Disconnect of listeners. Confusion

Avoid these Pitfalls that Create Disconnect with Listeners

This week I heard Muriel Penicaud, the French Minister of Labour, speak on gender equality.  The man who introduced her commented that “gender equality is a topic close to her heart.”

Penicaud went on to expose the business case for this issue of global concern.  She cited French government initiatives to encourage women in leadership positions and to reduce the pay gap between men and women.  She shared examples of corporations that had implemented pay equality and the resulting vitality and engagement on the part of all employees.

So why did my hand shoot up during the Q & A ?!

Here was my question:

“In the introduction, gender equality was presented as a subject close to Ms. Penicaud’s heart.  For such a global issue with a strong economic case, shouldn’t it be a subject close to men’s hearts too?”

“Point well taken,” responded the male MC, and the discussion moved on.

You, me, and anyone can demean our arguments and distance listeners with well-intentioned, yet un-considered words.

We’ll look at three verbal faux-pas and how a slight reframing transforms these degrading snippets into opportunities to collaborate and reinforce.

Disconnect Trap – Labels

Do NOT:  Talk about other’s opinions

“Samira, who is particularly concerned about religious discrimination….”

“Meet Jeanne, our advocate for non-violent communication….”

These comments undermine the person taking a stand AND they don’t make the one saying it look good either.  They create disconnect.

The speaker positions him or herself as someone who is not concerned about issues like gender equality, liberty in beliefs, or constructive communication.  It invites the question:  are they more concerned about themselves than about others?

The person of whom it is spoken is put in a box.  Samira and Jeanne may be the savviest financial analysts or most astute marketers in the office, yet the above statements have stripped them of professional qualities and labelled them as “activists.”

DO:  Own your opinion

For the talk with the Labour Minister, I would have liked to hear: “Our fourth topic is gender equality, a topic close to Mme Penicaud and to my heart.”

Take a personal stand. 

“I respect Samira for her outspokenness regarding religious discrimination.”

“We should all be aware of our unconscious biases, and I have learned much from Jeanne when she calls me to account.”

Owning your opinion keeps gossip down.  Instead of talking just about Samira and Jeanne behind their back, now you have a stake in the discussion.

It trains you in leadership.  Great managers have their team members’ back.  A culture of trust is built as much in the daily interactions as it is in the strategic decisions.

Disconnect Trap – Discrediting Yourself

DO NOT:  Introduce your ideas with “I believe”

“I believe we should…“

“In my opinion,…”

If you are saying it, you should believe it.

The personalization of your opinion invites others to transform the topic at hand into an issue with YOU. That’s a disconnection with the business at hand.  Stick to the topic.

DO: Speak what you know

If you have facts and observations which lead to a conclusion, you are bringing value to a discussion.  Share it.

If you have a creative and helpful idea, share it.  Share it with confidence that you are a contributing member of a team. It’s what they hired you to do.

Here are ways to create connection in a group discussion

  • State the facts
    “Joe said __________.  Jane said __________.  A common point is _______.”
  • Clarify the perspective
    “We have not yet looked at the situation from the customer service angle…”
  • Test your ideas in a smaller group or an informal setting first. Ideas build on each other.  The more they are shared, the fuller they become.
    Over lunch:  “What do you think about (your idea)?”
  • Muster courage and state your belief or opinion without an introduction
    “Here is an opportunity: _________”

Alternatively, stay quiet and listen.  Really listen.  That brings value.

Disconnect Trap – Shirking Responsibility

Do NOT: Transform responsibilities into favors

“I’ll do it for you when I finish what I’m doing.”

Is this person doing a favor for his boss or colleague?!

I experienced this situation in personal life this week.  Full grocery bags sat on the counter and I asked for help to put the food away.

“Let me finish this and I’ll help with your bags after.”  Who’s bags?  We have five men in our household.  Who will be eating most of this food?

Whether your team is at work or in family, everyone benefits.  Everyone GETS to (vs. has to) participate in the work.  We contribute together for each other.

DO: Own your part of the responsibility

Stick to the task.

“I’ll do it when I finish.”

Play your part willingly.

“What can I do to help?  What do you need from me?”

Put it into practice

In my trainings, participants experience “Aha moments” when they discover how their communication creates disconnect.  We build these opportunities for self-discovery through interactive activities such as this listening exercise:

Two people face each other standing three meters (yards) apart.  Person A reads off statements and Person B responds solely by moving forward (he is motivated to cooperate with Person A) or by stepping back (he disengages).

Some of the statements generate disconnection and Person B steps away from Person A.  Others bring them closer together. The entire group pictures how some responses push people away while others build connection.

Want more cooperation in your communication?  Drop me a note and we’ll get the conversation flowing.

Newborn baby in hospital

Intergenerational Communication That Works – Insights from Dem Dx

Among my Generation X colleagues, discussions abound regarding the challenges in working with the younger generation.  But what makes intergenerational collaboration works well?

Lorin Gresser CEO Dem DxThat’s where I turned to Lorin Gresser, Gen X CEO of Dem Dx, and Andy Davis, the Gen Y , UX and Marketing Director to learn about their company culture and practices.  Dem Dx is a medical diagnosis app used by medical students and doctors in more than 150 countries.  Through Dem Dx medical students and other healthcare professionals, including nurses, tap into the medical expertise from seasoned experts to improve disease diagnostics.

“We (Dem Dx) can potentially help save lives.”

Intergenerational Communication
Key Success Factors

1. To recognize our co-dependence
to reach a common goal

Lorin Gresser (LG): “Our app takes medical expertise from seasoned experts and makes it available to the younger generation.  Both generations need to understand and believe in our mission.

It is essential that our team understand the mindset of the younger generation since it is being used by them.  It is incessantly challenging for me…my 13-year-old is more in tune with some of the way the team thinks than I am!  Our work resides in their world more than in mine.

“The skillset they have is not the skillset we have. We need each other.”

The skillset they have is not the skillset we have.  To do our business we have to do it their way; there is no way we (Gen X) could have done it on our own.  To access the medical expertise, they (Gen Y & Z) could not have done it on their own.  We need each other.

Gain strength from vulnerability

Practically speaking, this means acknowledging the limits of my own knowledge.  There is no room for pretense.  I ask, “You are going to have to go slower. Show me.”  It must be super frustrating for them to explain things – and it definitely It requires mutual respect.

