Three Tips for Better Listening

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

If you’ve ever been in any sort of relationship, you’ve probably heard the accusation “You’re not listening to me.”

Recently, August McLaughlin, one of my favorite bloggers, nominated me for the Reader Appreciation Award in her post on Thoughtful Blog Reading: Habits and Perks. This award honors faithful readers for the friendship and encouragement they give bloggers.

Before I pass along this award to some of the readers who’ve uplifted me with their thoughtful comments, I wanted to first give something to you. Because I think being a thoughtful blog reader is a lot like being a good listener…

Three Tips for Better Listening

Reader Appreciation Award

#1 – Be In the Moment

Admit it. You’ve talked on the phone while answering email. Or you’re having a conversation with your spouse or friend while playing on your phone.

Human beings can’t multi-task, so if we’re doing two things at once, our brain is switching back and forth between them as quickly as possible. In other words, we’re bound to miss something while it switches. Additionally, when we’re on one thing, our brain has to “hold our place” in the other thing so that we have less capacity to devote to the thing we’re supposed to be focusing on.

To truly listen to what the other person is saying we need to focus 100% on them. Put away our phones. Close our laptops. Turn off the TV.

The second part to being in the moment is to pay attention to what the other person is saying rather than daydreaming, letting your mind wander to other topics, or forming your response.

Both of these show respect for the person you’re talking to and let them know you value what they’re saying.

#2 – Let the Person Finish

I’m sorry to say that this is not an area where my mom or I excel. We tend to cut people off. We don’t mean to be rude. We just get so involved in what the other person is saying that we want to take part.

But we shouldn’t. We should allow them to finish speaking before we jump in.

Sometimes people just want to be heard. Sometimes people don’t know what they’re feeling until they talk it through. By cutting them off before they’ve clearly finished, we don’t allow them to fulfill their need.

Worse, when we don’t let them finish, we’re assuming we know what they’re trying to say and where the conversation is going. I’ve watched my mom do this multiple times in a conversation. She’ll jump in with a guess about where the person is going, be wrong, and guess again before the person even has a chance to say more than “no.”

I do this as well with my husband, and it makes him feel like I don’t think he’s smart enough to have already thought of what I jumped in to say. When he’s telling me something, he wants to actually have the chance to tell it. He doesn’t want me to finish for him.

Jumping in can also come off as rushed, as if we have something more important to be doing and we want to wrap the conversation up as quickly as possible.

#3 – Employ RASA

I learned this concept from Julian Treasure’s TEDTalk on sound.

Rasa is the Sanskrit word for “juice” or “essence,” and the acronym stands for receive, appreciate, summarize, ask.

Tips #1 and #2 cover how we can best receive—pay attention.

Appreciating what the other person said doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with them. Julian Treasure describes it as making little noises like “uh huh” and “mmm” or nodding our heads. The best way I can think of to look at it big-picture is that we want to let the other person know that we respect their opinion and their right to voice it (even if we don’t share that opinion).

The point of summarizing is to ensure you know what the other person is actually saying by putting what they’ve just said into your own words and repeating it back to them. “So what you’re saying is…” The other person can then respond with yes, no, or not quite.

In a marriage especially, we too often assume we know what the other person is saying. We take offense where none was intended. We jump to the conclusion that they agree entirely with us when they’re trying to tell us they don’t. A lot of fights and miscommunications could be avoided by simply summarizing more often.

Finally, we need to ask questions. The biggest problem with listening, if you haven’t guessed it already, is the human tendency to fill in the blanks on their own rather than trying to fill them in the way the other person intended. We should always ask questions if there’s something we don’t understand.

We should also ask questions to help take the conversation deeper. Questions are a great way to let the other person know you’re invested in the conversation. It helps them open up and feel safer in sharing with you.

Passing the Award Along

I wish I could pass this award along to so many of you for being faithful commenters and making blogging fun for me, but I can only pick a few, so I’ve chosen to nominate the following people.

Kristy K. James – Romance on the Cheap

Emma Burcart – Occasional Epiphanies

Stacy Green – Twisted Minds and Dark Places

Gloria Richard

Debra Kristi – Sparks in the Fire

What other tips do you have for being a better listener?

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Have You Nominated Your Favorite Blog Yet?

Blog AwardsBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Strangely enough, along with this being the season for Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s also the season for blog contests, and the nominations will soon close for two contests I wanted you to know about.

Nominating a blog you enjoy is one of the best ways to support and encourage that blogger, so please take a few minutes today to enter a blog you love. (I’m hoping some of you will nominate me, but even if you don’t, please nominate someone. I can’t emphasize enough how important awards like these can be to a blogger/writer.)

