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.

Let’s Make 2017 the Year of Listening

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

~ Epictetus

Question: what one action fosters unity, common understanding, mutual respect, healing, better decisions, more effective management, stronger marriages, families, and friendships, and greater empathy, civility, harmony, knowledge, and perspective? (I think we can all agree these are worthy causes!) Answer: Listening. If we dedicated ourselves to becoming better listeners. I believe it would change the world.

So, what about making 2017 a year when we do more listening and “sharing with” and less “talking to?” A year when we fully engage with each other to forge stronger relationships and greater understanding? And, maybe a year when we celebrate what unites us instead of focusing so much on our differences?

From my perch, this would go a long way in healing our nation, our communities, our families, and ourselves. Here’s what I’m observing:

  • Almost everything today has become politicized, with people holding entrenched views and often vilifying others simply for having different opinions or solutions (as if this will persuade). We’re talking/shouting at each other, rather than sharing our perspectives and seeking common ground. We’re spending most of our time with people who share our views rather than respectfully engaging and listening to others with different points of view (hello college administrators!). This polarizes and divides, rather than unites, and it’s impairing our relationships, mutual understanding, and civility.
  • Technology is significantly interfering with interpersonal engagement and is eroding our relationships. (Question: was this ever listed as a potential side effect when we bought our smartphones?!?) We’re allowing ourselves to be distracted when we’re together, without realizing how this devalues others.
  • Our careers are so consuming and our schedules so full that we aren’t preserving the needed time to nurture, guide, and listen to our children as we should.
  • Businesses are often so consumed with their bottom lines that they’re not fully engaging all that their employees have to offer. Some are even expecting 24-7 responses to emails, which is interfering with family time.

So, where do we go from here? Perhaps if we try these out, we can reverse course:

  1. When we’re enjoying the company of others, we adopt a no-device rule (unless we are using them together). We fully engage with our eyes, ears, and body language.
  2. We adopt the 40/60 rule in how much we talk versus listen in our conversations. (Note: with parents, it should be more like 30/70!)
  3. We spend more time trying to understand each other rather than persuade each other. We keep our conversations constructive and strive to find common ground where it exists (we might discover that our goals are the same but our methods are different!).
  4. We reserve time to invest in our relationships and fully engage
  5. We exhibit self control, respect, and civility when we differ
  6. We listen to positive influences and tune out others
  7. We seek out varying perspectives in forming our views, making decisions, and teaching students (college administrators, take note)
  8. We put our employees first when we manage our businesses
  9. We take time to listen to our spirit, to pray if we are so inclined, and to bask in the beauty and tranquility of nature. Someone once said that “silent” and “listen” are spelled with the same letters. How cool!

As someone who tends to be outgoing and opinionated, this may be among the most convicting blogs I’ve ever written. But, I’m committing myself to do better in 2017 and beyond. I hope these ideas work for you, and the people you’re influencing, too.

What Christmas Traditions Can Do for Your Teen

cookies“Aaaaw, do we really have to do        __this year?” (eyes roll)

Got teens?  If so, it may be easy for you to fill in the blank. Many times, these are the years parents get the most pushback from their kids when it comes to family traditions.  (Think Audrey in Christmas Vacation, if you’re a fan.)

But while some Christmas traditions may well need to be put on the shelf as children get older (e.g., a 16-year old on Santa’s lap at the mall to get that annual photo may seem a little over the top to some and downright humiliating to others), many traditions can serve to reinforce the bonds we share as a family.

As our (Arlyn’s) five children were growing up, we went out each year on the weekend after Thanksgiving to cut the family tree (more visions of Christmas Vacation, the slightly-edited-for-language version).  Early on, in an attempt to settle the inevitable squabbles that would arise as we searched for the “perfect tree,” we settled on the practice of having a “girls’ year” and a “boys’ year” to pick the tree. Did this eliminate conflict?  Not always, although it certainly minimized it. What it did do was cement a tradition that to this day continues to forge an impression in our kids’ minds of who we are as a family: we do things together. We communicate. We negotiate. We take turns.  These are important aspects of our family brand—all year long.

The “kids” now range from 19 to 30. And we still go out to cut a Christmas tree together each year … adding sons and daughters-in-law and a few grandkids to the mix, and still alternating girls’ years and boys’ years!