Laugh and Learn together

And good sense of humor helps us connect. We have a very flat organization structure and decision-making is collaborative.  This decision-making process reflects the interdependicies and mix of skillsets.”

Use Power to Connect

“The CEO has the power to deflect power struggles.”

Andy Davis (AD): “The CEO has power…the power to fire, for sure, but more importantly the ability to deflect power struggles.  We have conversations.  We are all human beings with opinions.  We seek them out and find out together the best way to move ahead.

“When an individual is not happy, the team is not happy.”

We listen to each other; when an individual is not happy, the team is not happy.  This is particularly true in the tight culture of a start up.

Converge over Big Ideas

I believe in big ideas.  Dem Dx can potentially help save lives.  In recruiting we seek people who care about the problem we are solving and who care about solving problems.  We are enablers for people inside and outside the company to perform at their best.”

“I believe in big ideas.

We seek people who care about the problem we are solving and who care about solving problems.”

2. To intentionally channel communication

Both Gresser and Davis agree that intergenerational communication can be tough and requires intentional cultural translation.  Fully cooperating with another person is 100/100…not 50/50!

Funnel communications through Generation Interpreters

LG: “I am an in-between person for these generations.  I am in contact with the medical experts.  My team is made up of young generation experts – both in terms of technology of today and the way knowledge and information are consumed.  The app is designed by young generations for people of their generation.

I think having a go between across the user and clinical expertise is important. Having a medical background is key but also having some members with a few more years under their belt does help.”

Build relationship bridges

AD: “Communication can be so easily misunderstood.  I recommend you find the bridge between generations. A bridge can be a person, someone who recognizes there is a knowledge gap.

Team members come to me with questions about what someone else said.  I advise them to speak up and tell the person when they don’t understand.

Secure Buy-in on the Principles

We cannot assume that everyone understands.  Our generation works so much with intuition.  We need to explain the “why” and the thought process supporting our intuitions.”

LG: “For the day-to-day decisions, I can understand the concept.  The rest I leave up to them.  Once I have signed off on the principle, I leave the logistics and how to make it happen up to them.”

AD: “We have to explain our intuitions.  Among our younger generation there is a lack of understanding of human psychology, how people think.

I encourage the team to share the principles, the thinking behind their behavior.  Since we have a lack of experience, we must be willing to adjust, to be ready to change.

We don’t look for blame.  We search for what could and should be done.  If we qualify what we should be doing, then we can find out how to get it done.”

“To build communication bridges, we need to explain the “why” and the thought process supporting our intuitions.”

Recognize Entrepreneurship as a bridge

LG: “We only have start-up entrepreneurs on the team.  That’s also why it’s a team that works.  They are amazing.  Hungry.  Curious.  Driven by solutions and achieving things.  Driven by a belief.  They’re not scared by hard work.  They make things happen.”

3. To build trust by focusing on results

Test Assumptions with A/B Testing

AD: “Younger generations base so much decision-making on intuition.  We have assumptions and respond to our feelings; we’re the mobile generation.  To check that we are getting it right, we measure.

We A/B test everything and often.

Of course, we do our research too and justify our decisions.  We research best practices and our customers.  We include our customers in the design of the product, even in big decisions like capital allocation.

We sent two people to a conference.  We calculate the return on this investment by measuring the results of every step from number of leads generated to first contact and to closing the deal.  We also track the time consumed; it’s part of our customer acquisition cost.”

Define together; implement independently

LG: “Delegation on a number of aspects is key when your team have a deeper specialist knowledge than you – letting them take ownership

We define expected results together and have formal meetings every ten days with actionable steps.  It’s collaborative and we have accountability.

The team ran the recruitment process for our latest hire.  I have no way of judging what a good developer is. They kept me updated on the status.  My part was to find out if the candidate was a good fit.”

4. To focus on solutions, not on blame

Listen…and Listen More

LG: “Everyone needs to be a good listener.  The team is amazing; there is no problem.  We never have, “Oh, that failed!”  Instead it’s a focus on solutions.  How are we going to solve this?

We avoid bureaucracy and politics.”

Hire Contributors

“My aim is to empower people, like colleagues, to empower other people, like customers.”

AD: “When interviewing someone I first ask to understand them as a person.  We want to work with a good human being, someone who cares about himself and about other people.

Then I explore his work ethic by asking what they want from work and life.  We are hiring for the long term, not just two years.  So, I explore how they define their next level and how they hope to get there.

My aim is to empower people, like colleagues, to empower other people, like customers.  We care about solving problems and we care about the problem we are solving for our users.”

Thank You

Thank you Lorin Gresser and Andy Davis for sharing your passion and insights.  You encourage us to develop cooperation between generations through

  • Humility to admit others might be right
  • Hunger to learn
  • Hope for better solutions together

May you and Dem Dx thrive as you bring expertise of the experienced to the young doctors throughout the globe.

To our readers, what are some of the big ideas in which your believe?  What intergenerational communication challenges do you experience?  Let us know in the comments.

Cover photo by Carlo Navarro on Unsplash

Love Languages at Work

Have you ever tried to make someone feel appreciated at work and it backfired? You offered chocolates (because you like to receive gifts) and the recipient gave you a wierd look. You publicly complimented a colleague who then informed you they don’t need your help defending them.

Ouch.

This is a common misunderstanding asserts Gary Chapman, author the the 5 Love Languages series. Each person is internally wired to receive love in a preferred way AND expects the rest of the world to receive and express appreciation in the same way. Chapman applies these Love Languages to personal relationships and uses the term “love.”

Aren’t we also people at work?

Engaged Employees are People who Care and Feel Appreciated

According to a Deloitte study, employee engagement banks on trust in leadership, a humanistic entourage, an inclusive environment, and high learning (a.k.a. the opportunity to make mistakes and still be appreciated).

Factors of employee engagement

With a slight paradigm tweak, Love Language insights apply to any trusting relationship seeking open communication and mutual appreciation.

The MULTIPLE Love Languages

According to Chapman (who sold 11 million copies of his books translated in to 50 languages), love and appreciation are communicated in multiple and distinct ways. Everyone has a preferred Love Language.  Appreciation expressed in this favored language encourages connectivity and cooperation. Conversely, disproval communicated in this preferred language further distances the parties; greater effort is required to “retrieve” the one who received critique to regain their attention and to motivate them.

