-based decisions which means in EVERY MOMENT they choose happiness.

    If their circumstances can’t change then they instead change their perspective, they look for the silver lining in the negative.

    Happy people don’t let negativity steal their moments away – a positive mindset always prevails.

    If you ask a happy person how their day was, they will always answer your question with a highlight or a lesson learned.

    2. Happy People Embrace Pain

    I know what you are thinking –

    “No one is ALWAYS happy”

    or …

    “Even happy people get in bad moods”

    and …

    These statements are absolutely accurate.

    Happy people aren’t always happy and they DO get into bad moods. They get overwhelmed, they feel defeated, and their feelings get hurt.

    Happy people aren’t invincible and they feel pain just like everyone else. The only difference between happy people and people who let negativity run their lives is that…

    Happy people quickly acknowledge their pain and they make a decision to find a way to transform their pain into something greater. They also use these 13 simple ways to shake off the sadness.

    Happy people admit the negativity they feel and they do what it takes to get back into their natural state: happiness.

    When your end goal is happiness, then you will find a way to achieve it no matter how much strength you have to muster.

    3. Happy People Have a Happy Self-Image

    We all have an image in our minds that we subconsciously live up to.

    The reason that change is so hard is because our subconscious mind is programmed to live by how we define ourselves.

    How are you currently defining yourself?

    For happy people, they see themselves with a smile, positive outlook, and/or a bounce in their step. When an event or situation arises that brings in a negative emotion, they quickly change their state to resemble their natural self-image.

    When happy people are in a bad mood, it feels unusual to them because feeling negative isn’t aligned with how they see themselves. When they feel upset, they acknowledge the negativity and look for a solution to bring their emotions to the level of how they perceive themselves.

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    Look at how you define yourself today – your mind and body are always trying to live up to the definition it is taught to believe.

    Your body’s job is to keep you in a “normal” state because this is where it feels most comfortable.

    If your self-image is happy, then your mind and body will naturally be brought back to where it feels at home. Your actions will be a clue to how you define yourself.

    Take a look at this guide and learn to build positive self-image: How to Build Self Esteem (A Guide to Realize Your Hidden Power)

    4. Happy People Have a Strong Support System

    The happiest people know that it takes a village and they lean on others for support.

    Happy people feel comfortable reaching out for help when they feel that their resistances are overpowering them. They quickly sense their negativity and they tell somebody.

    Happy people ask for assistance when they can’t figure out a problem. Seeking help takes strength and it never gets in the way of their self-worth. Happy people appreciate the wisdom that their support system provides.

    They have strong connections with the people who are close to them. They never trudge through tough times alone because jeopardizing their happiness for too long would be detrimental to their well-being.

    5. Happy People Safeguard Their Minds from Negative Triggers

    Warding off negativity is almost impossible when we live in a society that lives by what went wrong and feeds off of what could go wrong. News travels instantaneously so it would be unrealistic to shut this out of your life completely.

    However, one strategy that happy people use to safeguard their minds is regulating their environment.

    We have a lot of control on how we allow our environments to affect us. We can control our social media feed, the television shows and movies we watch, the books that we read, the people that we spend our time with, and the places that we hang out.

    If happiness is your end goal, then take a good look at what is bringing you down. What triggers your unhappiness? See if there is anything in your environment that can be changed……

    What we listen to, read, and who we hang out with influence our mind, what we think about, what we worry about, our reactions, and behaviors.

    Happy people know what triggers a feeling of negativity and it feels out of alignment for them so they do what it takes to avoid it.

    They might regulate their social media news feed to reflect the information that brings them positive energy. They might regulate the people that they spend their time with. It is important to hang out with like-minded people.

    What are your triggers? How can you avoid the negativity in your environment?

    These are ways that happy people regulate their environment and safeguard their minds: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions

    6. Happy People Know When to Say “No”

    Happy people know when to sit one out and say “no.” They do this to protect their happiness and well-being.

    Life gets overwhelming – a lot of people need our attention and the to do list can seem never ending.

    Happy people give themselves permission to take the day off and they feel comfortable with saying “no” when their stress levels begin to climb. They understand that those around them aren’t benefiting from someone who is frazzled, overwhelmed, and tired.

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    A happy person identifies their negative emotion and then they quickly treat it to bring themselves back to their “normal” state, so that they can be at their best for not only themselves but for those around them, too.

