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5 Of The Most Deadly Mistakes When Learning Something New

5 Of The Most Deadly Mistakes When Learning Something New

It’s always exciting to learn something new, whether it’s a foreign language, an instrument, or some kind of art.

But don’t let the excitement overtake you just yet. When most people learn something new, they make mistakes that cost them time, energy, and money. Maybe you decide that you want to start painting and, when you don’t manage to create something that rivals Monet in the first week, you give up, frustrated. Or you decide that you want to play the saxophone and your learning strategy consists of poking around on the Internet for teaching clues — and that leaves you feeling hopelessly lost. Or maybe you want to learn how to speak Spanish and you attempt to do it all by yourself at home, without any help or guidance, and that results in you grasping for the right words.

Sidestep these pitfalls by creating a strategy for how you will learn something new. The first step is to avoid these 5 costly mistakes, so you can set yourself up for long-term learning success.

Mistake 1: Not setting a specific goal

Without a specific goal to work towards, it’s easy to lose motivation. Goals help you identify what you want to achieve, keep you focused on what is and isn’t important, and help you measure your progress. If you need some inspiration on what your goals should be, start by asking yourself these questions: What would you like to get out of this? How will you do that? And who can help you reach that point?

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Mistake 2: Not immersing yourself

Think about how you learned how to ride a bicycle or swim You spent hours and days on a bike or in the water. Yet, most people rely heavily on video courses or tutorials to learn something new. That might be a good starting point, but you often need to dive deeper.

A Georgetown University Medical Center researcher conducted a study where subjects were divided into two groups and were observed using a technique called electroencephalography.

The two groups were both asked to study an artificial language. One group studied the language in a formal classroom setting while the other was trained through immersion.

After five months, the results clearly showed that the immersed group displayed the full brain patterns of a native speaker.

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Nothing beats learning by doing. Jump into the trenches and get your hands dirty.

Mistake 3: Going at it alone

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

While you do have to carve out alone time so that you can study on your own, you need a support system to grow. There are multiple ways to do this. Find a friend, colleague, or a family member that can keep you accountable on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. You want someone that has a similar, if not the same, goal as you do, where you can add value to each other. If you don’t have a single person who can be there for you, join or build a group that serves the same function but with more people, ensuring that someone will always be available. Or make a bigger investment by hiring a coach. This person can provide one-on-one guidance and attention, because they are sharing their expertise solely with you and specifically addressing any of your weaknesses.

Mistake 4: Aiming for perfection

Perfection is a momentum killer.

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When you’re starting to learn something for the first time, you’re going to face failure. It’s inevitable. This is why it’s much more important to focus on process versus progress. That means that if you want to paint, relish filling a canvas with colors of your choosing and don’t worry about the final product in the early stages. And don’t compare yourself to the masters or those who have been practicing the activity for years. Instead, refocus on your goals and what you wanted to get from tackling a new endeavor.

Mistake 5: Giving up too early

According to bestselling author Seth Godin, there are five reasons why someone will quit:

  1. You run out of time (and quit)
  2. You run out of money (and quit)
  3. You get scared (and quit)
  4. You’re not serious about it (and quit)
  5. You lose interest (and quit)

If you’re like 99% of people who have quit before, it’s probably because of the reasons Godin listed — lack of drive, interest, or guidance.

This “dip” due to lack of motivation is something all of us go through several times in the process of mastery —  even the best performers in the world.

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We all experience a high of energy and excitement when we first start to learn something new because this is the natural feeling of the “honeymoon” phase.

The best things always take more time than you originally expect. If you’re truly passionate about achieving your goals, you need to see the long-term vision instead of expecting short-term results overnight.

Do you know someone who has made these mistakes? Share this article with them!

More by this author

Sean Kim

Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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