Tagged: Active listening

Deal With It Or Dump It

Who’s got baggage – and I’m not talking about luggage as you head out on a trip – I’m talking about unresolved issues or relationships that you tote around for days, weeks, and even years?  You know, those feelings of anger, depression or disappointment about something or someone that you just haven’t gotten over?

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Do you chronically complain to your friends, family, and co-workers about said issue, while never do anything to resolve it? Do you re-hash conversations and actions, constantly poking at the internal scabs? Are you in a relationship or friendship that drags you down, yet you remain intent on fixing what probably cannot be fixed?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. But the more important question is what do you do about that baggage? It’s simple my friends – deal with it, or dump it.

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Staying stuck on hurt feelings or problems results in only one thing – staying stuck. By choosing to deal with your feelings or a problem (i.e., face them, find a solution, and take action) you will bring a slice of peace to your life which reduces stress and puts you in a healthier state of being. If the situation or person is something/someone that simply can’t be dealt with – then just dump it or them. As harsh as that sounds sometimes the best solution is to walk away and remove yourself from the detrimental situation or relationship.

The excuses that will blast into your brain at the thought are normal fears because change is scary, and finances, when involved, are always a valid concern. But ultimately (forgive the trite adage) where there’s a will there’s a way.

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Start slowly if you need to; take small situations and just deal with them or dump them. Have a heartfelt conversation to clear the air, or start saying NO when facing something negative that you tend to involve yourself with out of habit. Stop being afraid to simply state your feelings and needs.

As for “dumping” a person, obviously that’s tricky but with positive motivation behind you it’s not as hard as you think. I’m not taking about simple evading tactics (not answering calls, texts, or emails), I’m talking about letting a person know that your relationship/friendship is not functioning on a healthy level, and if they’re not willing to meet you half way to fix it, then you are no longer going to participate in that relationship.

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A lot of this comes down to your willingness to just LET GO. So many of us are “control-freaks” who simply refuse to let anything go even when it’s not working. We’re certain that somehow someway we can get it right. We don’t want to be quitters after all. Yet sometimes the best choice is to quit, to walk away, let it go but not see that action as a failure. It took me many years to learn that, and now I just let the crap go and/or walk away when I realize I’m swimming against an unrelenting current.

For those of you who find it hard to not focus on the problem – work on shifting your focus onto something positive that you can control, like exercise, nutrition, or just filling your time with only people and environments that have a positive affect on your life. I am well aware that all of this is easy to say and not necessarily easy to do. But nothing worthwhile is, and I can attest first hand that with practice it gets much easier.

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So take stock, and if there’s something dragging you down – deal with it or dump it.

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Communication Breakdown Part 2

In March 2013 I wrote an entry entitled Communication Breakdown in which I addressed problems with communicating intentions and improving listening skills. Today I want to tackle another aspect of our communication breakdown, that of rapid fire communication.

Did you know that hihowareyou is not all one word? I find myself increasingly irritated at how many people ramble that phrase at me, whether on the phone or person, all the while not really listening or even caring about my answer. Hi How Are You has become a staple greeting for so many people that it has lost its meaning.

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Many of my friends know that I almost never answer that question when they call me and lead with it. I in turn never ask them that question when I call. I prefer more specific questions – ones that hopefully indicate I truly care about what I’m inquiring over. “How are you feeling today,” or “what’s new in your world?”

Raise your hand if you have answered How Are You with a “good” even when you’re not. Now I ask you, what is the point of this greeting if the result is meaningless and the answer isn’t true. I also cringe every time someone on the phone says “good, thanks” when not only haven’t I responded to their howareya query, but specifically have NOT asked them how they are in return. They simply answer out of robotic routine moving obliviously into the reason for their call.

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The bottom line here is that we are not truly communicating (speaking with intent and listening). Another problem in current communication skills is the intrusion of technology. I continually marvel (disappointedly) at how many couples, families, teenagers sit oblivious to each other, engaged almost exclusively with their phones. Questions are asked and answered with little eye contact. Meals are conducted with televisions on, car rides have the radios blaring, everyone lost in their own private worlds.

Despite the evidence that texting, Instagraming and Facebook check-ins is keeping us in touch with our friends and family in a more consistent manner than ever before, this lack of personal one-on-one communication is decreasing our ability to conduct meaningful or intimate connections.

