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7 Lessons I Have Learned from Divorced People

7 Lessons I Have Learned from Divorced People

Let me begin by stating that divorce is not a good thing! It is a traumatic experience for everyone involved; it tears families apart, adversely impacts the lives of children, harms people’s self-esteem, confidence and finances and satisfies no one but the divorce lawyers.

Every effort should always be made to try and save a marriage, and I also truly believe that all marriages – except those involving abuse and repeated infidelity – can be saved, should be saved and are capable of becoming marriages that fulfill each partners’ dreams and wishes. However, this requires the will of both parties and sometimes that will is missing. Which brings me to the 7 lessons I have learned through working with people to help them overcome the pain of their marriages ending. These are especially important lessons over the Holidays when many people often feel the impact of divorce the most.

1. No good marriage ends in divorce

The fact is that despite how much you may have wanted a perfect relationship and fairy tale marriage, it didn’t happen. There may be numerous unforeseen situations that caused the demise of your marriage: job loss, family illnesses or death, personal health issues or whatever, but the sad truth is the marriage just didn’t survive. That means that one, or both of you, were not sufficiently committed to making it work. If it was your ex-spouse who ended the marriage, then this means he or she was not right for you. As upsetting as it is, if you would have done more to make your marriage work but your ex-spouse did not, this means they weren’t right for you because their values did not match yours. One day you will meet someone whose values do

2. You lose yourself to find yourself

Divorce hurts. It hurts like a death. The mourning process can be long and no one should tell you how long you should mourn for. You completely lose yourself after your divorce. You lose your sense of knowing, your self-esteem, your sense of safety, you lose your confidence, maybe even your friends or your home. You totally lose yourself, but eventually you find yourself.

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Eventually, you realize you actually lost yourself in your marriage, not your divorce. You realize that in your marriage you lost who YOU were. You realize you lost your own identity. Divorce allows you to find You again, the individual you were before, and it is a wonderful feeling to be “you” again.

3. You have control over your time

Although initially the loneliness is isolating, eventually it becomes exhilarating. If you have children, maybe you now have every other week to yourself. Even if you have primary custody, you may still find you have the occasional weekend or Holiday to yourself that you have not had in years. You may rediscover the joy of sleeping until noon, or hobbies and pastimes you’d not been able to experience in awhile. You may even find new hobbies you never knew you would enjoy!

The world really now is your oyster, so why not take that salsa class you’d always wanted to, or the painting workshop, or take up rock climbing, or zip lining, or go on that vacation you always dreamed about, or jump out of a plane!  Whatever you want to do, you now have time to do it, so take advantage of this new found free time and enjoy yourself in a way you haven’t been able to in years!

4. Your appearance improves

Admit it, we all kind of fall asleep in marriage when it comes to our appearance.  We all get a little lazy, a little out of shape. Maybe we don’t look after ourselves quite like we did before we were married. During the marriage that felt like one of the plus points, but now that you are divorced there is every need to.

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How many people have you seen who within a year or so after their divorce looked better than they had in years! Now, I don’t say these things for superficial reasons. I am not saying that physical appearance and looking good are the most important things in the world, but what I am saying is that looking good makes you feel good. After divorce your appearance will improve, and you will feel better and more confident for it. People will begin noticing you again, you will begin noticing yourself again, and if you also begin eating better and exercising more, your health will improve also – which is a priceless gift!

5. Everything can be a lesson, even when pain is the teacher

As I wrote above, divorce hurts, but everything that happens to us in Life is a lesson, even when pain is the teacher. Maybe you were too trusting or too focused on your career. Maybe you neglected your own happiness for his or your children’s. Maybe you did nothing wrong at all and this unfortunately just happened.

Whatever the reasons for the divorce, there are still valuable life lessons to be learned. Yes, those lessons can be very painful, but it may just be the very lesson your soul needs. You also learn that just because it’s not the Life you planned, it doesn’t mean it is the wrong Life for you. It may not be what you wanted, but it’s what you have and that can be very liberating because you realize that life doesn’t always go the way you want it to and that’s OK. It’s OK if you don’t get the job you really wanted. Its OK if you don’t get the promotion you expected.That is just part of Life. You don’t always get what you want, but you still – always – have to try and make the most of it, and that can be very freeing and empowering to learn.

6. You value the Present

Divorce rips your world apart. It undermines your very being and robs you of a security that you hoped you would always have. But, of course, that security was an illusion. It never existed. You simply thought it did. Divorce teaches you to enjoy and value the present. When you are with your children, value that time. When you are not with your children, value that time too. When you are out with friends, value that time. When you are sat alone at home watching a TV show alone, value that time.

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Divorce teaches you that you can spend your entire time thinking about the past, and what could have been, or what you or he/she could have or should have done differently, but ultimately you realize that those thoughts are worthless.You realize that as much as you may wish to change the past, you can’t, and that all you have is the present. So begin to try and enjoy that present.

You also learn that anger towards your ex, doesn’t harm your ex, it only harms you. Like Ghandi said, ‘anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to become ill.” Anger only harms you, so eventually you must and will learn to manage your thoughts and live in the present in a way that you never did before the divorce.

7. You become stronger and it makes you who you are

I do not know where you are on your divorce journey. Maybe you are recently divorced; maybe you’re going through the process right now, maybe it was a year ago, or maybe ten years ago. But I do now that eventually you will get through it. Eventually the feeling of betrayal and disappointment will subside. One day you will no longer feel the anger or loss you felt. You may always question why and you may never truly forgive, but one day you will get through it and find Happiness again. It will happen and when it does, you will be stronger for it.

I believe that divorce is a ‘disrupter’ designed to make us question whether we are on the right path. Divorce is a very personal journey, a journey that can only be defined and understood by you. But it is a journey, and a journey that is hard. But it is does come with some expected benefits. Dare I even say Blessings. In life, it is always important to count your blessings and not your problems. Everything happens to us for a reason. Detach from it all and surrender to what is. Everything that happened is simply making room for a new and better experience to come into your Life. The “reason” may not become known for many weeks, months or even several years, but one day, it will all make sense and you may even be grateful that your divorce happened.

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Note: Divorce is a life changing and traumatic situation and one that should only be undertaken once ALL avenues to having a successful marriage have been fully exhausted. I believe all marriages, except those involving abuse or repeated infidelity, can be fixed and would encourage anyone thinking about divorce to reach out to a qualified professional to help save their marriage.

Featured photo credit: Woman alone on the bridge against cloudy sky via shutterstock.com

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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!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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