The time has arrived, a new year and a new decade. For some the turning of the calendar from December to January is just another month, for others the ending of one year represents a fresh start in setting personal goals for the coming year. A traditional approach in setting goals is to reach past your comfort zone, add new opportunities or better oneself, most often related to health, career, family or personal growth. I know myself so well that any goal I set will be abolished by March 1st. Therefore, over the last several years, I have been approaching the new year differently. Instead of writing measurable goals of reading more books, spending more time in the gym, reaching out to more friends or taking a break from work, instead I have been choosing a word or idea that I spend the year embracing.
In 2019, my word of choice was tolerance. During the past year, I did my best to remain focused on being open-minded, understanding and accepting of others. Since a relationship is a two-way street, being tolerant of others means you also have to be tolerant of yourself. For me, being tolerant of myself means I have to be a less biased version of myself, including not taking gestures from others personally, not formulating a conclusion without knowing all the facts and treating people the way I would want to be treated.
Sounds easy, right? Not always. As a society, we assume people are just like us. They think like us, they react like us and they desire the same things as we do. In reality, that is not true. We may be similar in some ways but are different in others. Since my writings are reflections of loss, how do we really know what others are feeling or experiencing? For those of you who are having a productive, good year with no family or personal setbacks, you might be more patient and tolerant of those around you. What about those who were thrown a curve-ball with a dreadful diagnosis or who have experienced a loss. Their interaction and tolerance of others might have a short-fuse. My 2019 word choice allowed me to realize two people are similar but different, and the success of being tolerant is the ability or willingness to accept the existence of opinions or behaviors that are unfavorable or that you may disagree with.
Now that the calendar has changed to January, my 2020 goal is to improve my communication with others. Whether the communication is verbal, written or just by gestures, I will spend the year being considerate of the receiver of my communication. That means I need to slow down, choose my words wisely and communicate in a manner that others will not misinterpret the point I am making. We are all guilty of sending a text message that may not be clear, leaving a voice message with a less than desirable tone or rolling our eyes when we disagree with the person who is talking to us.
As an author and a presenter, when challenged with an attendee or reader who might be confused by an idea I am sharing or a point of view that is different than theirs, I am pleased to further the discussion to incorporate their point of view and clarify mine. Recently on my book tour of Finding Peace, One Piece at a Time: What to do with yours or a loved one’s possessions, I was asked many personal questions associated with possessions. Specifically, how to reduce guilt, decide what to keep and how coordinate efforts with other family members when sorting through a loved one’s possessions. By approaching their concerns with sensible, practical and logical wording, the attendees were afforded the opportunity to look at their situation differently. I find those who reach out to ask the clarifying questions are those who will benefit most from the presentation. Rather than walking away, they are able to use their voice and engage in a meaningful conversation. With all communication, the best approach is to listen, answer the questions the person is asking, choose your words wisely and be conscientious of mannerism when communicating with an individual or group.
While my personal commitment this year is improving my communication, I am convinced that individually we are responsible for our own interaction with others, whether it is a phone call, email, walking down the street or driving a car. Therefore, here are my top ideas for improving communication in 2020:
Listen with empathy rather than judgement: Just because you may have experienced something similar, you have no idea of what happens behind their front door or what type of support they have from their friends and family.
Be sure you understand what someone is sharing: Blaming others is an excuse. If you don’t understand why someone is behaving the way they are, ask a few questions. Look for clarity or rephrase the questions or points so the idea can be understood.
Simplify by staying on point: Be cautious of side thoughts that interrupt the point you want to make. Shifting a conversation to the right, left, up or down takes you off point.
Be sure to breathe when talking or presenting a thought: Slow down, let others interact with the conversation.
Show enthusiasm: This can be accomplished by making eye contact if you are physically together, using emoji’s that have emotions when texting or sharing an encouraging thought if communicating in writing.
Speak and write with passion: Showing an emotional connection, excitement and interest will inevitably improve interaction.
Don’t assume you know: When communicating with others, know that there are multiple opinions and outlooks on a topic or situation.
Be sure you have their attention: Before you share your point or thought, confirm the party is paying attention and not preoccupied with other correspondence, people or situation.
Rachel Kodanaz is a heart-minded professional helping her audiences to Embrace Life’s Challenges. Rachel has been speaking passionately to national audiences of all sizes for over 20 years, addressing all aspects of change, growth, and acceptance that comes with life’s transitions. Her style inspires, informs and persuades audiences to be self-aware, take action, and continue to thrive.
Rachel has published numerous articles and has appeared on Good Morning America. Her published books Finding Peace, One Piece at a Time, best-selling Living with Loss One Day at a Time, and Grief in the Workplace have received international acclaim. Learn more at rachelkodanaz.com