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10 Life Lessons from Nelson Mandela

10 Life Lessons from Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela has left us a legacy of forgiveness, reconciliation and his pledge for freedom for everybody, no matter their race or color. He will always be an inspiration to the world. In the long and cruel battle to achieve this, he has taught us some invaluable life lessons.

1.Never abandon hope or give up

“The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.” – Nelson Mandela

Mandela (also known as Madiba) had very clear objectives in that he was committed to ending apartheid and a terribly unjust society. He knew that the road would be paved with enormous difficulties. But he never gave up.

Defining your goal and your objectives are essential to winning the race. Facing setbacks and failure is the most difficult part, but never give up.

2. Learn the art of compromise

“You mustn’t compromise your principles, but you mustn’t humiliate the opposition. No one is more dangerous than one who is humiliated.” – Nelson Mandela

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” – Nelson Mandela

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Whether in politics or in relationships, compromising and negotiating are essential tools. Learn how to give and take. Mandela gave superb advice when he stated that both sides have to gain. It should ideally be a win-win situation.

3. Violence is not the answer

“We can’t win a war, but we can win an election.” – Nelson Mandela

Mandela was sentenced to prison for life (and served 27 years) because he and the ANC party had adopted a Marxist strategy of sabotage and violence in the fight for justice. After his release, he did not altogether renounce this policy. It was kept in reserve.

Reconciliation and negotiation were far more effective and powerful weapons and that should never be forgotten. Madiba had the intelligence not to let the past of bitterness and resentment restrict him. Four years of tough negotiations with President de Klerk were rewarded with success and the joint Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

4. Don’t be put off by difficulties

It always seems impossible until it is done.” – Nelson Mandela

That quote by Madiba reflects that although lives are marked by illness, tragedy, misfortune and pain, people should never get discouraged. Those negative experiences can teach more than anything else. And they can teach that you have to remain faithful to your values and ethics. Mandela wanted freedom from apartheid, and while he changed strategy, he never changed that one principle.

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Nelson Mandela

    5. Learn how to forgive

    “If there are dreams of a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to that goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.” – Nelson Mandela

    Why do you think that Nelson Mandela decided to learn Afrikaans, the language of his oppressors, while in prison? That was the first move in forgiveness.

    When you have been hurt, it is only right to feel self-pity. That feeling may be followed by anger and rage and you should let it all out in a safe, private way. If you never learn to forgive, you will always feel bad. Even if the person who hurt you is dead, negative emotions ruin your life. Time to draw a line under it, and once you forgive, you immediately start to feel better.

    6. How kind are you?

    “I believe that in the end that it is kindness and accommodation that are all the catalysts for real change.” – Nelson Mandela

    Try a little kindness today.

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    7. Bond by sharing experience

     “I dream of Africa which is at peace with itself.” – Nelson Mandela

    In South Africa, rugby was the sport of the white elite and many black and colored people cheered the opposing team as a way of protesting. Picture the scene at the 1995 Rugby World Cup when Mandela wore the rugby jersey of the Springboks, the South African team, who went on to win. That one gesture in participating at a great sporting event was a powerful way of bonding a nation.

    On a personal level, try hugging (if appropriate!), eating together, taking part in a sport, or hundreds of other ways to strengthen bonding. These shared experiences will help understanding, commonality and reinforce relationships.

    8. Fight discrimination

    “I detest racialism because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man.” – Nelson Mandela

    Madiba was single minded in his approach to the enormous task ahead. Today, society is confronted with many other forms of intolerance that lead to discrimination and oppression.

    In addition to racism, you can add sexism, ageism, fat phobia, ableism, homophobia and classism as barriers to unity and equal human rights for all.

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    Where do you stand on these issues? Have you taught your kids that this discrimination is hurtful and unfair?

    9. Draw a line under your past

    “We don’t have to be victims of our past, that we can let go of our bitterness, and that all of us can achieve greatness.” – Nelson Mandela

    Mandela had every reason to become bitter and twisted and to continue with aggression and confrontation. He was intelligent enough to realize that closure was essential and the new path towards peace and reconciliation was the only way.

    How many times have you told that story about your difficult childhood, marriage or boss? Looking for pity is no way to win friends. Time for healing and closure.

    10. An unconquerable spirit

    At the Rivonia trial, there was a risk that Mandela might be sentenced to death. He was so determined that he persuaded his comrades that they would not appeal. He urged them to have dignity and pride, and to be steadfast.

    Mandela’s approach to life when he finally retired was, “Tread softly, breathe peacefully, laugh hysterically.”

     You might also like: One Life Lesson From Nelson Mandela

    Featured photo credit: Ted Eytan Creative Commons via Flickr via Flickr

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    Robert Locke

    Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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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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