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10 Warning Signs that You are Going to Give Up

10 Warning Signs that You are Going to Give Up

It’s been a year of highs and lows. I decided to move to a new country for my research, I attempted to write a master’s thesis, I tried to find an awesome internship, and I tried to maintain a relationship.

One of these four failed, because I was giving up.

Looking back, I can see how that happened but in the moment I hadn’t noticed the decision to throw the towel in creeping up on me. I failed to adequately write my master’s thesis, and even though all I had to do was pay a relatively small amount of money to extend for another few months, my pride almost let me drop out. My friends and family pulled me back from the brink, and now I am solidly on track to getting my paper done and the future looks bright again.

It’s seems out of character for me to give up, but I almost did. What were the warning signs?

  1. Spending less and less time thinking about my project.
  2. Finding a bunch of unnecessary tasks to replace working on it.
  3. Seeing it as a burden rather than an investment in my future.
  4. Beginning to list justifications for not doing it.
  5. Rationalising that in fact I had achieved all the things I wanted to get with it (the job, the city, the apartment) without even graduating, therefore I didn’t need to accomplish it.
  6. Telling myself how thousands of others also decide to drop out, so it wasn’t a big deal
  7. Calculating that it was a risky financial decision.
  8. Convincing myself that I had been overambitious in thinking I could get this qualification, and that I should accept my academic abilities for being lesser than I thought.
  9. Not caring about the quality of my work.
  10. Brushing it off in conversation as unimportant, rather than speaking about it enthusiastically and with pride.

Let’s discuss these points a little more.

1. “Spending less and less time thinking about it.”

During the first few months, I was excited. This was something new, something challenging. However, when the scope of the project started to become apparent and I had underestimated the preparation necessary, it became a monolithic task, a mountain I could not climb. So, to prevent panic, I stopped thinking about it and distracted myself by working more, watching more TV and even listening to music at night so my brain would be forced not to mull over the roadblocks I had encountered.

SOLVED!

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To remind myself constantly that it wasn’t over yet, I placed books and notepads around the room, and notifications on my computer so that I forced myself to think about it.

2. “Finding a bunch of unnecessary tasks to replace working on it.”

Essentially, this is procrastination. I went so far as to take some floorboards out from under the kitchen work area to clean under them! I was too “busy” to spend time researching and writing. I was caught up with trying to do interviews for jobs, even though in reality I had plenty of spare hours to get some school work done. Ironically, these were jobs requiring a masters degree. There was never “enough” time when I could find ten other things that “needed” doing.

SOLVED!

To stop this silliness, I made a strict list of tasks that truly needed doing ordered by priority. Everything else got ignored.

3. “Seeing it as a burden rather than an investment in my future.”

The project became the enemy, the barrier to my happiness, that which sapped my free time and finances. Imagining the future benefits of putting in the hard work now became foggy and I began to wonder why I had bothered to put myself under so much pressure. Wan’t it more important to have my health and happiness, rather than trying to chip away at this endless task? I had forgotten why I had spent three years considering a masters, choosing a masters, the tense application process, the joy of admission, the things I had learnt in the classes leading up to the writing of the dissertation. I had forgotten how I had been spurred to do this by wanting to challenge myself to my limits, to open my mind up, to acquire deeper thinking, to be better placed in the competitive job market.

SOLVED!

I remembered that I would end up exactly where I had started a year ago, and that jolted me out of this apathy.

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4. “Beginning to list justifications for not doing it.”

It’s giving me sleepless nights. It’s depressing me. It’s too hard. I don’t need it. I want my weekends for myself, not for writing and reading and compiling data. I am not able to do it. I suck.

SOLVED!

Arrange a time management plan to balance study, work and free time. Ask for advice from everyone possible, don’t do it alone. As for thinking that you suck? Come on – you would not have gotten into the program in the first place if that were true.

5. “Rationalising that in fact I had achieved all the things I wanted to get with it (the internship, the city, the apartment) without even graduating, therefore I didn’t need to accomplish it.”

