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4 Life Lessons from a Cancer Patient

4 Life Lessons from a Cancer Patient

Look at what you’ve got and make the best of it. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. ~ Proverb

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One Sunday night almost five months ago, my father broke the news that one of my uncles had been diagnosed with stage-three colon cancer. I remember my reaction as being somewhat surprised and not surprised. I was surprised because it was the first time that cancer came this close to our family. Most family-related cancer stories I’ve heard until that point were from second cousins and great-aunts and -uncles. And yet I wasn’t too surprised because my uncle was a heavy smoker and a former heavy drinker. Four days later, my uncle underwent his first chemotherapy session. Some relatives gave us weekly updates about his condition. Dad himself visited the hospital three weeks later and noted how fast he had lost weight. Although still under chemo today, my uncle is strong enough to do most of the things he used to enjoy before his treatment began. What is more notable, however, is his radical change in attitude towards life. Several weeks ago when mom and dad visited him, mom said that my uncle didn’t care about passing soon. “If I die, then I die”, she recalled him as saying. Today, however, that fatalistic attitude seems to have vanished. I’m not sure how the change came about, but he’s very enthusiastic about life now. He smiles a lot and seems to be more concerned about enjoying life with his family. By nature, he’s bossy and arrogant. But even that attitude is now tempered with a bit of brighter thoughtfulness. In my recent visits to his home I simply couldn’t help but be drawn to him. His brand new zesty character is highly contagious to everyone, including me.  I want to share with you what I learned from him:

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1. Appreciate and Enjoy Food More.

One of the first things that struck me about my uncle is his change in attitude towards food. Although he ate a lot, he actually used to complain habitually. He’d complain about being served too much vegetables; he’d complain about stews having too much broth; he’d complain about desserts being too heavy and cloying. Today, he is now more appreciative and thoughtful. At a recent family lunch, there was one “experimental” pasta dish prepared by one of my aunts that I found really weird-tasting. Not my uncle. He complimented the dish and told my aunt, who was a beginner cook, how he appreciated her trying something new. My aunt reveled in the praise and promised all of us that she’d continue learning how to cook. I think us well folks complain too much about what we eat, just like my uncle used to do. But if we think about it more deeply, eating is not just about food—it’s also a bigger aspect of our culture. It brings families, friends and colleagues together. Whenever we take the time to appreciate food and express it, we invite good vibes at the table. With good vibes follow fun moments, and with fun moments follow stronger bonds and relationships. Now I am an advocate of good food. If something has to be said for the sake of improving the dish or educating the cook, my suggestion is to sandwich constructive criticisms between positive comments. Or even better reserve the criticism for a one-on-one conversation later. Or maybe, just forget about the criticism!

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2. Find the Good in Everyone.

My uncle used to talk bad about people from time to time even if they had not done anything that would trigger that kind of tirade. I think it was his inner narcissist expressing itself. He liked to draw attention towards himself by belittling other people. Today, when family conversations turn gossipy, my uncle terminates the topic by injecting a positive alternative reason. He’d say “I don’t know. Maybe the pressure from work just got him. We know how crazy his supervisor is” or “Cut her some slack, everyone. She’s done it many times before. It could have been a simple error!” Sometimes, our own inner narcissists manifest themselves too. We focus on or exaggerate negative stories in order to impress our cliques at the expense of other people. One of these scenario’s possible consequences is that our friends could develop feelings of resentment toward the other people. Before we know it, tensions flare between them. Once the truth comes out, we’ll be exposed as nothing but a fantastic story-teller who’s desperate for attention. For all our sake, I believe that it’s always best to find the good in other people. If we need to speak up in order to prevent damage resulting from someone else’s action, we should simply go directly to that person and talk to them about the consequences of their action.

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3. Think Short Term—What Really Matters is Now

To my uncle, every moment became precious when he started chemo.  He appreciates simple things now and he’s not too concerned about the future. He cherishes his time with his family, especially his granddaughter. Whenever I hear his wife or one of their daughters talk about a problem, he’d go “that’s not even a problem! You know you can do it.” We all are guilty of worrying too much. We often think that it’s normal, but in truth, it’s nothing more than unnecessary stress which causes us to miss the good things that we have in front of us. Instead of fretting, why don’t we think of solutions? And if there are no solutions, well, let’s just forget the problem and enjoy the moment.

4. Remember That You Can Do Anything.

I want to share my own story. When I was about 14 years old, I did something that my mom told me not to do. That day I went home with a wound on my left hand. My mom, ever the panicky pessimist, angrily machine-gunned me with names of all kinds of fatal diseases that my wound could lead to. That night I had trouble sleeping because I thought that I would die soon. I was afraid I would contract a deadly infection. In the morning, she and I visited a doctor who, in less than five minutes, cleared my case. My mom with a big smile told me, “I told you so! You didn’t have to worry!” I ignored her comment because I was so thankful that I wasn’t going to die. The sun never looked so bright that day and I felt like I was given a new lease in life. I felt that I could do and face anything in the world. Nothing could stop me.

Final Words…

We fear and worry about too many things today: leaving a job, moving to a new town, opening a business we’ve always wanted to open, etc. But I believe we all have it in us to survive and come up with all the ideas and strategies that we need to deal with all these challenges. The thing is, however, all these instincts will only surface when we’re already in the middle of the battle. My uncle thinks that no other challenge in the world is more difficult than dealing with his condition. Today, he is the family’s biggest cheerleader. How do you deal with a loved one who has cancer? How do you think you’d live your life if you found out you had cancer? I would love to hear your stories. Please share them in the comments section below.

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Faisal Rehman

Faisal Rehman writes about work and productivity, trying to help businessmen build their brands and increase sales.

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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