Thursday, April 26, 2012

Enough About Me ... Let's Talk About You

One day this week as we were standing outside school getting ready to go home, an older student approached Tyler and started asking about the patch of gray hair on the back of his head. His questioning was loud, a bit rude and included many of his own opinions about why Tyler had gray hair and what was going to happen next with it. It was nothing like the people who have politely inquired about it.

He even crossed a personal boundary and touched Tyler's hair. I honestly don't think the kid was trying to be mean, in fact, I think he may have a minor learning disability that inhibits his social filter.

At bedtime last night I asked Tyler about this interaction and he said, "Oh yeah, that kid always does that."

"Really? You've never told me that before," I said, feeling shocked that he had never mentioned it. "Does it bother you?"

"Sort of," he said.

"What is his name?" I asked.

"I don't know," he replied.

At that point, I explained to Tyler my hunch that this child probably has a minor learning disability that inhibits his social filter, and that he was most likely not trying to make Tyler feel bad.

But disability aside, there are plenty of people in the world who operate without social filters, so I knew this was an important lesson for Tyler.

My take on situations like this is that we can't control what other people think, do or say. The only thing we can control is us -- what we think, do and say.

So I suggested to Tyler, "The next time he comes up to you and starts talking about that, just smile and say, 'Enough about me ... let's talk about you. My name is Tyler. What's your name?'"

Then I gave him some questions he could ask the kid about himself. Things like -- "How long have you gone to this school?""Who are you friends with?""What do you like to do for fun?"

The key to handling situations like this gracefully is to turn the conversation around. Try to get the attention off of Tyler and on to the other child. Tyler really grabbed on to this solution and we talked about it for several minutes.

Honestly, this issue is not about the gray patch of hair on Tyler's head. He is really OK with it. It's been there since he was four -- and it's on the back of his head, so he rarely sees it or thinks about it. The issue is about how to handle awkward social situations with grace.

After my talk with Tyler, I went downstairs to talk to Paul about it, and much to my surprise, he said, "Your solution was right on, according to Dale Carnegie."

Imagine that -- me, unknowingly quoting Dale Carnegie!

Paul just recently finished reading Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, so he explained to me Carnegie's 6 Ways to Make People Like You:
  1. Become genuinely interested in other people
  2. Smile
  3. Remember that a man’s name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in any language
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves
  5. Talk in the terms of the other man’s interest
  6. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely
My advice to Tyler incorporated several of these items. I guess I was on to something without even knowing it! Common sense, maybe? Regardless, I thought I'd share with all of you in case it is a tool that can help you or your children! Happy Thursday!

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