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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 November 18, 2020

How to Be a Good Listener (And a Better Communicator)

How to Be a Good Listener (And a Better Communicator)

Listening skills aren’t easy for a lot of us, especially during a global pandemic when we’re especially stressed and easily distracted. The art of communication is more than just talking; it requires listening and paying attention. You have to learn how to be a good listener, as most of us aren’t born with it.

Every relationship you have needs communication to survive, and that takes work. The good news is that it’s not hard to learn how to be a good listener. In fact, if you’re someone who feels like you could use a brushing up on your communication skills, here are a few pointers that you can start using right away to help you have more meaningful connections in all of your relationships.

1. Validate Feelings

Have you ever had someone tell you that you’re overreacting or to stop crying during a conversation? I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard that at one point in our lives. The thing is, it doesn’t feel good to be dismissed by someone you care about, especially in times of heightened stress or intense discussion.

Feelings matter, regardless if you agree with them or not. One of the greatest things you can do for someone is to validate their feelings when you’re learning how to be a good listener. Tell them that you hear them and that you acknowledge how they feel[1]. When you do that, you’re creating a relatability element by showing you understand the other person’s feelings.

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When you can be more relatable to someone you care about, it raises the level of trust in your relationship. Back in March, when the pandemic started, my eight-year-old son was struggling with virtual learning away from his friends and school that he loved so much. There was no closure for him, and it was apparent in the way he approached is day as he refused to acknowledge school because it wasn’t physically in his classroom.

Most days included a breakdown of some kind, which was very stressful for all of us. One day he was laying on our living room couch, crying about how awful the situation was for him. “I want to go to school and see my friends. I miss my teacher. This is the worst thing ever,” he sobbed. As I watched him in that moment, I realized I had two choices: I could tell him to stop it, suck it up, and go to school, or I could get in it with him and help him understand that I, too, was experiencing the exact same feelings.

I decided to sit with him and take him in my arms, hug him, and tell him I felt the same way. That I wanted him to be in school with his friends, that I wanted him to be able to go to soccer practice and have fun, that I missed my friends, too, and that yes, you’re right, this is the worst.

Once I did that, something shifted. He looked at me with the realization that I did understand what he was going through because I had a similar experience. Demonstrating relatability, validating his feelings, and being a good listener to his needs helped us have a breakthrough in our communication.

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2. Be Present

Distraction is all around us. With lots of information being thrown at us at a million miles an hour, it’s no wonder communication in relationships can suffer. When you are in a discussion with someone you truly care about, whether it’s your life partner, a good friend, or you child, make sure you are free of distraction during your conversation.

Having little to no distraction allows you to be a better listener. It allows you to focus on the conversation and really digest the discussion. Furthermore, it helps in allowing you to be thoughtful and considerate in your interaction.

I find that my most successful conversations[2] happen on neutral ground. It helps to reduce stress and remove judgement from the interaction. Some of the best conversations I’ve had have been on walks, while driving in the car, or even laying in bed with the lights off. I can be fully present and engaged with the ability to absorb the conversation at hand, especially when the conversation is about a sensitive subject.

It’s hard to have an uncomfortable conversation sitting across a table or not in your own territory. It can make it feel more like an interrogation and can often start with apprehension or having your guard up. When you do your best to eliminate that from the situation, you’re offering a desire to find a solution by creating a safe space to listen and communicate more successfully.

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We tend to expose ourselves and our feelings easier when we feel like we’re not being judged. When my husband and I need to have a hard conversation, we often go for a walk or have a conversation in the middle of the night in the dark. The absence of distraction allows us to truly listen to each other’s needs and desires and creates a stronger bond of respect and intimacy.

3. Respond

As you’re trying to learn how to be a good listener, respond, don’t react. How many times have you regretted the way you reacted to a conversation with someone you care about? Whether it’s a personal or professional relationship, the way you reply is important.

Because we’re human and it’s only natural to get defensive, especially if the communication is not something we agree with, we typically react without giving consideration to the big picture. That isn’t helpful when you’re trying to make progress in a situation.

You may be thinking, how does listening come into play when you’re replying to someone else’s engagement with you? It doesn’t matter if you’re having that conversation via text, email, or in person; the way you absorb the information is going to directly affect the way you have your interactive dialogue.

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Think about a time when you’ve been at work and received an email from a co-worker that triggered you[3]. It’s happened to all of us. A lot of times, we hit the reply button and go to town unloading our feelings and thoughts without taking the time to fully digest and consider the content in front of us. We’re not “listening” to what our peer is requesting.

Handling delicate situations can be tricky. That’s why I like to advise my clients to respond rather than react, and start with the end in mind. When you’re faced with a challenging situation, think about how you want that particular experience to be resolved. Do you want to be able to walk away with a hug, an agreement, and a positive outcome? If so, the way you do that is by being a good listener and planning your response.

Final Thoughts

Communication in any relationship, personal or professional is hard. We have to be committed to showing up and doing the work to make sure they are successful and thriving. Learning how to be a good listener plays a huge part in the success of each and every one.

The next time you find yourself in a situation where you need to pay attention, remember to validate, be present, and respond with thoughtful consideration. You’ll be amazed at how much your interactions improve.

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Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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