People often assume that every other person shares his same method of expressing appreciation. That mistaken belief creates a source of frustration. An Anglophone may not understand a colleague who converses in French, and the same disconnect can occur among people “speaking” different Love Languages.

According to Chapman, there are five ways communicate that they care

  • Words of affirmation
  • Acts of service
  • Receiving gifts
  • Quality time
  • Physical touch

Implications of Love Languages at Work

How could these varying modes of connection impact your and my life at work?

1. Awareness and understanding

As an Anglophone living in Paris, I come across very young French children who hear me speak English.  They turn to their parents and ask, “Why does she speak so funny? Is something wrong with her?”

That’s when these tykes discover the notion of foreign languages.

Before we gain the ability to decipher these Love Languages, it helps to know that they exist.

2. Self-awareness and expressing preferences

Maybe you feel unappreciated at work. As you discover the various Love Languages, you also uncover your preferences. Your newfound awareness allows you to encourage team members to recognize your contributions in a way that is most meaningful to you.

When come in with a smile and a box of chocolates, I feel that you recognize my contribution to our team. It means a lot to me.” (Love Language = Receiving Gifts. Read below for more details)

3. Creativity in communication styles

In an ideal world we might identify the Love Language of our team members (and family members) and communicate accordingly.

We live in a real world…and a global one at that.

To ensure comprehension among internationals, it is helpful to communicate the same thought in multiple ways. “What’s your goal?” followed by “Describe your ideal solution.”  Who knows, they might not understand your accent!

In the same way, expand your Love Language vocabulary; try using Words of Affirmation AND Acts of Service with the same person.  It won’t hurt them AND you will grow.

4. Personalized engagement

One employee (or boss) particularly challenges you? Spend some time observing them to discover their Love Language.  In the process, you will grow in empathy and understanding AND communicate more effectively.

Impact of Love Languages at Work

Let’s take a peak at each of these communication styles and identify how to apply them appropriately in the workplace. Some ideas you will find familiar; you’re doing them already.  Do you do so with every colleague or selectively?

What new approach would you like to adapt today?

Words of Affirmation

Everyone makes mistakes AND everyone does at least one thing right.  This language focuses on identifying and naming those strengths.

With a spouse it can sound like, “Honey, great job organizing this family outing. It’s so much fun.”

With a child, one could say, “You are reliable with your schoolwork. I really appreciate not having to check up on your homework all the time. You should be proud of yourself.”

And at work:

“Thanks to your timeliness in preparing the presentation we practiced well. It helped us speak fluidly in front of the customer and present our ASK with confidence.”

“You bring good humor to our meetings which stimulates creativity for everyone. You’re an asset to the team.”

Affirmation helps identify the conditions which favor success…which we can then replicate for continued growth.

Affirmation can also reduce the risk of a new challenge by helping the individual recognize a transferable skill.

“You are rigorous in ____ (type of work), I’m confident you can apply that rigor to move us forward in this new domain.”

Affirmation is more than non-committal phrases like “Good job.” “Great team.”  These provide candy to the ego yet lack the consistency to generate a vibrant sense of belonging and feeling of contribution.

Acts of Service

These big and small gestures demonstrate an intentional kindness for the benefit of another person.

At home it might mean taking on an extra chore when your partner comes home exhausted.

How about these for the office:

To help someone with a software or a technology issue

To connect people and smooth the way with an introductory email

To help to set up the conference room

To bring the morning coffee just the way you like it (with the two dashes of cinnamon and the squirt of honey)

To ask, “How can I help?”

Receiving Gifts

It’s the thought that counts, like showing that you thought of them when they were out of sight. The size of the gift matters less than the having a present to offer.

It could be a photo of the professional event you worked so hard to organize together. A print of the two of you together or an image sent specifically to them, especially if they cannot be there with you.

Does the person enjoy a delicacy with her/his coffee?

Stick a post-it message of encouragement on their screen as you pass by.

Quality Time

The key concept is TOGETHER.

Going for a coffee break together. Inviting a colleague to grab lunch just the two of you. Playing of the company soccer team.

What about an after-work outing? Be considerate. If your colleague has a family or other personal commitment, your offer may be taking quality time away from his loved ones!

Physical Touch

According to Chapman, most men express and receiving caring (and rejection) through physical touch.

Think of the hearty handshake, even a double-handed one.  Notice those paternalistic pats on the shoulder.

In a workplace, one can create a sense of physical connection without touching.

Sit on the same side of the desk

Secure eye contact

 

So….what’s YOUR Love Language? 

P.S. And when you get home, remember those Love Languages too!

 

Child convincing argument

Why We Need to Teach our Children to Disagree Well

A recent Harvard Business Review article entitled “Why We Should Be Disagreeing More at Work” by Amy Gallo received 3500 + likes on LinkedIn and generated 1400 comments.  The focus of the article and the remarks center around the value of diverse opinions to stimulate learning and innovation. 

Wouldn’t you like your child to become a professional who contributes to progress and creativity in his or her workplace?!

Reality Check – Disagreement in “Real Life”

Here is what happens in many homes when kids disagree.  (And even at work too.  Replace the word “parent” with “boss”)

Many parents fear chaos.  Mutiny.  To be avoided at all cost.

And many parents respond with control.

Control anger and emotions.  Control kids’ behaviors.  Control oneself.

Yet underneath we feel out of control…and under increased pressure, we lose our temper.  We lose control.

Benefits of Disagreement

Gallo acknowledges similar tendencies in many workplaces and challenges managers to allow open communication, even disagreements, as they benefit the workplace through

  • Better solutions
  • Improved relationships
  • More sense of belonging
  • Greater happiness

Parents, wouldn’t YOU like a home with smarter solutions, stronger relationships, sense of belonging, and happiness? Of course!

An Every Day Example

Instead of a morning rush out the door with stress for everyone, your family morning routine became smooth and joyful THANKS to the challenges your child had in getting ready.

Before parent and child disagreed over the morning routine.  Mom wanted to get out fast.  Child dragged his feet.  The previous “solution” had been a nagging parent…which is no fun for anyone.

