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Home for the Holidays: Reconnecting Authentically with Successful Conversations

friends-581753_1920The holidays are a time filled with catching up with old friends and family. Since electronic communication has taken over the world; the face-to-face conversation has become a difficult one to hold for many people. Therefore, below is a list of do’s and don’ts on how to generate successful dialogue with your relatives and old friends.

DO listen attentively. A conversation should be a back and forth effort, and for that to occur you must be able to listen and respond to what the person is saying. It is important to make eye contact with the person speaking, give a nod or some other sort of acknowledgment that shows the person you are listening such as, “That must have been exciting for you”.

DO ask questions. My mother once told me that if I ever find myself stuck in conversation to ask the person questions about themselves and I found this to be very successful. It is important to ask open-ended questions – ones that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” For example, “How did that impact the kids when you moved to the new neighborhood?”

DO end the conversation. I say this one because once the conversation begins to taper off people don’t know how to conclude the dialogue politely and what transpires is an awkward ending or silence. Therefore, when you notice the conversation has reached its end, add a few comments or appreciative remarks to conclude. Every good conversation has a beginning, middle, and end. Simply say, “I appreciate you sharing that experience with me.”

DON’T use your cell phone unless it’s an emergency. People today are constantly connected. It becomes difficult for two people to have a conversation if one or both of them are checking their social media or texting others. It also sends the message the person you are currently face-to-face with is not as important as the person on the other end of the phone. So, therefore, put the phones away even having them out in plain sight can be distracting.

DON’T interrupt. When the person is speaking, don’t cut them off to share your insight or personal story, or finish their sentence if you anticipate it’s ending. Both would imply that you were not actively listening to what the person was saying and don’t think what they are saying is important.

DON’T discuss or make jokes about taboo topics. Nowadays, we don’t always know where people, including our family and friends, stand on politics, religion, healthcare, and other sensitive topics – including our family and friends. Therefore, it is best to politely change the subject or avoid making jokes about sensitive material to maintain a successful dialogue.

Conversations with old friends and relatives during the holidays does not need to be an awkward exchange. Instead, use these Do’s and Don’ts to help increase the chances of a successful conversation.

 

Happy Holidays,

Abigail R. C. McManus M.S. Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

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Back to School and the Woes of Pokémon™ Go

cc0 public domain pokemon go cellAs referenced in the Wall Street Journal article by Sarah Needleman entitled “’Pokémon™ Go’ Craze Raises Safety Issues”, the cell phone app game called “Pokémon™ Go” has caused concern on many levels. These concerns are due to the nature of the game, which involves on-foot travel to capture specific characters and collect them to battle others who play the game. According to Needleman’s article, Don Boyes, a geography professor at the University of Toronto maintains the game itself “could be potentially leading people into areas where they don’t belong.” This safety concern is because the Pokéstops™ (places where you can collect Pokemon™ characters) are sites where people can get hurt when they are not paying attention, such as construction sites and abandoned properties. Not only is the game posing concerns around physical safety, but the game also may raise concerns for parents who have children going back to school.

In the CNN article entitled “A parents’ guide to Pokémon™ Go”, author Christopher Dawson notes concerns related to how much time children spend looking at the screen and playing.  While he cites the benefits of exercise, he also notes that parents should be aware that children are simultaneously walking and playing the game and not paying attention to their surroundings. As a result, children are prone to injuries such as getting hit by cars, walking on rough terrain and getting robbed by thieves. In addition to physical safety and inattention, many parents, and even I see another concern, and that is the game can be very addictive.  Students, in general, are already addicted to their Smart phones texting, calling and using social media. It is hard not to stay constantly plugged in for most young people.  For teachers, one of their main concerns is keeping students focused in class without the need to compete for their attention. Even though I am not a parent, I too struggle in balancing my time with technology and the expectations of time spent with family.   For example, my family does not care about using phones at the table or while talking to one another. The expectation is to focus our communication on each other.

Here are some tips to consider how you might help raise awareness, guide and manage your kids’ game play.

1)  Set a time limit for young kids. Give your children time limits and restrictions including when they can play their app games. Follow through with consequences including the possibility of uninstalling the app from their phone. On the other hand, reward them with gameplay when they do well in school.

2)  For older students, expose them to the news stories on the dangers and consequences of Pokémon™ Go. Hopefully, they can see how far is too far with this game. Follow up with a simple talk and raise awareness of the dangerous addiction to the game.

3)  If you are a parent or teacher, research the actual game and become familiarized with the various components of the game. Even if you are totally turned off towards the idea of the game, the kids may be more inclined to listen to your guidance if you know simply how fun this can be to them.

Here are two additional strategies for teaching kids safety while playing Pokémon™ Go, as cited by blog article “Ground rules for catching ’em all” by Brittany Morgan.

1)  Teach children to “look up” as Brittany states so that they are aware of their surroundings.

2)  Encourage children to play the game in “teams” so they are not alone while catching their characters. This team concept allows safety in numbers.

With kids returning to school, it is my sincere hope that these tips are helpful to you by raising awareness that your children can have a healthy balance of fun and safety while enjoying the game Pokémon™ Go.

Sincerely,

 

Ann Margaret Zelenka

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore

Negotiations and Conflict Management Program

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