The traditions your family establishes and maintains—like going to church together on Christmas Eve, taking cookies to your neighbors, wearing matching jammies on Christmas morning, or whatever—can accomplish far more than just fun memories. They can be a significant part of creating a strong sense of security, identity, and values in your children. These are the kinds of qualities that can ground them and give them the internal strength they need to navigate the world with confidence.

Trust me, there were a lot of eye rolls and even a few spats over the years on our annual Christmas tree expeditions. (I remember an apple fight that turned ugly one year; the boys found rotting apples in a nearby orchard and decided to pelt the girls with them!). But bottom line, the tradition became something that contributed much more to our family brand than we ever anticipated: our traditions helped to cement our relationships.

What traditions does your family practice at Christmas?  Have you ever thought about what qualities they contribute to your family brand? Please share your ideas and memories with us; we’d love to hear!

An Out-of-the-Box Holiday Idea

Tired of shopping from gift card-laden lists that remove the element of surprise? Tempted to play it safe yet again? Or, are you willing to take a calculated risk and think “out of the box” for the special people/person in your life? Allow me to share a true story that might just influence your decision… and add a little magic, too.

I grew up in a family with limited financial means but who went “all out” at Christmas. Imagine a Norman Rockwellian Christmas on steroids. That would be us! Cookies and candies made from scratch. Tinseled tree. Snowball fights, sled riding, and ice skating. Midnight mass. Caroling in the neighborhood. Home made eggnog. There was nothing like it.

But things were looking different for us in the Christmas of ’79. Earlier that summer, I moved from Milwaukee to Seattle to attend grad school. I didn’t have the money to fly home so this was destined to be my first Christmas away. We avoided the subject during my weekly calls and for good reason. I knew this would be hard on all of us—probably me the most.

However, I decided to play a hunch in early November. What if I flew out to Chicago on a cheap ticket and had someone drive me the rest of the way? Ka-Ching! I immediately made the arrangements with my friend Bruce and didn’t tell a soul. I even sounded a little extra “down” during our December phone calls to help “set the stage.” Okay, I was milking it!

After the four-hour winter drive from O’Hare, I arrived at my brother Rick’s house where I plotted the big event for the following morning. I would be placed inside a large cardboard box sent from the North Pole on my parents’ upstairs apartment doorstep. Rick would ring the doorbell and “ditch” out of sight. And, at the appropriate time, I would jump out of the box and shout, “Merry Christmas!!!”

Now, I’d like you to imagine this for a moment. You are inside a box about to startle the living daylights out of your parents who are clueless to what they’re about to experience. Try to imagine.

My heart was pounding like never before as I sat inside the box. Eventually, my mom answered the door and immediately called out to her (visiting) friend to see what was on the doorstep. For reasons of space, I can’t replay the entire event, but imagine two ladies in their sixties trying to lift this mysterious carton into the apartment, utterly clueless as to what was inside. After they put in some effort, I knew it was time. I counted to three, and jumped out, providing the most delightful shock of our lives. Within five minutes, the story spread like wildfire throughout the apartment complex. A surprise for the ages.

My first Christmas away would have to wait for another year. Simply unforgettable.

As I reflect on that moment, I am reminded of what made it so special:

  1. It was a complete surprise—certainly not on their list!
  2. It was a gift from the heart—it spoke volumes about their importance to me
  3. It was creative—you might say, “Out of the box!”
  4. It made a lasting memory

And, wouldn’t you know it, but years later, I would receive my all-time favorite gift—one that possessed these same qualities.  It was an engraved license plate frame from my kids on Father’s Day that says, “Dad’s are Cool!” Now, that’s a keeper!

So, to you adults: who might benefit from an out-of-the-box type of gift that reveals how much you care? And, to you teens: what might you share with your parents, teachers, mentors, etc., that honors them for their investment in you?

It needn’t be any more elaborate than a handwritten note, straight from the heart.

Merry Christmas everybody!

 

 

Win Some, Lose Some

Coke or Pepsi

Miracle Whip or Mayonnaise

Big Mac or Whopper

iPhone or Galaxy

Rap or Country

Republican or Democrat or ______

We all have our tastes and preferences, and we make our choices accordingly. Sometimes we like our options. Other times, we choose what we dislike least.