To open up communication regarding this disagreement, the family brainstormed ways to organize mornings more effectively.  The children came up with a wacky solution that they love and you, the parent, would not have imagined: “We want a fun wake-up song.  Can you sing “Happy Day” to the tune of “Happy Birthday” to us every morning?!”

And it works! Now, it’s a delight to leave home for school on time AND with a smile.  

The children feel so proud to have devised this new plan; they know their ideas are heard and valued. Home is a happier place…thanks to disagreement!

How to Make Disagreement Positive?

1. Start with…YOU

What is YOUR attitude?

Many parents consider disagreement to be a failure.

Let’s re-examine that.

Do you REALLY want your children to think exactly like you?  How will they be able to grow into positive contributors to society in an ever-changing environment?

Reframe

Try re-framing. CONGRATULATIONS!  Respectful disagreement means you have taught your child to think for himself!

Avoid Taking Disagreement Personally

Children are growing their roots and pushing boundaries.  It’s an essential part of their growing job.

Besides, there is something to learn from the children’s perspective.  Physically and literally they view the world from another angle.

What does your kitchen look like to a three-year-old who cannot reach the top of the counter?  She sees the loooong stretch of countertop and a glimpse of the sky when looking out the window.  You see the garden.

Looking out of window from below

Garden scene through window.

In the same way, you and your child will have differing views on sharing of toys, cleanliness of room, sex drugs and rock ‘n roll….

It is normal that different folk have a different perspective.  In the working world, this is the concept of collaboration with diversity.

YOU have been uniquely selected to teach your child how to thrive with diversity! 

Good news & bad news.  It’s a tremendous privilege AND you get to be the guinee pig as your children learn from their mistakes.

2. Connect (or re-connect) with THE OTHER

Seek the Beliefs behind the Disagreement

According to Psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Adler, every person has beliefs about himself, other people, and the world. Some of these beliefs may be beneficial while others may be harmful and/or erroneous.

Beliefs about Oneself

“I matter, no matter what.” ‘(Beneficial belief)

“I am only valuable when I do not make mistakes.  When I fail, I am worthless.”  (Belief of conditional value)

Beliefs about People

“________ (name any religion or political party) are fanatics.” (Belief of superiority)

“Parents want to control me.” (Non-collaborative belief)

“Mom/Dad says ‘No’ but does not mean it.” (Manipulative belief)

Beliefs about the World

“The world is a safe place.”

“There is no such thing as win-win. The strongest gets his way.”

 

A child who believes his parents want to control him will act differently from one who believes that home is a safe place.

For many of us, adults and children, these beliefs rest in our subconscious.  So how to identify them?

Want help identifying your child’s beliefs?  Give a quick coaching call.

Our emotions reveal our beliefs.  Our beliefs determine our actions.

One Family’s Story

“We had just given our son his first portable phone and had clearly reviewed the rules with him, the first of which was ‘When parents call, you answer.’

On several occasions our son would not return home directly after school and nor answer his phone.

On one evening I welcomed him back and asked to speak one-on-one.

Parent: “Hi sweetheart.  Did you know that your behavior talks?”

Child: “NO.  I speak with my words.  Deuh…” Instead of getting distracted by his disrespect, I pursued.

P: “Yes.  Your actions talk.  What do you think a tardy return with no response on your phone is saying?”

C: “Dunno.  You tell me.”

P: “Think, darling.  You’re smart.” Said kindly, yet seriously.  My son realized I expected an answer. 

Thoughtful silence.

I probed, “What does it say about the importance of your time with regard the to value of my time?”

C: “Well, I guess that my time is more important than yours.”

P: “Is that true?  How would you feel if someone treated your time as less valuable?”

C: “Well, I’d be annoyed, and I guess it’s not true that my time is more important,” my son admits with a sheepish grin.

We even enjoyed (!) the ensuing conversation about limits since we had connected and corrected some hurtful beliefs.”

Your child’s disagreement, in word and action, gives insight into his beliefs.

Seek to Understand the Others’ Perspectives

What if your child were making very intelligent decisions…from his perspective!

When above the kitchen counter one sees a ceiling which looks pretty safe, it is not surprising that children place their hands on the burning stove.

Create a Safe Space to Voice Disagreements

There is a time and a place to voice a differing opinion.  It’s not when rushing out the door and tension is high.

When there is no acceptable way to express differing viewpoints, disagreement can happen anywhere and anytime.  It sounds like argumentation, like picking a fight in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In the grocery store while parents are trying to rush three munchkins through the crowded aisles.  “I WANT_______.  You NEVER let me choose!” During dinner with the grandparents.  “Did dad ever ______ when he was a kid because he doesn’t let me do it.”

That’s why we love Family Meetings.  It’s a scheduled time to

  1. check in,
  2. resolve issues if needed, and
  3. have fun

Family council get together resolve issues

Family council get together with fun

A Family Meeting is a safe space for children (and parents) to voice their issues.  Knowing that the Family Meeting is coming up, provides resolution to many every-day crises.

When the kids fight (disagree) with over TV use, they can write it on the agenda of the Family Meeting.

When they don’t like veggies, they can bring it up at the Family Meeting.

With some structure to this short meeting (15 minutes a week), parents and children resolve disagreements together.  They can express their feelings about the incident, share their perspective, actively listen, and work together to find better solutions which make everyone happy and feel belonging.

Want help setting up a Family Meeting chez vous?  Set up a quick coaching call.

 

Thoughtful brother

Family Feedback Example—To Mom, be more generous. To child, learn through a job.

We are coming to a close of our Family Feedback of the year. One son remains to give and receive his feedback with his parents.  This is the fourth in the series of posts to give you a glimpse into one our most precious and powerful family moments.

Click here for our How To’s.

Read on to learn how my son told me to be more generous and I encouraged him to grow by working simple jobs of manual labor or service.

Feedback to Mom

Well Done

We are seated at the dinner table and the boys chose to go around in the order of seating. It’s our second son who finally got the floor.

Son (17 years):  “Mom, what I really appreciate is your flexibility with letting me spend time (like the night) with my girlfriend.”

This is a very delicate issue between us because his behavior is in contradiction with my values.  Yet, you see, my job as a parent is to provide him with an education and to present him with a set of values.  He graduated from high school this summer and now lives out of our home.  My role as a mother has evolved now:   to allow my son to fly with his own wings.   I did my BEST while he was under our roof.   It is his life, not mine.  I have made mistakes and learned some of my best lessons from them. He too will blunder.  He might choose some or none of my values for his life.  He will live with the consequences of those choices.