There were many reasons carefully thought-out over the years as to why doing a masters was the right choice. I needed a career change, and without relevant work experience or qualifications in another industry I was unlikely to move out of teaching. I tried for full-time and part-time jobs in marketing and PR, to no avail. I wanted a higher salary, and a job that used more of my creativity. Mostly, I wanted to work with adults. This meant that study was the only path left open to me, as continuing as a teacher was, to me, worse than the all seven levels of Dante’s hell. Due to a series of fortunate events during my thesis research period, I ended up with the dream job and a great apartment in an awesome city. So why bother completing the course?

SOLVED!

Reputation is important. If you don’t want accusations of not finishing your work. Also, it seemed such a waste to throw away a year’s work without the piece of paper to hang on the wall at the end…

6. “Telling myself how thousands of others also decide to drop out, so it wasn’t a big deal.”

Tons of people do it! They just walk out without a care in the world and take on the challenge of life. Many role-models of mine who went from a small innovative idea to massive success tell the tale of not completing school. Education is just one pathway to learning.

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SOLVED!

Don’t do something just because “everyone else” appears to be doing it. That’s just dumb. Think about what you really lose/gain from making this decision. I just needed three more months and I’d have a masters forever. I have no idea what the future holds and maybe that title will make a difference. If not? Hey, it was only one year and I’m proud of the personal achievement.

7. “Calculating that it was a risky financial decision.”

This was the hardest one to argue against. The grand plan had been to end the internship coinciding with the submission of my dissertation, and moving to working full-time with the company. My savings were gone but I had prepared for that and expected to earn a living again within one month of finishing. This all went up in the air when I had to add three months to the study period. How was I going to ask my family for more support? How was I going to pay the extra fees? How would I pay everyone back?

SOLVED!

My situation does not apply to everyone, but I solved it mainly by swallowing my pride and asking for help. I also had developed a good rapport with my internship colleagues, who were thoroughly understanding when I told them I would need more time to finish. Although it means a little more debt, in the long run, it is a drop in the ocean.

8. “Convincing myself that I had been overambitious in thinking I could get this qualification, and that I should accept my academic abilities for being lesser than I thought.”

I have always believed in pushing myself to bolder and higher challenges, rarely saying no to a task and usually succeeding. I enjoyed the feeling of success and the knowledge gained from each encounter. I also learned to accept some levels of failure. But this failure hit me really hard, for whatever reason. Perhaps the exhaustion of combining a 40-hour a week internship, managing marketing for a film festival and general housework was too much when you had a research paper to do on top of it all. In my mind, not being able to manage all of these tasks successfully meant that I was a failure, stupid and had finally encountered my glass ceiling.

SOLVED!

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It overlaps a little with earlier issues. Essentially, managing your time and delegating tasks when you can is important. It WILL get done. Remember you can’t be optimally productive when you are stretched too thin.

9. “Not caring about the quality of my work.”

This is where I really noticed myself starting to slide. I stopped carefully editing and re-editing. I didn’t care to check my references strictly, thinking, “Oh, who’s going to notice?” They did notice: a disjointed story, a fragmented structure, a poor argument. It was impossible to ignore but in my head it somehow seemed enough to “get by.” Since when had that ever been a motto of mine?

SOLVED!

Make sure to have trusted people around you be completely honest when they see your work suffer. Listen to their advice, which could be “take a break”, “do something else for a few days”, or “let’s sit back and discuss what your original project was and how it has deviated”. Becoming over-involved in just one project can blind you to staggeringly obvious flaws. Step away, and get a second opinion.

10. “Brushing it off in conversation as unimportant, rather than speaking about it enthusiastically and with pride.”

When I started my research I absolutely loved telling people about it, describing what I hoped to find out, and where I was going to do it. After the first three months as the brick wall was built higher and higher I began to see only the barriers and not the breakthroughs. I got embarrassed at my lack of amazing original research and how I seemed unable to make sense of the mountain of data I had diligently collected and processed. In order to feel less devastated by this situation, I stopped talking about it in a positive way, and then stopped talking about it at all. The less I cared the less it hurt.

SOLVED!

When I started being open about the state of affairs, it was a relief to hear how many people went through the same experience and had lots of helpful advice to offer. There is no shame in experiencing some difficulty along the path – nobody is going to look down on you for needing more time and a little help in order to achieve your goals. Better to open up and find an answer than to shut down and let the problem become stagnant.

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Andrea Francis

Andrea loves being productive and getting things done. She shares practical tips to help people achieve what they want in life.

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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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