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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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New School, New Beginnings – Helping Your Child Navigate Changing Schools

school-bus-600270_1280Moving for both adults and children can be a very exciting time, but it can also be very stressful for a child who is switching schools. Schools will be back in session soon, and students will be flooding the hallways, optimism floating in the air for the new year ahead. If you have recently moved, and you have a child switching schools, this time, can be both thrilling and anxiety ridden.

I had to switch schools twice when I was a kid when my family moved. The first time, I started third grade at a new elementary school. It wasn’t as big of a deal because the school was in the same county as my previous one and in third grade, I adjusted quickly – I say this only because I don’t recall any terrible moments about starting at a new school.  The second time was a very different experience; I started eighth grade at a new middle school in a new county.

My experience the second time was not nearly as smooth as the first. Middle school is an awkward phase for most kids, and I felt unnerved walking through the doors on my first day of eighth grade. I didn’t know anyone, and as I observed the students around me hugging their friends and catching up on their summer vacations, I felt an immense longing for my old friends. I also was behind on the curriculum; I remember the first day of math class, the teacher gave a refresher of what they had learned the previous year and my old school had only briefly touched on the subject. I vividly remember on my first day, I had gotten lost trying to find my class and was late getting to the welcome back assembly. Once I did get there, I had to walk in front of all my new classmates to find a seat on the bleachers; I was so embarrassed about getting lost and being late that once I sat, I just started to cry.

The good news is I survived – it was difficult, but I think moving helped me to become more confident in new situations. So parents what can you do to ensure this transition is a win/win for everyone? Using a list written by GreatSchools Staff, I pulled the tips I thought to be the most helpful.

  1. Take a Trial Run. When you’re in elementary, a lot of schools, have a meet the teacher day before school starting. However, once students get older many schools stop doing this; therefore, speak to the office and see if you can arrange a tour of the school and a meeting with your child’s teacher. By doing this, your child will get a feel for their surroundings and what to expect which can reduce the child’s anxiety.
  2. Encourage School Involvement“. I support this because it wasn’t something I did. When I switched schools the second time, I was deeply unhappy about the move and resentful of my parents. Therefore, I recoiled from student activities and limited my social interactions with my classmates at my new school. Instead, I spent just about every weekend at my best friend’s house where I use to live which restricted my ability to meet and make new friends.
  3. Keep a positive focus“. It is crucial that you have an open dialogue with your child about what they are thinking and feeling about starting at a new school. The more specific, the better, that way you can work with them to generate solutions to ensure they have a positive experience.

My last tip is one I thought of myself that I wish I had had the second time around.

  1. Get a buddy. Reach out to the new school and inquire about a buddy system or a particular student who could show your child the ropes on the first day. Walking into a new school was scary, and I think if I had had a someone to walk with me I wouldn’t have been as scared.

Have a good weekend,

Abigail R.C. McManus


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The Gift of Being Present This Holiday Season

presence-615646_960_720Over the last 30 days, I committed to a daily challenge to focus, reflect and act on “being relational” with others. This challenge sponsored by the non-profit organization, Orans and lead by William and Louise Phipps – Senft, authors of Being Relational: The Seven Ways to Quality Interaction and Lasting Change gave me a lot of food for thought during this holiday season.

Being present, fully present with someone you are engaged with takes intention, focus and commitment. My life is normally filled with timelines, endless tasks and pressures to be somewhere and do something leading to checking things off my to-do list and missing opportunities to being fully engaged with the person in front of me. What the Being Relational challenge did for me was to focus on how I use my time, resources and power to connect with others in a genuine and kind way. It doesn’t matter if the person is a complete stranger, an acquaintance, family or friend, or business colleague. What are we doing in that moment with the other person to be kind, to connect and to relate to one another as loving human beings? Even if this means, we are interacting with someone that irks us.

This week is Christmas where many of us will travel even short distances to see family and friends. For some of us, we are under pressure to make the obligatory rounds in one or two days to visit household after household. Is this you? Rushing from one place to the next, barely connecting and checking the box of those we need to see showing we made a effort. And yet, what is the quality of this interaction? Here are my thoughts and my checklist of what I will practice this holiday week and beyond to be present, kind and engage in a genuine way.

Let’s look at three possibilities. Strangers, friends, and estranged individuals whether they are family, co-workers, neighbors, etc.


  • Pay attention to their needs. Usually, we know what is important to our friends if we have been listening. What makes them light up with joy? If it is talking about their children, then give them your undivided attention and listen to how proud they are of their children. Or, maybe they lament they have been too busy to wrap gifts. Pitch in and help them wrap. Your friend could be stressed and simply needs a hug or to simply hear “I am here for you. What do you need?” Extend yourself to be fully present, listen and engage in kind, simple ways.


  • Acknowledge their presence. We meet strangers just about every day. Think about it. We see strangers while standing in line at the grocery store. We interact with strangers standing in the post office line. We nod at strangers asking for money to feed their families. The easiest gift of all is to acknowledge their existence. I am not saying you have to give your change to the stranger on the street asking for money. You can smile at them making that human connection and even say Merry Christmas. You can acknowledge the stressed out cashier handling mass volumes of last minute shoppers by saying “Thank you for handling all of us stressed out ” Simple words of kindness go a long way.

Estranged (Family, friend, co-worker, neighbor)

  • Reconnect with respect. We are all too familiar with the person in our life that we are estranged with because we didn’t see eye to eye; they irked us in some way, or we are holding onto resentment. At some point, we have disconnected with them, and we usually have some ill ease when we are around them. We might very well see them as part of our visit this holiday season. The key is to think intentionally about how to reconnect with this person in a respectful manner. It doesn’t mean you have to reignite a long-term relationship. It could mean simply saying hello and genuinely asking “How are you doing?” and listening for a short while. It could also sound like “I enjoy hearing your laughter.” Or “It is good to hear you are doing well.”

Ultimately, this Christmas week and into the New Year holidays think about how you relate, connect and are present in genuine and kind ways. To learn more about Being Relational, listen to the podcast “Change the Interaction, Change the Outcome.”

Pattie Porter

Founder and Host

The Texas Conflict Coach

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