With regards to my life and beliefs, I try to follow Jesus Christ.   Try.  Because invariably I fail. But  Jesus loves me.  Still.  So, if I follow Christ, I am to love.  Still.  And loving my son now means to be “less of me and more of him.”

Mom:  “I’m glad you appreciate it.”

To Change

Son:I really don’t have a way where you could change…

This is our son who has complained and COMPLAINED about …everything and anything.  He’s an expert at finding faults.  We have purposefully taught him to identify other people’s strength and to encourage them.  It’s been WORK.

Son: “…ah yes.  You didn’t do it this year for Christmas, but sometimes you offer people the gifts you would like to receive.”

Mom:  “What do you mean, exactly?”

Son: “Last year you gave everyone kitchen tools.  The ceramic knife, the knife holder, the latest fashion cookbook…you used them all.”

Embarrassingly, this is all true!

Mom:  “I see (all too clearly) what you mean.”

Son:  “Ok, what about me?”

Transmiting a Vision of Thriving to My Child

Well Done

Mom: “What you have done excellently last year is master your schoolwork.  You graduated with honors. Intelligence contributes to these results, and you also worked for those grades.  You exhibited discipline and determination…along with balance in your social and spiritual dimensions of life.  And it was not just last year.  This year your academic demands are even heftier and you’re at the top of your class and keeping up with a life.”

Dad:  “You’re ranked N°1 in your class?”

Son: “Didn’t you know?”

Banter between son and father where the younger bull gets to show off his size and the senior one grunts his consent.

To Change

Rowdy teen boysMom:  “And what you could do to change is considering getting a job.  Try working for money.  The jobs you’ll have at your age are mostly entry level manual labor or service positions.  It’s a good thing to know first-hand the value of sweat and smile.

Son: “I’ve thought of that.  But you see, I don’t feel the neeeeeed to work yet.  (oh, oh!)  I work at school and then deserve a vacation.  I can afford not to work now.”

Mom:You can afford it?  Who’s paying for your time off?  Until when?  Why?

Now that you have more of the privileges of adulthood, isn’t time that you also take on more of those responsibilities too?”

Silence.

Mom:  “Aagh!  It’s tough when you want to eat your cake and keep it too!” (In French we say, ‘To have the butter and the money for the butter.’ ‘Avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre.’)

We can all relate…and smile.

Dad: “Are we finished with the analysis and mutual-flagellation?”

Everyone:  “Poooooor Dad!”  “If it were THAT bad, why did you stay with us?” “Yes, dear ”

Mom: “Everyone clear his plate and takes at least one other thing back to the kitchen!”

Thus closed the evening meal and the Family Annual Review.

Follow Through on the Family Feedback

Our comments now hang in our Frame of Fame…where they’ll stay several weeks and re-appear from time to time over the year…as behaviors might deteriorate and the need arises to

  • be humble,
  • be generous,
  • think before speaking,
  • advance step-by-step, or
  • dress one’s age

 

Enjoy this year’s whole Family Feedback series:

  1. Family Feedback How To’s &
    To Mom, be clear.  To child, be humble.
  2. To Mom, be flexible.  To child, go step by step.
  3. To Mom, stop being a fashion victim.  To child, think before you speak.
  4. To Mom, be generous.  To child, learn through a job.
Pre-teen

Family Feedback Example—To Mom, stop being a fashion victim. To child, think before you speak

Two of our sons have already given (to parent) and received (from Mom) feedback about what each does well and should continue doing, and about one behavior to consider changing. (Catch the beginning of the discussion here).

Business (a.k.a. the meal) continues as usual.  We’re at the dinner table, getting close to dessert time, and it’s the turn of youngest of four sons.   The meal keeps on flowing throughout the exchange.

Feedback to Mom

Well Done

Mom:  “Darling, what would you like to tell me about what I do well and what I should think about changing?”

Son (12 years old):  “Well, like, you know…”

Brothers:  “No we don’t.  Be specific.”  It’s said with both a touch of impatience and sense of humor.

Son:  “Well, like, you’re more flexible…”

Mom:  “Flexible seems to be a key theme tonight…or last year!  What do you mean, exactly?”

Son, after some more humming and hawing and searching for words and being teased by his siblings:“It’s like you can laugh more at yourself.

Mom:  “Thank you.  And what about something where you want to see me change?”

Son:  “Well, like, you know…”

Brothers:  “No.  We don’t.  Move on.”

Transmiting a Vision of Thriving to My Child

Well Done

Mom:  “I’ll give you some feedback about what you do really well.  I’m so impressed by your insights into people.  Sometimes you’ll come home from school and describe a situation and comment about how that reveals the person’s character.  Wow.  You are making connections between what people think and how they behave.  It’s impressive.

Son:  Shy smile.

To Change

Teen thinks he's coolMom, quickly so that the older ones don’t break the positive momentum with a questionable comment: “What you can do to change is to think before you speak.”

Guffaws in agreement from the boys.

“Sometimes you call my name, I answer, and you reply, ‘Nothing.’   It doesn’t happen just once…and we’ve already talked about it and you’re better not doing this as often.  Yet now, you regularly react to your brothers by insulting them slightly.  Not surprisingly, they respond.  Then you reply, ‘Just joking.’”

Boys:  “Yeah, you do it all the time… It sounds stupid.  Either mean what you say or don’t.  Dig, dude?”

Mom, talking right at Son 4 without paying attention to the siblings:  “You don’t have to defend yourself, darling.  If you think before you speak, you’ll avoid many slippery slopes.”

Dessert time = Hungry for closing time.  Read here for our final exchange on the 2013 Family Annual Review.

Continued…Feedback to Mom

Well Done

My youngest son and I had not finished this conversation.  So, the next afternoon, when the older boys were not around, I approached him again.

Mom:  “I did not quite understand your feedback yesterday.  Could you please tell me again what I do well and what I should think about changing?”

Son:  “Mom, you are more flexible now.  Before you used to be too intense.  Now you can laugh at yourself.”

Mom:  “Can you give me an example?”

