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15 Things To Remember If You Love A Dreamer

15 Things To Remember If You Love A Dreamer

“Man has a dream, and that’s the start. He follows his dream with mind and heart. And when it becomes a reality, it’s a dream come true for you and me” – Richard Sherman and Robert Sherman, “Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow”

Dreamers can drive you crazy sometimes with their perky dispositions, their endless energy, and their glass half-full attitude. If you have someone in your life—a friend, a family member, or a spouse—who always seems to have their head in the clouds, convincing them to put pragmatism before pink, fluffy positivity can seem as possible as moving a mountain with telekinesis. The truth is that some of the world’s most celebrated individuals—from inventors like Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell to leaders of change like Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi—were dreamers and they devoted their lives to achieving those dreams, whether inventing electric light or establishing world peace. Despite their quirks, dreamers make our world a brighter, more convenient, and much more entertaining place. Here are fifteen things to keep in mind if your loved one is a dreamer.

1. They have endless imagination

If you’ve ever been to Walt Disney World, you’ve probably ridden the Carousel of Progress, which first debuted at the New York World’s Fare in 1964. Celebrating some of the greatest inventions of the late 19th and 20th centuries like electric light, the phonograph, in-door plumbing, and television; the ride takes us on a journey through the 20th century with an American family, watching as technology transforms their lives. In addition to showcasing the work of inventors like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, the Carousel of Progress encapsulates Walt Disney’s belief in the immortality of the American Dream. Beyond being a fantasy land where animals talk and you can get your picture taken with a gigantic mouse, Disney World is a celebration of imagination. A simple sketch of a talking mouse and an idea in a man’s brain turned into a global enterprise that has brought joy to millions all over the world. Encourage imagination in your loved ones, especially your children—Their crayon drawings might give us the world’s next Mickey Mouse.

2. They don’t do well with deadlines

Dreamers are very often creative visionaries—painters, sculptors, or poets. They move when the muses motivate them, not according to a fixed schedule. It took Michelangelo four years to paint the now-famous frescos in the Sistine Chapel, and when Pope Julius (who’d commissioned the work) asked when Michelangelo would finish, the artist replied, “When I can.” The wait was well worth it of course, because the frescos have held up reasonably well over the centuries. Maybe Michelangelo found painting in a cramped position on a scaffold extremely uncomfortable? Maybe he just liked pushing the Pope’s buttons. Whatever the reason, remember that bringing a dream to fruition takes time. If your friend’s business is taking a while to get off the ground, or your cousin seems like he’s never going to finish his Ph.D., think of the Sistine Chapel.

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3. They’re not the most economical people on the planet

Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (1632 to 1675) was another dreamer who didn’t do well with deadlines, much to the irritation of his family. Extremely meticulous and detail-oriented, Vermeer produced only two or three paintings a year, which made supporting his wife and eleven children a bit of a challenge. Vermeer died in debt in 1675 at the age of 43 but remains a celebrated artist, famous for works like “The Girl with a Pearl Earring,” which inspired a historical novel by Tracy Chevalier and a film starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth. You might do well to remind the dreamer in your life that dreams alone won’t pay the bills, but dreamers usually aren’t in it for the money.

4. They sometimes have tunnel vision

Returning to Michelangelo, he first rejected the Sistine Chapel commission, insisting that he was a sculptor and not a painter. Had he not eventually accepted the job we might never have had the pleasure of viewing his beautifully-painted frescos, and the Sistine Chapel’s attraction might have been less prominent. Sometimes dreamers become so focused on a single project or talent that they don’t realize how much further they can cultivate their skills. Maybe your brother is struggling to land that dream writing job, but also happens to be a wiz in the kitchen. Your insistence that he should consider working in the culinary arts probably goes in one ear and out the other, but don’t give up. When he eventually listens, he might be the next Gordon Ramsey.

5. They’re relentlessly positive

Thomas Edison is famously credited for having once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” That was the kind of ruthless endurance and belief in finding a solution that gave us the electric lightbulb. Remember when you were a kid learning to ride a bicycle? Whenever you lost your balance, fell, and scraped your knees, you got back on the bike and tried again until you could race up and down the sidewalks without even holding onto the handlebars. This is the dreamer’s approach to everything. As exhausting as this energetic go-getter attitude might seem it gets the job done—and dreamers believe whole-heartedly in what they’re setting out to achieve. Even when it seems like they’re going to fail encourage them, because when you mock a dreamer’s dreams you mock the dreamer.

