Tag: empathy

No Drama, Mama: 5 Tips for Traveling with Kids

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Nobody wants to be the humiliated parent of the kid behaving badly on the plane, bus or train. But children can be dramatic and overly-emotional, quickly escalating minor issues into major meltdowns.

Even car trips contained to family-only can be a nightmare for all if one child is feeling surly, irritable or bored, turning what should be a fun car trip into a long and tedious “Are we there yet?” journey.

To help avoid this unpleasant situation, we’ve compiled 5 useful tips below to keep your kids engaged and happy during travel.

 

1. Entertainment is King—

When it comes to activities to keep children engaged and mentally stimulated, there is no such thing as over-packing. Bring books, games, cards, puzzles, art supplies, handheld video game devices with multiple sets of extra batteries, laptops, portable DVD players and anything else that might help.

If you can buy new items purchased specifically for the trip that kids haven’t yet seen, this is obviously a great way to add some extra amusement.

Not only will keeping kids entertained prevent them from growing bored and cranky, if they have moved into tantrum-mode for any reason, one of the things you’ve brought to entertain might be a great way to redirect them out of a fit.

 

2. Hungry Kids are Grumpy Kids—

Sometimes in the fast-paced schedule of travel, we don’t have time or forget to eat, but kids can’t wait for the final destination for food like adults sometimes have to: they need steady blood sugar levels.

To keep them from getting grouchy, pack plenty of snacks, including protein like nuts for long-term energy. Novel snacks they don’t normally have at home can help entertain as well as feed them.

If you’re road-tripping, keeping a cooler with healthy fruits, sandwiches and drinks in the trunk will also save you money on restaurant food.

 

3. Carry-Ons Count—

If traveling via plane, pack as light as you can to give yourself a break (you’re already dealing with children… you don’t need excessive luggage), and be sure to put a change of clothes for each child in your carry-on luggage, including toothbrushes and toothpaste for all.

Most importantly, include loveys, pacifiers, blankets, stuffed toys or irreplaceable items kids won’t be able to sleep without, just in case your checked baggage is lost.

In short: If you can’t buy it in a store upon reaching your destination, keep it in the carry-on. If a child won’t sleep without their teddy bear, nobody will be getting any sleep.

 

4. Hotel Wisely—

When making reservations, do your research and try to find kid-friendly hotels with free breakfasts, or those with restaurants nearby offering discounted or free meals for children.

Also, triple-check sleeping situations before you leave to ensure the hotel rooms you’ve booked have adequate arrangements waiting for your family, such as enough beds, or cots available if needed.

You’re going to be tired when you get where you’re going—and nobody wants to have to sleep on the floor because the hotel doesn’t have a suitable room available.

 

5. Be the Duck—

Unfortunately, other traveling passengers sometimes seem to have forgotten that they, too, were once emotionally immature kids, and unrealistically expect children to behave like tiny adults in public. This only places more pressure on parents, stressing them out until children feed off of this anxiety, making everything worse.

Like water off a duck’s back, let the judgmental stares roll off your psyche, and don’t let snide comments, heavy sighs or rolling-eyes from other people make you feel bad. The opinions of strangers lacking empathy shouldn’t matter to you.

Remember that most of the people around you who’ve parented a young child during a rough moment feel nothing but sympathy for you, and only wish they had a snack or a toy to offer.

 

We can’t take emotionally immature children and magically expect them to grow up during inconvenient moments, because we all had to learn to be the (usually) well-behaved adults we are while traveling. But we can find ways to distract, redirect and entertain our kids so they can be at their personal best… at least until we get to the privacy of our homes or hotel rooms.

Use the helpful tips above to make your time spent traveling with kids as drama-free and pleasant as possible.

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5 Things to Kindly Keep in Mind with People Processing Violence

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Children learn what they see, so please, lead by positive example. Psychologically healthy parents protect their children, they don’t hit them. Fear and respect are not the same thing, and children deserve to feel safe.

 

People who’ve survived any form of physical abuse or threat are often left with hard-to-heal emotional scars. The damage can take many forms, such as: sexual molestation, rape, being physically struck or beaten, experiencing danger, and military service. But no matter how personal safety violations are inflicted, any may lead to psychological dysfunction.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, dissociation, denial, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are some issues experienced by humans whose nervous systems have been pushed beyond their limits. People who experience assault-based trauma are more likely to develop PTSD, but everyone has a different level of stress they can handle before becoming permanently overwhelmed. Because all humans are different, there’s no way to predict psychological disorders, and no guaranteed cures.