And so it goes with our elections—especially last week’s. Like you, I “won” some and “lost” some. (Thankfully, my life goes on because I don’t define my hopes and dreams or faith in America by which person or party is in office. That would be giving them way too much credit.)

But, after observing the aftermath of this election, I’d like to share a couple of thoughts to help us keep things in perspective:

  1. Our nation is clearly divided, but this shouldn’t be news to anyone. In most of my voting years, the Presidential election is always pretty close. Usually, only a few percentage points separate the winner from the loser. So, you should expect half the people will disagree with you! And, yes, they did their homework, too.
  2. Knowing this, the question is how we deal with our victories and losses. Are we constructive or destructive in the aftermath? Do the winners rub it in? Or, do they respond with humility and kindness, knowing that the losers may be struggling with fear, anger, or disappointment? Do the losers resort to whining, blaming, name calling, protesting, and shaming to make the winners feel guilty or stupid? Do they really believe these misguided efforts to “enlighten” will change minds? No, they reinforce!
  3. Let’s remember that citizens consider many different factors when casting votes. What tips the scales one way or the other may be the candidate’s person, specific policies (of which there are many), party loyalty, or other factors. Our decisions are not only influenced by the candidates’ philosophies and positions, but also in how we uniquely weigh their importance. I might emphasize economic policy and someone else foreign policy or social issues, and that’s okay. For these reasons, it is highly presumptuous (not to mention silly, useless, arrogant, and obnoxious) to judge another’s votes. Please, let’s stop this.
  4. There is a tremendous disconnect between the worldview composition of the “mainstream” media and college complexes with the people of the United States. In other words, our population is much more philosophically and politically diverse than are our primary news sources and the educators teaching our young adults. This imbalance is a concern. Judging by our governorships, congressional memberships, and the White House, our nation’s political offices (and our general elections) are quite balanced between Republicans and Democrats. Therefore, so long as our primary media outlets and college educators’ worldviews are skewed (presently Leftward) rather than balanced, there are significant implications:
    1. We are more subject to bias and alarm (intended or otherwise) and less likely to understand different points of view and election outcomes we may not like. If our news and opinion sources are primarily Left-or Right-leaning, we are more apt to consider their information as unbiased truth, when it’s often opinion. In contrast, when we pursue a variety of information sources with differing worldviews, we develop more complete, objective, and informed arguments.
    2. We become more polarized and intolerant of differing views, considering people who disagree with us as uninformed, misguided, or worse. We argue rather than respectfully seek mutual understanding and new perspectives. Or, sadly, as is becoming more prevalent on college campuses, we simply shut others down. Ironically, we often agree on the ends, but simply differ about the means to achieve them! A good example of this is the use of tax cuts or government spending to stimulate the economy. Reasonable and really smart people disagree!
    3. We lose friendships. Now, this is just dumb.

The bottom line is that, politically, we are pretty much a 50/50 nation because of legitimate differences of opinion. So, let’s be respectful and resilient. When elections don’t go our way, let’s spend a little more time respecting the judgments of others, accepting that we don’t hold a monopoly on truth, learning more about opposing views, diversifying our friendship circles and information sources, and finding constructive ways to advocate for our positions the next time around.

And, yes, there will be a next time. After all, we Americans are a fickle bunch.

Making the Best Decision in the Heat of the Moment

Can you remember a time that you were scared, sad, angry, or hurt and made a rash decision based on emotion or said something you later regretted? We’ve all done it. And most likely, these situations never worked out very well.

As we grow older and wiser, we eventually learn that it’s never smart to make important decisions abruptly or in a highly emotional state. Simply put, there’s too much distraction and it’s nearly impossible to think objectively or clearly. Today, if I’m upset and need to make a decision, I make a tentative one, but wait until the following morning to confirm it. Generally, it proves to be a better decision because I’ve had more to consider the pros and cons and potential consequences by then. It’s amazing how often I change my mind!

Why do we tend to make poor choices when we’re under stress or filled with emotion? It’s because of our physiology—that’s right, it’s how we’re wired. But we can learn to compensate.

Stress messes with your brain—and can impair our decision-making capabilities. A new study shows that in a crisis (or even what feels like a crisis), the brain tends to focus on reward, and ignore the possible negative consequences of a decision. That’s why “feel good” decisions like eating what we shouldn’t, blowing off steam by losing our temper, giving in to peer pressure, or making a rash purchase we can’t afford are more likely to happen when we are stressed out.