2012 Canadian Weblog Awards

You don’t need to be a Canadian to nominate a blog. Here’s what their website says, “Anyone, whether they are Canadian or not, can nominate Canadian weblogs, so all of you Canadian-loving non-Canadians can get in there and share your favourites.” (Yes, that’s how we spell favorites in Canada.)

The blog you nominate does need to be written by a Canadian (like me).

Nominations for this one are done privately through an easy-to-fill-out form, and your name will never be released. You can nominate a blog in three categories.

If you’d like to nominate my blog, here are some categories you might want to consider:

  • Best New Weblog (for weblogs created after July 31, 2011 – Mine was “born” November 2011)
  • General Interest (for weblogs that cover a range of topics)
  • Pop Culture & Entertainment
  • Topical (for weblogs that fit within a particular niche not covered by other categories)
  • Writing & Literature

Weblog Title: Marcy Kennedy

Weblog URL:

To nominate a blog, go here:

Nominations close November 31.

7th Annual Top 10 Blogs for Writers Contest

Here are the rules:

  • Nominate your favorite blog in the comment section (see link below).
  • You have only one vote (only your first will be counted).
  • Please include the web address of the blog.
  • Explain why you think the blog is worthy of winning this year’s award.
  • A blog must be nominated more than once to make the cut.

To nominate a blog, go here

Nominations close December 3.

To all my American friends and readers, I hope you enjoy tomorrow with your families. As my husband is American, we’re celebrating with his family, and I know how valuable this time can be, especially if you usually live far apart. Happy Thanksgiving!

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” button. You can also join me on my Facebook page.

Image Credit: Fernando Mengoni

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Not My Normal Monday Post

Inspiring Blog AwardThis isn’t going to be the post you expected. The type of posts you do expect on Mondays will return next week.

I had a different post scheduled for today, but I’ve delayed it until next week for three reasons. Since this is a holiday, I expect most of you are spending the day away from your computer and with loved ones. If you’re not, finish this post quick and go. Shoo. I’ve also had a flood of blog awards given to me in the last few weeks, and I wanted to thank some of those people for their kindness today before anything got in the way.

Mostly, though, it’s because my husband’s stepfather passed away this Saturday morning, and I wanted to pause and simply say “thank you” to all of you who regularly read my posts. Life is short, and I appreciate the time you spend with me. Your comments and shares and messages make this worth it for me. You’re what makes blogging fun.

So now for the specific thank-yous.

Tracy Campbell sent three awards my way: the Inspiring Blog Award, the One Lovely Blog Award, and the Liebster Award.

Tracy and I met just over a year ago at a writer’s conference where we discovered that although we write in different genres, we have similar writing styles. Since then, Tracy has become one of my favorite editing clients and also someone I consider a friend. Along with being a writer, Tracy is also a very talented artist.

One Lovely Blog AwardDarlene Turner sent two awards my way: the Inspiring Blog Award and the One Lovely Blog Award.

Darlene recently finished writing a contemporary gothic novel, Amber Dreams. On her Dream, Believe, Fly blog, she’s been courageous enough to share her very personal stories of her husband leaving her to pursue a life of homosexuality and her later struggle with infertility.                                                                                                                                      

Both of these ladies are a privilege to know, and I am humbled that they chose to pass these awards along to me.

If you’d like to learn the seven quirky facts about me that these awards ask for, check out my Versatile Blogger post.

I’d love to have you subscribe to my blog if you aren’t already. All you have to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” button. If you received this post by email, then you’re already subscribed, and I appreciate you!

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Four Tips for Lasting Happiness

Sunshine AwardI love getting blog awards because it means that someone, somewhere, thinks I’m doing a good job. Today that someone is Debra Kristi, and she awarded me the Sunshine Award. Thank you!

If you haven’t been to Debra’s blog yet, be sure to check it out after you finish here 🙂 You can also find her on Twitter as @DebraKristi.

(Someone recently also awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award. If it was you, please remind me in the comments so that I can make sure to give you a thank you and track back in an upcoming post.)

As you might imagine, this award comes with some rules, but since I’ve told you seven random facts about myself in a previous post, I’m going to break the rules again in a similar way to when I gave you 7 Tips for Increasing Creativity to celebrate my Kreativ Blogger Award.

Sunshine symbolizes happiness to me.

So, without further ado…

Marcy’s Four Tips for Lasting Happiness

Tip #1 – Fake it ‘till you make it.

Our actions influence our feelings. According to the psychological theory known as the facial feedback hypothesis, someone who’s forced to smile will actually begin to feel happier. (Studies have supported this theory.) This means that the next time you’re feeling blue, if you want to feel better faster, make a point of smiling.

A study of 60,000 adults, published in 2009 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also showed that only 10% of our happiness is determined by our circumstances. This means that, no matter how bad things are, we have a lot of control over how we react to those circumstances and how we let them affect us.

