Are You Talking to Me? Tackling Communication Issues (Part 2)

         In the first part of this series, we explored three issues that interfere with effective verbal communication (see Part 1 for all of the details).  This second part of the series will address issues beyond verbal communication.  We will explore other ways that we communicate with our body and voice.

 

Other types of communication
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         It is easy to grasp verbal communication.  We pay attention to what we are saying and, by default, we are working on our verbal communication.  The issues that we will explore here are a bit more nebulous and can be more difficult to comprehend (but if I do a good job, you will be able to understand it in short order).  Let’s break down these other types of communication into 3 broad categories: nonverbal factors, paraverbal factors, and interactional relationships.

 

Nonverbal Factors

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         Very broadly, nonverbal communication is conveying a message with your body instead of your voice.  You can think of a teenager’s unique ability to communicate that they have way better things to do simply with an eye roll and a sassy posture.   3

Yep, just like that.  She is clearly communicating some things here with her body posture and where she is directing her gaze (away from Dad, who is either doing a Gilbert Gottfried impersonation or is clearly communicating frustration with his own nonverbal communication).

Many things fall under the non-verbal category, including:

  • Clothing – Have you ever been embarrassed by showing up at a function in the wrong dress (you show up in formal wear at a casual event)? Your embarrassment stems in part from the fact that you are communicating things that you did not intend to with your appearance (in this example it would be things such as “I did not read the invitation thoroughly” or “I am more important than others” or “look at me, I have fancy clothes and clearly make a lot of money.”).  It is likely that you do not intend to send these messages and would not verbalize them, but that is what your clothing communicates.
  • Grooming – If we answer the door and look like we have emerged from hibernation, 4 we are likely communicating that we were not expecting company. Your level of grooming (or lack thereof) can communicate things about how you feel about yourself or about how you feel about the situation in which you are engaging (a well-groomed person showing up for a job interview is  demonstrating to a prospective employer that they are taking this opportunity seriously).
  • Posture – We communicate a lot about our level of engagement in a conversation through posture. Leaning in suggests that we are attentive and engaged.  Open body posture (arms uncrossed, shoulders squared) suggests that we are open to the conversation and what the other person is saying.  On the other hand, closed or hunched body posture tends to communicate that we are not open to talking.  Open or closed body posture also has the ability to communicate about how we may feel about ourselves.  Compare these to images:

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Our guy on the left apparently has missed the memo that people here are having a great time.  His posture communicates that he is not having fun, probably does not want to talk to us, and perhaps does not hold himself in high esteem.  Our guy on the right exudes confidence.  His posture is upright and open and he thus appears to be confident and approachable.

  • Touching – shaking someone’s hand, slapping their back, giving a high five or a pat on the shoulder, brushing an arm. These all communicate messages nonverbally.  If we watch two people in conversation and can’t hear what they are saying, we can gather a lot of information based solely on how much and what type of touching they engage in.  (Think of how differently you would touch your boss as compared to your best friend.)
  • Eye contact – this is a major way that we communicate engagement with another person. Maintaining appropriate eye contact (which happens to be culturally specific: what is appropriate for a Caucasian American is different from a Native American which is different from someone from Japan) communicates active involvement whereas avoiding eye contact communicates either a desire to leave the interaction or some type of discomfort.

 

All of these factors comprise the nonverbal side of communication.  Using these factors alone, we are able to communicate volumes to another person without ever having to say a word.  When we see a picture of another person, the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” may actually be true as we have access to most or all of these nonverbal factors.

 

Paraverbal Factors

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         Verbal communication, in the form of what we say, was explored in depth in Part 1 of our exploration of communication.  In Part 2, we will focus on how we say what we say.  In the picture above, you can tell that the people are speaking loudly to one another.  This may appear to be an angry exchange, even though we have no way of knowing what is being said.  The study of cues of the voice is called paralanguage or vocalics.  I label how we say what we say as paraverbal communication (I just think this rolls off the tongue more easily than do either of the other two).  Several things encompass our paraverbal communication, including:

