Eight Ways to Avoid “Foot-in-Mouth” Disease

These days, it feels like the majority of our communication is online. Thanks to Facebook (and other social media platforms), e-mail, blogs, and the capability for many career positions to work remotely, most of us are more comfortable communicating online than we are in person. In fact, because we live in such a tech-inundated world, face-to-face communication skills (especially amongst young people) are at their all-time worst. Needless to say, we could all use some tips on how to avoid miscommunication—for those times when a text message or SnapChat just won’t do.

You see, it’s not uncommon for the messages we send to be received differently than we intend. And when it happens, it can be a disaster. It’s crucial that we are aware of the way we say things and how we come across to others. This applies to making first impressions at job interviews, dating, relating to your employers, making new friends, and more. It can’t all be done online! (Thank goodness!)

Miscommunication can happen to all of us.  Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to minimize it. Three things affect how others receive our messages… and any one of them can be the cause of major misunderstandings if we’re not careful. As you step out from behind your computer, look up from your smart phone, and engage with the people around you, keep these three tips in mind:

  1. Word choice – This factor is huge, especially when we discuss sensitive topics and issues we are passionate or emotional about (e.g., politics and religion). In these situations, our emotions can interfere with our thinking, and we often use more provocative language that we later regret. As a result, the other person can become hurt and offended. Take a deep breath or two before you speak so your internal filter can soften your rhetoric.

 

  1. Delivery – Sometimes it’s our manner of delivery that gets in the way, even if our word choice is fine. Delivery is especially important when meeting people for the first time. Examples include speaking with a harsh (or bored, unenthusiastic, or condescending) tone of voice or displaying certain expressions and body language that are not received well by others (crossing arms, standing over someone, frowning, smirking, rolling eyes). No matter what words we use, if the “packaging” is incongruent, our message will lack credibility and rub people the wrong way. Always pay attention to the non-verbal cues your audience is sending!

 

  1. Filter – (No, I’m not referring to Instagram.) Depending on whether your audience likes or distrusts you, whether they’re in a good or bad mood, focused or distracted, your message may not get through in the way you intended. Unfortunately, this happens all the time, and you can’t control it. Filter is the one aspect of miscommunication is that most out of our control.

 

In short, here are eight ways to help you avoid miscommunication with others (and needing to put your foot in your mouth or apologize later on):

  • Be sure your expression (body language, facial expressions) are in sync
  • Think before you speak
  • Strive to be empathetic by putting yourself in the receiver’s position
  • Closely monitor the receiver’s body language to see whether he or she may be interpreting your words differently than you intend.
  • Be a discerning listener when they respond
  • Be quick to apologize for any misunderstandings
  • Avoid coming on too strong, especially with people who don’t know you well. It takes time to build the relationship capital needed for people to give you the benefit of the doubt.
  • Remember, it’s okay to be professional in casual settings, but not the reverse!

How do your own in-person communication skills rate? Do you have any other tips on avoiding miscommunication you’d like to share?

 Note: This is an excellent lesson for role-playing in the home or classroom. Encourage your teen or students to act out different scenarios in which the verbal communication could be misinterpreted. You will find a great lesson in our What I Wish I Knew at 18 study guide on this subject.

Communication Strategies that Empower and Influence Your Teen: Part Three

If you’re a parent, mentor, teacher, or coach with a teen (or teens) in your life, you’ve likely had some communication hiccups. Let’s face it—teens can be hard to talk to at times and I’m sure I was no different. That’s why we’re sharing our best tips to relate in a way that’s empowering, uplifting, and effective.

If you missed the first two parts of this series, hop over here to read the first installment and here for the second.

Strategy 5: Invite them into your decisions and respect their opinions.

One of life’s special honors is to be asked for our opinion. It makes us feel respected and valued, especially when we’re in a subordinate position. (In fact, it’s one of the top three motivators of a workforce!) So, knowing this, is it any surprise that our teens will appreciate being asked for his help or opinion?

