Day 12 – Communication Techniques for HELPERS

Do you work in the Helping Profession? Counseling? Medicine? Ministry? Teaching? Are you a parent? There are certain techniques that can be incredibly helpful when working in some kind of interpersonally-focused job. (And from everything I know about parenting… it IS a full-time, all-consuming job)! So how do you:

  • Facilitate good conversation
  • Get people to open up
  • Promote a trusting relationship
  • Help people feel safe
  • Encourage personal growth



Here are some communication tips to help:

Show empathy

There are few things better than knowing someone truly understands you. Empathy and sympathy are two different things. Sympathy can be shown by saying “I’m sorry for what you’re going through.” It indicates sad feelings but also comes across a bit disconnected from the situation. Empathy indicates you really get it. You understand on a deep, personal level what someone is really experiencing. People feel understood when you label their emotions and say something like, “Wow that’s <horrible, scary, sad, exciting etc.>” Or, “It can be frustrating when <a, b or c> happend.” They feel like you really get it and are  versus simply letting them know you feel sorry for them.

Use Silence

Silence can be awkward for many people. In “real life” people do whatever they can to avoid moments of silence by telling jokes, stories or just chatting away to fill the time. But in the helping profession, silence can be a valuable tool. Silence can be used to break up constant chatter. It slows people down, allows them to take a deep breath and really sit and process what they’re thinking and feeling. In a sense, it is communicating to them, “Breathe. It’s okay. I’ll sit with you while you take a moment to think.” Many times we cover up our true feelings by talking “over them” so to speak. Silence allows them to rise to the surface so they can actually be addressed.


Have you ever had a conversation that went off on tons of rabbit trails? Or what about one where the person telling the story gave so many details you now know the their mom’s favorite food and their aunt’s cousin’s birthplace? Sometimes we have so many thoughts that we want to get out and we aren’t sure which details are relevant so we just vomit out all of them. As a “helper” it’s often beneficial to summarize the most important points stated, to not only clarify for yourself, but also to help the speaker clear up any confusion in their own mind.

See you next time for more tips for Helpers!

Day 11 – Basic Guidelines For Leading Small Group Discussions With Adolescents

I am so excited about this guest post by Jeremy Zach. If you are a small group leader, teacher, parent or anyone else that works with students, this is a must-read!

Jeremy’s blog, REyouthpastor was recently listed in the Top 10 Youth Ministry Blogs of 2011 by Youth Specialties. He is a phenomenal Youth Pastor and Blogger, hilarious guy and overall awesome person! Jeremy has his Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary and has been working in youth ministry for nine years. Enjoy this guest post!

Basic Guidelines For Leading A Small Group Discussion For Mid to Late Adolescence


Don’t be afraid of silence

Let the students sit for a moment and think. Their brains aren’t fully developed yet, so give them a chance to process their thoughts.

Highly Value Student Input
Do whatever it takes to affirm the comments of student input, but do not be artificial with your praise. Be delicate with answers that are clearly wrong (you probably don’t want to put a big red “idiot” stamp on their forehead). Do not feel like you have to finish, complete, or correct a student’s answer.

Don’t feel like you have to know all the answers

We are human, and it’s good for your students to see that you are limited. You are, but most of them don’t think so.  Don’t pretend like you have every answer.  Here is a great line: I don’t know.

Don’t read questions off the leader’s guide

Understand the questions and be prepared to ask them in your own terms. Feel free to generate your own questions during your preparation AND even “on the spot.”

 Don’t talk more than the students

Ask questions to generate discussion, ask students to explain their answers and go into more depth. Allow multiple students to respond, even if the first person gets the “right” answer.   Encourage them to deal with the material on their own terms. Create a climate where people feel the freedom to ask any question.

Do echo some responses to your questions

If a student’s answer or comment is long-winded or unclear, repeat it back (summarize it) for clarity. This proves you are listening and it keeps the attention of the rest of the group.

Don’t move to a new question too quickly

After a student answers a question, ask, “Would anyone like to add to that?” or “Does everyone agree/disagree with that?”

Do keep the group focused

Don’t go down a rabbit trail and leave unless something “big time” comes up (e.g., a family crisis/personal issues). Be sensitive as the discussion develops.  But this is not an excuse to be lazy and let the group wander. Wandering is easy, being an intentional small group leader isn’t!