  • Volume – how loud are we saying things? This can range from a barely audible whisper to a full-bore yell.
  • Pitch – are we using our normal speaking voice or making it lower or higher pitch than usual? Say the following statement out loud in your normal pitch: “I thought that movie was really good.”  Now, say the same statement but use a high-pitched voice for the bolded part: “I thought that movie was really good.”  This version may have either sounded sarcastic or excited, but it certainly sounded different than the first version.  Next, say the same statement, but use an emphatic tone, perhaps by lowering the pitch of your voice, for the bolded part: “I thought the movie was really good.”  Here, we use pitch to reflect that this is our opinion.  Again, it changes the intention of the message even though the words themselves are identical.
  • Tempo – how rapidly or slowly are we speaking? A fast tempo typically suggests excitement whereas a slow tempo tends to impart a seriousness or importance to what we are saying.
  • Articulation – how pronounced is our annunciation of our words? We can mumble or use extra emphasis or more precise articulation to change the meaning of what we say.
  • Accent – from what region of the country or the world does our use of language originate? If we are speaking to others in our native accent, this likely does not have specific significance, but a deliberate change in one’s accent typically is a technique used to lend emphasis or to attempt to change the meaning of the words we are saying.
  • Characterizers – are we expressing any emotion along with what we are saying? Laughing, crying, or yawning are some examples.
  • Vocal segregates – are we using any sounds to let the other person know we are listening? Mmm-hmmm, oh, uh-huh are some examples.

 

Interactional Relationships

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         Interactional factors involve the relationship between the first two topics presented here (nonverbal and verbal factors) and the actual words that we are saying.  As with the yin and yang symbol above, two things interact with one another to bring the entire picture into focus.  Each of the the halves contributes to the overall impression or shape of our message.  The relationship between these factors can fall into one of the following categories:

  • Repeating – what we are saying is reinforced and strengthened by our paraverbal and nonverbal communication. This is where we may gesture to a person or thing that we are talking about.  You can think of this as having the same effect as literally repeating what you have said in order to bring more attention to your words.  Imagine you say “I welcome your feedback” and use a hand gesture to wave the person towards yourself.  This gesture means, “bring it to me” and therefore repeats your verbal message.
  • Complementing – what we say and our paraverbal/nonverbal communication are in line with one another. This is similar to repeating but does not have the redundancy felt with repetition.  In the complementing style, saying “I welcome your feedback” is complemented by an open body posture, a warm smile, and steady but non-confrontational eye contact.  Your body thus communicates a message of openness and a welcoming vibe which matches your verbal statement.
  • Substituting – this is where we use nonverbal communication in lieu of verbal statements. You can imagine this happening if you walk into the office of someone who is on the phone, and they either:
    • Direct you to leave the office by shaking their head and frowning
    • Invite you in by smiling and extending their arm to an open chair. They may even hold up a finger (their index, that is – a different finger would communicate a different message) to indicate they will be with you in a moment.
    • Let you know the call they are on is unimportant by rolling their eyes or doing the “chatty talker” gesture with their hand

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Each of these would communicate very different intent, without a word                                   being said, which is the essence of substituting.

  • Accenting/Moderating – this is where your verbal message is altered by paraverbal or nonverbals. It can serve to either amp up or tone down your verbal message.
  • Conflicting – this is where there are mixed messages and what you are saying does not match up with your paraverbal and/or nonverbal communication. The important thing to note here is that people place more weight upon the paraverbal and nonverbal messages than the verbal ones.

It is important to know these interactional relationships because many times miscommunication stems from a poor match between our verbal messages and paraverbal/nonverbal messages.  If you find yourself consistently saying things like “I did not mean that the way in which you took it” or “you are reading into what I said” these are good signs that you should look towards these other ways that we communicate beyond just our words.

 

Recap

  • Nonverbal communication comprises the ways that our bodies communicate messages without having to say a word.
  • Paraverbal communication is how we say what we are saying and mainly involves the varied inflections of our voice.
  • Interactional relationships look at the overall picture of how our verbal, non-verbal, and paraverbal communication work together to support or at times negate the messages being sent.

 

Part 3 in the series on communication will tackle the last and most frequently overlooked part of communicating: listening.

 

 

Written January 28, 2016

Edited by Shirley Sachs

Posted in Relationships | Leave a comment

Are You Talking to Me? Exploring Communication Issues (Part 1)

       Komunikacija je primarni način kako smo u interakciji sa drugima.”  Did you have a hard time understanding this?  Let me try again.  “Kommunikation ist die primäre Methode, wie wir mit anderen interagieren.“  Still struggling?  I’ll try to communicate more clearly this time: Communication is the primary method of how we interact with others.  (The first two statements were in Bosnian and German, respectively.)  When we are speaking different languages, it is clear why we are having a hard time understanding one another.  This article is not about how to translate languages, though.  It is about the misunderstandings and miscommunication that happen even when everyone is speaking the same language.