Even worse, not only does stress make us focus on the ‘feel good” aspect of a risky decision or behavior, it impairs our ability to think about the negative consequences. (Frankly, I’d say that’s a pretty good recipe for potential stupidity and regret, don’t you?) As I consider my own decisions (and those of our elected officials!), I would argue that failure to consider adverse, unintended consequences, is one of our biggest mistakes. It’s all too common, especially with relationships.

When you’re in this situation, hold off until the following morning if you can. Think about the things that make for good decisions and force yourself to follow them. If you don’t have the time to physically go to sleep and make your decision the next day, here are some tips to help you clear your mind and avoid making a rash decision based on emotion:

  • Learn to recognize and release your stress
  • Consult with a trusted friend and ask for honest advice
  • Science proves that exercise actually can calm our nerves.
  • If you are religious, seek spiritual counsel
  • Go to a place you consider beautiful (a park, a beach, a walking trail) and spend some enjoying nature and breathing in the fresh air. It will be good for your body and soul, and will most likely calm you down.
  • Develop a pro/con list to ensure you’re looking at all sides of a decision
  • Be sure to consider your conscience and intuition. I’ve learned to never disregard my gut feeling about something. Pay attention to yours, too.

As we enter our teen and young adult years, our decisions often have life-altering consequences. So, it pays to evaluate each one as comprehensively and objectively as possible while we’re calm and our thinking is clear. Not only will these tips help you make better ones (especially under stress), but they’ll also help limit your life regrets. That’s huge.

Have you noticed that your decision-making improves when you’re not in an emotional state? How can this lesson be good for young people who may find themselves in stressful situations—do you see how they can be influenced to make potentially life-altering decisions when they’re in the wrong frame of mind? Share your thoughts by commenting below; we’d love to hear your perspective and experiences.

The Value of Values: Part 2

What qualities do you admire most in others? What qualities do you strive to model yourself? Did you know your qualities (in other words, the things about your character that stand out most to others) all come from your values? Values are the sentiments we hold close to our hearts, and usually, they are what cause us to be good, virtuous people.

These fundamental values make up the foundation of our society and allow us to function in harmony and solidarity, despite our differences. These are the values that you’re thankful for when you get a phone call that your lost wallet has been found (with all the cash still inside), or when a stranger helps you change your flat tire on the side of the road.

With moral relativism becoming more prevalent (sadly, even encouraged!), many people (the young especially) are missing out on the development of some crucial values. In our increasingly PC society, many are succumbing to a misplaced view that there are no moral absolutes. (With a deemphasis on character-based education, it’s not surprising.) Because of this, these students aren’t operating with qualities that will allow them to be as successful in life. How, you may ask? When the value of honesty isn’t instilled from a young age, relationships, job performance, and even academic life will suffer later on. When people don’t value respect for others, they will lose control, lash out, and potentially ruin their own reputation. See what I mean?

In this second part of our series on values, I’d like to discuss three more that are crucial to model and develop in our young people.

  1. Empathy. When you empathize with people, you enter into their world and their feelings to provide support and encouragement. Along with compassion, it is one of the most powerful human qualities of generosity. Empathy is an incredibly important value, as it makes us nurturing parents, loving spouses, supportive friends, and service-minded community members. Empathy allows you to help the people around you feel loved, supported, and understood.
  2. Responsibility. I like to think of responsibility as taking ownership of our attitudes, actions, and performance. It’s really an amalgam of accountability, trustworthiness, reliability, capability, and high personal standards. It’s being someone others can count on, no matter what. Responsible adults admit when they’ve made a mistake, prioritize their time wisely, tell the truth, show up on time, and have the courage to say no to risky situations. And, they don’t blame others or make excuses for their shortfalls. We could use more of this, don’t you think?
  3. Resilience. How many of us have been knocked down in life, only to lose all hope and wonder if the situation could get any worse? That, my friends, is the opposite of resilience. Resilient people handle adversity with grace and confidence. Did you notice how this admirable quality was on full display at the Olympics? They get back up, try again, and understand that oftentimes, adversity can create room for further personal growth. You know the old saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” It’s true!

