A poll of 1000 British retirees yielded forty top tips for younger people. I thought it would be fun for me to comment on a few that relate to my field of consensus building and communication skills. I’ll modify some tips I don’t agree with them 100%.
Don’t spend all your time on social media; live in the real world
I have written sooo much about this, that I’ll make my comment short and sweet: Glad you retired Brits agree.
Don’t take anything for granted
Many communications go astray because we think we know what another person meant by a statement, and we find it erroneous and/or offensive. In fact, however, it is the rule, not the exception, that a listener and speaker have somewhat different concepts of a statement.
Thus, one of my favorite communication skills is paraphrasing. Before you take offense or argue back, restate what the other person said in different words to check your understanding. Restating the same words doesn’t work.
Rose: “How do you like this new dress I got for the banquet?”
Iris: “That dress is all wrong for you.”
Rose thinks Iris means that the dress looks too cheap for the swanky banquet, and feels hurt. It was the best she could afford. But before reacting, she paraphrases, “So you think the dress is inappropriate for the occasion, right?”
Iris: “No, I meant the mid-calf length isn’t the most flattering for your petite stature. Want me to hem it up for you?”
Spend more time outside
A great way to relieve some of that Zoom fatigue I’ve been writing about.
Never go to bed angry
Well maybe. True, it’s not a good idea for you to go to bed angry. But this phrase is often interpreted to mean that, if you become angry with your spouse or partner, you should make up before you go to sleep. All too often, one partner dominates this effort, cajoling, pressuring, seducing, or even bullying the other to commit to some type of resolution when they aren’t ready, a resolution that is not well thought out and not in the best interest of the cajolee.
Many people need to cool off more before they can think well enough to build a lasting consensus out of a disagreement. In that case, it’s better to say something like, “I feel angry, but that doesn’t mean I’m turning my back on you or don’t want to resolve this. I just need some time to let these feelings subside and get my head together before I say something I’ll regret. Know that I love you, and would like to discuss this tomorrow after we get home from work.”
Then, whether you’re living with someone or alone, practice calming before bed. Meditate. Listen to soothing music. Or, as in the above tip, spend a little time outdoors.
Laugh more at everything
I agree with this except for, “at everything.” Of course it’s not a good idea to laugh at others’ misfortunes, for example. But laughter is extremely helpful and healthful in many ways. Even if you can’t think of anything funny, just start making the laughing sound, and you’ll eventually start laughing for real, albeit for no particular reason. Often, the best thing or person to laugh at is yourself.
Spend more time with children
Children uplift us in many ways. They remind us to let go of some of the preoccupations and worries that weigh us down, to recover some of our childlike qualities. They give us hope. Hope, in turn, drives better communication and consensus.
Step outside your comfort zone
For many people, the comfort zone for dealing with differences of opinion or conflicts is to argue, compromise or just give in. By stepping outside your comfort zone, you can also step back, observe the situation, look for the interests underlying the parties’ positions, and search for creative ways to satisfy both.
For example, in one of the hypotheticals I developed for my classes, the owner of a shop selling high-quality decorative items leased the top floor of her building to a massage therapist. She became unhappy with the sloppily dressed massage customers walking through her showroom to get to the stairs, detracting from the ambience. So she gave the minimum notice that the therapist’s lease would not be renewed.
Most people would haggle over an extension of time for the therapist to move out and wind up with a lukewarm compromise that didn’t make either the landlady or the tenant really happy.
Many of my students, however, reach better, creative solutions by finding a way to shift things around so the massage customers can reach the therapist’s room without going through the showroom.
In the course of discussing the underlying interests, some students find ways to improve on an already acceptable agreement, creating a bonus. As they get to know each other, they learn that the therapist would like to give a more polished, sophisticated impression, so as to attract a higher caliber of clientele. The building owner, in turn, is actually shy. She admires the massage therapist’s easy-going manner and wishes she could feel more comfortable around other people. So the polished landlady and the friendly tenant agree to coach each other.
How about You?
Read the full list of forty tips here. Which are your favorites? Do you disagree with any? Let us know in your comments to this blog.