Tag: social skills

3 Tips for Talking About Difficult Topics

3 Tips for Talking About Difficult Topics

No one wants to talk about painful subjects. We don't like to feel that awkward gut knot that develops when we're dreading a certain conversation. We need to do it, though, and it doesn't have to be totally horrible. Following these tips may make it a little easier:

1. Narrow it down to a couple points. Difficult topics require planning. Don't just jump right in without thinking it through first. Weed through all your thoughts and boil them down to 2-3 main points to discuss. Having a very brief mental outline will help you stay on track and choose the best wording for the conversation. If you don't narrow it down to a few points, the conversation will quickly turn into verbal vomit. 

2. Choose the best time. Be picky about when the conversation takes place. Plan ahead for it. Don't talk about something difficult after a bad day at work or when the kids are screaming and running through the room. Select a time that is fairly peaceful, and without distractions. It's tempting to just jump right in when the mood strikes, especially if you're angry, but that won't yield the best results.

3. Keep calm. Getting emotionally charged will not help. Lay out your points calmly and kindly. Even difficult conversations can, and should, be respectful. There is no need for yelling or name-calling, which will only make the situation worse. Prepare ahead of time so you can remain calm during the conversation. Be sure to listen when it's your turn for that, too. Consider the other person's viewpoints.

Not every confrontation needs to turn into a knock-down-drag-out. Following the tips listed above will help you keep calm and talk it out. 

When Personalities Clash

When Personalities Clash

[This article contains affiliate links, meaning we earn a commission for purchases made through those links.]

Ryan and I are so different. We disagree on so many things. Our interests aren't even in the same realm. We are total opposites.

We don't agree about politics.

We don't agree about parenting.

We don't agree about ice cream flavors.

How on earth have we managed to stay happily married for twenty years?

The answer to that question is simple: We learned about personality differences, and we use them to our advantage.

You see, those differences that sometimes annoy the heck out of us can be used to strengthen our marriage.

Where I am weak, Ryan is strong. And vice versa.

Ryan loves details. He likes to have things all planned out, and he's skilled at making sure all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed. I'm more spontaneous and would rather fly by the seat of my pants. Sometimes when I have to sit down and work through too many details I get overwhelmed and feel panicky. So when we need something planned, it's wise for me to just turn it over to Ryan and let him run with it. Everything gets planned thoroughly, and I don't have to do it. It's a win-win. 

Early on in our marriage, before I understood personality differences, it drove me insane when Ryan wanted every detail planned out. It drove him crazy that I wouldn't plan the details (or I'd plan them badly). One book made all the difference for us: Personality Plus, by Florence Littauer.

In her book, Florence includes a personality test. Ryan and I both took the test and laughed our heads off at the accuracy. We then delved into the chapters of the book to understand our strengths and weaknesses. That helped us learn to work together as a team and to utilize each other's strengths, overlook annoyances, and fill in the gaps for each other's weaknesses.

That book revolutionized our marriage.

Once we had kids, that book helped us understand our children in a way we could not have otherwise.

Personality Plus is the book we recommend most often in our communication coaching business. Our clients need to understand the people around them in order to communicate effectively. So many personality tests do a great job describing personalities, but they don't go far enough in explaining what to do with that information.

That's where Personality Plus excels. It digs deep, gets real, and tells exactly how to relate to each personality type.

Ryan says this information has helped him to be a better salesman as well because he quickly recognizes a client's personality and can give them what they need based on that information.

If you're baffled by your spouse or kids, this book is for you. If you're annoyed by the quirks of those around you, this book is for you. If you just want to understand and relate to people better, this book is for you.

It's an absolute must-read.

Get yours here (affiliate link): 

3 Ways You're Not Listening

3 Ways You're Not Listening

Most people assume they are good listeners. They probably don't give listening much thought at all. It just seems natural to listen, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, effective listening is rare. That's why there is so much miscommunication in the world. It's why incorrect assumptions are made. It causes fights, conflict, and anger. If you think you're a good listener, it's easy to tell if you're right.

If you do any of the following, you might not be listening as well as you could be:

1. You formulate your response while the other person is talking. It's impossible to truly listen to what is being said if you are doing that. You'll miss vital details, and you won't be in tune to the other person's verbal cues. If you find yourself thinking while someone else is talking, shift your focus to the speaker. Don't worry about what you'll say next. Simply listen. You'll have plenty of time to think and decide what to say when the other person is finished.

2. You interrupt. If you finish other people's sentences or jut in to share your own stories, you can't possibly be listening. Interrupting is frustrating to the other person, and that person will stop truly sharing. It sends the message that your ideas are more important. Instead, bite your tongue. Wait until the other person is totally finished speaking before you say anything. You will have plenty of time to share your thoughts when the other person is finished.