I’ll never forget my indecision when choosing a title for my first book. I developed a new list every day for weeks, but nothing stuck. Then, in a moment of exasperation, I decided to call my son Michael, who was a sophomore in college at the time. I shared my frustration and without a second of thought, he blurted out, “Dad, why don’t you just call it what it is…it’s what I wish I knew at 18.” I knew it was the perfect title from the moment I heard it. Why didn’t I ask him from the beginning?

Because we parents are older and (usually!) wiser than our children, it’s easy for us to fall into the trap of deciding everything ourselves. Yet, our children can offer invaluable perspectives just like Michael did. If we are training future adults, it’s imperative that we treat them that way, and that includes seeking out their opinions whenever we can. It’s an honor for them to be included, and it can legitimately help with our decisions and understanding.

 

Strategy 6: Remember, how you say it can matter more than what you say.

It’s easy to think that our words are all that matters, but nothing can be further from the truth. Our non-verbal cues can have far greater impact on how we’re received than the actual words we speak.

Our attitude and tone are particularly important in our communications with teens. If we come across as condescending, negative, angry, or irritable, they’ll tune out, shut down, or worse. Repetitive comments, excessive reminders, and above all, nagging, are as counterproductive with them as it is with us. It helps to check our body language, tone, and even attitude before we address an issue—even if it means pausing for a few minutes before we respond. After all, we’re raising future adults and we need to set the example.

 Strategy 7: Fully engage and have fun!

One of the greatest relationship destroyers affecting families is busyness and over-commitment.

How we prioritize our time and allocate it to our children is profoundly important—to us and to them. It’s critical that we create the capacity in our busy lives to invest in them. We will never get the chance to “do-over” and get this time back. That’s a life regret to avoid at all costs.

But, just as important is to have fun and take time off of the performance track. During the teen/young adult years, it’s easy to allow our time and conversations to become consumed by their daily tasks. (A good test is to monitor how much of your communication with them is task driven.) Make room for fun and good times and enter their world. It builds relationship capital for now and in the future.

There you have it! We hope these tips have been insightful and that you’ll consider applying them to your current adult/teen relationship. Remember to acknowledge the uniqueness of your child and to tweak your communications to fit his or her personality style.

Have you applied any of the above strategies to your relationship with your teen? How have they helped (or not helped)? What are your personal strategies for getting your teen to open up and maintain an open line of authentic communication?

 

Communication Strategies that Empower and Influence Your Teen: Part Two

With all the busyness that parenting teenagers entails (homework, sports, after-school activities, sleepovers, college applications, financial aid, finals, parent/teen relationship struggles, etc.), sometimes practicing good communication can fall to the wayside. It’s important to remember that we will never influence and empower our teens to be their best selves without applying effective communication strategies .

Are you struggling to “get through” to your teen? Feeling like you don’t know how to communicate with them as they’re gaining independence and you’re releasing control? This second installment in our three-part series will fill your toolbox with practical ideas to set them up for success (and feel good about it yourself, too!).

If you missed the first two strategies, check out last week’s blog.

 Strategy 3: Value and recognize the person more than the performance.

We all want our children to do their best. But, isn’t it more important for them to be their best? Over the past decade or two, our culture has been breeding “performance parents.” You know, folks who define their own identity and success by the performance of their children. You see it in the stands at Little League games and the desire for “bragging rights” when socializing with other parents.

I witness this firsthand when I speak with teenagers at schools. Many are heartbroken and resentful because of the pressure they feel, the comparison to siblings who are performing better, and the perceived lack of interest by their parents in the person they’re becoming. It’s not healthy and these pressure tactics don’t set them up for success. Rather than feeling valued, they feel controlled, as if managed by a driving supervisor..

Whenever possible, honor the admirable character qualities and behaviors of your children. Instead of simply praising their 3.5 GPA, honor their perseverance, discipline, efforts to improve, character, resilience, and dedication to excellence. Recognize their journey and what got them there, not just the destination. Express your pride in them, even when they don’t take first place. Show them that your love and belief is unconditional. Help them see how much you believe in them.         

 Strategy 4: Test the waters and start with positivity.

It’s not uncommon for teens to experience greater mood swings for reasons we don’t always know or understand. It’s hard when the child who at one point couldn’t stop talking is now the aloof and uncommunicative teen. Sometimes they just need to be alone. It’s important we respect that. It’s been one of my biggest growth areas as a father because I’m an analytic and so interested in their world.