Don’t be discouraged

Generating a discussion with teenagers is tough.  Just keep your head up when it gets tough.  If you are committed the connections will come.  Be your mature self and the students will respect and value your efforts.

Day 10 – “How to be Great on the Job”

I came across this post on Lindsay Pollack’s awesome career blog. She offers tons of great advice and relevant information for Generation Y as they enter the workforce. Recently she posted an interview with Communications Expert, Jodi Glickman on how to communicate effectively at work. Check out some of Glickman’s advice here:

How to be Great on the Job: Interview with Communications Expert, Jodi Glickman

Day 9 – Dealing with Aggressive People… Some Tips

To recap the past few days… we’ve gone over:

  1. Communication stylespassive, passive-aggressive, aggressive and assertive
  2. How to deal with passive-aggressive people
  3. How do deal with passive people

Last but not least, dealing with aggressive people!

Quick disclaimer: If you are married to (or dating) an aggressive communicator who puts you down, physically harms you, or find yourself fearful of him/her at all… seek help! Seek out a counselor or some other qualified professional.

Aggressive people are incredibly difficult to deal with at times. Here are some tips:

1) Try not to take their behavior personally. I recognize this is WAY easier said than done! However, through your own self-talk and a reality-based perception of whatever situation occurred, it IS possible. You know the whole, “It’s not you, it’s me” thing?? Well, when it comes to dealing with aggressive personalities, that’s often the truth!

2) Wait. If you try to engage in conversation when the aggressive person is heated, it probably won’t go anywhere. Wait. They’ll run out of steam eventually. Then, try to talk calmly about the issue.

3) Gently teach compromise (or get an outside counselor to help do it). Depending on how severe the individual’s aggression is, it may be necessary to enlist the help of a professional with this. But the truth is, aggressive individuals likely never learned how to compromise in a healthy way. For them, to give up control seems disastrous. They need to learn that relationships require give and take. It’s not all about what one person wants, but rather figuring out how to make things work in such a way where both people can be happy and fulfilled.

4) Be a detective. Try to put the clues together – When is the aggressive person MOST aggressive? Is there a particular environment that they tend to get more heated in? If so, avoid whenever possible!

5) Stay calm. One of the goals of the aggressive communicator is to control and rattle you. If you remain calm, you’re not giving in to what they are trying to accomplish. Don’t add fuel to the fire. (That doesn’t mean be a doormat though).

I hope this is helpful. Tomorrow we’re moving on from communication styles and we’ll start going over communication for specific individuals/groups. This is good stuff!!


Day 8 – Dealing with Passive People… Some Tips…

This series has been way more fun than I ever anticipated! There is SO much we could talk about when it comes to communication. It is a part of all of our daily lives and I wish we could spend a whole year on it. (Well, I guess we could but it wouldn’t really go with the whole 21-day series concept).

So… tomorrow will be the last day we’ll talk about the different communication styles for a while… Later this week we’ll move on to communication with specific types of people/groups. And throw some non-verbal communication in there too… Studying body language is absolutely fascinating. (I know I am a nerd but you have to admit this stuff is way cool)!

Anywho… onto passive communication.

As we already discussed in Day 3, passive people tend to feel misunderstood. They are reluctant to share their thoughts, feelings and opinions and therefore others have a hard time figuring out what they really want. Often times they feel anxious when asked to express themselves and afraid of what other people might think of them. So how do you, the loved one of this passive individual, help them come out of their shell?


1) Ask clear, direct questions. Just as we need to do with passive-aggressive peeps, we have to be clear in asking for what we want from passive communicators. They may attempt to avoid really expressing how they feel so at least we’ll know there is no confusion on our end in terms of what we need.

2) Be patient! Passive people don’t just have a hard time expressing their points-of-view, but they also have a hard time even knowing their points-of-view. Somewhere along the line, they were given a message that it’s not okay to think for themselves. So give them space and allow them some time to think before demanding a reply.

3) Let them know how much you desire to understand. Due to insecurity and probably some past experiences as well, passive individuals often believe no one truly cares to know what they think anyway. So let them know you sincerely do care.

4) Force the issue when the timing is right. Once you have developed a trusting relationship with them, “force” them to make a decision. You can do this a number of ways… a) You can ask them to decide on small things first like where to have dinner the following week. b) You can present them with a few options and have them pick their favorite one. c) You can take turns making decisions.

