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7 Important Lessons We Learned Outside of School

7 Important Lessons We Learned Outside of School

In the Western world, there tends to be fixed and regimented ideas concerning what should be included in the national curriculum. It is only recently that these tried and tested educational subjects have been challenged, however, as both the British, American, and Australian governments look to introduce a mandatory program of financial literacy for high school students.

Given the pace of technological, scientific and social advancement, it makes sense that each country’s curriculum should change to meet the evolving needs of its subjects. This is the approach adopted by educational authorities in Hong Kong, for example, who have been teaching the principles of morality to students for more than a decade.

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Morality is typically a lesson taught outside of the classroom, with parents and guardians setting the example for children to follow in their formative years. This is just one of many topics that can be taught through life experience and the example of others, and which form the basis of our outlook and philosophy as we approach adulthood. Consider the following:

1. How to consider and care for others

Learning how to consider and care for others is one of the most important life lessons you can learn, as it enables you to enjoy satisfying and mutually beneficial friendships as you grow older. Without this, you will be perceived as selfish by your peers and ultimately fail to develop relationships, whether romantic or platonic. This is a lesson that is usually learned within individual social circles, as those who fail to consider the needs of their friends will ultimately become ostracized from the group.

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2. The art of compassion

On a similar note, it is also important to develop empathy and compassion for your fellow person. This applies to both friends and strangers, as a compassionate outlook enables you to become an excellent friend, boss, and mentor to the people who you come into contact with. This is usually learned through harsh or challenging life experiences which force us to understand the nature of emotional distress and how it impacts our philosophy and behavior. Without compassion, it is extremely difficult to evolve as a person and engage in positive adult relationships.

3. How to maintain successful relationships

Learning about compassion and understanding will undoubtedly help you to enjoy more successful relationships, although this also depends on alternative aspects of the human psyche. Developing the skills to cultivate positive relationships is a life-long pursuit, and you must remain open-minded when learning how to deal with others and adapting to accommodate their needs. Over time, your communication skills will evolve as you interact with a growing number of people from different social circles.

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4. Life is not always happy or positive

Even with the best of intentions, our personal and professional relationships can easily turn sour. The same principle can also be applied to life as a whole, as it is an unpredictable entity that is capable of delighting and disappointing in equal measure, This is a lesson that can be exceptionally hard to learn, although it is vital in terms of teaching you to manage your expectations and resolve the problems that complicate your life.

5. Perseverance is the key to a content life

Whether you are experiencing problems in your relationship, or struggling to fulfill expectations at work, perseverance remains the key to unlocking a happy and content life. It is crucial that you are proactive in appraising your problems and attempt to work through them diligently, even if this involves confronting difficult or emotive feelings. While it may be tempting to bury your head in the sand when confronted with a serious issue, life soon teaches you that this will only exacerbate your problems over time.

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    6. When to challenge authority

    There is an old adage which suggests that you should “pick your battles” in life, and this means that you must be careful and exercise discretion when challenging authority. The issue with this is that we tend to be more fearless in our youth, and will challenge anything that we deem to be unfair or contradictory to our unique sense of justice. As you grow older, you must learn from experience and consider a dispute from all possible angles before deciding to confront your boss or superior.

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    7. The importance of future planning

    With the former point in mind, it is clear that the impulsiveness of youth can often deliver important life lessons for the future. One of these is the importance of forward planning, which can include everything from investing in real estate, to ensuring that you make regular contributions to a private pension plan. While such considerations are unlikely to play on your mind when you are young, it is important that you make formative plans for securing your long-term future while you still have the opportunity to influence it.

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    Published on May 18, 2021

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

    The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

    Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

    Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

    Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

    There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

    Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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    Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

    We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

    Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

    A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

    The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

    Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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    Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

    Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

    Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

    While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

    Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

    These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

    Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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    Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

    Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

    Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

    Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

    Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

    Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

    As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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    This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

    Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

    Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

    These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

    Actions Speak Louder Than Words

    Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

    Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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    Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

    More Tips Improving Listening Skills

    Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

    Reference

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