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Published on September 30, 2020

4 Simple Ways to Make a Difference And Make This World Better

4 Simple Ways to Make a Difference And Make This World Better

Once upon a time, you woke up and decided to become the hero of your own tale. You decided that what you have to say matters. You decided what you had to give could make a difference. And you decided that you could make this world better. There would be a happy ending.

That hero is in all of us.

Sometimes, you may forget how much you have to offer. Even the smallest good deed has a ripple effect. When you give, you develop a better perspective, peace of mind, and appreciation for life. You stop focusing on all your problems when you go out and help others. You take on tasks that others may not feel like doing. You show kindness in places that need it. You don’t overlook anyone or anything around you. There is always something you can do to help.

The key is to start where you are. And once you start helping others, you’ll want to do it again and again. There’s a study in 2012 where researchers found that upon reflecting ways one had helped another, it motivated them to want to help more people.[1] So, helping others is a little addicting. Enjoy it.

The good news is that it’s good for your health and reduces stress increasing life-expectancy, making you feel good and happier each day. If you’re a better you, there’s no telling what the world will benefit from you. And sometimes, that good comes right back to you.

1. Volunteer

Volunteering is not just a way to help others and make a difference—it serves your soul. You just feel better when you do good for others. You have a chance to uplift your community and walk into a situation shedding light on solutions. You give hope, and when that happens, you also feel better about yourself. The world can be a little better because you walked through it.

Find a cause. Find an organization. Find an interest. Take it upon yourself to seek out opportunities to make a difference. You can both volunteer and advocate for issues touched upon by an opportunity. You can become invested. The tools are right on your fingertips—a quick search online will lead you to many things. Doing good was never this easy!

Here are just a “few” places you can search for volunteer opportunities:

For a continued search of volunteer opportunities, try searching on Idealist.

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There are many other sites to search for opportunities as well. Check out your local organizations and find some that need you.

You could also start your organization, drive, or event. There are always people looking for involvement, so you can find help. Shop around a little, get some ideas that will motivate you. This is your time!

2. Find Your Calling

Your calling is what captivates you. Whether it’s through helping others or achieving something, your goals give you a better life. And your life touches the world making it better, too.

Try these 15 Ways to Find Your Calling in Life for a Meaningful Life.

There’s nothing that you can’t do and achieve. But many people get stuck somewhere in life. Along the way, wrong values, priorities, or even people can disrupt your life’s calling. It’s easy to get distracted and lose your way.

Your calling is made up of living your principals and taking action on your plans. It’s something everyone has, but not everyone rises to the occasion. You may have a goal in mind that you set to achieve.

So, how do you find your calling? Well, what’s something that you can’t live without doing? It’s like eating, breathing air—just natural. It’s what you most want, even if others tell you not to go for it.

When you find your calling, you start contributing. And that contribution affects everything. A fire that started in you can fan flames in those around you. You get others inspired. You wake up each morning ready to go, and you know you can do it because, after all, you’re the hero of your tale.

A calling can be a job, a kindness, a status, an achievement, an investment, a gift, an action, a perspective—anything that gives you satisfaction.

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You then find that you’re not alone. You step out of your comfort zone, out of your little bubble to help others. You find out that you do matter. What you do for the world matters, even if it’s little. It all matters.

Don’t feel defeated because you didn’t invent the next great thing or don’t have absolute celebrity status or influence. If you did a kind deed today as part of your calling, you are moving mountains. And that shifts the world.

3. Altruism

Your best self is when you let go of the self—you are selfless.

According to Psychology Today, selflessness takes sacrifice.[2] There may be a cost for being kind, but altruism is what changes the world. Altruism is an attitude. It an assertion of value and goals to make the world and the people around you better. It’s assisting others when they most need it.

It’s fulfilling in and of itself because you are not looking for a reward. The reward is knowing that how you treat people will leave a smile on their faces and make a difference. But sometimes, you do not get to see the benefits of what you start.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.” —Greek Proverb

You may not know where to start. Just start by planting a seed. A seed of kindness that can grow over time, whether you are there to see it or not. A giant tree will come of it—a great experience, a great connection, a great solution.

A small seed of kindness becomes a tree that offers everyone shade. You may not get the shade in your lifetime, but you will be happy knowing you were the planter. That’s the beauty of altruism.

You don’t need to wait to start being altruistic. You just have to be kind. Kindness, love, compassion, support, understanding—these are the tools that an altruistic person uses, and they all come from within.

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You don’t need formal training to become altruistic. You just have to put someone or something greater than yourself before your interests. You have to move towards things that light up the world when there is so much dark.

The next time you pass that stranger, say hello. When you ask someone how they’re doing, add ”How are you, REALLY?” When you stand in line and pay for someone’s groceries or just a coffee, say “Just pay it forward” with a wink.

When you choose to be kind to one person, you turn their day around, and they WILL pay it forward. That’s how powerful altruism is—it gets everyone wanting to spread the good feeling that you gave them. Kindness is contagious—in a good way!

4. Share Your Story

Your part to play in this world isn’t insignificant. You take up space—you are allowed to have a say. Your story may be the only thing that helps someone else through similar struggles. Your pain may be someone’s point of reference for how to survive. Your passions may be the only thing that saves a life.

Yes, save a life. Sharing your story may save a life. That’s because, at the end of the day, people need hope. Hope is the reason behind great acts of kindness and good in this world. Hope can be given through the hardships you have faced.

What have you gone through that impacted you in any way? What lessons did you learn? How did you get through it? What was healing like? What have you accomplished since then?

Look to your story; you have everything you need to change the world. Your story itself will make the world a better place. You can share it however you want—a blog, an article, a video, an interview, a book, a speech, or just something you share between you and another person.

However you want to do it is up to you. It will take vulnerability and courage, but it is worthwhile because on the other side, you’ll find people who can relate and you need to know your reasons for holding on. Your resilience can be a motivator. In that way, you become a mentor.

Lives will change just because they look up to you. That’s an incredible power! And it’s yours to use anytime. Just open up—don’t worry about being perfect. Welcome flaws. Welcome failures. They are all tools for learning and growing.

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If you want to make a difference, start by seeing the value in your own story. Start by using what you’ve been through to change the world. When you do, you’ll find others following your footsteps. You may be the leader.

What’s more motivating in using our negative experiences for a positive impact? If you can’t change the past, use it. Don’t ruminate on it. Don’t live in it. Just let it be part of how you help others. This will help you heal.

As you teach others the lessons of your life, you reteach yourself. This is how to save yourself and others and serve as a reminder that we are all in this together. So, what’s holding you back?

Final Thoughts

In a way, just by BEING you, you are already doing good. As Wayne Dyer says, “you’re a human being, not a human doing.”

Just having been here, that is felt by someone. That is held onto by someone. You are making some sort of impact with your choices, your character.

Why not focus that energy into a cause you love, finding a calling, being altruistic, or sharing your story? You CAN make a difference. The world is waiting for you to shine. Let go and live through love.

More on How You Can Make a Difference

Featured photo credit: KAL VISUALS via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] GoodNet: 7 Scientific Facts About the Benefit of Doing Good
[2] Psychology Today: Altruism

More by this author

Sarah Browne

Sarah is a speaker, writer and activist

had a bad day Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again 4 Simple Ways to Make a Difference And Make This World Better How To Overcome Jealousy for a Happier Life How to Appreciate Life More and Be Grateful Why Taking Things for Granted Can Take Away Your Joy

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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