5) Model healthy communication and confident decision-making. It’s natural to look up to others and when your passive friend sees that healthy communication is not so bad (thanks to your example) he or she may follow suit.

Hope this helps! See you tomorrow!

Day 7 – Dealing With Passive-Aggressive People… Some Tips…

We’ve gone through the primary styles of communicating. Now what? So often we read and obtain new information but unless we learn how to apply it feels useless. Feels being the key word. I would argue that simply having the knowledge is part of the growth process. But I get it… We all want practical strategies to implement in our lives (myself included).

So, let’s get to it.


Here are some general tips related specifically to dealing with the passive-aggressive communicator:

1) Ask clear, direct questions. As mentioned in Day 5, P-A communicators refuse to just say what they mean and mean what they say. Instead they may be manipulative in their dealings with others in order to subtly make their points known. Ask them to clearly explain how they feel.

2) Confront when you suspect the person is hiding their anger or resentment. Call the person out on their behavior. Confrontation can be incredibly healthy when handled in a mature way. For example, if your boyfriend snidely remarks that it was “nice of you to show up before the end of the concert” after you arrive 15 minutes late… ask him, “Are you upset with me for being late?” Try not to come across as defensive, but seriously people: cut to the chase!

3) Point out the disconnect between their words and behavior. Let the person know that while they’re telling you one thing, you’re confused because they’ve just done something completely different. For example, let’s say your ex and his new girlfriend invite you and your fiance to dinner. Your fiance reluctantly agrees but ends up arriving late and spending most of the evening emailing on his blackberry. After dinner, let him know you’re confused because while he said he didn’t have a problem with the date, his behavior indicated he was distracted and uninterested.

4) Refuse to give the passive-aggressive communicator control. Honestly, that’s what it’s really about. Control. Let’s say your husband jokingly make pig noises after you’ve eaten a big meal… laugh right along with him. Refuse to allow his “joke” to bother you because if you make a big deal about it, he’ll feel like he accomplished his goal; to control how you feel. While some situations may call for a serious confrontation, others may be able to be laughed off. Choose your battles wisely.

5) Set limits. Let the P-A know that certain behaviors will not be tolerated. Being late, “forgetting” important events, refusing to express opinions etc…. not okay! There are two people involved in the relationship and both have to play their parts. Relationships require honesty, commitment and a genuine interest in the well-being of the other person. Skirting around issues, denying true feelings etc. will not cut it!

Hope these tips are helpful! I know it’s not as easy as just implementing a few techniques and then watching all of the issues disappear… But as the person on the receiving end of the passive-aggressive behavior, hopefully these ideas will help some.

I also recommend seeking outside counsel (life coach, therapist, support group etc.) to help if you are involved in a relationship like this. It can be incredibly draining and the extra support will be absolutely invaluable.

Have a great weekend!

Day 6 – “I’ll tell you how I really feel… AND I’ll be nice about it!”

The past three communication styles have been kind of a bummer… No one likes to talk to people who are not upfront (passive-aggressive), pushovers (passive) or are flat-out rude (aggressive) etc. So how should we communicate? Here are some traits that define assertive communicators:

* They say what they mean and mean what they say.

* They are “present” in conversations… listen intently and respond appropriately.

* They are able to genuinely connect with people.

* They speak up and ensure that their point-of-view is heard… but not at the expense of other people.

* They don’t give with the expectation of getting something in return.

* They take responsibility for getting their own needs met.

* They think before they speak.

* Their message is clear and effective.


As you can see, the benefits of being assertive are HUGE for the listener. Assertive communicators are a lot easier to deal with! But here’s the thing: There are also great benefits for the assertive person…

  • They experience less stress and anxiety wondering if they communicated clearly. Assertive communicators confidently know that while the listener may not have liked everything that was said, at least they were being honest and kind.
  • They don’t have any regrets. Assertive communicators don’t fly off the handle in an angry rage or hold back in sharing how they really feel.
  • They aren’t waiting around for other people to “get them” or give them what they need. Assertive communicators take responsibility for themselves.
  • Assertive communicators tend to have more genuine relationships than the other types. They have an ability to really connect with people and be vulnerable.
  • They are respected.



Assertive Communicators may think these kinds of thoughts:

“I am responsible for my own happiness.”

“I am going to show others respect.”

