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5 Tips for Handling Criticism

Photo by Nissor
When you judge another, you do not define them; you define yourself as someone who needs to judge. ~Wayne Dyer

I wish I had read this statement by Wayne Dyer when I was a teenager. In fact, if I had taped it to my bedroom mirror where I would have seen it every day, it might have sunk in. And maybe I would have done some things very differently.

Some of us are just naturally pleasers. As a kid, I really worked hard to get great grades, because I knew my parents would be pleased. I joined a swim team and took on extra practices, so I could win my events and please my coach and my parents. I was devastated if I received criticism from anyone I loved and/or respected — I had failed somehow.

Enter my first really serious relationship after college: I was wonderfully in love, and we moved in together, ready to build a life together. Gradually, it began to creep in. First, it was meals I prepared — something was always not quite right.

Then it was the clothes I chose or my hairstyle. Pretty soon, it was almost everything I did, no matter how inconsequential. There was always a piece of criticism. And my response? It was the same as when I was growing up — I had failed somehow.

My epiphany came when we went to meet his folks. After a weekend in that house, I realized he was certainly his father’s son. Here was an obviously successful businessman who should have been very happy with his life.

4 Ways to Feel More Loved

Photo by Sergio Otero
The most important thing in this world is to learn to give out love and let it come in. ~Morrie Schwartz

Every school day, mere seconds after the lunch bell would ring, my peers and I would pile into long tables in the cafeteria and eagerly examine the contents of our lunch boxes. Aside from the much anticipated fifteen minutes of recess that would follow, most saw it as the most exciting part of the day.

Not for me.

I already knew what was in my bag, seeing as how I was the one who packed it. And, starting from the young age of six, my main goal in packing my lunch had more to do with speed then creating a culinary masterpiece.

My mom wouldn’t spend an extra five minutes cutting off the crusts of my PB&J or writing me a note on a napkin reminding me to have a great day. That just wasn’t her thing.

5 Tips to Communicate Better

Photo by AP Photographie
When deeds and words are in accord, the whole world is transformed. ~Chuang Tzu

After muscling through a variety of work-related changes, I began to grow frustrated with the upheaval and lack of respect that I perceived I was getting from my coworkers.

I felt as if I possessed the skills required to do the job I was hired to do, but my ideas weren’t receiving the attention they deserved and often times, my presence went completely unnoticed.

The experience pushed me to grow a thick skin, a kind of “I don’t care what you think” attitude. And I was ready to battle anyone that attempted to question my competence or step on my toes.

So when a new team member asked to meet with me after a few incidences where we passive aggressively tried to redo each other’s work, I spent the night going over my responses to the attacks I was sure he was about to wage.

I was confident that I knew what was coming. And I was ready to fight.

5 Tips to Increase Your Emotional IQ

Photo by Phil King
You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass. ~Timber Hawkeye

Have you ever felt so angry you lashed out and said words you regret? Felt so hurt, you couldn’t talk past the lump in your throat?

So frustrated, you weren’t able to form a coherent sentence? Or tried to communicate something important, and it landed like a dead fish?

I’ve been there. In my teens, I was a tempestuous young woman. Hormones had me flipping from rage to despair in a heartbeat. I sprayed emotions around me like a machine gun sprays bullets.

I couldn’t even talk to my then-boyfriend about anything important without losing control. I frustrated even myself.

So I learned to keep emotions under lock and key. I rarely expressed how I felt, and aimed to just keep the peace and ensure everyone was happy.

Except me.

Find Power in Silence

Photo by Phillipe Put
Silence is a source of great strength. ~Lao Tzu

When I was a kid, my family would take long road trips. We were from the Midwest, so in order to get anywhere the drive was at least six hours. But we were ambitious. Six hours was a weekend trip.

We were more interested in traveling to Detroit (a 13-hour trip) or Seattle (a 22-hour drive). When you pack five people in a car for that long, there are bound to be issues, and one of those was the radio.

Since my father drove most of the time, we were at his mercy when it came to the music. Or more often, I should say, the silence. While we were a musical family, my father would insist on turning off the radio every hour or so, just “to hear myself think,” as he said.

We would whine and complain.

“It’s just so boooooring without anything to listen to,” we’d say.