Some common symptoms felt by those who’ve been in threatening situations may include hypervigilance, being easily startled, insomnia, never feeling safe, brain fog, irritability, an exaggerated fight-or-flight response, mood swings, and panic attacks involving dizziness, nausea, sweating, rapid heartbeat, tunneling vision, or a sense of impending doom.

Below are 5 things to kindly keep in mind while talking to people processing violence:

  1. The Compassion Competition—

One of the worst assumptions to make about a person affected by violence is that they lack perspective or don’t understand that somebody always has it worse. Abused people know they’re not the only person to which injustice has happened, and unless they’ve never been on the Internet, they’re obviously aware of life’s many atrocities.

Examples of this might be saying, “Well, at least THIS WORSE THING didn’t happen to you…” and giving an example of something you consider a greater wrongdoing.

This reaction completely invalidates the feelings of the person who trusted you enough to confide, and insults their intelligence. The fact that bad things also happen to others doesn’t magically erase the bad things that have happened to them, no matter where you’d place the abuse on your spectrum.

In short: Pain is not a contest. You can show empathy to more than one person at a time without dismissing the feelings of anyone. Because regardless of how someone was hurt, it always matters.

  1. The Dance of Denial—

Many victims of physical or sexual abuse find themselves alone with their pain because the topic makes others feel uncomfortable. This can be especially true if the person was violated by a family member.

Families sometimes brush unflattering stories about sexual or physical abusers under the rug because it’s hard to believe a relative is capable of such brutality. But this reaction can re-victimize people by invalidating their pain.

Often, rather than helping those harmed by a family member or stranger, friends and relatives defensively ignore the issue, allowing the perpetrator to get away with something evil. This lack of justice or support can severely hamper the healing process, because a person can’t heal from a wound nobody will acknowledge.

In short: Abuse at the hands of a stranger -or- a family member hurts, and all forms of abuse are abuse. Ignoring the “icky” can make those harmed feel like they’ve done something wrong, rather than the person who caused the damage. Listen, believe, and strengthen instead of shaming.

  1. The Blame Game—

If you ever feel like saying, “Well that person is a ____, so what did you expect?” or, “I just accept that they’re messed up, and ignore it. That’s just who they are!” about the person who harmed someone, go ahead and keep that thought to yourself, because it reeks of victim blaming.

You may have the best intentions, such as trying to commiserate with the person who’s sharing their painful experience with you. However, what they often hear instead is: “Shame on you for being stupid. You should have known what you were dealing with, and anticipated your own violation.”

In short: Nobody in a civilized society should ever have to expect violence. Don’t imply that people could have predicted their own abuse and avoided it, because this only makes you look uncompassionate.

  1. Downplaying the Damage—

There is nothing more unhelpful than someone telling you to “get over it” in reference to anything, including the violation of your personal safety. Unless you have the ability to crawl into another person’s psyche and assess how something has affected them, dismissing their damage can be downright dangerous.

Everyone has a right to feel safe, and whether you’ve experienced similar things or not, your decision that everyone else has to deal with emotions exactly the way you do is thoughtless and condescending, at best.

Being told you’re “histrionic” or to “put on your big boy/big girl pants” are examples of thoughtless advice, and often given by those who choose to live in denial, rather than being brave enough to deal with their problems. This form of blatant invalidation is heartless and harmful. If someone has the courage to face their personal demons, rather than attempting to humiliate them into silence because of your own cowardice, you might instead watch and learn.

In short: Gaslighting is gross. Stop trying to make people feel like they’re overreacting or incorrectly imagining their own abuse. Everybody’s emotions are valid, and your motives are questionable if you’d prefer people in pain “suck it up and move on.” If you feel this way, why don’t YOU move on… somewhere out of hearing range.

  1. No Pity Parties, Please—

Most people who’ve been hurt by someone else are furious that they were forced into the role of victim, and don’t enjoy it. Treating them with compassion is lovely, but viewing them with pity can be upsetting. Being helpless is the worst feeling in the world, and nobody who’s experienced it ever wants to feel it again.

The word “survivor” is preferred over the word “victim” by many because it implies strength, rather than weakness. Surviving doesn’t have to mean someone has survived a life-or-death situation, either—it simply means someone is trying to accept and cope with what’s happened to them.

