Advertising
Advertising

4 Useful Tools No Inspirational Blogger Should Be Without

4 Useful Tools No Inspirational Blogger Should Be Without

Random Giant Hammer (and Good Dog) by Steph L..

    Photo by Steph L.

    Tools. We all have ’em. We all use ’em — or at least try to. It’s one thing to read a glossy list of “44 hot WordPress plugins!” or “25 ways to look for stock photos”, another thing to actually try them all. The best tools are delved into very deeply, and like Thor and his hammer, can at times be inseparable from their wielders. I’ve personally skimmed through 1,000s of tools over the years and regularly use a few dozen.

    But let’s focus further: what if you want to blog about inspirational, motivational, life-bettering stuff — like here on Lifehack? Over the past stretch of weeks, I’ve been refining what I use to craft my posts. Here’s my exceptional faves — only the best of the best — and I’ll share why they work for me. No offhand, brief mentions of “maybe you should try it out…”, just strong votes of confidence from firsthand experience.

    1. Compfight – Find heart-warming pictures faster

    Ah, ’tis a cliche to see radiant suns, wide-eyed babes (of both sorts), cute animals, and compulsory nature scenes preceding an inspirational post. But it isn’t without merit. Many of these pictures are sourced from Flickr’s wealth of Creative Commons-licensable material. What does that often mean? Great imagery for free as long as you provide proper attribution.

    I use Compfight. Why bother, since Flickr has a built-in search? Like the essence of many a “get it done” article, beauty in simplicity. Compfight is minimalist, lean, and search queries are more plentiful-per-page and easier to sort through than Flickr’s own search. As a result, I — and you — can easily click through a great image, drag-and-drop it into your blog editor (most support this), and with proper credit included, enhance your post in seconds.

    Advertising

    Such as this match for “cat sun baby”, which isn’t quite what I had in mind, but would work well for one of those “How to deal with stress”-type posts:

    Joy Harjo Project with Poem by ittybittiesforyou.

      Photo by ittybittiesforyou

      One downside: Compfight doesn’t save search settings as reliably as I’d like. I asked Ryan (one of the creators) and he said it should, but I keep having to set the options.

      2. Windows Live Writer – Blog better

      That’s really at the core of WLW, you see. Maybe I should’ve posted this first because you can’t blog without a blog editor. Sure, there’s built-in stuff like the TinyMCE-based editor that WordPress uses, and many blog clients/platforms abound. What’s such a big win for WLW? It’s not singular, but I can think of several reasons why it comes ahead, which I’ve written about at length before. To sum up and save you time without bullet points:

      It’s free. It can use your blog’s style. Auto-links save you time. Rich media (videos!) is easy to embed without mangling code. Plug-ins add what you want but don’t have yet.

      Advertising

      And surprisingly personal support for a Microsoft product — there’s a dev named Joe Cheng who frequently answers questions on the WLW board. He doesn’t seem to be as active recently, but he definitely helped solve some of my problems, enabling me to enjoy WLW more. A fine example of where incidental customer service has resulted in me singing praises many times over.

      Yes, I wish WLW were for Mac too. Yup, it’d benefit from custom fields support. Aye, I wish more blog themes (esp. some video-centric and magazine-format ones) were supported correctly. But WLW is one of those tools that, if it works for you, it works extremely well. And you don’t have to think about it — like they say about great software, it doesn’t get in your way. It lets you get your way. :)

      3. QuotationsBook – Notable quotables indeed

      Need some wisdom of the ages to prop you up? Support a point you’re making? Provide some much-wanted levity? Sound sage by referring to the old masters; there’s quotes all over the Internet and you just need to find them. QuotationsBook makes this very easy with a friendly interface. You can clip-and-save quotes for later retrieval, should you be dry for ideas.

      For example, a casual search for “inspiration” turns up this gem:

      “We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.” -Frank Tibolt

      Also, while it’s not as elegantly-designed or eminently searchable, WikiQuote is popular with many. There are copious quote-sites on the web, and my point is: get at least 1 fave and keep it close, so you can refer to wise words in seconds as needed. (Just don’t take them out of context.)

      4. popurls – Keep your imagination tank full

      There’s no shortage of inspiration on the Internet — that’s part of what’s so daunting, finding focus amidst the many to create your unique take. popurls is one of the original single-page aggregators, and among the best designed: it does many things well, mostly highlighting notable headlines from many top social media sites (including visual content blocks for Flickr, YouTube, and others), enabling you to rapidly scan for stories to pick up on. Many of them are, of course, related to life improvement.

      popurls will help you discover favorite new feeds to subscribe to, get early dibs on Internet memes spreading like wildfire, and keep you entertained. What’s more, it’s got a fair degree of customization, and if you login, you’ll see Recommended stories for your tastes — it doesn’t work exceptionally well yet, but it’s promising.

      I surf popurls daily so I’m both well-informed and laughing a lot. If that isn’t inspiration in itself, I don’t know what is.

      What are your essential inspirational tools?

      Before we close today, here is a gratuitous picture of a girl wearing rainbow arm-socks and her cat. It’s the one opportunity I’ll have to do such a thing:

      Advertising


        Photo by Hayley_Bouchard

        Was that purely devoid of meaning? Not quite. It generated an emotional reaction, didn’t it? Which brings me to this:

        As obvious as water is wet, each of us has our own style. But there are many shared tastes, and being a passionate advocate for the tools we hold dear — as I do for the above — can benefit others greatly, appropriately inspiring your fellow lifehack devotees in the process.

        If you haven’t heard of some or all of the above and I’ve introduced you to something new which is useful + fun, bravo! If you know all the names but haven’t tried them, I encourage you to — and I only say this from personal experience. My general philosophy with tools is to go through as many as you’re interested in, and the ones which are truly useful will stick with you in the long-term.

        Let me know what your inspiration indispensables are in da comments!

        Advertising

        More by this author

        How to Love Yourself, Even if No One Else Does Determine Intent & Destroy Misunderstanding 4 Firefox Add-Ons to Ease Your Online Life Be a Comment Rockstar: 10 Terrific Tips! Life Lessons You Can Learn From The Joker

        Trending in Communication

        1 7 Hardest Languages to Learn For English Speakers 2 8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener 3 11 Tips for Maintaining a Positive Attitude Every Day 4 What Is the Meaning of Life? A Guide to Living With Meaning 5 How to Stop Being a Perfectionist (Step-by-Step Guide)

        Read Next

        Advertising
        Advertising
        Advertising

        Last Updated on October 22, 2020

        8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

        8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

        How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

        Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

        When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

        Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

        What Makes People Poor Listeners?

        Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

        1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

        Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

        Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

        It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

        2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

        This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

        Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

        3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

        It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

        Advertising

        I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

        If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

        4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

        While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

        To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

        My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

        Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

        Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

        How To Be a Better Listener

        For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

        1. Pay Attention

        A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

        According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

        As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

        Advertising

        I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

        2. Use Positive Body Language

        You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

        A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

        People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

        But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

        According to Alan Gurney,[2]

        “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

        Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

        3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

        I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

        Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

        Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

        Advertising

        Be polite and wait your turn!

        4. Ask Questions

        Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

        5. Just Listen

        This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

        I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

        I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

        6. Remember and Follow Up

        Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

        For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

        According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

        It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

        7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

        If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

        Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

        Advertising

        Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

        Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

        NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

        1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
        2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

        8. Maintain Eye Contact

        When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

        Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

        By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

        Final Thoughts

        Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

        You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

        And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

        More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

        Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
        [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
        [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
        [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

        Read Next