When your teen is quieter than usual, it pays to test the waters with simple, non-controversial questions to take his or her “communication temperature.” If his answers are brief, or his mood seems closed, give him space and let him know that you’ll be around to chat if he wants. Try again the next day, or when you notice his or her temperament is a bit more upbeat and open. Here comes the most crucial part: try to start your conversations with a positive tone or topic. Even when we have tough conversation topics to discuss, it helps to get off on the right foot by saying something that will be appreciated. Negativity from the outset will only close the door. (Note to parents: If you notice your teen’s lack of communication is extended or out of character for them, it may be a sign of deeper struggles they’re experiencing. Be attentive to that possibility and gently ask if everything is okay.)

Communicating with teenagers who may be moody, closed-off, or eager for independence can be difficult. I’m sure it was for our parents, too! Remember to recognize their journey (not just the end result), give them space when they need it, and stay positive.  Stay tuned for next week’s post to learn more strategies for effectively communicating with your teenage children or students.

What strategies have you employed when it comes to communicating with your teen? Have you found some methods that work—and some that don’t? Feel free to chime in—we’d love to hear from you!

Communication Strategies that Empower and Influence Your Teen: Part One

After just finishing up a weekend that focused on all things “Mom,” (and what a great weekend it was!), parenting is fresh on my mind. Parenting is good work. It’s certainly not easy, but it’s vitally important work that forever impacts the lives of the next generation. As I reflect back to when I was parenting young teens, I am reminded of the importance of intentionality in this season of life.. In fact, there is one area that can either make or break your relationship with your teen. Can you guess what it is?

 Communication!

In order to set our kids up for success in adulthood, parents must be effective communicators. The crux of it is this: We may have all the wisdom in the world to offer, but if we package it in an unappealing way, it won’t stick.

Today’s post is the first installment in a three-part miniseries about communicating with our teens and is based on one of the most important chapters in Parenting for the Launch. We hope these strategies help you engage with your teens in a way that promotes trust and mutual respect, while still empowering and influencing them in a positive way.

Strategy 1: Meet them where they are.  

It took me far too long to realize that my kids, Michael and Lauren, were much more communicative at different times and places than others. Deep dinner conversations, chats during commutes, and all the times that were convenient for me often didn’t work for them. I learned that our best conversations were away from home at coffee shops or restaurants. A change of environment made all the difference in the world in terms of their willingness to share with me.

My wife, Jeanne, and I also learned that doing something with your kids (e.g., cooking a meal, watching a show, playing games, listening to music, taking a walk, building something, having a manicure or pedicure, or playing a sport) works. We noticed that a little distraction can take the “heaviness” out of a parent/teen conversation and cause them to open up more. It really helped build relationship capital by enjoying the experience and the conversation—and it could do the same for you!

Find the time and place that works best for your teen and sacrifice your convenience for them at this critical time. Notice what environments bring out more conversation and which don’t and operate accordingly. If they’re not in the mood to talk, let it be and don’t take it personally. After all, they have their own rhythms, too.

Strategy 2: Focus more on understanding and listening.

Because parents have the benefit of experience and wisdom, it’s easy for us to overly direct and control our conversations. The busier we are, the more we run this risk. We can easily do most of the talking and give them advice without first listening to their perspectives and feelings. Sometimes they just need to vent and only want us to listen. We can fall into a trap of prejudging and jumping to conclusions, without giving them the benefit of the doubt and respecting their opinions. Without realizing it, we’re devaluing them, harming our opportunity to influence and their opportunity to grow.

It’s amazing to see the difference in our conversations if our goal is merely to understand, share, and relate. By asking open-ended questions, valuing their opinions (even if you disagree), and focusing more on listening than talking, you’ll build capital and grow deeper in your relationship.

Bottom line: think “share with” rather than “talk to.” It’s a telltale sign that you’re treating them as the adult they are becoming, and they’ll appreciate you for it.

