Plenty of people are surprised by how they come across to other people. Insecurity can come across as arrogance, shyness as aloofness, introversion as rudeness. We would all benefit from knowing the answers to a few questions about how we are received:
Your children should know how they come across to others, too, particularly as they become teenagers and then adults. When they think about how they are received by other people, they can decide whether they want to change their behavior in such a way that suits them better.
Even if, in the end, your children choose to change nothing about how they present themselves to the outside world, teaching them to know how others perceive their words and behavior allows them to make informed choices.
How do you start the conversation with your children? Here is one idea: Start by asking your children how you are perceived.
Remain calm and curious, no matter how your children respond. Model the ability to consider another person’s point of view without feeling defensive. Then, as you discuss the perceptions others have of you, segue into your children by asking things like:
These conversations need not be a gateway into a lecture. Simply draw their awareness to other people’s perceptions. Engage in a back-and-forth about ways that both you and your children could change your behavior so that you are received more positively in the future.
As your children age, these conversations can deepen to include subjects such as:
The truth is, there are plenty of times when other people’s opinions should not matter. On the other hand, sometimes they do matter.
Ultimately, children need to have the confidence to stay true to themselves, even when other people want them to do or be someone else. Yet, they also need to make those decisions fully informed. Oftentimes, they simply do not know that their behavior is being interpreted negatively.
When they have the full context, they might decide that they can still be true to themselves and positively change how they are being perceived by choosing different words, a different tone of voice, or different body language.
Accurately assessing how people receive them and being able to act in such a way that there is no difference between how they wish to be received and how they are received is a powerful skill that will serve your children in every aspect of their lives—through the teenage years and into adulthood.
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The conversation is the relationship.When you have good conversations with your kids, you have good relationships with your kids.
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