No matter where you lie when it comes to your religious and political leanings, I think we can all agree that the above values are, well, valuable! They have the power to create stronger families, safer communities, and happier neighborhoods! Oh, and a happier you!

What values would you add to this list? Can you think of a situation in which you’ve benefitted from someone else’s strong values? How is your school incorporating values training in the classroom?

Avoid College De-Railers for Optimum Success

The United States has a respectable college enrollment rate—in fact, it’s whopping 70 percent. We can be proud of that. But here’s a startling fact: more than 30 percent of those students will drop out after their first year. That means one third of the people who start on their post-secondary education don’t make it to their sophomore year. We should be concerned about that.

What do these statistics tell us? I interpret it this way: Our society does a great job of encouraging young people to enroll in college or university after high school. It’s of high importance, or else so many people wouldn’t choose this path. However, somewhere, somehow, something is going awry. Are students not receiving the preparation they need to succeed at independent living? Is the “college or bust” message dissuading students from better fitting alternatives? Is school too expensive? Do students feel unimportant and unvalued in their larger classes (small fish in a big pond effect)? Are students making choices that derail their educational career?

It’s likely a combination of all of the above, but today I want to talk about choices—specifically, those that prematurely end college careers. Derailers come in many forms, so we encourage you to discuss these with your student(s) before they land on campus:

  1. So much freedom, so soon! Although academics and a future career are the core reasons for attending college, other (more) appealing activities abound! Use your newfound freedom to become a wise manager of your time and priorities. Sure, it’s great to stay up as late as you want,, but remember the choices you make with your recent autonomy will affect your class attendance, your overall academic experience, and even your financial aid package. Put simply: Don’t skip class! Similarly, be wise when making your social, recreational, and activity choices. The party scene and all it’s trappings can easily be the beginning of a very slippery slope. Remember, studies are the top priority—your “job” so to speak. The rest is frosting on the cake.

 

  1. Financial irresponsibility. I’ll never forget what it felt like to check my bank account when I was in college. It wasn’t unheard of to only have 50, 25, or even 10 dollars in there. Frivolous spending on unnecessary eating-out, coffee, clothes, or entertainment could have seriously de-railed my entire college education. If you’re in a similar boat, keep your end goal in mind to help you curb the temptation to spend. Remember, if you save now and focus on school, you’ll reap the benefits later. Budgeting and self discipline make all the difference.

 

  1. Poor study habits. College is harder and more competitive than high school. There are longer papers, more intense exams, and higher expectations. Discipline and focus are key if you want to succeed (and make it to graduation!). Manage your time wisely, create a study planner, and don’t participate in “extra” activities until all of your homework and studying are complete. (If you’re looking for more advice on creating good study disciplines, we devote an entire chapter to it in What I Wish I Knew at 18. You can buy the book here.)

 

  1. Surrounding yourself with the wrong people. It’s crucial that you surround yourself with positive influences during this time in your life. Hanging out with the wrong crowd can hinder your success in a variety of ways (and just because you’re not in high school anymore doesn’t mean you’re immune to peer-pressure!). Creating lasting friendships with like-minded people can take time and effort, so be patient and know you may need to put yourself in new environments in order to make new friends. Think “positivity” in everything you do and everyone you are with!

I hope this advice—coming from someone not too far removed from the college experience—can help you prepare your student for what’s ahead. And, if you need one more statistic to show what’s at stake, I’ll leave you with this: college dropouts make one million dollars less over the span of their careers than individuals with degrees!*

Success in college comes from knowing what to do and what de-railers to avoid. By discussing these before the fact, we can improve our graduation rates and the futures of our next generation.

*Source: “The Economic Value of College Majors,” by Georgetown University Center on Education and The Workforce. https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/Exec-Summary-web-B.pdf

Facing Adversity? Reach Out to Others.

Sometimes life just isn’t easy. Of course we wish it was, but bumps in the road, let-downs, and even heartbreak are inevitable. I bet you can think of more than a dozen situations when life just hasn’t gone your way. When we go through adversity, it’s easy to lose perspective and become consumed by our own situation. Sometimes, the hardships are significant and unquestionable. Other times, we might be making more out of our plight than it deserves, or as my mom used to say, we make mountains out of molehills.