Tip #2 – Surround yourself with happy people.

A study of 12,067 people by the New England Journal of Medicine showed that you have a 171% higher chance of gaining weight if one of your close friends gains weight. This effect had nothing to do with friends affecting food choices since the effect was seen even in close friends who lived far away from each other. Dr. Nicholas Christakis, a professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School and one of the authors of the study, suggests the cause is a change in our perception of what’s acceptable.

It’s the same with happiness. Have you ever noticed how much worse you feel after spending the afternoon with someone who’s always complaining about their life? Compare that to how you feel after an afternoon with a friend who’s always positive and upbeat. Choose to spend more time with happy people and you will feel happier too.

Tip #3 – Figure out your happiness trigger.

A happiness trigger is something simple, fast, and inexpensive that can improve your mood. When I’m feeling down, I play very specific music. It has nothing to do with the lyrics and everything to do with the beat and attitude. And I play it loud. It works every time.

Your happiness trigger might be a walk, smelling the flowers in your garden, or a piece of dark chocolate. Start to pay attention to what fills you up with a swell of happiness, and use it strategically when you’re down.

Tip #4 – Focus on what you want to dominate your life.

As Qui-Gon told Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace (Star Wars Episode I), “Always remember, your focus determines your reality.”

If you’re friends with Tameri Etherton on Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that every day she posts a picture of something she’s thankful for. You can steal that idea, or you can do what I’ve started to do—every day choose one thing that you’re thankful for and write it down. It can be something small like a rainbow, or something big like finishing your novel or your spouse getting a raise at work.

You can also train your mind to “jump away” from unhappiness and to the good in your life. For example, every time your spouse does something that irritates you, think about one thing you love about them. For every part of your job you hate, find one that you enjoy or one reason why you’re thankful for having this particular job.

Now I get the pleasure of passing this award along.

I decided to give the Sunshine Award to people who’ve brought some sunshine into my life for the support they’ve shown me in the past month by commenting regularly on this blog. One of the reasons I enjoy blogging so much is all of you and the comments you leave.

Emma Burcart at Occasional Epiphanies

Kristy K. James at Living, Loving, Laughing

Stacy Green at Turning the Page

Louise Behiel at Journey of a Thousand Miles

Monique Liddle at Bends in the Road

Reetta Raitanen at The Dark Side has Chocolate

Diane Capri at Licensed to Thrill

What’s your best tip for happiness? Have you tried any of my tips?

REMINDER: Today is also the last day to enter to win the free critique. Visit Is Now Really the Best Time Ever for Writers? to find out how.

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7 Tips for Increasing Creativity

Kreativ Blogger AwardI’ve been award the Kreativ Blogger Award from one of my favorite bloggers, a sister nerd, and just an all-around nice person—Jessica O’Neal. It’s a huge honor to receive this award from her. Thank you!

As you’ve probably guessed, this award comes with some rules:

1. Thank the person who gave it to you.

2. List 7-10 random facts about yourself. I’m putting a twist on this. Since this is the Kreativ Blogger Award, I’m going to give you 7 tips for increasing creativity instead.

3. Pass the award on to 6 deserving bloggers and let them know about it.

I’d also like to thank the lovely Ingrid Schaffenburg for awarding me with the Versatile Blogger Award. If you’d like to see the seven (hopefully) interesting facts I shared about myself, please check out my Versatile Blogger post.

Now on to the promised tips…

Marcy’s 7 Tips for Increasing Creativity

Spend 30 minutes on Deviant Art. Choose three pictures that immediately inspire a story idea in your mind. Write down three to five sentences about each.

Take a nap, but not for the reason you think. Have you ever noticed how great ideas often come when you’re waking up or falling asleep? According to Dr. Sara Mednick, author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life, this is because the relaxation from napping allows your mind to form new associations and connections between ideas.

Add color to your life. Paint your nails blue or purple or orange. Chalk your hair. If you’re a man, buy a tie or a shirt in a color you wouldn’t normally wear. For some reason, adding a little bit of crazy color to your life makes you feel like a true artist and that frees you from the fear holding you back.

Be silly. Okay, here’s the deal. If I’m going to share my super-secret silly tips with you, you have to promise not to laugh at me. (I see your crossed fingers, by the way.) I have a toy drawer full of slinkies, paddleballs, bubble blowing liquid with wands…you get the idea. I also own a hula-hoop. Find what works for you, but sometimes all it takes to be more creative is to break the stress by doing something a little goofy.

Do logic problems. Logic problems are one of my guilty little addictions. I never go on a long trip without a book of puzzles to solve. They train your brain to think outside the box and make connections that aren’t instantly obvious. You can find great free logic problems with a Google search or order a book of them from Amazon for traveling.

