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10 Things Fairy Tales Do Not Tell About Life

10 Things Fairy Tales Do Not Tell About Life

With the new live action Cinderella set to impress audiences, fairy tales have been on people’s minds. They remind us of our childhoods, and of the hopes that they had inspired in us.

Many fairy tales have a dark and horrific history that have been altered for people to enjoy. In a Huffpost article, it discusses the disturbing truths of some of our favorite tales, including one of the most popular: Snow White. It’s believed that the tale was actually based on the life of Margarete von Waldeck. Her brother used small children for mining, and after they became deformed, a man would serve poisoned fruit to the children who he believed had stolen from him.

Margarete’s step-mother was also evil in her own way: she was jealous of Margarete’s beauty and sent her away, where she had a love affair with Prince Philip II of Spain. She was then poisoned because of the affair. Sound familiar? This awful history was altered to be sold as a more pleasant tale.

However, when these tales were changed, they may have become more pleasing to listen to, but they also left out some important life lessons.

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1. There’s Not Always Someone There to Rescue You

In almost all fairy tales, someone is there to save the main character: The hunter saves Red Riding Hood and Fairy Godmother helps to rescue Cinderella. But what these tales don’t teach us is that occasionally, we have to save ourselves. Sometimes in life we will get ourselves into a bind, but it will be up to us use our own strength to pull ourselves out again.

2. We Won’t Always Sing While We Work

When Snow White and her dwarf friends sing songs that include lyrics like, “Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go,” and “Just whistle while you work”—as well as all of the singing Cinderella does while she finishes her house work—we learned that singing helps you get through the work day.

While that true on some days, what fairy tales don’t tell us is that some days, even the cheeriest song can’t make the things go easier. When workers, bosses and customers are stressing us, we can feel more like screaming our way through work than singing.

3. Everyday Will Not Be a Perfect Hair Day

There’s a common trait that almost all fairy tale characters seem to share: They are always looking perfect. Whether it’s in movies or pictures in storybooks, everyone looks good, no matter what is happening in their lives. However, that’s not always true in real life.

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There will be many many days when you feel less than beautiful or perfect, when your hair is looking like something a bird flew out of and your makeup is non-existent. It’s ok to be looking less than perfect, we don’t need to look like a Princess 24/7. We just need to let our inner beauty shine.

4. Beauty Comes In Every Shape

Along with perfect hair, the main characters of fairy tales are often depicted as the perfect shape. While there’s nothing wrong with these pictures and movies, since they are for entertainment, we need to know when we get older that there is nothing wrong with not being a size 2.

It’s a lesson that girls especially have to take to heart for as long as we can. We don’t need to feel bad if we don’t have the waist of Belle. Pictures are just pictures. We need to embrace who we are as a person and let our looks not get us down.

5. “Ugly” Doesn’t Mean Evil

The “ugly” people in fairy tales tend to be evil. Of course that’s just to show us the difference in characters. But it can sometimes teach us that ugly is bad. Which of course isn’t true. Your outer appearance has nothing to do with what kind of person you are. Beautiful of not, it’s up to you how you live your life.

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6. Life Can Still Be Good With a Step-Family

Did anyone ever notice how many how many step-families are evil in fairy tales? It can almost makes you think you’re doomed to unhappiness if you belong to a this kind of family. But what we need to learn is that, while yes, blending families can be extremely difficult,it won’t be all bad. With hard work and effort, blended families can be pretty great. They can be chaotic and fun and full of love.

7. Sometimes You Need to Be Tough Instead of Sweet

Fairy tales tend to have main characters who are kind, sweet and gentle. And while that works for creating stories with lovable characters, it doesn’t always work for real life. There are times in life where being sweet and kind isn’t going to get you far. Sometimes, you need to bring a little toughness, a little can of whoop-ass to the table to get things done or to get what you need. And those days shouldn’t make you feel bad, but, rather, they should make you feel strong.

8. Balancing Work and Play

In the famous tale of the Ant and the Grasshopper, we learn that hard work gets us ahead in life. But what also needs to be taught is that the grasshopper wasn’t all wrong. Too much work will make life pass you buy. Without any playing or enjoyment, there’s not much point of living. You need to balance work with play. So go ahead and get the work done, but don’t forget to take breaks and enjoy the life around you.

9. The Past Can’t Always be Undone

In tales like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, life resumes as normal after the curses are lifted. But that’s not always true. There are times in life where we can reverse what’s been done, but there are many times in life where what’s been done can not be undone. Learning that our actions, whether good or bad, can be permanent—that there’s not always a “do over”—is important. It makes us take responsibilities for what we do.

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10. Bad Things Do Happen from Time to Time

We all know the famous saying, “And they Lived Happily Ever After.” Every fairy tales ends this way, and it makes us feel very god inside. But life doesn’t always have a happily ever after.

Bad things really can and do happen. Our hearts do break, we lose people we love, and we have to cope with the pain that real life brings. While it’s wonderful to live in these tales to enjoy the “happily ever afters,” it’s important that we learn that real life doesn’t always turn out that way.

Fairy tales are fun, happy and enjoyable. And while there are many things we can learn from fairy tales, there’s also a lot of life lessons that these fairy tales don’t teach us about. But that’s ok—we’ll continue to love these fairy tales for generations to come. And the other life lessons? We’ll figure them out along the way.

Featured photo credit: JANIE via flickr.com

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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

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