Whether or not that is the case, there is a proven and effective solution for working through loss, obstacles, and adversity that may surprise you (and may even seem hard to do). It comes not by increasing our attention to our situation, but by focusing on others. You may not realize it, but it’s a total “win-win” situation. Let me explain…

 “A few years ago in a small, rural town in Oregon, a teenage boy died in a drowning accident. In all likelihood his death could have been prevented if an ambulance and trained medical personnel had been available. However, this small town was too poor to afford these services.

The boy’s mother grieved for the loss of her son, but she also transformed her grief into a service to her community. While she could not regain her son, she worked to prevent a similar tragedy. This resilient and determined woman became trained as an Emergency Medical Technician. After completing her training she raised money to purchase an ambulance and trained volunteers to help her. It is estimated that this volunteer ambulance service has saved the lives of over 100 people who might have died, like her son, due to a lack of emergency care. When interviewed, this woman said, ‘It’s easier to forget your own loss when you are busy helping others.’”*

If you’re currently in the valley and navigating a trial, find a way to help others even less fortunate than you. This could be a community service opportunity, a mission trip, or a visit to a soup kitchen, hospital, or just taking someone a meal. Or, reach out to a friend who you know is also going through a hard time. Offer to take them out to coffee and give them your undivided attention. Your compassion, encouragement, and maybe even your suggestions might make the world of difference.

When you look outside yourself and focus on others, truly remarkable things can happen. For one, you may find your situation isn’t as troubling or bleak as you thought. Learning of others’ struggles may make you feel more grateful for what you have. Secondly, you’ll experience joy and satisfaction from helping others. You’ll begin to count your blessings, which are easy to forget when facing tough challenges. It also helps you forget your own problems for a while and gives you a completely new perspective (which, many times, is exactly what you need!). Thirdly, just knowing you’ve helped someone out and lifted their spirits is enough to raise your own!

Have you ever reached out to other people in the midst of adversity? What effect did it have on your outlook? What became of your situation? As always, we’d love to hear from you!

*Story excerpted from The Healing Power of Service, by Edward V. Brown, as shared on www.energizeinc.com.

6 Easy Ways to Show You Care

I hope this post finds you refreshed and uplifted after a Father’s Day well-spent with your family. Father’s day is such a special time to focus on the dads in our lives and show them our appreciation and love. This day always reminds me of the value of relationships—of mine with my parents and with my kids. I’m reminded of the strategic impact that fathers have in the roles of their children, even years after they’ve left the house!

As I reflect on the value of the relationships in my life, I’m reminded of our culture’s vulnerability to two conflicting priorities: relationships and things. While our society has progressed in many respects over the past 50 years, it’s clear that we’ve regressed in terms of relational health and depth. Sadly, with the distractions of technology and busyness, it seems to be getting worse.

Have you taken the time to think about what you really value in life lately? What are you communicating about your priorities to the ones you love—whether intentionally or unintentionally? You can use the following list as either a self-check or a to-do list. Either way, we hope it gives you some inspiration and ideas for communicating your love to others (dads, friends, children, and beyond):

  1. Be fully in the moment. When you’re with someone, be completely engaged (not on your phone, scrolling through Instagram, playing Candy Crush, Snapchatting, etc.).
  2. In a tug of war between relationships and tasks, give the edge to relationships. Our tasks may seem urgent, but relationships should take priority. This is especially true when our children need our attention. Compromise your inconvenience for the times they need your counsel.
  3. Keep family and close friends at the top of your priority list in terms of time and energy. Don’t just give them the leftovers! They deserve your best self.
  4. Express appreciation regularly. Be grateful for the people in your life and share your feelings with them. (I doubt that my kids could have known that my all-time favorite Father’s Day gift from them would be a license plate frame with the engraved words, “Dad’s are cool!”)
  5. Praise them in front of other people. Say something nice about then when they are in earshot. You will help build their self-worth and indirectly communicate how much you value them (parents, this is a great pointer for you!).
  6. Forgive offenses quickly and (really) let them go. After all, you’d want your loved ones to do the same for you, right? On a related note, pick your battles carefully and when arguments do arise, keep your cool and be an agreeable disagreer.

 

Do the people you love know how much you care about them? What creative ideas, license plate frames or otherwise, would you be willing to share?