The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm.~Swedish Proverb
A couple of months ago, I made the decision to end my financial dependence on my mother.
I had on eighty-four cents in my bank account, no place to live and the only income I had was from a part time job and a couple of freelance projects.
Though the timing may have been a bit dramatic, there was a sense of urgency in my decision. I was desperate to free myself from the cycle of repeatedly leaving home only to return with my tail between my legs and no money to speak of.
Have you ever had the experience while talking to someone where the person is really not listening to you? They act like they are but it is obvious that they aren’t. The ironic part is that they probably think they are communicating with you but on some level you just feel that you weren’t heard at all.
Communication is something we all engage in on a daily basis but due to the pace of our lives, conversations become just formalities. It is like when you go to the store and the cashier asks you: “how are you?” It’s as if she was on cruise control as opposed to really being interested in how you are doing.
Living mindfully isn’t limited to meditation, but can also be applied to effective communication in our daily interactions with other people. This article takes a look at 10 effective communication tips using the principles of mindfulness.
This article applies also to those not currently in a relationship.
My husband and I had a fight over the weekend – on our date night, of all nights. We rarely fight, so when emotions escalated to shouting, I knew something had to change. I had to change. There was something to be learned here.
The thing about when couples bicker is that both people feel that they are right. Both people feel that their point of view is rightfully justified. So we try to make the other person understand. When we are arguing, what we are essentially trying to do is to show the other person our side – to show them that we are right (and they are wrong).
After all was said and done, underneath the problem on the surface, what we were really fighting for was to feel appreciated and validated. We, each in our own indirect way, were trying to let the other person acknowledge us, and to value what we contribute. But sometimes, we can be so stubborn.
If you dissect all the fights we’ve had in the past with our significant others, and through observing our friends, I think the desire to feel appreciated and recognized is a common theme.
What’s interesting is that in the heat of “battle”, when we are so consumed with wanting the other person to see our side, we become blind to recognizing the other person’s point of view – which is equally valid and understandable. It’s like trying to put out fire with more fire, you will just end up with a bigger fire.
Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary.
It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body.
It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.~Winston Churchill
Criticism is crucial for personal improvement. It’s the most direct way to find out what you should improve on. However, accepting criticism can be emotionally challenging. Afterall, we’re only human, who wants to hear bad stuff about ourselves?
It’s hard to not take it personally. Our instinctive reaction is to become defensive and we shut out potentially helpful and life-enhancing tips. By doing this, we miss out on what could supercharge our improvement.
So how can you take criticism without getting self-conscious and defensive?
Over the past few days, I’ve attended a few social gatherings at which my interactions with other people provided me with a few new revelations. During these interactions I started to notice a peculiar social pattern; that a significant percentage of people are not that good at being social.
After one particular dinner engagement with my partner and another couple, I went home feeling completely uninspired and insignificant. Even after having spent 2 hours with this couple, I am fairly certain they still don’t know anything about me aside from the obvious surface details; my name is Tina, I am Asian and I live in Seattle. They have no idea what I do for a living, what my expertise is, how I spend my time, or where I am from. They were either completely uninterested in me, or they just have underdeveloped social skills.
Later, when I was analyzing the dinner engagement situation, I started to realize why I avoid spending time with certain people in my life, even some friends whom I like and respect. The answer is – they focus too much on themselves, and show a lack of interest in me.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? If someone doesn’t show any interest in you, why would you want to spend any of your precious time with them? I’m sure there are countless other things you would rather be doing.
I have a friend whom, despite her many outstanding qualities, will derail a social gathering by talking about herself the entire night without directing a single question to anyone else around the table. She dominates the table’s conversation by constantly initiating topics that revolve back to the theme of how brilliant she is. It actually is true, she really is brilliant. However, this gets annoying really quickly and obviously makes the others around the table very uncomfortable. It also has the net result of her getting left off of future engagement invites.
The interesting lesson here is that by observing how the behavior of others make us feel, we can tweak and improve our own social skill set. In this way, we can ensure that people leave their interactions with us feeling great, and looking forward to the next time we connect. Just imagine if all meetings ended like this, wouldn’t they also be more enjoyable for us?
There is a simple fact of human nature that states we all want to be liked. Don’t be afraid to admit it. If we think about it, underlying many of our actions, we are really seeking ways to validate ourselves and to fulfill this desire of being liked.
Have you ever met someone and instantly took a liking towards them? You can’t explain why, but you feel a fondness and you want to do things to help them. I’m not talking about sexual attraction, but a genuine and innocent feeling of fondness towards another person.
In a job interview, you are more likely to be hired if the interviewer likes you as a person. In a business situation, you are more likely to get deals done and gain favors. In a personal situation, you are likely to gain trust and loyal friendships.
When we decide that we like someone, it is a psychological process that we cannot quite articulate. It’s not a secret that we make decisions emotionally and justify them logically. So, does this mean that we can influence an emotional decision that happens subconsciously?
I believe that decisions can be influenced. I know that the qualities of a likeable person can be cultivated and proactively developed. Do you want to know how to develop the skills to be likable?
I’ve heard of all the standard public speaking tips, like making eye contacts with your audience, plan your speech, practice, speak with volume, and standing up straight. Although, they are valuable tips, none of these tips address the real problem underlying my speech delivery. Namely, my fear of failure, and the crippling nervousness I experience when standing in front of a crowd of people.
I’m sure you can relate to the nervousness I’m referring to. Even if you are Tony Robbins or an expert in speech delivery, at some point in your life, you’ve felt nervous when giving a presentation. I used to hate public-speaking, I would get so nervous that the only thing I heard was the sound of my heart bouncing out of my chest, the only thing I felt was my stomach tightening up as I wipe my sweaty palms on my pants. In the past, I’ve dealt with this fear by avoiding presenting in front of people, whenever possible. But I’ve since learned that the best way to deal with any fear is facing it. I started looking outside of myself, then learning and testing out various techniques for dealing with fear. I began practicing advice on giving outstanding presentations. In my experimentation, I have found that several techniques have worked miracles in helping me give effective and fearless presentations.
To be interesting, be interested.
Ask questions that other person will enjoy answering.
Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.~Dale Carnegie
Everyone desires to be heard. When we listen to others, we validate their need to be acknowledged and understood. Deep down inside, we all want to know that we matter, that we are important. Don’t you find that meeting someone who shows interest in what we have to say, we tend to take a liking to them instantly?
I’m not asking you to pretend to be interested in hopes of being liked, but rather to pay attention to this often overlooked and forgotten skill. In addition to improving your personal and professional relationships, listening also helps to prevent misunderstandings and facilitates cooperation.
The following are techniques to being an effective listener. I have learned these from communication courses, seminars and books on personal relationships. These are ones I’ve personally found to be useful when engaged in a conversation with other people:
Our name is one of those hard wired words in our subconscious (like “Free” and “Sex”), which has the intrinsic trigger to get our attention. You are more likely to react and respond to the sound of your name than say the word “apple”.
The ability to remember people’s names is an incredibly useful skill, in business and social interactions. Do you remember how impressed or surprised you were the last time someone remembered your name? I still get impressed, and I tend to remember these people in an especially warm and friendly light.
I have a distinct, short and easy to remember name (“Tina Su”). I often fall victim to the embarrassment of not remembering names of people who approach me with “Hi Tina, how are you?” My mind would go into panic, thinking “Oh crap! What’s her name again?”
I have developed the following techniques to help myself remember names. I’ve used each one extensively and they have proven to be effective in my experience. I want to share these with you, and hope that you will find them as valuable as I have.