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10 No-Fail Tools to Help Stop You from Worrying

10 No-Fail Tools to Help Stop You from Worrying

Something is worrying you! I can see it in your eyebrows. They are drawn up in a bunchy frown.

What are you worried about? Is  it something specific and huge or a generalized nagging worry?

We are all trying our level best to get along and do something worthwhile for ourselves and each other. And yet, we seem to worry all the time.

Worry itself seems to be a big shapeless, nameless cloud that hangs over us and make us miserable. The first step toward handling something, however, is fully understanding exactly what it is.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary online, this is worry:

“To give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles”

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Whatever is worrying you, There are some No-Fail tools you can use to stop allowing your mind to dwell on troubles or difficulty.

1) Understand that whatever happens in life, you can always do something about it.

Worry contains a fear of losing control or having a situation that you can do nothing about.

Once you accept the statement above, and know that there is always something you can do about it, you are coming from a place of potential control and you are already stronger.

2) Identify the problem.

Worry is a symptom. It indicates that there is an underlying problem. Sometimes it is a problem we don’t readily see. The first thing you need to do is identify what the problem actually is. There is no solution until you have fully identified the real problem

3) Write down what you can do about it.

If you are worrying about something specific that you can do something about, sit down and write out everything you can do to affect the outcome of the situation so that it is more likely to be favorable to you. Then come up with an action plan on how to handle it from start to finish.

For example, If you are worrying because your son is doing poorly in school, go find out the real situation. Look well with your own eyes and don’t just listen. Perhaps the teacher is not a great fit for your son. Perhaps your son has no idea what is expected of him. There can be many, many reasons for poor performance. You have to go and find out for yourself exactly what is going on. Be patient. Sometimes the real problem can be hidden. Talk to people and search for the truth. Once you know what the real problem is, you will see what you can do about it.

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Another example is perhaps you think someone might be angry at you but you are not sure, so you worry. Go ask that person if they are angry. If they are, you have the opportunity to iron things out. If they are not, you will know you have worried over nothing.

4) Look over your life for someone who is making you feel insignificant, afraid or is ruining your confidence.

If you are worried about something non-specific, and you cannot put your finger on it, look around your environment and find out who is putting doubts in your head or taking away your confidence.

Vague and generalized worry is an indicator that there is such a person in your environment. It could be that they are planting doubts about yourself, or maybe they are saying something negative about someone else you care about. Look around your environment and see if there is someone there tossing off comments that eat away at your confidence or your trust and love for someone else. They are making your environment appear hostile and that results in worry.

5) Be prepared for a possible unhappy outcome.

Try as we might, there are some things in life that we cannot control completely. Sometimes we have to undergo medical tests that have a possibility of revealing a dreaded disease or condition.

In cases like this, I find it helpful to say, “OK, what is the worst that could happen?” When you figure out what the worst is that could happen, you can start thinking about the steps you would take to handle that worst case situation. Even confronting the worst case scenario and writing down a few things you could do about it IF it were true, can make you feel a lot more in control.

6) Plan for the best possible outcome.

So many times, your own viewpoint and positive energy really does affect the outcome of situations. Tell yourself that the job interview is over and you have aced it. Tell yourself that this tense meeting will be a piece of cake and you will end it on great terms. Whatever you believe is the best possible outcome for the problem that you have, tell yourself that that is going to occur. You never know how magical your own thoughts and positive visualizations are. I have seen miracles occur with this tool.

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Are you worried about speaking in front of people? Use this tool to handle your fear.

When you start to worry or become nervous, think past the speech or presentation. Think of the happy lunch you will have afterward or the night after when you celebrate your successful speech with a glass of Merlot and a special dessert.
So many times when we have something we dread, we unconsciously fix our attention so intently on the upcoming incident that it dominates our thoughts. If you think past it, you create the future beyond it and you unfix your attention from the scary event.

This works really well, by the way when you are afraid of flying. When you start to become nervous or afraid, think of your happy landing instead of the fiery crash that you are sure is going to occur.

7) Understand that there are environmental factors designed to make you worry.

Have you ever seen a TV commercial where someone’s teeth are not white enough and they suffer socially? How about the guy with bad breath? There are so many socially unacceptable conditions that have simply been created by the media to make us worry enough to go out and buy their products.

Society today is worried about love handles, tummy bulge, toenail fungus, dandruff, body odor, stained teeth, wrinkles, dull hair, split ends and the list goes on almost forever. Before we had advertising agencies inventing these conditions, people were not nearly as worried about them.

I am not saying that things like body odor and dandruff don’t exist, but reasonable hygiene takes care of most of it.

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Understand that TV, movies, magazine articles and photos are designed to control our behavior, our attention and our dollars. Don’t let them make you feel inferior to a standard that not even Charlize Theron could live up to.

9) Let go and trust others to do the right thing.

As a mom, I used to worry endlessly about my kids. When they grew up and moved out, I was not with them every day and I had no choice but to let go. The funny part is that when I did that, they started really taking on responsibility for themselves.

If you are worrying about another, let them find their way. Most of us make it through life’s challenges. You can make sure that they know you are there for them if they need a leg up, but step away. You will be happier and many times, so will they.

10) Trust yourself to handle any situation in life.

Say this simple phrase to yourself: “Whatever happens, I will find a way to handle and overcome it.”

Believe it or not, this is true. You have made It this far and have figured out everything else you needed to figure out. Whatever is worrying you will not be different. You will figure a way out of it too.

Once you have done all of the above steps, go do something really fun. Watch a funny movie or go shopping for shoes. There is nothing like pleasurable activities to pull you out of worry mode.

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I am interested in your comments. If this advice has helped you, please let me know. I read and respond to all comments on my articles.

“Drag your thoughts away
from your troubles…
by the ears, by the heels,
or any other way you can manage it.”
―     Mark Twain

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Chris Ellis

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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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