Son:  “Remember when (and he recalled a time when a friend of his described me as the ‘old lady’) Well, I remember not being embarrassed because you did not lecture him.  (Was I THAT bad?!)  Instead you laughed.”

To Change

Mom fashion victimMom:  “Thanks, darling.  Now, what should I think about changing?”

Son 4:  “Don’t be such a fashion victim.”

Mom:  “ME!”  (Are you kidding? My humble self thinks, “I make fashion; I don’t follow it.”) “Please, give me an example.”

Son:  “Your nails.  Stop wearing blue and green nail polish.  (This past spring and summer, I adorned my fingertips in turquoise and spring green.  In early fall, I opted for navy on my hands and a deep green metallic hue on the toes.)

“It’s just not you, Mom.”  (When the kids were small, manicures were UNIMAGINABLE.  I barely got to shave one leg at a time. So, this nail craze is new.)

Mom:  “Thanks for letting me know.  I see what you mean. I’ll think about it.”

I probably will give it up…and present him with my orange fingertips telling him how I hesitated on the purple and pink stripes but followed his advice instead.

Little bother for me.  ‘Lotta meaning for him.

NEXT SON…

 

Enjoy this year’s whole Family Feedback series:

  1. Family Feedback How To’s &
    To Mom, be clear.  To child, be humble.
  2. To Mom, be flexible.  To child, go step by step.
  3. To Mom, stop being a fashion victim.  To child, think before you speak.
  4. To Mom, be generous.  To child, learn through a job.
Teen boy

Family Feedback Example—To Mom, be flexible. To child, advance step by step

We’re on a roll with the Family Feedback.  Our eldest son has given and received his insights (read here) for the Family Feedback.  We’re sitting around the dinner table and our third son is next to him.

Perfecting Family Feedback Process

(In a teensy bit of a controlling style) I turn to our second eldest son.

Mom:  “What is your feedback for me?”

Purposefully, I did NOT ask, “Do you have____?”  Our purpose with this discussion is to create an environment where our children voice a compliment and a concern.  We’re going beyond “Yes” and “No” mutterings.  (Read here for Family Feedback How To’s and free download)

Son 2:  “Oh, we’re going this way?  By age?”

Mom, interpreting the question as a gentle invitation to allow the kids to take the lead:  “We don’t have to. Who wants to go next?”

Feedback to Mom

Well Done

Son 3 pipes up, “I’ll go.  Mom, you have been nice about getting special school supplies for me.  Sometimes I’ve run out of _______ or needed a specific book or _______ and it meant going to a specialty store to find it.  I appreciate your effort.  Thanks.”

Mom smiles…lips and eyes.

To Change

Son:  “And Mom, you have GOT TO BE more flexible with my going out at night.  I don’t want to have to give you a fixed phone number AND address AND friends’ names AND time I come home before you let me go out.”

Older brothers:  “Aaagh, we hated that too!”  “Now it’s your turn!”

Mom:  “Do you know why I ask for those?”

Son:  “Yeah, my older brothers messed up so now you’re tough on me.”

Mom repeats:  “Do you know why I ask those things?”

Son 3 grunts.

Mom:  “When you give your friend’s mobile number, they don’t answer.  There have been times when we found out that you boys were not where you said you were, so I like to have a number to call just in case.”

Son:  “The phone number is the worst thing.”

Mom:  “We had dinner with friends last night who, for sleepovers, systematically call beforehand to check that their sons are expected.”

Son 3:  “Don’t do that!”

Mom:  “And I ask about where they are and getting home so that you can work out public transportation and return on time.  ‘I missed the last train’ is not a valid excuse for being late…”

Dad:  “STOP the bickering!”

Brothers:  “Yeah, work this out the two of you.”

Mom:  “OK, honey.  Make me a proposal for a different way to get permission to go out.  Let’s talk more over something concrete.

Son 2: “My turn?”

Brothers:  “Yeah, let’s move on.”

Transmiting a Vision of Thriving to Son

Well Done

Mom:  “You have shown us your ability to be responsible. Admittedly your teachers are writing that you are insolent in class 🙁 and lacking in maturity. Yet over this vacation and through your job (as a high school freshman, he’s tutoring a French boy in English) you have demonstrated to us your leadership skills, positive initiatives, and commitment to completing your responsibilities well.  When you want to, you excel in maturity.

To Change – Have an optimistic view of you and your future.

You state these outlandish goals for yourself:  king of the world! You know these are unattainable (undesirable?) and I wonder if you say these things out of lack of confidence?…I don’t know.  No one expects you to reach them, so no one will consider you a failure if you don’t.

Raclette à l'ancienne

(“Pass the cheese, please,” someone requests…and we keep talking.)

What you can change is to think of how you can be a success…you choose the realm.  You are WAY MORE LIKELY to fulfill your dreams one step at a time than through a miraculous leap.   Break down your mega-perfectionist goals into smaller tasks…and you might even surprise yourself by how much you accomplish…and then you’ll have the courage to really dream big AND realistic.”

Son:  “Yeah…”

Mom:  “You have soooo much potential, darling.  You know that, don’t you?”

Son:  “I know.”

Brothers:  “Let’s pick up the rhythm.  Next!”

No room for mommy sentimentality!

NEXT SON…

 

Enjoy this year’s whole Family Feedback series:

  1. Family Feedback How To’s &
    To Mom, be clear.  To child, be humble.
  2. To Mom, be flexible.  To child, go step by step.
  3. To Mom, stop being a fashion victim.  To child, think before you speak.
  4. To Mom, be generous.  To child, learn through a job.
Eldest son

Family Feedback How to & Example—To Mom, be clear. To child, be humble

“A TABLE!”  That’s French for “Time to eat. Kids, come NOW! Prepare your taste buds and your conversation skills…”

On December 31 the family was dispersed in six different parties.  On January 1, we all sat down for a meal together…and shared feedback on the previous year and insights for growing forward.  We call this The Family Annual Review.

We do this every year and it is AN AMAZING family moment that the children request year after year.  

Friends (who also are parents) exclaim, “What a great idea….but I’d be so scared.”  We’re giving you the play-by-play so that you can get a feel for how it happens…and do it “chez vous” too!

Since we have four sons, we’ve given each one a full post.  Keep clicking to the next post!  Each child is different (don’t you KNOW!) so you catch a different aspect of the exchange from each one.

