The Secret to Becoming a More Positive Communicator

We all know someone who drains the energy right out of us. The thought of a brief conversation with a certain friend gives you the shakes. A feeling of dread bubbles up when you see a particular family member’s name on your phone. To this day, you fear that mean math teacher. Or you suddenly come down with a case of swine flu after reading a coworker’s name on the meeting agenda.

After years working in consulting, education, and as a parent, I’ve observed one specific behavior these people all have in common: a negative communication style. Everything they say comes across as critical or condescending. The Debbie Downer is a nag, drag, and a total wet rag.

You’ve been guilty of doing this at times, and it’s likely unintentional. Still, the way you come across when communicating with colleagues, peers, friends, and children will have a lasting effect on your relationships. It will either positively or negatively affect the desired outcome.

The secret to becoming a more positive communicator is simple:


What’s a START behavior? It’s something you want the person you’re talking with to start doing. By contrast, a STOP behavior is something you want the person to stop doing.

Most people, without realizing it, focus on STOP behaviors when engaging with others. Consider these examples:

A manager says to his subordinate, “You’ve gotta stop being late to meetings.”

A teacher says to her students, “Stop blurting out!”

A coach says to her team, “You’re loafing on defense!”

A friend says to another, “I never hear from you anymore.”

A parent says to a child, “Stop running around, you’re not listening!”

All of these statements come across with a negative tone of accusation.

Now consider these alternatives:

“It contributes to the team’s success when you’re on time to meetings.”

“Raise your hand, please.”

“You need to want the ball more than the other team!”

“I’d love to get together for coffee. I miss you!”

“It’s time to sit down and do homework.”

See the subtle differences? One set of statements sends the receiver of the message a bad feeling. The other phrases send the same message in a more positive, respectful way. The first set assumes the worst about the person you’re addressing. The second set assumes the best in them.

It takes practice, but focusing on START behaviors when communicating with the people in your life will not only increase the likelihood of a better response, it will improve the overall health of your relationships.

What are some ways you try to be a more positive communicator?


The One Thing Your Children Need to Hear

Do you love your children? The majority of parents would respond with a resounding yes. A large percentage claim to love their kids unconditionally and want them to know it. But throughout my experience coaching, teaching, and volunteering in schools I have seen too many kids tie their self-worth to individual performance.

Deep down in their hearts, they feel the following pressure:

My parents will love me LESS if I…

  • Miss the shot
  • Fail this test
  • Don’t try my best
  • Get caught in a lie
  • Wake up in a bad mood

My parents will love me MORE if I…

  • Score the most points
  • Make good grades
  • Have lots of friends
  • Obey all the time
  • Never fail at anything

Growing up in today’s pressure-to-perform culture, most children feel this way. But you can change it with these simple words.

I love you the same no matter what you do.

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Candy Corn Cookie Cemetery

My poor kids drew the short straw when it comes to having a crafty-type mom. I try, but baking and glueing aren’t my thing. That’s why I love this easy, no-bake Halloween treat. Bonus: it’s delicious. The recipe makes two batches. Give one to a neighbor, or if you’re OCD like me, have one for the kids to decorate and one you can make with perfect-looking rows.

It’s also a great recipe if you’re without power due to hurricane Sandy. The beating/mixing can all be done by hand. No electric mixer or oven required.


Two packages Oreo cookies
Two 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
Two 3.4 ounce packages instant vanilla pudding mix
4 cups milk
2 cups powered sugar
Two 8 ounce containers frozen Cool Whip topping, thawed
Candy Corn
Two shallow, rectangular aluminum trays with lids

First, set aside about 20 Oreos to make the tombstones. Cut two sides off each cookie, keeping the scraps. Combine remaining cookies from both packages with scraps and crush. You can do this easily in a food processor. Or put them in a plastic bag and hit repeatedly with a mallet or meat tenderizer. (I prefer the second method if highly stressed after reading how many of your Facebook friends have started their Christmas shopping.)

In large bowl, whip cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry vanilla pudding mix and milk for about two minutes. This is good exercise for those upper arms you want to show off in your holiday dresses next month. So don’t forget to switch arms at the minute mark. Add the pudding mixture to cream cheese, along with powdered sugar and whipped topping. Beat until well blended.

Spread a layer of crushed cookies on the bottom of each pan. Next spoon a layer of cream cheese mixture over the cookies. Repeat the layers and finish with a good ground covering of cookie crumbs for the cemetery. Arrange the cookie tombstones and candy corn as desired. Cover and chill for two hours before serving. Keep in the fridge.

Happy Haunting!



BOOK GIVEAWAY: Life Ki-do Parenting, Tools to Raise Happy, Confident Kids from the Inside Out

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. -Frederick Douglass

Parenting is the most important job you will ever have. The world needs you.

If you survive the infant stage (and your friends and family are still speaking to you after a year of erratic behavior, all blamed on sleep deprivation) you see a glimpse of normal life again.

But then the terrible two’s hit you head on. Suddenly you’re wondering where in the world is that stupid stork? He clearly forgot to include the instruction manual when he delivered the baby.

Your child starts school, and you realize this is only the beginning. You want them to function as a positive member of society. To be happy. To make a difference in this big, bad world.

But under tremendous pressure, and influence of peers and culture today, kids are being conditioned to believe in the “American Happiness Formula”: look good + perform well + approval = happiness.

Instead of happiness, we are seeing an alarming rate of stress, anxiety, and depression. Not only in our children, but in our adults! The formula doesn’t work. [Read more…]