Do you have any special strategies for communicating with your teen? What have you noticed works well in your own parent/teen relationship? Stay tuned for next week when we will dive into two more communication strategies.

 

Connect! (Part 3): Why Hope Matters

pathwaytodestinyforblogWhat does it take to “succeed” in life? This is a question we often ask not only for ourselves, but also for the young adults in our life whom we want to see thrive, succeed, and achieve their destiny.
In our work with teens, educators, and parents, we’ve developed a helpful diagram that illustrates the path that most of us travel throughout life on the road to accomplishing our goals and “life purpose” (aka “destiny”).

You can see it starts off with our personal development, which combines our education, experiences, and nurturing. Next, comes a healthy self-awareness (i.e., Who am I? What do I have to offer? What are my passions and interests?) The invaluable outgrowth of these two steps is a sense of value, hope, and belief in ourselves and our future. Buoyed by these three steps, we can now develop a positive vision for our lives that, through daily implementation, determines our DESTINY.

More often than not, as parents or educators, we tend to jump in at the “vision” or implementation stages when we want to motivate teens (i.e., “You can be whatever you want to be,” or “Study hard; clean your room; stay out of trouble!”). But, when there’s not been enough time spent on the preceding stages, the child may “check out” at the Value, Hope, and Belief step—which makes it exceedingly difficult to impart vision or teach implementation skills. All too often, they drop out of high school or become involved in high risk behavior and groups to find a sense of belonging. Bottom line, when kids don’t feel valued, they lose hope—and may miss out on reaching their full potential as a result. Their destiny is compromised.

Research and experience inform us that the best way to build value in people of all ages is to connect with them—to affirm, relate, and encourage in a relational way. So, how can we do this with our children and/or students, and particularly if our relationships are strained?

For one thing, we have to get to know them as individuals. A good relationship between any two people rests on the platform of mutual respect and valuing the other’s unique gifts and contributions. Each person has characteristics that make him or her special and that set him/her up for a unique destiny. Teens vary remarkably in their needs, reactions, communications, and behavioral styles. This impacts how they respond and relate to the world around them. As famous football commentator and coach Tony Dungy wisely said, “It’s hard to lead someone you don’t know.” This is just as true in educating (or raising) teens as it is in coaching football players!

That’s where connection comes in—and with it, value, hope, and progress toward a successful future. Connection leads to understanding, which can help you:

  1. identify what motivates (and discourages) them
  2. appreciate their strengths and be empathetic toward their challenges
  3. communicate in such a way that they receive your messages in the manner intended
  4. respond to them in such a way that they feel safe, heard, and understood
  5. have realistic expectations of them
  6. respect differences
  7. develop strategies that work best for all of you

Ultimately, when we connect with our kids and students, we foster a sense of hope and expectation they need to thrive. Hope has the power to buffer people from stress, anxiety, and the effects of negative life events. More than that, neuroscience tells us that hope actually changes brain chemistry! Hope motivates learning and enables kids to move forward to their destiny, and to absorb and apply the valuable lessons and skills they need along the way.

Bottom line, the next time there’s a challenge with a student or a child, take a step back. Consider the Pathway to Destiny and see if you can identify where that child has the greatest need right now.  Is it really for a pep talk or a how-to lesson? Or is there perhaps a need to back up a few steps, to focus on the foundations, to communicate, relate, and connect? When we do, we plant HOPE—which has exponential power to propel kids forward on the path to their destiny.

This was Part 3 in a series on Social Emotional Learning; visit our blog archive to see Part 1 and Part 2. Also, check out LifeSmart’s What I Wish I Knew at 18 resources for developing life skills, college and workplace readiness, and a strong personal leadership foundation in high school and middle school students. Conversationally written, and designed to impart life wisdom and practical skills in a relational context, our resources will help you make social emotional learning a vital part of your classroom or home environment.
 

Teaching Teens the Art of Professional Networking

With spring in full swing, we can almost taste the arrival of summer. For many educators and parents of teens, summer means graduation is right around the corner, and newly launched young adults will be looking for summer jobs or looking to enter the workforce full time. To help set your teen up for success in this arena, you will want to instill the importance of a vital life skill: networking.