“I only have control over myself. I cannot control anyone else.”

“I am not afraid to disagree with someone. We are each entitled to our own opinions.”

“I have choices and I am going to consider each one before I make a decision.”


What kind of communicator do YOU want to be??

Day 4 – It’s all your fault!”

Could anyone relate to yesterday’s post about the passive communication style? I know I can. That is definitely a style I tend to gravitate towards personally. If you missed yesterday’s post click here: “Why Doesn’t Anyone Get Me?”

Moving on to aggressive communicators… Here are some traits you might recognize:

* Agressive communicators need to dominate in conversations. They often interrupt and refuse to let others get a word in edgewise. They like to control the conversation.

* They tend to alienate themselves from others and push others away. People do not usually like to be around them because they are so domineering.

* Their need for control comes from a place of insecurity. In order to maintain respect and authority, they put up a bullying-type front.

* They may be loud and forceful in how they speak.

* Generally, they refuse to take ownership for their part in problems. Instead, aggressive communicators will usually blame others when things go wrong.

Aggressive communicators may think some of the following thoughts:

“Why can’t anyone do anything right?”

“You are to blame for what’s happened.”

“How can you be this stupid?”

“I am going to get my way no matter what it takes.”

“You owe me this… and more.”

Can you relate to any of this? Do you know someone who presents themselves this way? 

Passive and aggressive styles of relating both have their flaws. A third style is a combination of the two: passive-aggressive, which is pretty common! We’ll get into that one tomorrow!

Day 3 – “Why doesn’t anyone get me?”

Did you figure out what style of communicator you are? If not, check out Styles of Communicating to figure it out.

Once you’ve done that, you can look even closer and figure out how your individual communication style impacts your life and relationships.

We’ll start with passive today and move on to the other styles throughout the rest of this week. So stay tuned… :)


Those who communicate passively may experience the following feelings:

Out of control & Anxious – If you’re always doing what other people want and refusing to speak up for yourself, it’s going to feel like you have no control over your own life!

Confused – A lot of times, passive communicators ignore their own feelings. Therefore it makes sense that when they do try to figure out what they really think/feel on a particular issue, they’d be unsure.

Depressed – Passive communicators often feel stuck. They’re unsure about what they want and continually allow others to control them (whether they realize it or not). Feeling hopeless is one of the primary indicators of depression.

AfraidPassive communicators are constantly wondering what others are thinking and try hard not to offend anyone. They are afraid to make anyone mad, hurt, upset etc. even at the expense of their own needs.

Misunderstood – Passive people may have strong feelings under the surface but since they rarely let others in, passive people often feel like others don’t understand them at all.

Some thoughts that might run through the mind of a passive communicator are:

“No one cares about me.”

“I am always ignored.”

“Why can’t I think for myself?”

“I don’t know what I want/think/feel.”

“I am alone.”

We’ll get into some strategies later to help those who fit into each of the communication categories. But for now, just keep learning about your personal style and how the important people in your life communicate. Knowledge is power so the more your understand yourself and others, the easier it will be to relate to them!

To be continued…

Day 2 – Styles of Communicating…

Communication styles can be summed up in a few basic categories. As you read these, try to determine where you fit. What is your most dominant method of communicating with others? What style describes you the least?

Passive Communicators:

  • Hold back from speaking up on issues
  • Do not tend to express feelings or opinions
  • May avoid eye contact or appear shy/reserved  
  • Allow others to control them
  • Frequently uses phrases such as: “I’m sorry!”

Aggressive Communicators:

  • Try to dominate conversations by interrupting and speaking over people
  • Criticize and blame others
  • Often speak loudly and try to exert control in conversation
  • May be flat-out rude to people or get frustrated easily
  • Speak more than they listen

Passive-Agressive Cmmunicators:

  • Speak indirectly about issues rather than to the person
  • Use subtle “hints” to let others know when upset
  • May be sarcastic
  • May claim to be misunderstood
  • Behave ambiguously. Say one thing but act a different way.

Assertive Comnmunicators:

  • Listen to the opinions of others
  • Expresse their feelings and thoughts clearly
  • Take responsibility for their actions
  • Do not allow others to manipulate or control them
  • Make eye contact and “appear attentive” when communicating with others

Next time we’ll get into more details about each of the above communication styles. So, which one resonates most with you?

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