From miscommunication to Miss Communication (or if you are male, Mr. Communication)

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         In my counseling practice, I see a lot of people who are dealing with conflicts in their relationships.  A vast majority of the time, communication issues are at the root of these conflicts.  We will explore the main types of miscommunications that happen and how to avoid them with the goal of being able to clearly communicate with one another.  Given the sheer volume of our conversations with one another in our relationships, some miscommunications are inevitable.  Given this, we will also explore some ways to work through miscommunications in order to be as clear as possible.  With consistent effort we can make great strides in becoming effective communicators.

 

The Troublesome Trio

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         To begin our exploration of communication, let’s explore and define three of the most common communication issues that I see trip people up in their efforts to interact with one another.  These three issues, which I have termed “the troublesome trio” (because who doesn’t like alliteration?) are: “You” statements, “dirty buts”, and “unclear labels”.  Thankfully, all three have clear resolutions and ways to address and avoid these traps.

 

“You” Statements

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         Quite simply, a “you” statement is a statement that involves the word “you” and is used to accuse the other person of wrong doing.  It is typically done in an attempt to explain why you are upset.  Examples include: “You are insensitive,” “You didn’t do what I asked,” and “You always leave your stuff everywhere and it drives me nuts!”  As you read these, you may notice that they all take on an accusatory and blaming vibe.  The person receiving these messages is likely to answer in a defensive and counter-attacking manner.  This becomes fertile soil in which conflict may grow.

“You” statement are also problematic because they make the other person in control of your feelings.  This is power that we do not want to give away.  Ideally, we are in control and own our own feelings.  Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  I take this step further by emphasizing that any emotion is something that happens within us and therefore we have some degree of control over it.  “I” statements help us to own our emotions (by saying “I” feel ___ instead of you made me feel ___).  We say that we are having the experience of the emotion based on some action, but also due to the way that we are thinking about and reacting to it (you will see this when we define the four part “I” statement).

The way to avoid “you” statements is to practice using “I” statements.  “I” statements are deceptively simple yet can be challenging to practice consistently.  Let’s break down the four steps of an “I” statement.

  • “I feel __(emotion) ” – pretty straightforward, huh?  Not so fast.  This is actually one of the most challenging parts.  When I ask the people I work with to complete these statements almost invariably they will struggle to state an actual emotion (they typically give either a thought or an interpretation, the reason for this will be explored further in the section on unclear labels).  Emotions fall into one of the general categories of glad, sad, mad, or scared (or you can think of the characters from Disney’s “Inside Out”).

5.3

  • “When you __(description of behavior)__” – provide an objective description of what happened.  Imagine what anyone else who would have been present would have seen and heard.  I often describe this as taking the approach of a police officer who says: “Just the facts, ma’am (or sir), just the facts.”  It is important to leave out any interpretations of the behavior or guesses as to why they did what they did.  You will want to focus on the “what, when, where and how” and leave out the “why.”
  • “Because __(interpretation)__” – here is where we finally get to talk about the why. This is your chance to explain why the behavior described above caused the feeling described above.  I encourage you to try to build a bridge between these two to where the person can gain a clear understanding about why their behavior caused you to feel the way that you do.

5.15.24

  • What I would prefer in the future is __(request)__” – now you get to make your request on what you would like to have happen in the future.  The more specific and direct you can be the better.  Imagine that you are a coach and you need to describe to your player what you want him/her to do.  The clearer the other person is on what you would like to see happen, the greater the chances that can occur.  Keep in mind, however, that it does not guarantee that the other person will comply.

So let’s attempt to put all of this together.  We will use the statements that were listed at the beginning of this section as examples of how to turn “you” statements into “I” statements.

“You” statement: “You are insensitive.”

“I” statement: “I feel hurt and sad when you say things like ‘just get over it’ because it makes me think that you don’t care about my struggles or my feelings.  What I would prefer in the future is if you could hear me out and just give me a hug and reassure me that things will be ok.”

You will notice that the “you” statement does not provide much information and is not really something upon which the other person could improve.  The “I” statement provides adequate detail for the other person to know exactly what is bothering you and what they could do to resolve the issue.  The ball is now in their court to act upon that understanding and you have increased your odds of getting a sensitive and caring response when you are upset.

“You” statement: “You didn’t do what I asked.”

“I” statement: “I feel frustrated, angry, and disappointed when you did not wash the dishes last night as I had requested because I then had to do them this morning and they were more difficult due to the food being dried and crusted on them and it seems like it is disrespectful.  What I would prefer in the future is if you could follow through with the things that I ask or let me know if you are unable to do it.”