In short: Nobody chooses to be abused, and treating people like they’re fragile or broken because of the violating actions of another can frustrate them. Let them know you think they’re strong for moving forward, despite those who’ve tried to hold them back. Survivors of abuse would much rather you celebrate their courage than pity them.

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People on the path to wellness don’t appreciate roadblocks created by other humans, well-intentioned or not. If you truly want to help someone move past bad things that have happened to them, listen to and believe them, don’t invalidate their feelings, and try to empathize.

Kindness and understanding go a long way in this world, and by avoiding the potentially harmful reactions listed above, you might give someone the compassion and support they need to heal themselves.

Retaining Your Power: The Legend of Bitch Tit

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Recently, my artistic 9-year-old son wore a Knuckles the Echidna costume to school. Knuckles the Echidna is a giant red cartoon character that looks nothing like an actual echidna. He’s a character from the Sonic the Hedgehog book, videogame, and animation enterprise with which my son is obsessed.

On the way to school, I tried to prepare him for teasing and frustration, because as a woman in my 40s, I wouldn’t know what in the hell he was if I saw him, were he not my son. I told him, “You understand that I only know who you are because you’ve taught me, and echidnas aren’t actually red, nor are hedgehogs actually royal blue, so people may not know who you are today, right?”

“Well actually a lot of my friends like Sonic the Hedgehog, and…”

I cut him off, “Son… not everybody is going to know who you are today. Are you okay with that? You need to be. Your teachers, for example, don’t all know about Sonic the Hedgehog and the characters.”

“Yes, Mom,” he replied, but I could tell he thought everyone would immediately know his character and be as excited as he was about it. And yes, his obscure favorite superheroes are annoyingly hard to find every Halloween. This is the costume I found on Amazon:

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When I picked him up after school, he wasn’t wearing the Knuckles the Echidna head, a piece held on by Velcro, with long, red spikes hanging down.

I asked him why he took off the head. Did he get hot?

“I took it off for self-esteem reasons,” he replied.

After deciding “for self-esteem reasons” will now be entering my personal vernacular because I kind of love it, I asked him what he meant.

“Some of the kids thought I was a court jester or a SQUID,” he answered, in a mortified voice. “They kept calling me squid even after I told them I was Knuckles the Echidna! ‘Squid, squid, squid,’ they laughed at me. It made me mad, and they kept calling me squid all day, so I finally took the costume head off!”

I wish he hadn’t done that.

He gave up his power to a few silly little mocking boys.

I thought I’d coached him better.

I constantly tell my child, “The person who cares the most has the least power in any interpersonal interaction or relationship,” because this is a very basic yet powerful fact of human psychology.

But he’s only 9, so when I explain to him that if you walk away from toxic people and bullies, you hold onto your power, he doesn’t fully understand.

On the ride home, I told him that when kids are unkind, if you let them get a rise out of you, you’re giving them exactly what they want: stimulation and power. The best way to ruin all the fun for a bully is by giving them no reaction. Or if possible, laugh along with them. A bully can’t laugh at someone who’s already laughing at themselves. What’s the fun in that?

I shared the idiom “never let them see you sweat” with him, and asked him if he understood what that means.

“It means never let them see they’re getting to you.”

“Right, son. When you got visibly angry today over the word ‘squid,’ you gave those boys exactly what they wanted from you: a reaction. Next time, just laugh. If you’d said, ‘You’re right! I can see how this costume looks like a squid, too!’ they probably would have moved on. But you got mad. You gave them the power. If you don’t let people know they bother you, you hold onto your power.”

And then to further illustrate my point, I shared with my son The Legend of Bitch Tit.

Telling a child this tale may call my parenting choices into question, but it felt right at the time, so judge freely. I’m not here to win any parenting awards.

(Do you see what I did there? I don’t care if you call me a squid. Call me a squid-parent again. Whatever. Power retained.)

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The Legend of Bitch Tit was a story told to me by an ex-boyfriend. This ex-boyfriend was the shortest male I’ve ever dated at barely 5’10” (I’m 5’9”) and slightly built, yet he was completely confident about his size. He encouraged me to wear high-heeled boots or shoes, even though they made me taller than him because he told me, “Tall girls have presence. Be proud of your height… it doesn’t make me insecure if you’re taller, it makes me feel like, yeah, she’s with me!”

I was amazed by his confidence. He was extremely intelligent (I actually saw him on “Jeopardy!” recently), and he’d learned early in life as a smaller guy that he’d need to find other reasons to be confident. Because nothing is more attractive than confidence. Nothing. So he focused on his strengths, and gave no power to what others perceived as weaknesses.

