3 Interpersonal Skills I Want My Children To Have

{A few days ago I shared one of those posts I wasn't sure I should have hit the publish button on because it felt a bit unfinished. I called it Helping Children Deal With Difficult People, but I don't know if the title truly reflected what I intended to convey. It was also very problem-oriented without a lot of suggestions. Today I'm following up with a related post, hoping to expand on the specifics of handling personal interactions that can be, um, tricky.}

Truth: I am a good girl at heart. I don't like to ruffle feathers, I dislike confrontation, and my knee-jerk reaction in nearly every disagreement is to assume I must be in the wrong.

Bigger Truth: I absolutely do not want my children to be like this, feel like this, or resign themselves to accepting this as simply part of their personalities.

Following are three interpersonal skills I would like them (and me?) to have when it comes to handling any relationship or situation with confidence.

1. To understand it is possible to genuinely like a person and enjoy their company but completely disagree with their point of view on a particular topic.

Just because you disagree with someone, even on an issue that is very important and near and dear to you, does not mean a relationship cannot develop.

{Related side note: Disagreeing with something, or not liking something, is not the same as being offended by it. The number of people in my life who confuse these concepts baffles me.}

Some of you might be surprised to learn (given my not-so-subtle feelings on the matter) that several of the homeschooling peeps I hang out with IRL do not vaccinate their kids. Oh, I still think they are crazy when it comes to this issue, but I can separate the person from the decision. I pretty much feel the same way about my Republican and conservative Christian friends. I may think some of their ideas are completely off-base, but that doesn't mean I can't see them as individuals that are so much more than that one element. Some of the bloggers I follow would fall into this category as well. I may roll my eyes at a post about teaching creationism as science or the evil of GMOs, but I "liked" their page (and them) for myriad other reasons, and those reasons still stand.

{Side story: This is not always the case, however, and I've had one friendship end before it had a chance to begin because of vaccines. I met a fellow homeschooling mom, also a Navy officer's wife, who has two girls just about the Senior Agents' ages. Talk about win-win-win. After we had been chatting for a few weeks, had one great Mom Coffee Date, and made plans to get the girls together, I opened up Facebook to a series of somewhat cryptic messages from her about how she stumbled upon my blog and my "passionate" views on vaccination and how it would "pose a problem" and therefore she wanted nothing to do with us. I responded with well if you change your mind you know where to find us and she declined and disappeared.}

2. To know when you can handle things yourself, when you need to enlist help, and when it's best to simply let go.

The Agents are still young enough that they are rarely without an adult (usually me) right there with them. That won't be the case for long, however, and I want them to be comfortable interacting with all sorts of people in various circumstances. To encourage this confidence we role-play different scenarios to allow the Agents to come up with responses on their own and try them out in a safe environment.

{May I just add, role-playing is one of those ideas I found corny pre-kids but now realize how useful it actually is.}

I want them to know that it's okay to need back-up and I'm here to support them. I won't simply let them sink or swim. For example our (now former) dentist thought he was being hilarious by asking our homeschooler math questions and then berating her for not answering fast enough. Not cool, and a perfect example of when I'd step in and say dude, knock it off.

I also want to convey to them that you can't change other people, and sometimes letting go is the only answer. I wrote about this recently with this example of the parent-endorsed bullying by one of their acquaintances and how we just flat out won't be associating with them anymore.

3. To feel comfortable with what to say and do in the heat of the moment.

Can I just say here that I am so bad, so very bad, at this. I either censor myself too much and not say what I'm really thinking or do the complete opposite and need to consciously stop myself from talking too much and over-answering the question. I want to give my kids the tools they need to feel confident standing up for themselves while being kind but firm.

For people who aren't big on improvising, it helps to have an idea in your head of what you would say in different situations, because you're less likely to be caught off-guard. I find that I do this with a lot of homeschooling questions. I have a "standard answer" for the typical queries I get while we're out and about. The Senior Agents and I talk about all sorts of potential responses at length; it helps when they can take time to think things through in this way.

I've also learned it's helpful to intentionally pause, give only the amount of information necessary to politely answer, and move on. Most questions can be addressed with a simple yes or no. Also, no is a complete sentence; when appropriate, use it. I especially need to remind Agent E of this, because (like me) she tends to want to offer an explanation for her behavior in an attempt to "be nice."

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