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Society has decided that it’s less intrusive, and therefore more considerate to text someone rather than call them. I disagree. A quick I’m on my way text is fine, but entire conversations or negotiating complicated plans – what’s wrong with actually talking? We’ve also turned phrases that were formerly used as proper social greeting manners into throw-away comments –like hihowyadoin, and straight-forward conversations seem to be more dialogues of double-talk these days.

So what does this teach our current and future generations? I fear more for what it does not teach. The ability to conduct oneself articulately and tactfully. To get your feelings or desires across quickly, succinctly and compassionately. More importantly, that a person can be comfortable with personal and meaningful interactions with family, friends, and co-workers alike.

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Likely many of you, especially those in generations below mine (I’m a baby-boomer afer all) disagree with my assessment of current communication and that’s okay. But before you scoff, see how many times you or those around you say hihowareyou and more importantly, how much you or they even listen to or acknowledge the response. If you find my perspective to hold a little more weight, then perhaps you will find room for improvement in your communication skills. Then pay it forward and perhaps our communication breakdowns will lessen.

Communication Breakdown

He never listens to me!argue

She says one thing and means another!

Do either of these statements sound familiar to you?

What one thing can keep marriages healthy, friendships growing, and countries living in harmony?  Good communication!  Yet that is the one thing that fails most regularly.  Why?  Many reasons, but the prime reason is that different genders and generations communicate in different ways.  The most common complaint that I hear from my clients is that their spouse/significant other, or co-worker or employer doesn’t listen to them.

This communication breakdown is the subject of numerous studies by everyone from professionals to couples at a dinner party.  They usually focus on the differences between how men and women talk, listen, and interpret.  More scientific (or physco-analytical) approaches focus on the right and left hemispheres of our brains and how the we react differently depending on which side of our brain hemispheres dominate (right side being creative and emotional, left side being critical and analytical).  Some just blame it on diverse lifestyles that render opposites (opponents) unable to relate.

I boil it down to two concepts.

1.   People do not LISTEN to each other.  And by listen, I mean hear what the other person means, what they are really saying, not necessarily their words.  Instead of feeling their intentions, and trying to understand their motivations, we react to their words, before their actions have a chance to clarify anything misunderstood.  Then we are further confused when their actions do not match our expectations.

2.   People do not SPEAK CLEARLY.  I am a huge proponent of being honest and asking for what you need from another person.  When you cover the true need with superfluous embellishments, apologies, caveats, etc., your message (intent) is lost in translation!

commAs an example, say you need more help at home from your spouse, or to remove something from your over-burdened “plate” at work.  Instead of saying I need help.  I’m stressed and feel in over my head, you say is there any way that I could possibly have you do me a favor?  It won’t take long, if you can’t that’s okay, I understand, oh never mind. What that much fluff around your true intention, is it any wonder that all the other person hears is “yada yada yada could you…okay, never mind?

So how do we repair our communication breakdowns?  I employ two simple techniques.  Streamlined questioning followed by active listening.

1.   Before you ask a question, know your true intentions.  What do you really need to ask?  Are you beating around the bush?  Are you afraid to come forward and ask for what you really need? Don’t play the martyr, people don’t respect it.

Be reasonable, be straight-forward, and 99% of the time, the other person will gladly honor your request.  Hopefully, they in turn, will be honest and tell you if they cannot or are unwilling to comply.  That goes for you too.  You must be honest with yourself and others when called upon for help or a favor.  If it’s too difficult for you to achlistenieve at this time, for whatever reason, just say so.  Doing someone a favor when it makes for a hardship in your life, helps no one.

2.   Listen to answers…think before you speak.  Try to not to anticipate, or have expectations of what you want to hear from another person.  This will eliminate the feeling of disappointment if the answer isn’t what you had hoped for.

Take a moment to digest what has been said, or how you wish to respond.  Keep in mind all the variables that can change perception.  What are they/you doing at this moment?  Do you have only half their attention or vice versa?  Are there distractions, complications?.  Was the question clear?  Does the answer need clarification?  What does their/your body language say?

Once you get in the habit of straight-to-the-point (but not tactless) questions, and active open listening, your communication skills will improve.  This will boost the communication skills of those around you as well (especially in intimate relationships).  Teach these techniques to your spouses, children, and co-workers.  Though this may not improve global communication, if one person at a time make an concerted effort to be honest and listen well, our world may have a lot less bickering!