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10 Things to Tell Yourself If You Will Spend Christmas Alone

10 Things to Tell Yourself If You Will Spend Christmas Alone

Oh man, the holiday season is upon us and so is yet another month filled with the constant reminder of who you do and do not have in your life at the moment. Something about this season makes people go nutty over the idea of being with others. It’s this obsession that drives many a single person into a state of sheer loneliness at least once or twice a day. But what if we changed all that? What if you could break the lonely trend and actually be happy to spend some one-on-one time with yourself this year? Let’s add to this the fact that you’ll come out a stronger person because of it. Sounds pretty fabulous, right?

Let’s start the process to being an amazing, fearless, single individual by taking care of that loneliness – one positive affirmation at a time. Check out the following list of the 10 best things you can tell yourself when you get lonely this Christmas:

1. Your Cat Loves You

This may seem like an attack on my fellow cat connoisseurs. Trust me, it’s not. In fact, this point extends even to those who choose the “alternative lifestyle” of living with a dog. Your pet legitimately loves you and wants your attention! Don’t have one? Now’s the time to get one. There’s nothing more soothing than snuggling up with your furry friend when times get tough. They love you, give them some love back. Next thing you know, you’re not so lonely anymore.

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2. Groceries are Cheaper for One

Sometimes, roommates make a pact to “split the cost of groceries” or “leave each other’s food alone”. I think we all know what really happens. You end up footing the bill for their gluttony. Here is where the beauty of living alone comes into play. Your food is actually yours. No more fighting over the last yogurt…the yogurt that you bought, by the way. You’re welcome, self.

3. Your PTO is Yours This Year

Ugh… It’s your day off and this person in your life insists that you parade around from house to house, meeting different relatives and family friends whom you’ve been so fortunately selected to impress. No thanks! This year, your paid time off is all yours. No awkward moments in attempting to dodge angst-filled glares from preteen cousins. Better yet, no fending off the marriage question everyone is asking at this, the tender age of 35. Nope, you can do anything you want with your time off. How about a trip to Vegas? Bocca? Hawaii? Doesn’t matter! You don’t have to answer to anyone this year. Congrats!

4. Romance Makes You Nauseous

Something about the holiday season makes everyone get all touchy feely. The last thing you need is your significant other of two weeks suggestively directing you toward the Zales window. Those cold, creepy, horse-drawn carriages? Nope. A burnt tongue from hot cocoa and blisters from that mediocre ice rink visit? Not this year! All that sappy, sap, sappiness can be left to those who don’t have a date with Mad Men and a few glasses of vino.

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5. Opting for a Night in with Netflix is Trendy These Days

Speaking of Mad Men, let’s give a big thank you to Netflix! Any show you want to watch, season after season, is right there when you need it. The best part? It’s actually cool to make your dates with Netflix now! Once you’ve completed the entire series, you can choose to move onto the next show, or go out on the town for some real-person interaction. It really doesn’t matter. The great thing here is that you aren’t forced either way…sensing a theme here, eh?

6. Christmas Cheer is an Option, Not a Requirement

Christmas is awesome. There’s no denying that. The only not-so-awesome thing about it is when others try to convince you that it’s necessary to constantly listen to Christmas music, watch Christmas movies, engage in Christmas activities, basically fake a festive spirit for the sake of “the best Christmas ever”. Sure, you’ll have your moments of pure Christmas bliss, but they’ll be on your watch, allowing you to actually enjoy the spirit of the season – not fake your way through it.

7. Yours is the Only Awkward Christmas Party

Possibly one of the best things about being “lonely” this holiday season is not having to head out to a bunch of awkward holiday Christmas parties throughout the month of September. You may have a few of your own, but you’ll more than likely know the people there, and better yet, you choose whether or not you go. Even if your loneliness is caused by living far from loved ones, you’ll enjoy having a good excuse not to play carpool with your siblings and partake in family cooking events. Much easier to keep up that daily routine you’re adjusting to with fewer obligations.

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8. There’s no Heat to be Caught

When that festive smile turns to a blank face after three hours of holiday festivities, you’re bound to catch some heat from your date. Even worse, if you provide an unfavorable answer to questions asked by friends and family regarding your thoughts on marriage, politics, etc. You’re skipping the nagging in favor of a good time at holiday parties this year. That sounds like a smart idea, if you ask me.

9. That One Starbucks Always Appreciates Your Business

Some Starbucks locations are friendlier than others. Chances are, you’ve identified the one with the nicest baristas (I sure have!). Go there. Something about their “Have a great day!” seems so much more believable than when your grocery store clerk says it. You might even be a regular. This is awesome. Not only do the baristas know your order, but you can catch a quick convo before returning to your Netflix-athon. #winning.

10. Life is What you Make it

Alright, time to get a little serious. Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be. If you constantly dwell on your single status, your life will become centered around finding “the one” and being miserable until that happens. Forget about that quest and take time to enjoy your single self. Life should be about you and the amazing impact you can make during your time on this planet, not your ability to settle into a relationship with someone you’re not absolutely head over heels for..

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Featured photo credit: Cute young woman playing with snow in fur coat outdoors via shutterstock.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!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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