At a holiday family dinner, my mom shared: "Kids run toward the parents as soon as they are home, their enthusiasm undiminished by the passage of the day while the parents feel mentally exhausted. Why is that?" As a newly minted parent, I paused to soak in this perspective. I added -- "Maybe adults should pursue their passion as profession?" She responded, "That would be ideal, but what would be more pragmatic is to find ways to reduce mental exhaustion in whatever you do". My instincts agreed with her -- there is a relation between mental agility and happiness.
My Pursuit of Mental Agility
Day in and day out, we interact with other people either face to face (meetings, coffee rooms etc.) or indirectly (emails, text, voice mail etc). In those interactions, the gray cells are used up in either understanding others or being understood. In using our mental strength, some of us are predominantly visual learners; others like to hear and many others learn by touching/doing (kinesthetic learners). All stimuli enable learning, most of us have a predominant style of learning that helps us soak information better.
During people interactions, I became more self-aware that I am a predominately visual learner - pictures, charts, whiteboards, time lines, equations worked. I also noticed that I tended to communicate in my natural style of learning and I tried to understand others in their natural style of learning.
What happens if you flip it -- they communicate in my dominant style while I communicate in theirs? I made a conscious choice to do just that and never looked back -this change has made a world of difference in enhancing my happiness in getting things done comfortably and being agile at the end of the day.
How do I get others to communicate in my dominant style?
Surprisingly, simple requests during conversations like, "Can you show/draw/chalk out for me? It helps me follow better", works wonders. Sometimes, people pause for a moment but they are more than happy to do it. The reason is not hard to seek. As humans, we have an urge to be understood especially when our viewpoints/ thoughts are clear and during the flow of exchange, we are more than happy to customize presentation style to get our views across. We do not do it naturally as we are focused more on the message than the mode of delivery. A gentle suggestion on mode by the listener resonates with us as it helps us get our point across better.
How do I return the favor -- communicate back in their dominant style?
I simply observe. Words are a giveaway. Visual learners use words like see, look(s) within sentences like I see your point, looks good etc. Auditory learners use words like sound(s), hear within sentences like sounds right, I hear you etc. Kinesthetic learners use words like grab, grip within sentences like grab my attention, gripping story etc.
Same energy at 6 p.m. as 8 a.m. -- thank you, Mom!
Author Daniel Pink, in his thought provoking book, Drive, talks about autonomy, mastery and purpose as drivers for intrinsic motivation that create happiness at work. My experience echoes those drivers in a more elementary form- awareness of our own learning styles and those of others we interact with, goes a long way in propelling our human dialogues forward with mastery and purpose.
When I am back home in the evening and as I pick up my two year old and hug my six year old and listen to their day stories with same high energy level as I left home, I get reminded of the thought provoking question that started it all. I would like to thank my mom for steering me towards what matters and for practicing her best advice on giving - focus on what is of great value to others but less cost to you. My gray cells and my heart are very thankful to her.