You can see how much more descriptive the “I” statement is.  It lets the other person know why it is an issue that they did not follow through and they can see how it affected you, both emotionally (being upset) and behaviorally (having to do the crusty dishes yourself).

“You” statement: “You always leave your stuff everywhere and it drives me nuts!”

“I” statement: “I feel angry and resentful when you leave your clothes on the bathroom floor overnight because I trip over them in the middle of the night and it seems like you don’t care about my safety and expect me to clean up after you.  What I would prefer in the future is if you would put your clothes in the hamper or some other place off of the floor at the end of the night.”

This “I” statement sets the stage for a resolution to come about.  If the other person is unwilling to do what you suggested perhaps they can make an alternate suggestion that will address your concerns, in this case your safety.

“I” statements are helpful to avoid blaming and accusatory language and they also set the stage for some productive conversations about how to address the core problems within an argument.

 

Dirty Buts

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         Disclaimer 1: this section is not about what you may have thought; get your mind out of the gutter.  That is “but” with only one ‘T’.  Disclaimer 2: this section is very nit picky in a way.  It will get very specific about what may seem like inconsequential word choice but it does end up having a big impact on the message that we are giving to others.

Let’s talk a bit about everyone’s all-time favorite subject: conjunctions!  Ok, so maybe it isn’t a riveting subject, but it is important to our discussion on communication.  A conjunction is a word that joins two sentences.  Some common conjunctions include: and, but, or, although and however.  The one that I want to focus on is “but.”

As a conjunction, “but” is used to join two sentences or statements and it does more than just join them.  “But” indicates that the first statement is untrue or somehow invalidated by the second statement.  Let’s explore some examples.

I like you but you annoy me sometimes.”  In this example, the speaker seems to be attempting to communicate that overall they like this person but there are certain behaviors that get on their nerves.  Keep in mind that the word “but” negates the first part of the sentence.  So in effect, what this person has said is “I don’t really like you because you annoy me sometimes.”  This is not what they meant to communicate, but this is what registers for the receiver of this message.  A more effective way to say this would have been “I like you despite the fact that you annoy me sometimes.”  This statement is much more in line with the intent of the speaker.

“I‘m sorry to tell you but your outfit does not look good on you.”  The speaker here is trying to tell the person that they regret having to give potentially hurtful feedback on their outfit choice.  With “but” negating the first part of the sentence, what was actually communicated is “I’m not sorry to tell you that your outfit does not look good on you.”  A more accurate way to communicate this would have been “Because my intention is not to hurt your feelings, I’m sorry to tell you that I don’t think that outfit is very flattering on you.”  In this style, the message is consistent and emphasizes the desire to not hurt the person’s feelings.

“It’s not my intention to hurt your feelings but I don’t think that you will be successful in that venture.”  If you are on the receiving end of this message, you are left only with the negative statement of the speaker doubting your success in this venture.  The “but” negates their first proclamation that they are not aiming to hurt your feelings.  Hurt feelings may well indeed be what you walk away with.  A clearer way to communicate both sentiments would be along the lines of “It’s not my intention to hurt your feelings when I say that I don’t think that you will be successful in that venture.”  As I write this statement, I am compelled to go into a discussion of why I think this way.  My guess is that a conversation would have the course.  This statement would naturally lead into a discussion of why instead of hurt feelings.

“You tell me that you want to do better but I have not seen any effort on your part.”  Finally, a correct use of your “but!”  Notice in this statement that the second part is meant to invalidate the first.  “But” is used to highlight conflicting information.  The speaker is hearing one thing and seeing another.  In this instance, using “but” is appropriate and accurate.

 

Unclear labels 

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         The final of our troublesome trio is unclear labels.  While unclear labels can take many forms, there is one particular instance that I run into time and again in the course of my work with clients.  It has to do with the term “I feel.”  A majority of the time when I hear someone say “I feel…”, that which follows is not actually an emotion.  Remember earlier that emotions take the form of the basic 4: glad, sad, mad, and scared.  Typically someone will follow “I feel” with a thought, an interpretation, or a sensation.  Some examples are: “I feel that this is really unfair.” “I feel like you are being a total jerk.” “I feel so hungry.”

Following “I feel” with a sensation is less problematic than the other two (thought or interpretation).  If we are discussing a sensation, we are technically using the word “feel” correctly.  However, I find that it is still somewhat problematic because, as a culture, we tend to be emotion-phobic.  People tend to have a difficult time talking about their emotions.  Therefore, I recommend that we reserve the “I feel” to refer exclusively to emotions so that we can be as clear as possible.