You’ve heard said many times: “It’s not what you know, but whom you know.” Of course, this is an overstatement, but in this high tech, interconnected age, it’s truer than ever. The sooner your teen understands this reality, the better.

No matter how talented we are, we all need people who will go to bat for us, both personally and professionally. Their assistance can take the form of introductions and connections, references and advocacy, decision-making in our favor, an information source, or general support. They help us gain access to strategically important people. They are our ambassadors. Our very own sales force!

The employment recruitment process has radically changed since I was younger. Nowadays, it’s all about online applications that seem to disappear into the proverbial black hole—it’s SO impersonal and frustrating. Somehow, some way, our application needs to stand out. No doubt about it, the best way is to have an insider advocating on our behalf. It adds a measure of dependability and reassurance to the hiring manager, and that’s huge. It may not land us the job, but it helps get us into the game.

Our son Michael is a natural networker. Ever since he was young, Michael always enjoyed being with adults. He became a basketball ref at an early age and loved pick-up games with guys decades his senior on the golf course. Interestingly, connections from these circles were instrumental to his acceptance into the college of his dreams. And, today, they’ve proven just as helpful as he’s entered the workforce. Thankfully, when it comes to networking, he values it and is good at it. And of course, dad loves to see him in action!

But, for many, networking doesn’t come so naturally. Some are more reserved, some haven’t developed the skills, and some don’t appreciate just how important it is. So, parents and teachers, this is a great opportunity for you to influence and empower! Here are some key ways you can help:

  • Share the value of networking on both a personal and professional level.
  • Stress the importance of making a great first impression with everyone they meet.
  • Point out that future advocates are enlisted by demonstrating excellent character, cultivating the relationship, and showing appreciation. Help your teen understand that ambassadors put their reputations on the line when they advocate on his or her behalf! Motivate your teen to develop areputation as a person of excellence.
  • Encourage them to get involved in various opportunities and spheres (i.e., “put yourself out there!”) where they’ll be able to interact with adults in different circles. Networkers take the initiative!
  • Remind them to always be proactive in expressing your appreciation to ambassadors. Handwritten thank you notes or a phone call will show  gratitude and cement the relationship.
  • Don’t forget about your own connections and networks! Use your own professional and social spheres to make strategic introductions on your teen’s behalf.

How do your teen’s networking skills stack up? Who are their advocates? How can they expand the list? What are your opportunities to help them become a master networker?

Connect! (The Best Way To Help Students Succeed)

One of my (Arlyn’s) five children had a rather low GPA when he was in high school, relative to his capacity (and much to his parents’ constant dismay). It was a good thing he was an excellent test taker, because that, more than anything else, was what saved his bacon! He frequently told us, “Don’t worry, Mom and Dad; I’ll apply myself in college, where it really counts.”

Now, I’m not for a minute excusing that cop out, although I will concede he is making good on his promise. He has excelled in his classes, is almost ready to graduate with an ample GPA, and is planning to attend law school next year. What made the difference in his performance? In college, he connected with the subject matter—and to the professors who were instructing him.

What do you think is the strongest contributing factor to learning? There are several good answers to this question, but one that stands out particularly is CONNECTION. We learn best when we are engaged in some way with the subject about which we’re learning, and the environment in which we’re learning it. This important aspect of learning is based on the principle that humans are heavily influenced by how we feel and the emotional state we’re in.

Neuroscientists tell us that humans are fundamentally “hard-wired” to connect. This applies to everyone, but has particular ramifications for students who have been impacted by adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including abuse, neglect, and poverty, etc., whose “connection” mechanisms in their brain have been impaired by these experiences. They can appear disinterested or anti-social, tending to push away the adults in their life with defiance, withdrawal, and sometimes violence, out of fear and self-protection. However, on the inside, what they really want to do is connect.  They just don’t know how. Or, they can’t trust.

Here’s how this impacts their learning: when humans are in this affected state, the heightened level of cortisol in the body essentially puts a “padlock” on the learning centers in the brain. On the other hand, when social/emotional connections are made, powerful hormones are released (like dopamine and oxytocin) that diminish the cortisol levels and UNLOCK those learning centers.  Emotions are the fast lane to the brain!