How To – Family Feedback

Children Give Feedback to Parents

Every year, and it has now been close to ten years, we set aside a moment to step back and review our relationships.  It began when I realized I peppered my sons with feedback all day long.  But when could they voice their likes and concerns to me in a way that I would receive them graciously?

The first year, the boys game me feedback.

One behavior I do well and that they want me to continue doing.

One behavior to talk about changing.
Sometimes this can be a no-brainer.  (The first year our youngest son did this he piped up, “No more lemon cake.” Go figure.  He felt the others got a treat when he was stuck with a cake he did not like.  Apple cakes became the norm.)

Sometimes discussions ensue.  We aim to close on an action step.

Parent Gives Feedback to Child

I learned so much from their feedback shared in this out-of-the-every-day-buzz-of-activity setting.  The following year, I requested to share thoughts for them following the same process.  It is one of my favorite times of the year.

I share an OFFICIAL affirmation (we take notes and review them occasionally throughout the year). This is what they do well.

I share a vision for their growth in character.  In this post, you’ll read about my son and a vision for him growing in humility.

Read on and discover the richness of the exchange…and the natural flow too.

Feedback to Mom

Mom, sometime between the green beens and the cheese (meals chez nous are served in courses.  We’re American AND French!): “Hey guys, let’s do the review.  Who wants to give me feedback?”

Silence.

Well Done

Four sons

Mom: “Son 1 (of course I used his name, probably preceded by a ‘honey’), why don’t you start.  What is one thing I have done well this past year?”

Son 1 (19 years old.  Junior in college):  “I know I’m only supposed to say one thing, but here are two.  You have been very welcoming of my girlfriend coming to stay at our home (she stays in the guest room).  You’re becoming more flexible.  You have also been kind in driving me back and forth to school (he comes home some weekends and usually takes public transportation…which takes 1 hr while, at no-traffic times, the car takes 20 minutes) on some short notices.  Thanks.”

Mom:  “I’m glad we have been able to coordinate schedules so that we can do those runs outside of rush-hour.”

To Change

Son 1:  “…and to change, two things too! (meek grin)  First, consider letting my girlfriend and I sleep in the same bed at home.  And second, you’re not clear with the financial budget.  When I come to you with exceptional expenses (contact lenses, pharmacy purchases…) you say those are in the budget, but when I worked out finances with Dad we did not include funds for that.  So, I feel like I’m paying for too much.”

Mom:  “About the girlfriend, I hear you.  You know that we have different perspectives on this and I’m not willing to change (yet?).  So what is the budget exactly?…. (Discussion to clarify)…well, let’s get that written down and put it in The Binder (THE PLACE where we store family ‘contracts’, kids’ friends’ phone numbers, forms we’ll need in two months and  wonder where to keep in the meantime…)

For reimbursements, talk to me and bring receipts.  You usually do so when my hands are full of soap suds from the dishes…so I’ll put Post-It notes in the kitchen drawer on which you can write an IOU and stick it on top of the stove.  That way I’ll remember to pay you back.”

Son 1:  “Thank you.”

Transmiting a Vision of Thriving to My Child

Well Done

Mom:  “My turn for feedback to you.”  (Yes, all the other boys are listening…and eating.  We get a few ‘Pass the _______’ as we’re going along.)

“What you have done that is really great is to develop a relationship of confidence with your Chinese tutor.  (He helps a Chinese student with French and English…and with cultural adaptation.)  From time to time you tell us of his surprised (horror-stricken) reactions to events at school.  The entire family has benefited from your sharing those insights.  And what it shows about you, is that you have been able to secure his trust so that he can express both positive and negative observations with confidence. That’s GREAT.

Son 1: “Yeah, it’s been interesting for me too.  Thanks.”

To Change

Mom:  “Regarding growth for next year, be humble.  You’ll be studying in Asia for 6 months. Life doesn’t happen the same way there as it does in Paris.  We French are known for being aggressive and arrogant…and you have exhibited those attitudes in the past.  Being humble means purposefully listening and learning.  Be like a sponge:  take in before squeezing out.

Son 1:  “I hear you.”

That’s good enough…it’s even wonderful!

NEXT SON…

 

Enjoy this year’s whole Family Feedback series:

  1. Family Feedback How To’s &
    To Mom, be clear.  To child, be humble.
  2. To Mom, be flexible.  To child, go step by step.
  3. To Mom, stop being a fashion victim.  To child, think before you speak.
  4. To Mom, be generous.  To child, learn through a job.
Girl enthralled by candles

Spend a Moment in Wonder

Today’s Gift on the Joy. Peace. Love. @ Home advent calendar for parents

A Candle for Relaxation and Well-Being
from (Une Parenthèse Bougie)

How to receive this gift?  Take the fun quiz on the Parent Advent Calendar today and you could be the lucky one to win the draw.

Une parenthese bougie
Today’s gift. A scented candle for relaxation and well-being from (Une Parenthèse Bougie)

Candle Wonder

There is something wonder-full about candlelight.  For kids of all ages!

Is it the hypnotic way the flame flickers?

Or the association of candles with memory-filled events

  • Birthdays
  • Fancy meals, like at a restaurant or with the “grown up plates”
  • Visits to churches where candls flicker and light strwons through the color-filled stained-glass windows
  • And Christmas or Hanukah!

And it might be with the way adults treat fire with such care.  “Darling, CAREFUL. Your can get burned.” Literally.

Love flickers like flames too.  A spark enflames and warms or burns. Figuratively.

Candle magic for children

 

Children’s Questions – What do they wonder about?

Children have questions about fire and love.  They have been hurt or seen others in pain.  Why? How come?

How to answer their queries…when we hardly have answers ourselves.

What if activities with candles could help shed light on your children’s searching for answers about loving others and about being loved.

Questions like

  • “Do you love me more than _______?”
  • “Does love stop?”
  • “So many bad things happen.  I’m so small.  Can just a tiny bit of good make a difference?”

“Why be good when there is so much bad?”

Children sure do have a knack for asking Some. Tough. Questions.

Do you or I even have the answer to this one?  If we did, could we express such complex responses in words that our children can understand?

Candle Activity

Here is an activity that conveys the power of hope in the face of just a tiny bit of light.