For the first time in my life, rather than feeling insecure about being a tall, awkward chick in a world of adorably petite waifs, I felt good. It was extremely empowering, and I haven’t lost that feeling. It was a wonderful gift, and I still feel proud of my height rather than embarrassed by it.

During our years together, he told me The Legend of Bitch Tit, because this person taught him about confidence, and the power of owning it.

Bitch Tit was a guy who went to my ex-boyfriend’s high school with the surprisingly common condition of a male breast (gynecomastia). Not male breasts, plural, but one male breast. And not the kind to be hidden by clothing, but a full, round, obvious breast.

Being the guy in high school with one large breast is an extremely unfortunate card to be dealt in a world full of insecure people who try to feel bigger by tearing down others. We all know that humans can be cruel, but especially the not-yet-fully-formed ones with immature brains and little life experience to teach them empathy.

So, yeah. This guy was very quickly renamed “Bitch Tit” by his sensitive and kind-hearted fellow students.

Did he get angry or fight the people who mocked his physical appearance? He had every right to be mad, after all. Being an adolescent boy with a single huge boob isn’t exactly ideal.

Nope, my ex-boyfriend told me. Bitch Tit didn’t let anyone see him sweat. He didn’t get mad. Instead, he laughed along with the other teenagers, like, “I know, right? I’ve got a tit. Isn’t it weird?”

Bitch Tit owned it.

And by owning it, he took away the power from every single person who tried to tease him for his difference. Because there’s no fun or psychological stimulation to be gleaned from someone who’s laughing along with you.

Even if you’re hurt by what someone is saying, if you act like it doesn’t bother you – or better yet, you self-confidently laugh along with them – you retain your power.

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Bitch Tit ended up casually called his offensive nickname—not ever making a big deal over it. Soon, the other kids accepted him and wanted to be his friend. His confidence and ability to hold his head high despite something that would make most people want to hide impressed his peers.

Bitch Tit was one of the most popular guys in his high school.

I told my son that Bitch Tit may have felt insecure about what the kids were calling him, and probably grew out of the breast as his hormones adjusted, or perhaps later had the breast surgically removed. Who knows?

But he never let mean people see his insecurity and take his power. He never let them win.

I told my son that the next time someone is making fun of him, laugh along with them, or at the very least, walk away. Never let them have power over you.

“Don’t let the jerks of the world win. Be like Bitch Tit,” I said.

And then I told him, “But don’t use the words ‘bitch’ or ‘tit’ at school, or you’ll get in trouble!”

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The Personal Touch: 7 Steps to Stellar Customer Service

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Ask anyone with a thriving company to share their secret to success, and the most common response will be: “Good customer service.”

This short statement may seem simplistic in theory, but without consistently positive experiences, the customers you’re hoping will keep your financial boat afloat may walk away with their money, leaving you to sink into the ocean of failed businesses.

The best product in the world won’t earn repeat purchases without excellent customer service, and nothing helps a company grow like positive word-of-mouth. With social media outlets like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, positive and negative stories about products and services can now spread rapidly, quickly making or breaking businesses.

According to the 2013 Customer-Rage Study conducted by the ASU W.P Carey School of Business, the amount of people reporting service problems has risen from 32% in the 1976 study, to 45% in 2011, to 50% in this year’s survey.

Customers also admit to yelling at company representatives more than ever before. This is because people are still 11 times more likely to complain via the phone, making well-trained, professional phone representatives a must-have for any company wanting to appease and retain dissatisfied customers.

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If you can train all employees in the art of delivering great customer service, this is the most important step on the road to success you can take. Fortunately, being good at customer service and handling complaints are both easily achieved with respect, empathy and patience.

Below are 7 steps any company can take to provide amazing customer service that will increase sales and create loyal, happy clients.

 

1. Build a Relationship—

The most important thing any business can do to keep customers happy and returning is to interpersonally bond with them. Any effective salesperson will tell you that you’re not just selling a

product: you’re selling consistency, accountability—and your friendship. If you can develop strong relationships with your clients, you will win their consumer loyalty.

Learn the names and personal details of customers to help you cater to their shopping needs, and to develop a bond with them. People will return to a business that treats them like a person, rather than just another dollar to be made.

