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5 Life Lessons You Never Knew You Should Unlearn

5 Life Lessons You Never Knew You Should Unlearn

You get a lot of advice while growing up, and while you should take some of it to heart, most of these so-called “life lessons” can be thrown out the window. In this article, I’ll look at the ones that are particularly heinous in terms of leading you down the wrong path. Without further ado…

1. “You should care about what others think!”

No, you really shouldn’t. All of the success I’ve had in life has come as a result of not caring what some random person thinks of what I say or do. I would have never been able to tell off the housing office cited above if I cared what they thought about me. They probably hold me in disdain now, but so what? I proved them wrong.

Having no filter will cause you to acquire a handful of enemies, perhaps, but you’ll be a much happier person overall. At least this way, you won’t be second guessing yourself everyday asking questions like “aw, what if I had sent that message” or “I really wish I spoke out about that topic discussed in class today” or “too bad I never applied to that job because I was afraid of what the interviewer would think of me.”

2. “Don’t let others down.”

This is a noble life lesson, and one I follow far too religiously, so I’m going to try and save you some trouble. Trying to please everyone is not worth it. Mainly because, most of the time, they won’t reciprocate, EVER! I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me. I would befriend someone and get way too crazy about serving their every whim, only to get absolutely nothing in return.

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It’s ok to let people down. It happens. It’s better to tell somebody you can’t do something for them than to do it and feel unappreciated. There are exceptions of course; if it’s your best friend or family member, it behooves you (in most cases) to help them out since they’ll truly appreciate it. Other people though? Chances are they’ll forget what you did for them, and you’ll hate them for that. The solution? Don’t get involved in the first place. You can thank me later for reducing your stress level.

3. “Always prepare for the worst.”

And hope for the best, right? Wrong. Always preparing for the worst will lead to bouts of anxiety and, in severe cases, paralyze you from getting anything meaningful done. There’s something to be said of having your life in order, but there’s no reason to prepare for the worst possible outcome of every situation you’re in if you’re living a typical American lifestyle.

While bad things might happen, assuming that they will only makes you fear the future and prevents you from taking risks of any kind, even when a rational mind would see that there are many benefits to be reaped from such leaps of faith. I’ve fallen victim to this mindset a lot, and all it does is lead to acne breakouts, forehead wrinkles, and heart palpitations. With almost every job I’ve had, I’ve dreaded it up until the day it started, after which I’ve loved it. Imagine if you could get rid of that unnecessary “everything is going to go wrong” fear, and live in a state of constant peace of mind. Sound nice, huh?

4. “Try to be happy, even when you’re sad.”

Sorry folks, but this isn’t A Brave New World. There’s no soma-esque panacea out there to shield you from reality. We can’t stay happy all of the time, indeed, doing so only leads to disappointment when you lapse into normal phases of depression or sadness. You need to let your body do what it wants to do; go with the flow, in other words. If you’re sad and you can’t shake it, accept it for what it is. Allowing yourself to be in that state makes it much easier to recover from than when you’re beating yourself up for not being happy enough. When I’ve been sad in the past, often I would think about why I was sad, rather than accepting it, which only made it worse since it felt like I was part of the problem. Once you realize that this is something natural that afflicts all humans, you’ll get over it quicker and be better prepared for when it happens again.

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5. “Always be kind to others.”

Alright, so I’m not saying you should go out, flip over every table you see, and pop little kid’s balloons. What I am saying is that the word “always” is misused in this oft-repeated life lesson. Absolutes are usually inaccurate, so this comes as no surprise.

Being nice will only get you so far. Based on my life experience, I can tell you two things with certainty. One, nice guys finish last (the majority of the time); it’s a miracle I have a girlfriend with how placid I am. Also, being sweet and gentle doesn’t solve a multitude of tricky situations.

Take, for instance, dealing with something as infuriating as a university’s housing office (or your land lord, for a decent analogue). I recently had to deal with my Alma Mater’s housing office because they charged me with a ridiculous fee. The whole reason this turned into an issue in the first place was because I was too nice. After I graduated, I let housing know with a kind e-mail that there was a mistake on their end, and that because of it, I’d likely be unnecessarily charged. I also told them that they should take preemptive action to ensure that this didn’t happen (in that message I also cited the requisite evidence).

I assumed they took my measured words to heart, until months later I checked my account and saw I was charged with a fee.

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So, I got in touch with the housing office again, and told them it was ridiculous how they could do this to someone they never had any issues with previously.

Of course, they responded using passive aggressive phrases like “well, sir, you should have read the find print” or “we expect students to check their e-mail in order to avoid fees like these.” I, in turn, blasted them again, letting them know I had checked my e-mail religiously (I’m very OCD), and provided them with multiple forms of evidence that debunked their whole “fine print” theory.

Needless to say, I made a real effort to put them in their place. They refuse to retract the fee they erroneously charged me, but my anger did attract their attention, and, at the very least, by dismantling their argument. I’ve saved future college students a lot of trouble, since hopefully now they’ll change how their laughable system works.

What’s the moral of this story? Anger won’t always get you where you need to be, but neither will kindness. It’s a healthy mix of the two that keeps the world spinning.

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There you have it. Some life lessons should be taken to heart, but others will only lead you astray. It’s up to you to separate the good from the bad!

Featured photo credit: Breaking Bad Sweeps 2014 Emmys/ BagoGames via flickr.com

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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