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How to Offer your Sympathies Following a Bereavement

How to Offer your Sympathies Following a Bereavement
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    When attending the funeral of someone we know, the thought of going up to express our condolences to the friends and relatives of the deceased can often fill us with apprehension – it’s not exactly the kind of experience we go through every day. However, with the right approach it can actually be a very inwardly rewarding experience. Here are a few pointers:

    • The words “I’m sorry for your loss” can sound like such a cliché if not said with meaning. Remember that when you do express your condolences, it will not be the words that matter, but the expression and concern on your face.
    • It doesn’t particularly matter if you never thought well the deceased during his or her lifetime – you can try to mentally “bury the hatchet” and remember any good qualities the person might have had. If that doesn’t work, try instead to empathise with what the dear ones of the deceased must be going through, and let your words stem from that instead.
    • Draw on any experiences of loss which you might have had yourself – it will help you empathise with and appreciate what the dear ones of the departed are going through.
    • Remember you won’t be an imposition. We always somehow seem to think that the dear ones of the deceased will be so wrapped up in their grief that any human contact will just be painful. This will be certainly true in some cases (and it will be very easy to see which) but on the whole, those who are grieving will be very happy to see people have showed up to give them support in their hour of suffering. Try to feel your presence there as a source of strength for the mourners to draw on.
    • It helps enormously if you can talk about the fond memories you have of the deceased and the good qualities they had. Everyone who attends has different recollections which reveal a facet of the person’s character, and they all add up to give a sense of who that person was – it helps people to feel that in a way the spirit of the person is still there.
    • Some people are better writers than they are talkers – a heartfelt message (or a poem, perhaps) left inside a card may just be picked up an read a month or a year later, and offer powerful consolation when it is most needed.
    • Most importantly – act from the heart. Funerals are a time when the best in human beings really comes to the fore – our feelings of kindness, empathy and concern which are often obscured in daily life. Try not to analyse too much what to say. If you can focus instead on staying in the heart then this better part of your nature will come forward and feel the right thing to say.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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