“I feel” followed by a thought or interpretation is problematic because we can argue thoughts and interpretations.  We can think and/or believe things that are skewed, misleading or even downright untrue (people truly believed the world was flat just a few hundred years ago, for instance).  We can have interpretations that are off base or differ from others.  Therefore, there is a lot of room to argue thoughts and interpretations.  This is not the case with our emotions.  We have an emotion and it is not possible to argue this.  Sometimes people may attempt to tell us that we do not feel the way we feel and it is important to correct these people and to maintain our own boundaries.  Our emotions are our internal reality and we are the only experts on what is occurring for us emotionally.

I believe that part of why some people feel they are allowed to argue other people’s emotions is due to the fact that we often confuse emotions with thoughts, interpretations and sensations.  Hence we come full circle for the need for clearly using labels and language to describe each of these.  Going back to the example listed earlier, I would recommend the following revisions:

“I feel that this is really unfair.” becomes “I think that this is really unfair.”

“I feel like you are being a total jerk.” becomes “It seems to me that you are being a total jerk.”

“I feel the sensation of being so hungry.”

It may be a difficult habit to break, but using clearer language and labels is usually worthwhile.

 

Recap

         Communication issues are plentiful in part due to the sheer volume of communication that takes place.  However, there are some specific issues in communication that we can work to address and these were explored in part here.  The issues covered were:

  • “You” statements as opposed to “I” statements which can be broken down into the parts: “I feel” “when you” “because” “What I would prefer in the future is”
  • Dirty buts is where the conjunction “but” is used to join two statements. However, the word “but” sets up the dynamic where the second half of the statement negates the first half.
  • Unclear labels addresses our misuse of the term “I feel.” We are best served when an actual emotion follows this term rather than a thought, an interpretation or a sensation.

Part 2 of our exploration of communication will follow and I will discuss the ways in which what we say and how we say it can work either together or against each other.  I will also discuss nonverbal and para-verbal communication. (Wh-wh-what is that, you ask?  Check out part 2 to find out!)  The listening side of communication will then be explored in part 3 of this series.

 

Edited by Shirley Sachs

Written: January 25, 2016

Posted in Relationships | 4 Comments

A New Adventure: My Journey Toward Becoming A Blogger (And Why You Should Try New Things Too)

New Year

     We just (somewhat recently) rang in 2016 and while I don’t personally do the whole New Year’s resolution thing, I do appreciate it as a cultural phenomenon.  As a licensed professional counselor, I am in the business of helping people change and therefore am interested in how to capitalize on the pro-change vibe that the New Year brings.  So while it is not necessarily a resolution, this year I have challenged myself to take on the new adventure of writing a blog.

 

Introduce

Please allow me to introduce myself (and my blog)

     This blog will be, very broadly, about behavioral health issues.  I will likely post about a wide variety of topics and issues but all will be in the vein of topics that relate to wellness and behavioral health.  This initial post is both an introduction to the blog and a topic in and of itself: trying new things.

 

Learn

We learn by learning

     Overall, we are beings who thrive when presented with challenges.  As children, we are learning new things all the time:

  • learning facts and skills at school (like how to read, write, add and subtract, how to use money, and where Lithuania is on a map)
  • learning life skills at home (like how to make our bed, how to wash dishes, how not to bite our sibling when they make us mad, and how to be kind and loving to others)
  • learning about the world by playing outside (gravity makes us fall off the monkey bars, how physics relates to kicking a soccer ball, and how it smells bad if we step in dog poop)
  • learning social skills by playing with our friends (people get mad if we don’t play nicely, our culture ascribes gender roles in that boys are expected to play certain games and girls are expected to play others, and that there is a pecking order of dominance and power when groups of people get together)

 

Sadly, as adults, we often get to the point where we aren’t learning much new stuff anymore.  Sure, there is the saying “we learn something new every day,” but that pales in comparison to the immense amount of learning that we do as children on a daily basis.

“What’s the big deal if we are not learning?” you may ask.  Excellent question!  It is actually a pretty big deal.  Think of any muscle in your body.  It gets stronger the more that you use it and it atrophies (or weakens) if you neglect to use it.  In a way, this is the same with our brain.  You can see how this is acknowledged in the recent suggestion for elderly people to do things that challenge their brains (like crossword puzzles or Sudoku) or in the popularity of sites like lumosity.com.  There is a bit of a “use it or lose it” dynamic with our cognitive power.