3. Your cell phone is your priority. For the love of God, put down that darn phone. Nothing shows disrespect quite like staring at a screen while someone is talking to you. Shut off the ringer, and refuse to look at it. Even checking a message or answering a text is a clear indicator that you are not truly listening to the other person. No one can multi-task like that, and it's rude anyway. Your phone can wait.

If any of those ring true for you, it's never to late to change your habits and hone your listening skills. Pay attention to it and make necessary changes. It's worth it because effective listening shows you care and ensures that you'll truly hear other people.


Building Stronger Family Relationships During the Holidays

Building Stronger Family Relationships During the Holidays

During the holiday season, there can be a lot of stress. We're overscheduled, our budgets are tight, and we're dreading that family visit that includes old Uncle Harold and his distasteful jokes. Despite all of that, we can come through this holiday season with stronger family relationships if we try. We just need to create opportunities to disengage from electronic devices and promote face-to-face conversations.

Stronger relationships won't "just happen." We have to work on them, and we have to be purposeful about it. Here are a few tips for doing that:

1. Plan a favorite family activity. Our family enjoys snowshoeing, card games, and game nights. None of those costs much, they don't require much planning, and they all provide opportunity to talk to each other. Some of our best memories have been made while snowshoeing when we're taking in beautiful views and laughing about something one of the kids said. Find an activity your family enjoys, and be sure to do that during this holiday season.

2. Try something new. Take a cooking class together. Try downhill skiing. Check out a museum you haven't visited before. While we love our familiar favorites, sometimes it's nice to try something we haven't done before. Doing that as a family provides an opportunity to work as a team, get vulnerable, and help each other be successful. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll make memories.

3. Volunteer together. Nothing builds a family bond like doing good work together. Whether you take a shift serving lunch at the homeless shelter or simply decide to shovel driveways in your neighborhood, you'll create a bond with your family while helping other people. Working together to make life easier for someone else forms a bond like nothing else.

4. Give Secret Santa gifts to each other. Sometimes we focus so much on what we're getting that we forget how giddy we can feel when we give. If that's the case this year, draw names and start a Secret Santa program in your family. Simply give each other tiny gifts for a few days in a row. Your family will bond while thoughtfully choosing gifts for each other, and when you reveal who the Santas are, you'll have lots of laughs and great discussion.

5. Deliver cookies to friends and sing Christmas carols on the way. For this one, you'll spend time together while baking and decorating the cookies, and you'll get time together in the car while you deliver them. Christmas carols add to the festive atmosphere, so turn them up loud and sing along. Having fun together as a family is a great way to build a bond. Don't feel pressure to make it perfect though. If buying cookies and singing along to Stone Temple Pilots is more your speed, do that.

These ideas should help you think of ways to spend time with your family while promoting stronger relationships. Choose an activity you all can enjoy, and utilize it to start having conversations. You'll laugh together and create memories for years to come.

Building Stronger Family Relationships During the Holidays
Encouraging Good Behavior During the Holidays

Encouraging Good Behavior During the Holidays

I often wish my kids would behave more like adults, especially in public or at formal events. Let's face it: I want perfection. I really want them to display good table manners, say "please" and "thank you," make small talk with good eye contact, and refrain from doing anything that might embarrass me. I wish for the same during the holidays. There's nothing like a family dinner or holiday party to test even the most well-behaved child's behavior. I've learned over the years, though, that perfection is totally unrealistic and actually even overrated.

Parents may feel out of control during the holidays, but we aren't entirely powerless. Here are a few tips for surviving the holidays with kids:

1. Get enough sleep. Everyone gets cranky when tired, so be sure your children get enough sleep during the holiday season and especially before a big holiday event. Same for you. Enough said.

2. Be reasonable. Young children cannot be expected to behave perfectly for 8 hours straight. They also cannot keep a formal gown spotless for an entire day. They cannot sit perfectly still or put up with their annoying cousin for hours on end. Be sure to think through the reality of the situation and don't ask too much of your kids.

3. Prepare your children. Bring toys or activities to keep them busy during holiday gatherings. Make sure you have sufficient snacks. Discuss the plan with them so they know what to expect. Talk about the manners you want them to display. If there will be a guest present who is troublesome for your children, talk about how to handle it ahead of time. Give your kids an escape route if they sense trouble starting. Let them know they can come to you if there is a problem. It's a good idea to inform them how long they will be at the event, what foods will be available, and what your expectations are. Talk about it all so your children are well prepared.

4. Make corrections in private. You'll embarrass your children if you correct them in public, so if a correction is necessary do it in private. Your child will appreciate the respect, and a break from the activity is a good idea anyway. If a situation at a party gets completely out of hand, simply leave. Sometimes it's better to just cut your losses. You can discuss the behavior after everyone has calmed down.

