“The best thinking has been done in solitude.” – Thomas Edison
When was the last time you were alone?Advertising
Not alone by today’s standards (Facebook and Twitter within arms reach, friends constantly buzzing your phone), but truly by yourself, with no outside influences providing data or information to your brain. Can you think of that time? If you’re like most people, it might take you more than a few seconds. The speed of life at which the world lives today doesn’t leave much time to stop and smell the flowers, let alone leave time for yourself.
Society seems to have placed a negative stigma on being alone. When you see someone alone in public, eating a meal by themselves or simply walking around the block, what are your first impressions of them? Why are they by themselves? you might wonder. Without seeing social proof that they are not a complete weirdo, it is easy for people who are alone to make us uneasy. The issue here is that society often creates an inaccurate perception that “loneliness” and “solitude” are synonymous.Advertising
Solitude is the ultimate environment for clear thinking. Without any distractions, you allow yourself to think exactly how you want to think, without any outside influence. American entrepreneur and classic rags-to-riches example Jim Rohn once said that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This insight reminds us how much influence other people really have over us, whether we realize it or not. With this much influence on us from others, how do we think for ourselves? How can we form opinions on topics that are truly our own? The answer can become clear with just a short amount of solitude.
Being in solitude is one of the best ways to improve yourself both mentally and emotionally. Clearing your head with just minutes of meditation per day has been scientifically proven to relieve stress, improve focus and memory, enhance creativity, etc. Blocking out time for yourself daily also allows you to develop your own interests. Have you ever wanted to be able to shred on the guitar, bench press 400 pounds, or become an award-winning chef? By taking just a small chunk of time out of your day (Earl Nightingale, personal development pioneer and radio personality, claims one hour of study per day for three years will put you at the top of your field ) to learn skills that you truly want, will keep you from thinking What if? later on in life.Advertising
In order to keep your life in the direction you want it to go, it is necessary to take some time and reflect every once in a while. Life goes fast; that is no surprise to anyone. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day whirlwind of activities. The second you put yourself on autopilot, and then look up, it’s five years later. Set up a monthly-or-so schedule. Ask yourself, “What have I accomplished in the past month? What did I do well at and what would I like to improve? What would I like to accomplish in the next month? Am I setting myself up for success by surrounding myself with the best possible people?” When you set up checkpoints like this for yourself, you can help ensure that you keep yourself focused and your life on track.
I’m not asking you to pull a Henry David Thoreau and move into to a 10 x 15 cabin in the woods by yourself. Discovering yourself and gaining self-reliance does not require such extreme measures. But if you want to become a greater person and find out what you really want out of life, I highly recommend spending some time in solitude. You will not be disappointed.Advertising
Featured photo credit: murielle29 via flickr.com
Last Updated on May 21, 2019
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:
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.
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.
You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.
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.
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.
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.
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,
“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.
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.
More Articles About Effective Communication
- Conflict Management Styles for Effective Communication at Work
- 13 Best Communication Books for Stronger Social Skills & Relationships
- How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home
- 7 Most Important Communication Techniques to Master in the Workplace
Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com
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