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5 Simple Ways To Be A Better Listener

5 Simple Ways To Be A Better Listener


    Are you really listening?

    In my journey toward better communication, here are 5 ways I’ve found to help reduce the distractions we face in communication:

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    1. Clear some space –

    I started “clearing space” by removing everything from my work area that wasn’t related to the conversation at hand. As the notion of space trickled into other parts of my life, I found myself silencing my phone during meals. I started taking notes during presentations instead of Tweeting. And I gave pause after others spoke before replying. I soon discovered that I wasn’t just getting more out of conversations; I was finding more value in time spent alone!

    2. Control your limbs –

    You’ve probably been in conversations with people who talk with their limbs; most use their hands. Listening with limbs is another story. Confession: I am a pen-clicker. You know those annoying people who click their pens without realizing it? I am one. If I click my pen while you’re talking, you’ll probably be distracted. If I rearrange my silverware at dinner while you’re talking, you’ll be distracted. So I got rid of my click-able pens and made a point to avoid behaviors that not only distracted others but also caused them to think I wasn’t listening (in most cases, I probably wasn’t).

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    3. Ask questions –

    I’ve found that the best listeners make a regular practice of asking thoughtful questions. When you reach a pause in conversation, ask a question that clarifies a previous point or helps to dig deeper into the topic of conversation. The person or group you’re talking to will gain value from your question and you’ll find it easier to resist distractions because your mind is fully engaged.

    4. Make a move –

    When you know you’ll be sitting for an extended period of time (shareholder meeting at work, looking through a 450-page photo album with Auntie Dorothy, etc), put in a few minutes of exercise ahead of time. There’s no need to break a sweat, just put in enough effort so your breathing deepens. When you go to sit, you’ll have more blood running to your brain for thinking and the chair might actually feel comfortable following your effort. I’m afraid no amount of exercise will make folding metal chairs comfortable. I’m sorry.

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    5. Enforce a “no-fly zone”

    This is a block of time you set aside each day that is completely free from the buzzing flotsam of media and work inputs. Silence your phone, close the laptop, put away the papers, and try your hardest not to even think about the big distractions that follow you around. Do some crunches. Lie on the floor and watch the ceiling fan spin. Hang out with your kids if you’ve got them. If you don’t have kids, hang out with some kids who need your positive influence. Knock something off your “honey-do” list and chat with your partner. Enforce your “no-fly zone” religiously and you’ll soon find a sense of clarity creeping into other aspects of your life.

    Becoming a better listener takes effort and, most importantly, patience. Be warned, however, for once you start truly listening you may find the process habit-forming. When people know they are being heard they tend to share amazing things we certainly would have missed otherwise.

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    Looking back, has there been a moment when everything would have been different had you been a better listener? Join us on Facebook and tell us about it!

    Image: PracticalOwl

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    Seth Simonds

    Seth writes about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on February 25, 2020

    5 Rules for Overcoming Adversity and Emotional Pain

    5 Rules for Overcoming Adversity and Emotional Pain

    “Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world, the disarray. I choose to see the beauty. To believe there is an order to our days. A purpose.” – from the popular show, “Westworld”

    It’s different for us all. My personal quest for purpose began with five stages of grief and one startling realization that everything’s endlessly fragile. Adversity, as it happens by rule, found me terribly unprepared, so I decided to take my time. Today, I can honestly say that I’ve grown.

    Ugliness and beauty, good and evil, pain and laughter – everything in the universe consists of two forces that are opposing but complementary. In the face of difficulty, that is the only mantra you need.

    Here’s how I learned it and why you should too, with five simple rules.

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    1. Embrace the Complexity

    Quite insidiously, adversities come in all shapes and sizes. Paralyzing physical disabilities, mind-wracking mental problems, ruthless emotional havocs, all leading to the same painful acknowledgement: all the beauty in the world cannot possibly make up for the ugliness that surrounds us. Shattered to pieces, helpless and bare naked, we sit in our therapy chairs, apologizing for being so negative.

    Eventually, what it all comes down to is the nature of negative emotion. Our positives overshadow our negatives, thus wrongly teaching us that the road to well-being is paved with nothing but positive feelings and thoughts. How utterly wrong!

    “If you’re not failing every now and then, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything innovative”, Woody Allen said.

    It’s a classic “learn from your mistakes” rule, but in this case, it implies growing from negative experiences. Make peace with your negativities and embrace beauty and ugliness alike! Accepting this marvellously complex world just as it is will allow you to find purpose in adversity and meaning in misery.