5. Get over it. Nothing is perfect, including children and holidays. If an event ends up less than enjoyable, don't dwell on it. Simply learn from it and move on. You may be disappointed or embarrassed, but the important thing is to remind your children that you love them. Your family is so much more important than a single event or holiday.

The holiday season is full of fun and enjoyment, but it can be overwhelming and downright stressful at times for both parents and children. Plan well, and follow our tips, and your family will make it through this holiday season unscathed.

When Kids Are Impolite
Managing Family Dysfunction During the Holidays

Managing Family Dysfunction During the Holidays

If you have a family-- at all-- you have experienced family dysfunction during the holidays at some point. We laugh about it when we watch movies like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, but it isn't so funny when it happens in real life. Uncles, cousins, great-aunts, and in-laws can be sources of real tension during the holiday season.

Family dysfunction is inevitable. We don't get to choose our family members. Rather, we're thrown together in close quarters with folks who may be very different from us. Their values vary. Their politics vary. Their skills, interests, and opinions vary. All those variations can cause a whole lot of friction. The holidays can be a true test of our tolerance.

So, when the dysfunction rears its ugly head, how can you manage it? 

1. Look forward. Try to remember that this, too, shall pass. The holidays aren't a never-ending event (even if it feels that way!), so look to the future. Keep the end in view. There is a light at the end of the dysfunction tunnel. It's a lot easier to be kind and let things roll off your back when you remind yourself that in a few hours, or in a few days, you'll be back to your normal life. Don't dwell on the current situation; it will end soon.

2. Agree to disagree. Don't allow yourself to get sucked in to the muck. Arguing over politics, religion, or some other topic serves no good purpose. Stay out of those emotionally charged conversations. You don't have to prove that you're right, and you don't have to try to change other people's minds. It's okay to disagree (kindly). Simply move on. Walk away if you have to. 

3. Give grace. Your family members aren't perfect, and neither are you. They will screw up during family gatherings, and they will say stupid things. So will you. Instead of beating them over the head each time, dish out grace instead. Forgive, and move on. Be kind and respectful. Hopefully your family members will be as gracious toward you, but give them grace without expectation. Dysfunction can be diffused with a healthy dose of grace.

The holidays don't have to be the catalyst for family feuds. We can experience peace and fun during the holidays with family members if we purposefully manage the inevitable dysfunction. Strategize ahead of time, using the guidelines outlined in this article, and you'll be well on your way!

Managing Family Dysfunction During the Holidays
The 3 Habits of Ridiculously Happy Holiday People

The 3 Habits of Ridiculously Happy Holiday People

We all know them. They're those rare unusually happy people who seem to actually love the holidays. Nothing seems to bother them. They're whistling when the rest of us are grumbling. They're smiling when we're frowning. They bake cookies while the rest of us are just trying to survive. Family dysfunction, tight budgets, and awkward holiday parties just don't seem to ever affect them.

What's their secret?

Those folks who seem to actually love and enjoy the holidays have 3 habits in common. Knowing what those habits are can help the rest of us to enjoy the holidays more, too. We may never be as ridiculously happy as they are, but we can certainly take steps in the right direction. Here's what sets them apart:

1. They focus on the reason for the season. This doesn't mean they don't have problems and that everything is perfect. It isn't. But happy holiday people tend to remember there is a reason for the holiday season, and they focus on that. They don't allow themselves to get caught up in the muck of the season. Instead, they keep the true meaning of the holidays in the forefront of their minds and they remember their blessings. 

2. They plan. They plan their holiday budget well in advance. They decide what family members they will visit and put those visits on their calendars. They make lists of gifts to buy, and they do it early in the season. Planning out the holiday season takes some work but allows them to decide what is truly important so they can say no to everything else. They plan so they won't get over-scheduled and won't overspend. They know they can't do everything, so they plan what they can.

3. They develop and utilize effective communication skills. We all know that politics and religion are topics that can create tension at holiday functions. Beyond that, happy holiday people know how to resolve conflict, edify others, and speak kindly. They don't "stir the pot," ask uncomfortable questions, or criticize others. They've worked hard on their social and communication skills, and they use them during the holidays. They keep things positive and don't lose their emotional intelligence.

We can all become happier holiday people. We just need to keep the right things in perspective, plan well, and communicate effectively. If we begin now, we can ensure the happy holiday season that we envision.

The 3 Habits of Ridiculously Happy Holiday People
3 Tips for Resolving Disagreements

3 Tips for Resolving Disagreements

A few days ago, my husband, Ryan, and I heard music coming from the bathroom. Our son was in the shower, so Ryan knocked on the door and went in to investigate.

It turns out our teenage son had a phone in the bathroom to listen to music while he showered. Unfortunately, he had the phone in the shower with him.

Seriously. The phone was in the shower.