Not only is learning beneficial for our brains but it is also beneficial for our psyche.  A lack of trying new things can lead to us feeling stale and stuck.  In fact, many of the people who come to see me in my counseling practice are looking for ways to get out of a rut that they have been in for some time.  Life seems lackluster and dull for them.  As we work together to get them out of this state, it is typically through efforts to try new things which will challenge them to learn new things that improvement occurs.

 Failure

Failure is always an option 

     I love the show Mythbusters and one of their sayings is that “failure is always an option.”  They seem to embrace failure as a reality and are not discouraged when it happens.  To them, any outcome, even if not what they were hoping for, is informative.

I would recommend taking this approach to your attempts at trying something new.  You are likely to try something that you think will be engaging, fulfilling, and invigorating.  But what if it isn’t?  What if the thing you have tried is dull and uninteresting to you?  Should you hang your head in failure and not try anything else because of this “bad” outcome?  Absolutely not!  Instead, I would encourage you to focus on what you learned from this experience.

For one, you crossed one potential activity off of your list and that means that the odds of one of the remaining items being successful has now increased.  You know that this attempted thing is not going to work for you for whatever reason.  If you can identify why it was not a good fit for you, you can apply that knowledge to the next activity that you choose.

The main thing is for us not to get discouraged and give up on our pursuit if we “fail.”  We can learn from our attempt and apply that new understanding as we continue moving forward.

 

Perspective

New perspectives on old stuff 

         Another benefit to trying new things is that it provides us with new perspectives.  We can learn new things about ourselves, our interests, our capabilities and limits, and the world around us.  The really great aspect about trying new things is that it can lend a new luster to the other things in our lives.  Even that thing which has become dull and routine for us can have new life breathed into it by the fresh outlook that newness can bring.

In this way, the benefits of challenging yourself to try and learn new things is twofold.  On the one hand we have the obvious direct benefits of the effort made and the enjoyment that can come from new pursuits.  On the other hand you have a generalizing effect where all other areas of your life will enjoy the spillover benefits of these efforts.  This is the value of living a balanced life.  We are better able to handle setbacks and stresses when we are feeling fulfilled in all areas of our lives.

 

What to try

So what to try? 

          If you are with me in seeing the benefits of taking on new challenges but are unsure of what exactly to do, I’ve got some good news for you: there are no wrong answers.  You can literally try anything.  As we discussed in the “failure is always an option” section, even efforts that do not succeed are beneficial.  It is more about the process of attempting new things as opposed to the outcomes.

Keeping in mind that the process is the more important factor, I did want to give you some ideas as far as specific things you could try.

  • Pursue an active activity: try a new sport (or resume playing one that you used to play), go on a hike, go for a bike ride, get into a daily walking routine, etc.
  • Get into a hobby: paint, learn an instrument, go to an art museum to learn about art, tour a winery to learn about wine making, take a pottery class, get a camera and start photography, learn to play chess (or checkers if that is more your speed), take up adult coloring, get into cosplay, learn to juggle, fish, read comic books, etc. (more ideas at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hobbies)
  • Find an opportunity to volunteer: at your local food bank, a local soup kitchen, hospitals, the Red Cross, United Way, a local school, library, YMCA, an animal rescue facility, etc.
  • Take on a challenge: commit to a 5k run, start a blog, write a book, learn to cook, take a college course, etc.

In taking on something new, recall that ideally there is a balance between challenge and enjoyment.  In fact, there is even a term for this ideal state when undertaking a new venture and it is called flow.  Flow is a term that is widely used in positive psychology and refers to the state where one is fully immersed in and absorbed by what they are doing due to an ideal balance between challenge and pleasure.  As defined by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (I dare you to try to say that one out loud!), flow is a state of mind associated with both physical and mental health benefits.

 

Recap

  • Our cognitive ability is enhanced by providing novel challenges to our brain.
  • Tackling new challenges prevents life from getting stale and dull.
  • Any attempt at new things is successful even if it ends up being a “failure.”
  • The process is more important than the outcome.
  • Flow is the state where we are absorbed by the challenge that we are taking on and this is a very healthy state of mind.

In closing…

         While this was written in the weeks following the New Year, even if you are reading it mid or late year, consider making a resolution to try something new in the coming weeks.  Your renewed outlook on life and overall sense of wellness will be your reward.

Edited by Shirley Sachs

Written January 11, 2016
Posted in General | Leave a comment