How to:

  1. Take your children into a totally dark room.
    Sometimes the only place is a windowless bathroom.  One friend spoke of taking the children into their WC (in France there is a room with just the toilet seat).  What unique memories they cherish!
  2. Bring along one candle and a match or lighter.
  3. Notice the blackness without making it scary.
    “I can’t see anything!”
    “How many fingers am I holding up?”
    “Let me try and find your nose…oh is that your ear instead?!”
  4. Ask the kids how they feel…and how this makes them want to act.
    “I feel alone so I want to talk and have you talk to me so that I know I’m not alone.”
    “I feel lost so I’m scared to move. I don’t want to hurt myself.”
  5. Light the candle.
  6. Notice that it is one-small-flame in One. Whole. Room.
  7. Now ask how they feel and how this makes them want to act.
    “I see just enough to move and not hurt myself. I can move.”
    “I see you and I know I am not alone.  I can find your hand and we can be together.”

The children just EXPERIENCED the answer to their philosophical quandary.  One small light makes a HUGE difference. “Be a light, darling.  Be kind even if others are being mean.”

Child holding candle

“Does Love Stop?”

What happens when grandfather dies?  Or when couples separate? Or when friends move to another city?  Does love stop?!

This question surely benefits from answers in layers.  A few words one day.  A different approach a next day.  Reading a book together about the subject.  And possibly this activity with a candle.

Candle Activity

What you need:

It works best with a candle, something to light it, a cup to turn upside down over the flame.  A transparent cup or glass makes this even more dramatic.

How to:

  1. Gather the children around the lighted candle on the table.
    Admire the flames and it’s lively flicker.
  2. Notice together how this candle is like love, burning and warm.
  3. Cover the candle with the cup turn upside down over the flame. Allow a bit of smoke to gather inside the cup before smothering out the flame.
  4. Remove the cup and notice how the smoke is visible and rises from the still glowing wick. It rises in a clear ribbon of smoke and then diffuses into the air and throughout the room.
  5. Notice how we even breathe in tiny bits of the rest of the flame and carry it in our bodies!

In a similar way, the love for the child remains when someone dies or distance separates.  Love takes on a different form, one that can travel far.

Even when we do not see the flame or feel its warmth as we did before, the love is still there.

“Do you love me more?”

We do this activity in our Positive Discipline classes.  We”ll discover it together in person.  Ask about upcoming classes here.

 

Wishing you peace AND growth as we all struggle through understanding and living out Love.

Contact (Une Parenthèse Bougie)

Hands helping each other

Make Peace with Someone

Today’s Gift on the Joy. Peace. Love. @ Home advent calendar for parents

1 hour Relationship Repair Coaching + daily SMS follow through for 1 week
with Denise Dampierre

How to receive this gift?  Take the fun quiz on the Parent Advent Calendar today and you could be the lucky one to win the draw.

Today’s gift helps you live a life without regrets and to repair a relationship.  You receive 1 hour of coaching to create a reconciliation action plan and daily SMS follow through for a week to provide encouragement and tweak your plan as needed.

Let’s gain insights from wizened folk.

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple and much more

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.

Clayton Christensen, professor at Harvard Business School.  In speaking about parent-child relationships

The time to plant a tree is before you need the shade.

Lovely Ladies

What will you do TODAY so that TOMORROW your relationships remain vibrant and strong?

A Mom’s Story

Here is a glimpse of a coaching conversation with a mother of four children:

Mom: “I don’t want to deal with past mistakes I may have made with my kids.  I’m human.

Apologize?  No!

Here is how I treat my past blunders.  It’s like I sweep them under the rug and place them behind me so that I don’t see them.”

We both laughed as we imagined the scene and what the kids’ saw: a smiling mother with a VERY BUMPY rug behind her!  L.O.L.

As we shared, she admitted that the debris really lay between herself and the children, like a hurdle to climb to gain intimacy.

Mom: “A small hurdle is not a problem.”

Coach: “What’s your goal with the children? Big intimacy or small problems?”

Hand building lego wall
Building or taking down the relationship barrier?

Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word

“But I am Right!”

Parents may wonder, “Why apologize when I am right?!”

It takes two people to have a conflict.  Very rarely is one party 100% in the right and the other completely at fault.

Regarding the underlying issue between you and your child, you are probably right.  The room does need to get cleaned.  Curfew is to be respected.  The way one speaks to elders matters.

AND process matters too.  Might there have been an over-reaction?  Were you closed to feedback and your child wanted to share his point of view? Did viable distractions limit your ability to focus on your loved one?

In the coaching I help parents realize where they may have added fuel to a slight tension flicker…which resulted in a full-blown flame.

Don’t be sorry for asking your child to clean his room.  That is your parenting prerogative.

You can be sorry for screaming at him when he did not respond after you asked him numerous times.  “And, darling, can we work out together a way that I won’t be tempted to raise my voice because you would respond more quickly?”

“Will apologizing make we look weak?”

On the contrary.  A sincere apology for YOUR part of the conflict makes you authentic, one of the qualities teenagers appreciate in adults.

Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD reminds parents that respect is assimilated through language and modeling, not through the act of traditional “teaching.” Even young children understand when adults are not walking their talk. By adolescence, those mixed messages can cause deeper and deeper divides between teens and adults.

(Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD, is the author of Tomorrow’s Change Makers: Reclaiming the Power of Citizenship for a New Generation. A developmental psychologist and researcher, she works at the intersection of positive youth development and education.)

Reconciled cat and dog
Isn’t reconciliation PRECIOUS !

We reconcile to choose to love.  To reconnect.

Nelson Mandela is reputed to say,

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

Reconciling does not mean pretending that the incorrect behavior suddenly becomes acceptable.  The mis-action remains wrong.

Repairing the relationship means choosing to love even when you have been hurt and to let go of the resentment so that you can keep thriving.

Reconnecting places the priority on the relationship rather than on the back-talk, perpetual tardiness, or any other of our children’s challenging behaviors.

Wonder!

It often happens (but not always) that when one person recognizes their part in a conflict, the other party admits their misdead too.  Phew !

 

Note: This coaching will be with Denise Dampierre, a trained Positive Discipline educator and certified in Appreciative Inquiry.  If your situation requires medical or psychological expertise, Denise can you recommend you to a specialist.

 

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash and PetsWorld