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Why You Don’t Have To Aim At Being Mentally Strong

Why You Don’t Have To Aim At Being Mentally Strong

I was mindlessly playing Madden 25 and listening to music when I heard a unique line come bursting through my headphones, “Nothing wrong with not being strong. Nothing says we have to beat what’s wrong.” There I was, a young 21 year old just over indulging in video games during holiday break at college and that line (and song and album) left me dumbfounded.

For a length of unknown time — probably my whole life — people had been explaining to me that I had to be mentally strong and if anything, pretend that I was not whatever I was. What was I? A bit anxious and depressive, yet working through it. What was I portraying? Nothing is wrong, don’t ask, and I am a normal human being. However, thanks to a man by the stage name of El-P, my mental strength was able to grow without forcing myself to have to be mentally strong.

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It’s like this: if an individual is too short to dunk in basketball, why shape them into a player that would try and dunk? Of course, they will need to work with their own set of individual skills that they have to improve their game and make them a force to be reckoned with. That might not be the best analogy, but the mind kind of works in the same light. If you are not mentally strong (don’t worry I am not either) then do not force yourself to pretend to be for the sake of someone else’s words around you. There is no fun in pretending to be someone else, and there is no worthwhile value in that. It is more beneficial to learn how to work with your own mind, specifically.

Let’s say you have the gift (and curse) of having a rather anxious mind. You quickly jump to the worst case scenario and constrict yourself in social situations. You start feeling the collapse in your lungs whenever crowds of people are around, even if they are just passing. It’s okay to be overwhelmed if you have these issues, trying to force yourself to be strong might cause your mind to overreact and turn in on itself. Instead, work with it. If you need to step away for a bit and find personal solace, do it. If you feel the need to mindlessly scroll through social media just to calm the nerves? Sure, it’s an option.

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It’s important to establish a safety net to catch yourself when you are let down or hampered by your will power not being strong enough. Maybe you can message an individual a wordy explanation as to what is happening in your head. You may be showcasing that you are not mentally strong and leaving yourself vulnerable, but if you have already accepted that than your friends will as well. They will work with you without judgement and you shouldn’t have to worry about what they think.

Figuring out how to portray your own mind might sound difficult, but in reality, forcing yourself to live your life as a character is rather tough as well. It’s cold and vitriolic and you will find yourself alienated from the true you, which is worse than having to accept the way your mind is, so it’s safer to collect your presence and share it with the world.

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Last fall, I decided to stop this macho performance I had been putting on display and instead really center myself around my emotional out-pour and start accepting my mind for what it was. I was there, in the mental ditch, after pretending to be strong for so long. It’s like when you are on a long drive and people recommend you to pull over and find a rest area for a bit if you need to. There’s no need to put yourself in a more dangerous arena by attempting to drive when you are weak.

There was a third bit to that lyric from earlier that I saved because I thought it would help wrap my ideas into a nice bow to end this article. “Nothing manmade remains made long.” Think about it, the world around us is not as permanent as we think. Things rot, structure-wise, decaying over the years, so within this world it’s more important if you are out there finding your value and accepting yourself for what you are.

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Make your mark on the world, and maybe a mentally strong mind will not be an issue anymore. I know my head well enough to have forgotten that and instead focus on pursuing what my heart and mind are passionate about.

Featured photo credit: greyerbaby via cdn.morguefile.com

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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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