Defend your position. Ask a friend to question your ideas and play devil’s advocate. In defending your position, you’ll be forced to think about it in more depth than before, face the flaws, and come up with inventive solutions.

Give yourself some distance when working on important projects. People who leave things to the last minute because they “work better under pressure” might actually be sabotaging their creativity. Studies summarized in Scientific American have shown that the more psychological distance you can get from a problem or challenge, the more creative your solutions will be.

What does psychological distance mean? It comes in different forms. You can distance yourself in time. You can imagine the problem belongs to someone else and come up with what you’d tell them. You can imagine a change in the geographical location either of yourself or what you’re working on. (And you know what would help with that – going to a new ethnic restaurant 😉 )

Now I have the pleasure of passing this award long.

Ginger Calem – Each week Ginger comes up with what she calls “WritersButt Wednesday” where she gives exercises, health tips, and absolutely mouth-watering recipes.

Jenny Hansen – Jenny’s More Cowbell blog is about all things more and it has a little bit of something for everyone from pregnancy advice to tech help for the technologically challenged to really shocking underwear.

Jen Kirchner – Jen started a new series this year called Sci-Fi Pin-Ups and she also has awesome game reviews for girls.

Melinda Vanlone – Melinda recently moved from a simple blog to a website, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Best of all, she designed it all herself.

Stacy Green – If you love true crime, you’ll really enjoy Stacy’s Thriller Thursdays. Sometimes the crimes were solved, but sometimes it’s still a mystery.

Emma Burcart – Emma’s blog is one of open-hearted honesty. When you go there, you feel like you’re sitting down with a friend for a much needed chat. I don’t think you can over-estimate that quality in a world where so many things seem rushed and impersonal.

What’s your favorite tip for increasing creativity? Have you tried any of the tips above?   

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Versatile Blogger Award

In early November 2011, I officially launched my blog Life At Warp 10. You can imagine how thrilled and honored I was when, less than two months later, one of my favorite bloggers passed along the Versatile Blogger Award to my baby blog. Thanks so much to fantasy author Jessica O’Neal for giving me this award! If you haven’t yet checked out her site, be sure to go there next because you don’t want to miss her series on the characters of Harry Potter or her awesome post on learning to shoot a bow.

Versatile Blogger Award

One of the conditions for accepting this award is that I need to share seven things about myself.

(1) I’m a stray animal magnet. Literally. They show up at my door, and I’m incapable of turning them away. I currently have seven cats, down from my high of 12.

(2) I’m writing a historical fantasy for the ABA with Lisa Hall-Wilson that asks, “What if the Arthurian legends originated not in Britain, but near the Black Sea from an Amazon warrior’s pursuit for equality and a barbarian Scythe’s spiritual quest?

(3) When I was 10, I broke a boy’s nose. In my defense, it was an accident, and I’ve felt bad about it ever since, but apparently I have a mean right hook.

(4) I enjoy editing. The biggest compliment I ever received about my editing skills was that I “make the page bleed red.” (*Shameless Plug Alert* I offer manuscript critiques for fiction, as well as various levels of editing for fiction and non-fiction if you’re looking to hire a freelance editor. *End Shameless Plug*)  

(5) I play the flute and violin, can play very simple songs on the piano, and played percussion in my high school concert band. I can’t sing. At all. It’s painful to listen to.

(6) I can eat an entire large pepperoni pizza by myself (and then some).

(7) When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I received the Governor General’s Silver Medal, which means I had the highest GPA of all the students who graduated from my university that year. When I graduated with my master’s degree, I graduated summa cum laude. Yet I have to have my husband remove my digital camera memory card because I can’t figure it out.

The final part of the Versatile Blogger Award is to pass it along to 15 recently discovered blogs that I think deserve recognition. I’m going to loosely interpret “recently discovered” to mean “sometime in the last year.” (In alphabetical order because I’m like that.)

Amber West – A Day Without Sushi

Angela Wallace – Believe, Dream, Awaken

August McLaughlin – Savor the Storm

Coleen Patrick – Read. Smile. Repeat.

Debra Kristi – Sparks In the Fire

Emma Burcart – Occasional Epiphanies

Fabio Bueno – Diamonds & Rust

Gene Lempp – Unearthing the Future

Ingrid Schaffenburg – Threadbare Gypsy Soul

Jenny Hansen – More Cowbell

Lena Corazon – Flights of Fancy

Lisa Hall-Wilson – Through the Fire

Myndi Shafer – Blogging Barefoot

Nicole Maggi – From Getting the Call to Seeing the Book on the Shelf

Samantha Warren – Stealing Starships

If you’re one of the people I passed the Versatile Blogger Award on to, I hope you’ll also pass it along, but there’s no pressure. If you don’t want to do it now, you can always do it later, and I know some of you have already received it (but I love your blogs enough to second the award).

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