Most of us think of ourselves as thinking beings that feel but we are actually feeling creatures that think.” -Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor,  Neuroscientist

If we want to close the achievement gap, if we want to help our kids learn the vital skills and lessons that will enable them to thrive in life, we’ve got to harness this powerful component of learning!

Educators, you may be thinking, I don’t have time to develop relationships with all my students.  Or, I don’t want to risk rejection or disrespect by making myself vulnerable. Or even, I’m not particularly good at being relational. Thankfully, it’s not as complicated as it might seem. Things like smiles, small gestures of kindness and respect, and simple appreciation can all go a long way in contributing to a climate conducive to healthy social and emotional learning. Parents, this goes for you, too!

In our next blog, we’ll talk about four motivations that influence human behavior, decisions, and actions, and how they impact the process of Social Emotional Learning. You might be surprised by how they can help you relate to the children and teens in your life. We hope you’ll join us and keep the conversation going!

Check out LifeSmart’s What I Wish I Knew at 18 resources for developing life skills, college and workplace readiness, and a strong personal leadership foundation in teens. Conversationally written, and designed to impart life wisdom and practical skills in a relational context, our resources will help you make Social Emotional Learning a vital part of your classroom or home environment.

Better Yourself (and Others) by Expressing Your Emotions

With Easter very quickly approaching (hey, wasn’t it just Christmas?), most of us will be spending time with family in the coming weekend. Although family time is incredibly precious and shouldn’t be taken for granted, it can still be very difficult for some. How does time with people we love end up being so tough sometimes?

Well, for one, it’s because we often put on our “everything is A-okay” masks and don’t express ourselves honestly or openly. Deep down, we fear vulnerability, so we put up a wall that blocks anyone from seeing how we really feel. We stuff our emotions, pretend everything is okay, and sweep any conflict or complaints under the carpet (‘til next year). Or, we find the path of least resistance is to keep a grudge and revert to passive aggressive behavior rather than reconcile. (Hmm…how’s that working for you?)

Many (especially us guys) have been led to believe that expressing our feelings is a sign of weakness. That’s not the case at all—it’s actually a sign of emotional maturity! But whether it’s from our upbringing or a distorted perception of “weakness,” we pay a price if we don’t express our feelings. Being honest and authentic with others is a healthy practice. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

“What’s so wrong with not sharing how I feel?” many may be asking. Plenty!  First off, it deprives others of knowing how you really feel (How can they contribute their support if they don’t know what’s wrong in the first place?). Second, suppressed feelings can cause stress and, if severe, illness and depression.  Third, deep-rooted offenses and resentment they can cause explosive reactions when they’re eventually released. The balloon pops rather than gently losing its air. Not good—for anyone!

I encourage you to learn how to freely and appropriately express your feelings to the people in your life. Here’s a short test to help you judge how easy (or not) it is for you to be “real.” Consider the following phrases and ask yourself how often you share them with others:

I love you                   I’m proud of you                   I respect you

I appreciate you        I made a mistake                   I admire you

I was wrong               I care about you                    Please forgive me

I’m sorry                    I’m grateful for you              I’m worried about…

 

Some of these are naturally easier to express than others, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Expressing your feelings and communicating openly and honestly are life skills that CAN be learned and refined.  With that, here are three simple tips to help you open up:

  1. Be sincere. Speak the truth, and speak it from your heart.
  2. Be mindful of your body language and tone of voice. Certain body language (arms crossed, hands on hips, standing above the other person, etc.) or voice tones may counteract your words. Sincerity is key to any apology. .
  3. Avoid finger pointing and accusations. Instead, talk about how certain situations made you feel and strive for understanding.

As we enter into this spring holiday, I hope you enjoy your times of togetherness. Use them to practice expressing the “real you” and maybe to repair a strained relationship. Remember, successful people express themselves not only for their own benefit, but also for the benefit of others.

 

How would you rate when it comes to expressing yourself? Are there phrases on the above list that you have difficulty saying? Why?