 

2. Stand Behind Your Product—

If you don’t believe in the quality of your product, why should anyone else? This means that if a customer brings back a broken or faulty item, don’t fight them about replacing it: if you happily remedy the issue, you will eventually make your money back with their repeat business.

People remember positive service experiences like this and share them on social media, so your kindness may also pay you back in new business from friends and family. Older, established companies like Bunn and Radio Flyer have been around for a long time and are well-known for their excellent customer service—and this is no coincidence. If you call complaining of a broken or missing part, both of these companies will replace it, no questions asked.

This incredible customer service and “How can we make this right?” attitude, handled by live humans on the phone and not frustrating automated menus, is exactly how to create and keep brand-loyal customers.

 

3. Validation and Acknowledgement—

When a customer calls to complain, one of the best responses a phone service employee can give them is verbal empathy. Sometimes an angry and dissatisfied buyer can be assuaged very quickly if they feel the employee understands and agrees with their issue.

Validating the customer’s emotions can be as easy as saying, “I understand why you’re feeling frustrated—that would make me feel frustrated, too,” or any type of comment that will let them know you’re on their side and want to find a solution.

Once a customer realizes you’re actively trying to help them, they will usually calm down and realize they no longer need to fight. Acknowledge the issue, validate their concerns, and then fix the problem to the best of your ability, and the customer will walk away feeling pleased with your positive attitude and assistance.

 

4. Human Handling Helps—

Nothing annoys customers more than calling to speak to a person, and being forced to suffer through an automated menu. Many people who might have only been mildly frustrated will move into the “officially angry” phase when forced to push buttons and enunciate yes or no-type answers for a computer.

This has become a problem, according to Scott Broetzmann of Customer Care Measurement and Consulting, because companies are focusing on the wrong things, such as “bad use of technology” like web chats and email complaints, when most people want to speak to a living person via phone.  The website GetHuman.com was designed to help consumers bypass annoying phone trees to speak to a person as quickly as possible, further proving that customers are highly annoyed by time-wasting automated menus.

If your company doesn’t have the staff to handle customer phone calls without leaving clients languishing on hold, consider hiring a professional answering service. Having trained customer service representatives handling questions and complaints will help your business retain clients who may have hung up on an automated menu—and your company—forever.

 

5. Pay Attention to Social Media—

As people spend more time on the Internet, they learn to use different outlets to communicate with companies, making your website, Facebook and Twitter pages important opportunities to establish great customer relationships. Consider using blogs, videos or even podcasts to connect with your desired demographic.

Customer concerns discussed on social media should be addressed immediately, because feeling ignored can make a client think a company doesn’t care about their issue.

Answer all questions and address problems in a helpful and friendly manner, making it clear that customer service is your top priority, and that you want to right any wrongs as quickly as possible.

 

6. Apologizing is Awesome—

Never underestimate the power of saying, “I’m sorry this happened. How can we make it better for you?” You are not admitting guilt, you’re simply apologizing for the inconvenience and frustration your customer is feeling—and you’d be amazed by how quickly an angry person will calm down once they realize you want to help.

Because there are many poorly-trained customer service representatives, customers often call expecting a battle to get the problem resolution they’re seeking. You can completely disarm them and turn their feelings from negative to positive by apologizing, empathizing, and cheerfully fixing the problem.

According to the 2013 Customer-Rage Study, when companies added free remedies like apologies to monetary compensation, this increased customer satisfaction from 37% to 74%, proving that people are surprisingly forgiving when treated with respect and kindness.

 

7. Training is Terrific—

You’ve hired great employees, but that doesn’t guarantee that when faced with an irate customer they’ll know how to handle them with the professionalism to salvage the client-company relationship.

Make certain all representatives of your business can handle conflict in a manner that promotes customer loyalty and satisfaction. And don’t forget to lead by example: If you treat your employees in an unkind or rude manner, they aren’t going to believe you place worth on being respectful to others.

Employees given raises based on good customer service skills will also be motivated to work hard to keep clients happy. A successful company known for this smart business model would be Trader Joe’s, with employee reviews and potential raises every 3 months, and an emphasis on great customer service.

 

As you read the tips above for giving great customer service, one thing becomes clear: people want to be listened to and treated with dignity, kindness, and the respect they deserve. The customer is the reason anyone employed has their job, and should be treated like the valuable commodity they are; but most of all, they want to be treated like valuable human beings.

If you can train your employees to build positive relationships with customers and solve problems in a compassionate, helpful way, you will have a successful, thriving company with a great reputation—and the excellent profits to match.