    A simple “no” can ultimately mean many more “yes’s” in the future because happiness has a long battery life. You can take a look at Leo Babauta’s article The Gentle Art of Saying No and learn to say no.

    7. Happy People Are Good Evaluators

    Happy people can quickly sense when something is off with themselves or others. They are very intuitive to happiness levels. When someone isn’t quite right, they are the first ones to notice.

    Being able to evaluate happiness means that you can identify when negativity is lingering around for too long.

    We all have bad days; however, the happy person evaluates often and quickly intervenes.

    In other words, happy people frequently evaluate their state and immediately change when their pessimism is overshadowing their joy.

    8. Happy People Bring Other People Up

    What goes on inside of us is mirrored into our physical world.

    What we think about literally consumes our life and is displayed in our work, relationships, and attitude.

    Happy people naturally feel good inside and about themselves so they treat others the way that they treat themselves. It never feels forced to give a compliment or to help out a stranger.

    When we are truly happy with ourselves, everyone around us has a better experience. Happy people are kind to themselves and because of this, it feels natural to them to want to make others’ happy, too.

    9. Happy People Go After Their Dreams

    Happy people are always following the joyful path. They make happy-based decisions and because of this, they always end up where they want to be.

    It’s absolutely impossible to be happy by following an undesirable path, which is quite opposite for unhappy people.

    Most people journey through life on a path they think they are “supposed” to be own. Warning signs (negativity) are often ignored because they truly believe that these feelings are a normal part of life.

    Negativity is NOT normal.

    The happiest people investigate the negativity in their life and quickly analyze the results. This process allows them to get back on the joyful path which ends in a desirable outcome.

    Follow your happiness and your dreams will come true (If that isn’t motivation then I don’t know what is!)

    In addition to happiness, here are 14 amazing things that happen when you live your passion.

    10. Happy People Never Sweat the Small Stuff

    The only expectation that the happy person has is that they remain in a joyful state.

    They rarely have expectations for the events and people in their lives because they know that this is a sure way to get let down.

    The happiest people take life as it comes – you could say that they roll with the punches. When you don’t have expectations, then you can just sit back and watch how beautifully life unfolds.

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    Happy people understand that bad things are inevitable, they are a part of life – The car will break, the kids will make mistakes, people will be late, and dinner will burn.

    If it’s not anything seriously affecting their lives, then they don’t give their energy to it.

    11. Happy People Rarely Have to Prove That They Are Right

    Happy people remember that it’s more important to live up to what they believe. When you live your life aligned with your belief system, then there is no need to explain or prove yourself to others.

    Differences in opinions are inevitable, but the happiest of people know it’s wasted energy to defend their position.

    It is more effective to simply show people, through actions, how you think, feel, and what you believe.

    Energy is saved, arguments are diminished, and credibility/respect are gained when we live by what we believe.

    12. Happy People Smile (Even When They Don’t Want To)

    Smiling is one of the healthiest things we can do; and happy people use this simple trick quite often.

    It has been proven that smiling has the ability to boost your immune system, decrease stress levels, and can even make you look younger. The benefits of smiling have even been backed up by science.[1]

    Better yet, smiling is contagious. When you engage in a quick smile, you are likely to brighten someone else’s day along with your own. It is no wonder why happy people smile often!

    13. Happy People Live Life in the Present Moment

    When we are genuinely happy, we are living for the moment.

    Happy people let go of the past, enjoy the present, and look forward to the future. They take the moments for what they are worth – they only invest their energy in what feels right to them.

    These tips on How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Past or Future maybe helpful for you.

    Everyone is capable of living a happy-centered life. You deserve a life that you desire – your dream life. All you have to start doing is make happy-based decisions TODAY.

    In every moment, decide on what makes you happy – decide on what gets you excited. Stop doing what you don’t love, don’t listen to the people that you dislike.

    If you are engaging in something that isn’t bringing you joy, then quit doing it. Listen to your heart, stop ignoring the warning signs (negativity) because they are there for a reason.

    Final Thoughts

    I have observed, studied, and interviewed some of the happiest and most successful people along with some of the most miserable and self-loathing.

    It starts with one decision – happiness.

    The happiest, most successful people choose happiness with EACH and EVERY decision. And you can start doing this today.

    Featured photo credit: Autumn Goodman via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Business Review: The Science Behind the Smile

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