Today, I’m going to talk about another type of TRAINING AHEAD:

Anticipating potential situations that could occur according to observations in patterns of behavior and specifically training ahead to know how to wisely handle them.

Have you ever been with friends where  someone dominates the conversation? Or the wife continually interrupts the husband? Or someone “one-ups” another, making his story more important or better than another?

When you teach your children foundational principles about respecting everyone, they will begin to make sure everyone is heard, will be aware of themselves not one-upping another, and will know they do not have to be the one who responds to each question- even if they know all the answers, and they will be cognizant of including all in the conversation. All of these principles come back to respect – and being interested in others.

That’s basically what people skills are… showing your interest in others.

dinner-table-family-2010

One day we were having company over. I had previously observed a pattern in this particular couple’s communication behavior where the husband was a man of few words and when he DID speak – the wife would quickly take over his story, leaving him quiet and her to speak for him. (Please note the photo above does not represent the particular example I’m sharing.Those are my sweet in-laws over for Father’s Day.)

Here’s how I trained ahead to my children as I anticipated what potential situations could occur.

Earlier that week, during our routine family devotions and conversations in which my children were used to training I had explained to them different situations during communication within groups in which people are disrespectful to others – most often without realizing it.  (I’m trying to show you that this type of conversation was a regular part of our dialogue. But, if you’ve never talked with your kids regularly, preparing them ahead, begin NOW… while around the table or by just gathering them together to teach them and role play with them.)

I explained the basic principles of what respect during group conversations looks like:

That each person in the group should feel included, comfortable, seen, heard and their input valued. 

I explained to my children that they are each important in making this happen. They should sit in such a way that they’re not blocking someone’s view of others at the table. They should look at the person talking, show interest in what they’re saying by nodding their head or asking a question. I basically painted a picture of just how our bodies demonstrate interest in the other person’s conversation…or not.

I role played with them as if we were eating together and talking at the table, pointing out these concepts, interacting with them while intentionally demonstrating several key principles.

First I started with basic people skill reminders such as their role in communicating: eye contact, sitting up straight, looking at different people while they talk (not just at one), asking good questions, listening, not interrupting, not one-upping (making your story better than theirs), asking good follow-up questions that show they’re listening thereby showing interest in the lives of those at the table. In other words,

I demonstrated HOW TO SHOW INTEREST IN OTHERS.

This is putting the interests of others over our own interests- even if we’re not really so interested in hearing the person talk about baseball or about the bridge project in which he oversaw.

I demonstrated how we unintentionally show our lack of interest.

We discussed and role-played, “What if someone says they caught a fish this big, and you caught one bigger?”  Do you blurt that out?”  The answer is no…but do your kids know WHY the answer would be no to interrupting them and telling them the size of your fish?  Make sure they DO understand. Tell your kids the answer is no because when another person is sharing a story and we interrupt them, the attention is then on us, taking the attention away from the other person. That’s rude and selfish.  Another example, this time for them to see this same principle applied to me would be, “If a lady is sharing about the birth of her baby and she says ‘it weighed 9 pounds, and everyone gasps, and I know that mine weighed MORE, I should not say, ‘mine was 10 pounds.’”  And then I would ask WHY?

Asking your kids WHY is so important.

Once they UNDERSTAND the “WHY” behind key principles, they will OWN it and will be able to assimilate that foundation to a variety of situations…even when, get this…

even when YOU are NOT present.

Back to waiting on the response from my kids with the baby example, I would allow them time to think, respond, and make sure they know “the reason NOT to interject this is the attention is on HER. If I share MY story, I’ve made this about me, maybe even wanting to be better. I’ve interrupted her and taken the attention away from her wonderful story.” I would also add as I’m teaching my children, “Instead, at a good pause in her story, I can ask her questions and show interest in HER and in HER baby. I can ask, ‘Where were you when you knew it was time to go to the hospital?’ Or, ‘Her name is so pretty. How did you and your husband decide on a name?” while not needing to share my own story at all. This is about her.”

You can move on to more advanced training ahead to specific situations that you have observed.

“So kids, what if we have a husband/wife over here and the wife interrupts the husband, completely taking over the story he is sharing. What could you do to show interest in both the husband and the wife, but skillfully turn the attention back to the husband and hearing HIM share?”

Respect in this situation would involve hearing out the wife, then at a moment of opportunity, turning to the husband and saying something like, “That’s interesting. So what did YOU think about that, Mr. Jones?” and putting the attention back on HIM and HIS thoughts. I’d probably also add to your kids the importance of their choice of words and facial expressions so as not to be rude.

Once your kids understand how to demonstrate respect in conversations to each person, they will be on their way to independently handling even some rather “sticky” situations without embarrassing anyone or bringing attention to themselves. 

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Even in your absence, at an age perhaps far younger than you expect, they will be able to handle situations quite skillfully, be being mindful to include all present in the conversations. I have truly seen this demonstrated by my children in conversations at our dining table WITHIN the family, with GUESTS over, and when they are in group settings with peers. Different setting. Same principles.

Rhonda didyouknowmybabyweighed11pounds.not ellis

6 Comments
  1. Marie

    Now that my children are older, I think I need to go back and reteach a lot of the things you blog about! And yes, they are all adults!

    When my kids were younger, I would always associate a Bible verse to go along with what I was trying to teach. For instance, for this blog you could use this one:
    Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Rom. 12:10-ESV).

    Thank you for your blogs Rhonda. Looking forward to utilizing so much with my grandkids-WHEN they come!
    Marie

    • Rhonda

      I have to reteach around here as well. The training never stops nor does the application to ME first!

      • Marie

        Me TOO Rhonda!

  2. Kiki

    This is a challenge at our house. Thank you for this! I took notes. 🙂

  3. Joann Gibbs

    This is a great, step-by-step, explanation that I read with my girlie just now. It’s a topic that is always good to brush up on. Also, from a small family with one child perspective, the one-upping, or the struggle to get a word in with siblings just doesn’t happen. Rhonda, your conversation etiquette instruction was very light-hearted & quite helpful for her to use with her own peers-outside the home! (oh yeah, and helpful for this mom, too!)
    ~Joann

    • Rhonda

      Joann, thanks for your encouragement AND the reminder that often the perspective is a little different for an only child family. Hey, I bet there’s a lot less arguing going on in your home than mine. I am glad to hear the specific instruction was helpful with peers, outside the home. Yahoo!

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