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Journaling: How I Remember the Details

Journaling: How I Remember the Details
Journaling

When I moved across the country, I brought two stuffed filing cabinets worth of personal papers. Not bills or business papers — we’re talking about notebooks filled with minutia of day-to-day life.

Since high school, I’ve relied on notebooks (my current preference is Moleskine cahiers, though I’ve used everything from composition books to huge 200-page sketchbooks to little spiral bounds obtained at the dollar store) to write down anything that came up during the day. I eventually adapted to interpreting this information into a planner and then an online calendar. These days, productivity experts such as David Allen, call such a system “ubiquitous capture.” My grandmother used plainer language and told me that if I didn’t write things down, my thoughts would wander off without me. She was entirely right.

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A notebook is useful in the moment — it’s portable and doesn’t need time to boot up or load software. That doesn’t justify me hanging on to years of shopping lists, though. It’s the other notes that crept in that make these notebooks worthwhile. An article on Dosh Dosh yesterday got me thinking about how these notebooks are effectively my private journals. While they’re full of task lists, I also used these notebooks to record lecture notes, ideas for short stories, long-term goals and just about everything that has gone through my head. We’re talking about uncensored thoughts that often never saw the light of day again.

I read through old notebooks when I need ideas or I want to remember what was important to me at a certain time. Maki puts it better:

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The key point to note is not the therapeutic effects of writing in a journal but rather the fact that regular journal keeping will influence the way you think or feel about an specific topic. If you’re an entrepreneur, blogger or marketer, reflection via a private journal will give you a fountain of ideas and initiatives to pursue.

It’s true. Even the act of writing down notes about a story I wanted to write was enough to improve the story. I check through old notebooks regularly for ideas to write about and even to attempt to sell. Any time I experience the slightest twinge of writer’s block, I start reading my own notes.

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A few days ago, I went looking for notes from a talk I attended during my sophomore year of college. The speaker was Stephanie Elizondo Griest, and she’d spoken about traveling on her own — a woman alone out in the world. Nominally, I’d been taking notes as a precursor to an article I was writing for the student paper, but I’ve pulled out these notes for three or four different occasions, like when a female friend was making solo traveling plans. I hadn’t pulled them out when making my own plans for my time abroad (Ireland and its neighbors didn’t seem quite as dangerous to a gal on her own than Griest’s experiences in rural Latin America), but I see now that I had made side notes about the trip I intended to eventually take. I can follow along with the plans I made, the places I wanted to visit. I can even tell you about my struggles getting my passport into my hands. I’ve got the notes I would need to write any number of articles about visiting Ireland or any short stories about the bureaucracy of travel abroad.

While I think that blogs and online journals are incredibly valuable precisely because they are shared, I think that these notes written without intentions of publication have far more value when I look back. They’re the clearest indicators of how I have changed over the years, and what I have thought was important. I know many people think that a formal journal or diary is more worthwhile and a better indicator, but, personally, I could never take that formal of a style when writing to myself. I know that one of the key pieces of advice that many authors copy each other on is that young writers should journal or keep a diary. It’s a standard exercise in creative writing classes of every type: write down your ideas, thoughts, anything that could evolve into a full-fledged piece of writing. And, let me tell you, anything can evolve into a poem or an essay. My notes on PR tactics from senior year were handed in for a poetry class practically verbatim.

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Despite my internal voice, though, I think that journaling is an admirable pursuit. Beyond the benefits of recording your thoughts for later, I think a daily or even a somewhat regular writing habit is practically necessary to improve a person’s ability to communicate. And don’t forget posterity! People still read Samuel Pepys’ diary and he died in 1703. Any genealogist, amateur or otherwise, will bless your name if you leave a journal — or any other records of your life beyond a carefully emptied inbox.

Thinking of starting your own journal? Consider starting small and offline. As simple to use as a free WordPress account (or another online journaling option of your choice), there is a lingering feeling that it might not be as private as one might want. The goal of most journaling is to be able to write without even personal censorship, after all. I’d even argue against using a computer at all — if you want an opportunity to take notes of your thoughts and ideas as they occur, waiting to get back to your desk may not cut it.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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