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15 Reasons Why Your 20s Are the Worst Period of Your Life

15 Reasons Why Your 20s Are the Worst Period of Your Life

What’s that you say? The 20s were the best part of your life? Well, maybe that was the case a few decades ago, but nowadays, being in your 20s is about as fun as having a pop quiz in a physics class. Perhaps that’s pushing it a bit, but you get the point. I’m sure every generation complains about the problems they have to deal with, and mine is no different. Below you’ll find a list of things that I, and other 20-somethings, complain about on a daily basis. If you are also in your 20s, I hope you’re nodding a lot and/or tearing up as you read this. If you’re older, or younger, maybe you’ll learn a thing or two!

Without further ado, let’s begin:

1. Nobody respects you.

It’s sad, but true. I don’t mean to say that there is an actual reason for people to respect us 20-somethings, just that nobody actually does, regardless. Just think about it logically for a second. Teenagers don’t respect anyone, least of all people maybe half a decade older than them. People in their 30s and beyond look at us like adults with training wheels strapped to our sides. I think the only segment of the population we actually garner some respect from is grade schoolers, but to them anyone over 16 seems like an adult so that’s a moot point.

2. You’ll probably be living with your parents for most of it.

This is actually a smart thing to do because, unless you come from a loaded family, you won’t really have the funds to go out and buy your own place straight out of college. I mean, you could be one of the lucky ones to get an awesome salaried position straight out of your senior year, but most of us aren’t that lucky. I don’t think I really need to explain why living with your parents can be annoying. Just think back to your teenage years. The fact that we have to go back to it after four years of relative freedom doesn’t help either.

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3. Your parents will get on your nerves.

Yeah, your living situation in college might not have been amazing, what with weird roommates, loud music emanating from everywhere day and night, and the smell of a certain green substance wafting through the air at all hours. But still, it beats getting nagged on by your parents every day for one thing or another. If you’re in college right now, enjoy the ride. You’ll miss it when it’s done, no matter how crappy you think you have it right now.

4. You’ll have more freedom than you can handle.

By this I mean that your life is no longer structured. After 21 to 22 years of life in the system, breaking out of it and having free reign over what you do and where you go next can be intimidating.

5. Your college accomplishments mean little.

I don’t mean in the sense that your degree is worthless, only that employers and people around you don’t really care about all of the hard work you did in college. You could have been an amazing student, and professors might have loved you, but in the real world you’re basically back to square one in terms of having to impress a whole new set of people.

6. It’s hard to make friends.

Maybe this is just me since I’m an introvert, but it has been tough making friends after college. You no longer have easy access to a wealth of people around your same age, and all of your high school and college friends are scattered like dust in the wind. I’m sure it gets easier later, but when you’re first starting out it’s a bit of a painful process.

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7. College debts come due at the worst possible time.

In the midst of all of this post-college angst, your debts start coming due just when you think you’re starting to get a hang of things. I suppose we can thank Janet Napolitano and other college administrators making upwards of $500,000 for the insane amount of debt my generation is in. The good news is that the existence of all this debt has an upside: it means we’re a highly educated bunch! Well, supposedly at least (jury is still out on me). So while we may start off underwater, we have the tools to come out on top.

8. Older generations take advantage of us.

Let’s face it, older folks basically control the lives of us millennials. This isn’t to demean them, it’s just a fact of being young. Every generation goes through a period of subordination. Just look at it this way: in 20 years we’ll be the ones pulling the strings! I’m not sure whether that fact pleases or frightens me…

9. So much is expected of you.

Despite the fact that most people in their 20s are in debt, struggling in this terrible economy, and being exploited by older generations, we’re still expected to go out there and succeed regardless of the obstacles in front of us. And I suppose that is a good thing, because the greatest generations are forged in adversity.

10. We’re coming of age in a stagnant economy.

Yes, this is no Gilded Age or Great Depression we’re inheriting, but it’s still one of the worst economies in American history, especially for folks in their 20s. We have to deal with corporate greed, college debt, an aging population (we have to pay for retired folks’ healthcare and social security) and, in many ways, the decline of American supremacy on the world stage. But as a history major, I can tell you that trends like these are fleeting at best. Like I said above, we’re an educated, dedicated bunch. I’ve seen it in my peers and my former students. We’ll make the best of it; I’m sure of it!

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11. Our youth is wasted on constant worrying.

Thanks to all of the stresses placed on people in their 20s, I expect us to either become a tough-as-nails generation, or one that collapses under all of the pressure. I’m hoping for the former, but even so it will mean that our youth was wasted on fixing other people’s messes rather than forging our own futures, which is slightly depressing.

12. Physical decline begins.

They say you reach your athletic peak around 28, and from there it’s all down hill. Some might even peak earlier, just ask LeBron. Those of you in your early 20s should probably make use of your spryness while you can.

13. Your childhood pet will probably die.

This one is hard to write. I haven’t lost my first dog yet, but she’s definitely getting up there in the years and there’s a near 100% chance she’ll pass away before I turn 30. This is the case for most of us, and it’s just another emotional hurdle we need to jump over in our 20s.

14. You lose your imagination.

Once you turn 20, you start thinking like a “real” adult. In other words, you stop being as amazed by things as you were in your youth. At least for me, this meant I stopped enjoying video games as much as I used to, because the stories no longer impressed me as much as they did when I was a child (or maybe that’s just because my favorite company Bioware has yet to recreate the magic that was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic). Alright, so perhaps “losing our imagination” is too harsh in the wording. It’s more like we become jaded as we get older, and that this process starts in your 20s. But hey, being jaded can be fun! This is when we finally get to start saying stuff like, “those crazy teenagers and their parties” or “back in the 90s we watched cool shows!”

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There is, of course, one foolproof way to both keep from becoming jaded and maintain your whimsical imagination. Watch Doctor Who! I’m probably closer to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock in personality more than anything, but Doctor Who has kept me on the proverbial straight and narrow. Maybe it’ll work for you too?

15. Time starts to go by faster.

I never believed this was true as a kid, but adults really were right when they said time goes by faster the older you get. I’m not sure exactly why, maybe because life in your 20s become more about maintaining daily routines than about drastically changing the things you do (e.g., switching to a new grade in school or going off to college). I know that since I graduated college the days seem to bleed into each other far more than they did previously. Maybe I just need to get out more?

Just because your 20s might not be that great, it doesn’t mean you can’t go out and have some fun while you’re dealing with all of the crap the world throws at you! While we have it harder than the previous generation (I am seriously envious of the lack of college debt baby boomers had and the fantastic economy they grew up in), we can still make the best of it, and be better for it. Who knows, with a little perseverance and elbow grease, we just might be the next “greatest generation.” Here’s hoping!

Featured photo credit: summer holidays, education, campus and teenage concept – group of students or teenagers hanging out 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!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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