Learn to Handle Disagreements Like a Pro

With election season in full swing, we’ve all been seeing our fair share of disagreement lately. Whether it’s a politically-charged rant on Facebook (followed by the common “If so-and-so becomes president, I’m moving to Canada” threat) or a heated, televised presidential debate (and its subsequent media frenzy), disparities abound. Facebook friends fight with each other over who they believe is the best person for the job, and candidates throw insults at each other in order to be seen as the victor in the public eye. The political scene has always been divisive, with bravado and name-calling the order of the day.

Why is this? One reason is that differences are often irreconcilable due to underlying philosophies, values, and worldviews. Another reason is that most people don’t exactly handle disagreements well. They resort to verbal warfare—name calling, condescension, threats, and insults—in order to convert their opponent to their point of view (or in the case of political candidates—to marginalize their competition).  While negative campaigning often works in politics (sadly)  it’s an unhealthy recipe for life.

Let’s face it: opinions vary extremely, and most people arrive at theirs after legitimate, heartfelt thought. Often, differences are based on deep philosophical or religious views when there isn’t necessarily a right or a wrong answer. Reasonable people may agree on the goal, but differ in methods. A good example is whether government spending or tax cuts do a better job at stimulating the economy. Democrats tend to favor the former while Republicans prefer the latter. Both sides have valid points. They just have different approaches to achieving a common goal.

Politics aside, I am here you to tell you this:

Throughout life, you’ll be in situations with others who aren’t “on the same page.” It might be with a family member, friend, or work colleague. When you’re interacting with someone with whom you disagree, it’s important to be “agreeable” in your demeanor. After sharing your thoughts and genuinely listening to his or hers as well, it’s okay to “agree to disagree” if you’re unable to come to a compromise. When each party is passionate about their point-of-view, compromises aren’t always possible! Whether it’s about politics or something else, remember to avoid making it personal, and recognize that differences of opinion are a part of life. In most instances, you’re not going to change their mind anyway!

Do a self-check, and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you keep your cool and a respectful attitude when you are debating with others?
  2. Are you able to separate the person from his or her belief? Are you genuinely interested in hearing his or her point of view? Do you notice the difference between the two?
  3. What is your knee-jerk reaction when someone disagrees with you?

Above all, strive to be a thoughtful, open-minded, and agreeable disagree-er. It will benefit all parties involved and help you avoid a needless war of words!

 

Building Likeability Skills in Our Students

ID-10062570Although Valentine’s Day is all about love, this week we’re taking it down a notch to celebrate like—specifically, likeability! The fact is, likeability is a hallmark of successful people and an especially valuable social skill to nurture in our students. In fact, when it comes to landing a job, it’s often the deal breaker in who receives the offer (and even who wins the Presidential election!).

For some, likeability comes naturally; for others, not so much—especially when they enter new environments like college and career settings and social gatherings. Whether it’s from inexperience, low self confidence, or inadequate training, many struggle with social awkwardness (e.g., withdrawing, coming on too strong, demonstrating poor manners, and being blind to the social cues of others). Unfortunately, these tendencies can overshadow the otherwise great qualities of a person.

We’ve all been in challenging social settings and it’s never fun. But, the good news is that likeability skills can be learned with proper training and experience. To that end, I came across an excellent article written by Travis Bradberry at Forbes.com, “13 Habits of Exceptionally Likeable People,” which you can access here.

Here’s a list of his 13 habits, which are spot on:

  1. They ask questions
  2. They put away their phones
  3. They are genuine
  4. They don’t pass judgment
  5. They don’t seek attention
  6. They are consistent
  7. They use positive body language
  8. They leave a strong first impression
  9. They greet people by name
  10. They smile
  11. They know when to open up
  12. They know who to touch (and they touch them)
  13. They balance passion and fun

I encourage you to read the entire article as Travis elaborates on these important behaviors. If you are an educator, parent, or mentor, these make for fabulous small group discussions and (especially) role plays. Practice situations where they act out each of these 13 habits—both positively and negatively. This will not only train them how to model likeability, but it will also build awareness of important social cues like body language.

Likeability is a huge factor in successful relationship building. What additions would you make to the list?

photo: freedigitalphotos.net, jannoon028