6. They can be a bit absent-minded

Maybe the dreamer in your life is constantly misplacing her keys or her cellphone? Maybe they’re always late or forget your birthday. They can’t help it! When dreamers are looking up, building castles in the air and losing their head in the clouds, they sometimes forget to pay attention to what’s going on in the “real world.” If you’re the pragmatic one in the relationship, it’s okay now and then to grab hold of their ankles and pull them down to earth whenever they’re flying too high.

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7. They’re a bit eccentric

Is your little dreamer a bit like “The Big Bang Theory’s” Sheldon Cooper? Does he insist on sitting in the same spot, having his hot beverages heated to precisely the correct temperature, or following a strict meal and bathroom schedule? It sounds OCD (and it totally is), but the truth is that dreamers who are often creative geniuses do this for a reason. When they can fall back on routine it frees their minds up to focus on whatever personal project they’re completing, whether it’s a book, a scientific experiment, or a self-driving car. Just humor them and accept that it’s their way of creating balance to ground them when their head space gets too chaotic.

8. They’re goal-oriented

While we’ve talked about the fact that dreamers always seem to have their head in the clouds, this is because they’re always looking up and ahead. Dreamers know what they want in life because they’re great at visualizing. If they want to be a corporate giant on Wall Street, they picture it in their minds. If they want to live in a mansion, they’ve already decorated it in their minds. Observing the way the dreamers in your life plan their futures can teach you a lot about the value of setting goals in a self-motivated life.

9. They know how to make sacrifices

Maybe things can be a bit rough financially sometimes, especially when a dream is just trying its wings. Building from the ground up is never easy, but dreamers have faith that today’s sacrifices will pay off tomorrow, or perhaps the next day. Their rosy-eyed optimism keeps them fueled while they’re living in a studio apartment, surviving on Ramen Noodles and peanut butter and scrounging between the couch cushions for quarters to do their laundry with (I’m looking at you, anyone who’s ever been in grad school). That’s what living the dream really looks like, man. When you get frustrated with a dreamer because they can’t pay the bills, or they haven’t had the money to visit in 3 years, remember that they’re doing the best they can.

10. They’re healthier

As we’ve talked about, dreamers are optimists, and studies have shown that optimists are not only psychologically happier, but physically healthier, recovering more quickly from illnesses and surgery. So don’t gripe about your dreamer’s cheery disposition; put on a happy face and smile with them. You just might add a few years to your life.

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11. They can be unrealistic

Of course, the caveat in all of this is that sometimes dreamers get carried away. They sometimes think that once they start climbing the ladder of success, that it’s just a straight-to-the-top trajectory, but the truth is there’s no such thing as a completely happy ending. Remember what happened to Icarus when he flew too close to the sun? The downside to flying high on the wings of hope is that when things don’t work out, the higher you’ve flown, the harder you fall. This is when you need to step in, help them up, and remind a dreamer that nothing worth having comes without risk or pain.

12. They know they can be a burden sometimes

While dreamers know how to make sacrifices for themselves, they also recognize that others—parents, friends, spouses—make sacrifices for them as well, very often involving money. When they cling tenaciously to a dream that seems destined not to come true, applying for job after job, making move after move with no success, they’re not clueless. They’re frustrated and afraid they won’t make it work. They know how much love, support, and financial investment you’ve put into helping them, and they fear letting you down almost as much as, if not more than they fear letting themselves down. From their perspective, the best way they can pay you back is to prove to you that they can do it.

13. They let you stand on their shoulders

Sir Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Whenever I come across this quotation I think of my immigrant grandparents. My grandparents and great grandparents came to America from Italy not for themselves, but for their children and their children’s children. Both my brother and I, as well as our parents, are fortunate enough to have earned graduate degrees. When my brother and I graduated our father reminded us never to forget our roots. The dreams we’re living today would be impossible without the hands of the bricklayers, tailors, and seamstresses in our family who molded and stitched together a path for future generations.

14. They’re always on the move

According to Neal Samudre, one of the best things about being in a relationship with a dreamer is that they take you on a life-long adventure. Dreamers aren’t content to sit still and let life pass them by. They’re always looking for the next big adventure, whether a white-water rafting vacation or a cross-country move to a city where you won’t know a soul but each other. Without them, you might never have challenged yourself to experience these things, and as scary as it is, the upshot is that you never have to do it alone. The dreamer is in the driver’s seat too in these situations, so you can just enjoy the ride.

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15. They’ll always believe in you

A dreamer will be your biggest fan and loudest cheerleader because they know the simple joy of shaping their dreams and the thrill of seeing them come to fruition. They want you to share in that joy and experience that same self-satisfaction, so they’re the perfect ones to have in your corner when you decide to chase your own dreams. If you’ve been there for a dreamer, sometimes the best way you can let them thank you is to let them return the favor.

Featured photo credit: Sky and Clouds via pixabay.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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