When asked, our son told us, "It's okay because I have it wrapped in a dry washcloth."

Not kidding.

This, my friends, is why I have a monthly standing appointment at the salon to get my gray hair colored. 

While I've never taken a phone into the shower, I have made plenty of other mistakes in my lifetime. Unfortunately, the ones that have caused the most regret involve hurting other people. I've said harmful things to family members and friends during disagreements that I've wished I could take back.

Words can't be taken back, however. They can't just be removed like we removed our son's phone from the shower. We need to be careful what we say during disagreements so we don't ruin a relationship. 

Here are a few tips for resolving disagreements effectively:

Don't Speak When You're Angry

We say things we may not mean when we're angry. It's important to take a step back, cool off, and then decide how to respond. 

Leave the situation if necessary, or sleep on it. If you're angry, you need the time to sort through the situation before you respond. You're less likely to say regretful things if you wait until you are no longer angry.

Carefully Consider What to Say

Once you're calm, it's important to take the time to formulate what you want to say. Word selection is paramount, so use caution when deciding on your response. 

Look at the situation from all angles, and be gracious but honest.

Move Forward

Once you have resolved a disagreement, don't linger on it. Dwelling on it won't make it disappear. Figure out how best to move forward, and then do that.

Our son learned that if he wants to listen to music in the shower, he needs to leave the phone outside the shower. He is moving forward and not dwelling on his mistake.

We must do the same in our relationships.

3 Tips for Resolving Disagreements
Communicate with Confidence

Communicate with Confidence

Whether you feel confident or not, you can appear confident to those with whom you communicate. You can't always control your feelings, but you can control your body language. Body language plays a vital role in confidence. It determines how confident you look.

Follow these tips to communicate with confidence:

Stand straight and tall

You'll appear strong and powerful if you sit up, or stand up, straight and tall. Good posture exudes confidence.

Don't slouch or slink across the room. Instead, put your shoulders back and hold your head high. Stand up tall to appear confident.

Make direct eye contact

Confidence requires good eye contact. Looking elsewhere depicts nervousness.

Look people in the eye. Don't stare at the ceiling or the floor. You'll come across as confident and interested if you make direct eye contact during conversations.

Use a firm handshake

A confident person is quick to reach out a hand for a firm handshake.

No limp noodle hands here! Use a solid grip when shaking hands. Practice with a friend until you learn how strong your handshake is.

Hold still

Fidgeting is the ultimate sign of nervousness. 

Be still. Don't pace around the room, twirl your hair, or pick at your clothes. Control your hands, arms, feet, and facial expressions.

Fake it until you feel it

You may not feel confident, but you can appear that way by controlling your body language. Eventually, you'll feel confident, too. Keep utilizing these body language tips until you do!


Communicate with Confidence

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Helping Kids Make New Friends at School

Helping Kids Make New Friends at School

A new school year brings excitement. There are new classes, new teachers, and new clothes. At the same time, a new school year can bring anxiety over unknowns like new challenges and new people. As parents, we want to see our children transition into these new situations as painlessly as possible. The following tips will help.

Encourage your child to step out of the comfort zone

Great things never happen inside our comfort zones. Kids will need a little nudge to embrace that. Making new friends may feel scary to your child. Take the time to point out all the benefits of making new friends like learning new things and having more playmates on the playground.

Discuss how it's kind to make friends with a new student, and provide your child with ideas for making that happen like inviting a new student to sit at your child's table in the lunchroom. Playing together on the playground, sharing toys, or reading together are other easy options for forging new friendships.

Practice meeting someone new

Work with your child to learn the social skills necessary to meet someone new. Practice using direct eye contact, speaking audibly and clearly, and asking questions to create a conversation. The best way to do that is for you to model the behavior and then allow your child the opportunity to practice these new skills.

Practice at home until your child is comfortable, and then encourage him to practice these skills in real-life situations outside the home. Playgrounds, parks, or church gatherings provide opportunities to practice meeting new people and having conversations. Be encouraging, help your child adjust skills as necessary, and praise your child's efforts.

Teach your child how to resolve conflict

Conflict is inevitable, even in strong friendships. Your child needs to know how to resolve it quickly. Teach your child to seek to understand when conflict arises. Many conflicts occur simply because we make assumptions when we should instead ask questions to understand the situation before responding.

Teach your child to take responsibility for his part in a conflict and to show grace to the other person. Most conflicts can be resolved fairly easily if resolution is the goal, but these skills must be taught and practiced. 

Be your child's role model

The best way to help your child make new friends at school is to model friend-making skills yourself. Go out of your way to talk to new people and make new friends. Let your child see you shake hands and start a conversation with someone new. Invite friends over to your home for dinner or meet up for a playdate with your children. When your child sees you do these things, making new friends will seem like a natural thing to do.