How Do Your Kids Come Across to Others (& Does It Matter)?

emotional intelligence interpersonal relationships Sep 26, 2020

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:

  • “How do I come across to others?”
  • “What does my body language convey?”
  • “Am I a good listener, or do I do most of the talking?”
  • “What is the general tone of the words that come out of my mouth?”
  • “What is the theme of the topics I typically discuss?”
  • “Do people think I am obnoxious or mean when I am trying to be funny?”
  • "What goes through my mind when I meet someone new, and is that helping me project the attitude I want to project?" 

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. 

Conversation Starters

How do you start the conversation with your children? Here is one idea: Start by asking your children how you are perceived.

  • "Do you think I am perceived as a calm parent or as an uptight parent?"
  • "Do you think my friends trust me to keep their secrets, or do you think I come across as gossipy?”
  • "Do you think other people find my tone of voice to be pleasant or condescending?”

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:

  • “What about you? What do you think parents say about you when you are at their house? Are you friendly and helpful when you are a guest in someone else’s house?”
  • “When you walk into a room, are you generally friendly and happy, or are you nervous?”

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:

  • “Do people see me as someone who complains a lot or as someone who is generally optimistic? How does this impact my opportunities?” 
  • “Do people see me as someone who is strong and confident or as a person who is fragile and insecure? How does this impact people’s confidence in me?”
  • "Do I have a reputation for being kind and genuine, or do I have a reputation for being unkind and fake? How does this impact my relationships?" 
  • “When does it matter what someone thinks of me, and when doesn’t it matter? When should I change my behavior to suit the outside world?”
  • “Am I ever misunderstood by others, and is there something I could do to change that?”

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.

Be sure to get your free copy of the Five Most Important Conversations to Have With Your Kids This Week

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