Fast forward decades later, and I suddenly find myself turning off the stereo at home, while I’m working or driving. This is odd for me — I consider myself an audiophile.

How to Overcome Social Anxiety

Photo by Jade
Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. ~Helen Keller

Imagine standing in a fancy ballroom in a hotel. You’re at a networking event, one of a handful of females in a room with investors and self-confident entrepreneurs.

You don’t know anyone, so you’re looking down at your smartphone pretending you have a message, but you don’t. You look around, hoping for someone to approach you … but no one does.

That was me, five years ago. Unsure of myself, scared to approach people and telling myself that I was a fake or a phony.

I had just launched a business, and we needed to raise capital — fast. The key to raising money is relationships: You need to meet the right people, get the right introductions and sell your idea.

Those were all things I did NOT want to do.

How to Handle Your Haters

Photo by Bonita Suraputra
People who urge you to be realistic generally want you to accept their version of reality. ~Unknown

With my multiple streams of income drying up one by one and no light of opportunity on the horizon, I was quickly losing faith in my ability to create a sustainable life as a writer. The long stretches of nothing to do were cementing my career-driven depression, and I was beginning to feel completely disconnected from my purpose.

I was incredibly insecure about my lack of forward movement, so I attempted to avoid conversations that brought up the topic of careers.

Then one day, a family gathering prompted a conversation about a local retail store that was considered to be a great place to work. One well-meaning but somewhat brash family member turned to me and said, “Why don’t you at least try to get a job there?”

I felt as if someone had just pummeled me in the stomach.

6 Tips for Asking for Help

Photo by David Urbanke
Asking for help does not mean that we are weak or incompetent. It usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence. ~Anne Wilson Schaef

For the past few months I’ve been training for races I’m running this summer. Before I signed up, I had never run more than a few blocks without stopping. I’d just never gotten into it.

I’m not really sure why, but I’ve always wanted to run a trail race. Plus a triathlon is on my Nothing’s Impossible List, so why not start with the part I’m no good at?

I headed out to buy some good shoes. The owner offered me advice and ideas about how to begin running and what sort of training plan to follow.

What’s funny is that I figured there couldn’t be much to it. Instead I realized that I was a young babe in an old woods. There was a lot to running, and I didn’t know what I was in for.

I’m so thankful I opened up to that shop owner, because now I have all sorts of things to help me succeed. I was a little embarrassed to admit I was trying something new (that’s one of my ego’s trouble spots — I always want to look like an expert), but by doing so, I probably saved myself a whole bunch of misery, injury and wasted time.

4 Things Good Listeners Do

Photo by Jan Fidler
One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. ~Bryant H. McGill

Some acquaintances and I were hiking together in a new spot. Everywhere we turned there were things to behold — falcons perched, coyotes hunting, altars built — it was an experience I can’t wait to repeat.

Since we were all fairly new friends, we all had plenty to tell each other. There was very little silence, even in such an awe-inspiring place. When I got home I realized that I didn’t remember a lot of what was said. I was embarrassed to admit it, but it seemed I had forgotten to listen.

I’ve been told many times that I’m a good listener; in fact, many people open up to me for just that reason. Maybe it was because I was tired, or maybe I was just out of practice (working alone will do that to you) but I decided to revisit some of the things I draw on to listen well. Here are four tips on how to listen:

6 Ways to Let Go of Anger

Photo by xvire1969
Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave. ~Indira Gandhi

I hate to admit it, but I am not good at letting things go. A few days ago I stared getting worked up about a disagreement a good friend and I had. It replayed in my head; the hurt in my heart flared up again.

The worst part? It happened more than a year ago, and it’s been resolved. If she knew I still harbored these feelings, she’d probably be upset. After all, weren’t we past that?

It used to be that I would forgive and forget immediately, but I realized that I wasn’t truly forgiving people; I was simply using the technique of denial.

So instead, I swung to the other end of the pendulum, where I couldn’t seem to let go, even if I’d said I’d forgiven.

The benefits of letting go of a grudge aren’t all just in your head. Forgiveness leads to healthier relationships, less anxiety, lower blood pressure, fewer depression symptoms and less risk of substance abuse.

With all of this in mind, I set out to make an effort to forgive in a healthy way and quit walking around with the weight of all those grudges.

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