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The Epitome Of A Doomed Society Lies In A Web Of Convenience

The Epitome Of A Doomed Society Lies In A Web Of Convenience

Let’s be honest — we’ve become accustomed to the ease we find in our lives nowadays.

We find it in the drive-thru lane of our local fast food restaurant as we hurry to get home, only to grab the kids and hustle them off to their activities. Eating in the car instead of at the dining room table becomes the norm.

The latest in technology takes the worry out of forgetting anything and makes that part of our lives obsolete. Even the latest gadgetry in the newest refrigerator commercial tells us about “what’s in the fridge,” where we are told exactly what’s there in order to ensure that we don’t grab more milk and eggs when we don’t need them.

These are just a few examples, but the list is endless.

If you look at your typical day, how many tasks are aided by convenience? We all have things like smartphones, WiFi, and GPS now at our fingertips — no matter where we are in the world.

I love those same conveniences. But have we allowed ourselves to rely so much on these easy ways that by doing so we are hindering our own ability to deal with life as it comes?

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Have we forgotten what it was like not too long ago for previous generations whose greatest conveniences included milk delivered daily? Back then, the best way we heard about what was going on around us and around the world was on the nightly news program.

As I look at the faces of our children, who’ve had their own tablets and headphones since before they were four years old, I wonder if having these modern-day conveniences actually does more harm than good in the long run.

For example, are these conveniences adding more problems in other areas, like obesity? Are our children learning nothing about how to prepare for life as it will be, not as we wish it would be? Are there lessons they should be learning now that we are neglecting to teach them? Is doing so a disservice to them and setting them up for a failure that is destined to find them?

Has our level of “laziness” increased due to our willingness to pay for just about anything, as long as we have to exert the least amount of effort to effectively still get what we want? Does assigning blame for this new entanglement actually change anything, and whose responsibility is it to actually do something about it?

And my biggest question of all: am I the only one who sees this as a problem in our society?

Why hasn’t anyone else raised their own eyebrow to not just start the conversation but seek to find a solution?

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Here is my take on this issue:

Convenience is meant to make things a little easier, but we have taken it too far. We have allowed ourselves and our children to not just grab hold of the things that make our lives easier, but have built our lives around those conveniences.

Our addiction to effortless attention and the sense of entitlement the majority of society seems to carry with them throughout their lives is hindering the real progress we need to have to sustain our most valued morals and ethical behavior.

Now, don’t get me wrong — running through the drive thru will not undermine everything we have in one night. But look at what’s happened just in your own family: do you sit together at the dinner table and share a meal, or is everyone headed in different directions to the extent that even texting one another while in the same house has become normal?

None of us has the ability to change the world, but we can each impact our part of the world as we once again take ownership of what we value. Nothing in this life ever comes easy, and although technology has made advancements in improving our lives for the better, it is still our responsibility to use those technological advances in the best way possible instead of requiring them to do everything for us. Growing up, I remember watching The Jetsons and thinking that we were so far away from that kind of living. But now, I’m not so sure.

Where do we go from here? How do we fix this epidemic and create a different outcome?

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Here are a few ideas. Feel free to add your own.

Challenge yourself.

Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. In fact, some of the most important things come from the hardest moments. Don’t always take the easy road. In turn, you teach yourself more than you know and you also inspire others around you.

Don’t complain.

Life is tough and there are going to be some things we just cannot undo or fix. Figure out a way to make the best of your situation and even if the result is not ideal, your attitude will remind you what is really important.

Go back to the basics.

When something is done for us, we forget how to do simple things, like tie our shoes. Progress and innovation can inhibit our willingness to do even the simplest of tasks just because we don’t have to anymore.

Determine your priorities.

If a family dinner once a week matters to you, then make the time to include it as a part of your schedule. Don’t allow yourself (or others) to make excuses just because it is easy to do. If there is a conflict, reschedule. Never cancel.

Appreciate your loved ones.

It’s easy to take people for granted (we all do it from time to time) and yet should something happen, we would do anything for a few simple moments together. Talk to one another instead of sending texts or emojis. Nothing warms the heart and creates a moment more than a few shared words with the people you love most.

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Keep your values, morals, and ethics intact.

Nowadays, it is easy to get caught up in superficial things like title and status. Regardless of how far you climb that ladder at work or how many privileges are afforded to you, remember what got you there to begin with and mentor others when given the chance. Never forget who you are by allowing a few dollars thrown your way to change the kind of legacy you want to leave behind.

Follow through with your intentions.

Too often, people over-commit and then don’t want to face the realization that they will need to disappoint someone by choosing one thing over another. Say “yes” only to the things and people who you truly want to give your effort and time to — don’t cheat others with a half-assed performance because it’s convenient. Either be all in or get out.

Step away from the devices.

Don’t bring them to the dinner table, leave them inside while you relax by the pool, and allow the calls to go to voice mail. “Getting off the grid” is easier than we think it is — we just have to give ourselves permission to do it. If we don’t have WiFi at our fingertips at every second of every single day, that would still not be the worst day ever. Be conscious with your choice to turn it off at night, when out with friends, or spending time with your significant other. It is noticed more than you think it is, no matter who is around you.

Play.

Have fun. Remember what it was like to be a kid and do things that most of us have forgotten to do: run in the sprinklers, jump on a swing, blow bubbles. Laugh out loud, smile more, giggle. Shoot hoops and ride bikes. Color with sidewalk chalk or crayons. Dance and sing when your “jam” comes on. Adding fun things like these to your week increases your happiness and naturally gives you more energy when you have to do “grown-up” stuff.

Try new things.

We get into ruts very easily and neglect our human curiosity about being an adventurer of what else is out there. Get excited about starting a new part of your story with an exploration of sorts that includes going outside your comfort zone or just learning something new. You may not fall in love with this new thing right away, but maybe it will point you towards something that expands your horizons in ways you never imagined.

Our lives can be changed, but only if we decide to change them. This kind of change will intimidate some and inspire others. You know which side of the fence you sit on and what you do next determines if you choose to stay trapped or you decide to live more intently.

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We don’t have to live this way. We can still fix this. Ultimately, that choice is yours as much as it is mine. The big question isn’t so much about your choice, but how committed you are to it. That’s what counts. The time to start is now.

Featured photo credit: Michael Podger/Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Michelle A. Homme

Author, Speaker, Quote Writer, Empowerment Coach

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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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