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14 Things I’ll Tell My First Child

14 Things I’ll Tell My First Child

Despite the fact that we are all rookies in life – which most of us spend waddling around on this spinning rock as it flies through space, trying not to bump into each other – we are entrusted with raising babies. I know – frightening. More so, we are supposed to impart wisdom, set rules and give them the confidence to enter the big, wide world with all the tools they need to live a happy life. So, when writer Evan Porter was told he was about to be a father, his reaction was pretty much what you’d expect.

Things I’ll Teach My First Kid – Or, 14 Reasons Why I Suck

When I found out, I was holding a six-pack of beer.

“I’m pregnant,” she said. Words I knew would be coming one day soon, but not this soon. I always pictured hearing them on a sunny front porch, wind gently rocking a wooden swing back and forth. Or something like that. And there’d be music. Something upbeat and hopeful like what plays before the final credits of a Zach Braff movie.

I never thought I’d hear those words standing in the doorway of our dark, half-packed apartment, weary from a long day. My wife, Sarah, eyes puffy and mascara-soaked from her own shitty day, and then again from crying tears of joy, holding not one, but two pregnancy tests as proof.

My first thought was that we were about to miss our fantasy football draft.

My second thought was to open a beer.

My third thought was, “I can’t believe those were my first two thoughts.”

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It takes a moment like that to realize how woefully unprepared you are to be responsible for another human being. How terrifying it all is. And I’m not talking about waking up in the middle of the night to sooth a crying baby. I’m not talking about changing a dirty diaper or saying goodbye to your “raucous” social life (Sarah and I watch, on average, ten thousand hours of TV every night; so, that shipped sailed a while ago).

I’m talking about when your child learns to talk and what you say to him or her actually matters. When you have to start really thinking about how you want to raise them. What you’ll tell them when they get picked on at school. What you’ll say when they take a philosophical stand against the concept of homework.

It makes you question your values. Or wonder if you even have values to question.

And this line of thinking has led me to believe that I am already a terrible father. Because when I think about the things I want to instill in our first child, I realize that I embody exactly none of them.

But here they are, anyway:

1. I’ll say, listen, kid, not everyone has to like you.

Speak your mind when you know you’re right. Tell friends the truth even when they don’t want to hear it. Don’t just nod and “see both sides” and give pity laughs to people who make bad jokes.

2. I’ll say, work hard in school.

Not so you can make money and not for the bragging rights, but because if you don’t, one day you’ll look back and wish you’d made yourself proud.

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3. I’ll say, clean your room.

I’ll say, you see this 6-inch pile of dirty clothes next to my bed? It makes me feel horrible every time I look at it. You’d be surprised how accomplished seeing your bedroom floor can make you feel.

4. I’ll say, always finish what you started.

There’s a reason I can only teach you to be “pretty good”, and not great, at guitar, or photography, or card tricks, or any number of things I picked up and abandoned. If you have a talent for something, don’t ever waste it.

5. I’ll say, don’t wait so long to get comfortable in your own skin.

Phases are great and all when you’re a teenager, but there’s a fine line between exploring things and getting caught up in fads. Don’t ever feel like you need to fit into a mold or a category to be accepted.

6. I’ll say, take care of your body, because you only get one.

Floss every day. And don’t drink so much soda and Red Bull. You can’t ever undo the cavities they’ll give you.

7. I’ll say, force yourself to experience new things.

I know that people who studied abroad in college are obnoxious, but I don’t care; you should do it. Because when they’re yammering on about their summer in Madrid, you’ll roll your eyes but you’ll really just be jealous that you spent your summer watching TV.

8. I’ll say, don’t get so uncomfortable around homeless people.

They’re not going to rob you. Be better than that. Treat them with respect. Buy them a sandwich if you can. And give to charity as often as possible. You’ll always have a few bucks to spare.

9. I’ll say, pay attention to the news. And politics.

Don’t spend all your time on social media and TV and movies and sports. Devote your attention to things that actually matter. Be informed and well read. Don’t ever be forced to stealthily object from conversations about current events.

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10. I’ll say, be ruthless. Don’t go with the flow.

Find something you want and put in the work to become exceptional. So many people dream big, but they’re afraid to sit down and do the work. Don’t be one of them.

11. I’ll say, don’t text and drive.

Seriously. There’s nothing that can’t wait. I mean it.

12. I’ll say, put your family first, above everything.

When they need you, be there. Don’t ask questions. Don’t let being tired from work become an excuse. They’re all you have.

13. I’ll say, don’t ever wish you were anything or anyone else.

Embrace your flaws, because everyone has them.

14. And I’ll say, if you fall short of anything, even everything on this list, that’s alright.

I’ll still love you. I’ll always love you.

People keep asking me if I’m scared. And I guess  – even in light of everything I said above  – the answer is no.

I know that there’ll be times when I have no idea what to do with this kid. When I reach into my bag of morals and values and come up empty. And for times like that, I’ll look to my wife. I’ll remember how, standing in our dark, half-packed apartment, on one of the most important nights of our life, she put the pregnancy tests down on the table, smiled, and said:

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“Of course we’re still doing the fantasy draft.”

A small reminder of why we fell in love in the first place. That what we’ve created together didn’t happen in spite of our flaws.

It happened because of them.

And knowing that, there’s really nothing to be scared of.

About The Author

Evan Porter is Lead Copywriter at Nebo, a digital marketing agency in Atlanta. He’s also a blogger, a freelance writer, and a screenwriter.

Things I’ll Teach My First Kid Or, 14 Reasons Why I Suck | Medium

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Featured photo credit: Ajay via flickr.com

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Siobhan Harmer

Siobhan is a passionate writer sharing about motivation and happiness tips on Lifehack.

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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

Reference

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