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    2. Find Balance, Regain Control

    Still, accepting adversity is only the first step toward eventual victory. One can endure only so much trauma in life; if we’re not prepared to deal with difficulties in a productive way, even the minor setbacks can get us off track. Our strengths come from learning, and the best way to learn is through a series of trials and errors. Just like phases of grief or stages of drug addiction, adversities suggest a disabling loss of control, so find your way to regain it.

    Some call it the coping mechanism; for others, it’s a spiritual will. However you choose to name yours, know that not all supporting systems are equally beneficial, though each is effective in its own way. Escapism was mine, but it only helped me retain the illusion of beauty. It wasn’t until I opened up toward the ugliness and accepted the naked truth that I was finally free. Whether you choose to dwell in art, religion and spiritualism, thus feeding your resilience from within or to reach out to others for help, choose wisely.

    Whatever the means, the second rule is a golden one: find your inner balance and stick to it. Eventually, it will lead you out of the vicious circle.

    3. Fight with Patience

    My bargaining turned in depression with a single touch. Fearless and free, my dance instructor timidly put her hands on my shoulders and I realized, for the first time, just how tense, stiff and cloistered I was. And just like that, I started letting go. Adversities have their sneaky ways, but in my experience, becoming aware is what hurts the worst. It took me a year to recover from this little moment of self-discovery, and I know remember it as the edge of the rabbit hole.

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    Some sufferings are impossible to console; I know that now. The only way to get through is to, well, get through. Depression and despair are only the beginning of the excruciatingly unnerving process that ravages the mind and shrivels the soul, and once they strike, there is no easy way back. So, fight them with patience. When your head starts spinning and your feet lose ground, go to your happy place. Over there, you’ll be reminded that nothing is forever, not even our little existential psychosis.

    Take a deep breath and say “om”. When things cannot be combated, they have to be endured, so practice patience and learn to let go. Finally, keep repeating to yourself that this too shall pass.

    4. Keep Swimming

    Nothing is impossible, in the end. Your negative thoughts will gently pour into your positive ones, just as two streams come together to become a river. In the event of the inevitable disaster, one can only be as calm as still water. Suffering teaches patience, and the latter gives rise to flexibility. Ultimately, what is life than a series of unfortunate events and a handful of bright moments in between? If adversities are impossible to avoid, than learn to glide through as smoothly and patiently as water does with rocks.

    Even if spirituality isn’t exactly your cup of tea, you have to admit that this is one solid metaphor. Staying adaptable in the face of change will soothe your panic attacks and keep you sane and sober-blooded. Even if you fail, you’ll know exactly how to breathe and face what’s in front of you once it eventually strikes again. Stay calm and visualize a better tomorrow; if anything else, it will give you strength to dive deep and weather the storm. And, in case there’s somebody’s hand to reach out to, grab it firmly and don’t let go.

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    Being flexible against adversities takes a lot of learning, just as staying brave demands a lot of courage. It’s a long, arduous step-by-step routine, and you can reach the end only by swimming on. Persist, even when you fall.

    5. Never Stop Searching for Inspiration

    And, if it’s a guidance you need, where else to seek it than in experiences of others? Find it in art, in people around you, in chance encounters. The pure beauty of perseverance can be discovered where you expect it the least, so never stop searching for inspiration. If self-help literature soothes your pains and clears your mind, don’t let cynics discourage you. Your path toward reconciliation is nobody’s but yours to choose.

    Ever heard of Nick Vujicic? Or Nando Parado? Inspiring people sound their yawps over the roofs of the world, sometimes voiceless, sometimes limbless, sometimes both. Born without arms, Jessica Cox became the most unusual certified pilot in the world, and you can rarely see her without a smile on her face. If you’ve already ripped all of your bucket lists and said goodbye to your dreams and plans, meet Sean Swarner, who’s officially became the first cancer survivor to climb Mount Everest. The stories just go on.

    Make your own guidebook! Pen down your positive thoughts, cover your walls with quotes and devise your personal mantras. Whenever things get hard, they’ll be there to remind you of what you need to do. It’s the simplest of all life hacks, and one of the most effective ones.

    Find beauty in the world, but never stay blind for its ugliness. However daunting, adversities and emotional pain challenge our inner strength, thus making us resilient and allowing us to grow. As soon as you recognize them as the wind in your sails instead of the devastating storm, the purpose will become simple and clear.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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