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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


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Did You See What She Posted? Options for How High School Students Can Respond to Negative Social Media Comments

media-998990_1920When I graduated high school in 2007, social media was just starting to take off. My sophomore year of high school I created a MySpace page, which was the only social media outlet I had, and I could only visit it from my computer at home. Facebook didn’t come out until the beginning of my senior year, and it didn’t catch on in my high school until a couple of months before graduation.  Twitter didn’t pick up speed until I was in college which was also when everyone started getting iPhones. Instagram and Snapchat didn’t exist. It is crazy that I only graduated nine years ago from high school, and my experience is so much more different than kids today.

When I was in school, and I got into a fight with a friend, we wouldn’t speak to each for the rest of the day. Perhaps we would call each other after school or get on AOL instant messenger and have a fight, but getting online and battling it out were still somewhat unfamiliar. Nowadays, you fight with a friend, and before you reach your next class, she could have already posted a status and tweeted about it.

High school was not my most favorite years – which are a sentiment many people share. High school was tough then. However, I don’t believe it is anywhere close to how tough it is now.  Social media and smartphones have taken high school, bullying, and conflict to a whole new level.

Students have access to social media all throughout the school day and posting or tweeting negative remarks can be done quickly and easily, right from the palm of their hand. If you are a student, how can you respond to these negative and many times destructive comments?

  1. Approach your friend and talk about the post face-to-face. An intimidating idea, but social media networks and the internet provide anyone a platform to say things they may not have the courage to say otherwise. Ask to speak to your friend privately, and explain how the post made you feel and ask what the reason was for posting it to the world. Lastly, discuss what could be done to resolve the issue.
  1. Ignore it. If you don’t act like the comment or the post bothers you then, they are not receiving the reaction which is most likely what they want. By ignoring them, you are not giving their harmful words power. 
  1. Kill them with kindness. My best friend, Maria is the nicest person you will ever meet, and she is kind to everyone. When another girl was acting nasty towards Maria rather than treating the girl in a mean way, Maria continued to be friendly. I asked Maria, “Why did you respond this way?” She said if you are nice to everyone regardless of what they say, then the person who makes negative comments or acts mean is the one that looks bad. Therefore, if someone comments or posts that the outfit you are wearing in a picture is hideous, you could respond with something neutral and friendly. For example: “I’m sorry you feel that way. I’ve always thought you had excellent taste in clothes perhaps you could give me some pointers?”
  1. Talk to someone. I stress this point because many students today think if they tell someone they will look like a tattle-tale. However, if negative or destructive comments persist it is imperative that you tell a trusted adult, especially if you feel threatened.
  1. Limit or close your accounts. I am not suggesting you do this permanently – but not allowing people to have access to you will limit their ability to hurt you.

High school is just a small portion of your life – learning how to address negative and destructive posts and comments now, will prepare you for the real world later.

Have a Great Week,

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


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