ask the questionOkay, I’m 12 years old again and I’m riding in the back seat of the family car. My mom has just picked me up from a friend’s house and I am dying to ask permission to go to the school dance in a couple of weeks. The words are stuck right in my throat. I am so terrified that she will say “no” that I cannot make myself ask the question. And so there I sit… trying to muster the courage to ask my mother if she will let me go to the dance…

Wimp Junction

Have you ever done that? Get to “wimp junction” and then wimp out? At wimp junction you have a choice. You can take action… or wimp out. Taking action usually requires a bit of courage, and of course wimping out seems the easier thing to do.

In my case, the action I wanted to take was simply asking my mother for something. It may seem a simple thing, asking a question. But my 12 year old self would have told you it was a superhuman feat. Why? Fear.

We are all afraid to ask for things we want. And asking for what we want is critical to our well being. It’s as simple as this: If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t ask questions, you are making assumptions based on nothing. You miss out because you wimp out.

If YOU don’t ask, nobody will

Now really, think about it. What is the worst that would happen if you asked your boss for a promotion, or applied for that job you’ve always wanted? What if you actually asked for a discount at the department store or when renting a car? What would happen if you took that “empty-handed leap into the void” and asked your spouse to take out the trash or wash the dog? I can tell you what might happen… you might GET what you are asking for!

The flip side to this is that when you don’t ask, you just end up taking what you get. When we don’t ask, we lose before we even begin because we assume the answer will be NO. When we do this we are denying ourselves something that we (think anyway) we deserve. Ouch! Oh the pain that resides at wimp junction!

Asking means receiving

Simply asking questions can deliver the things that we require and desire. Having the courage to ask for what we want puts us squarely in charge of getting what we get. In a crazy way it makes us actually think of what we want instead of thinking about what we have and whether we want it or not. Make Sense?

And consider this. When other people are clear about what you want, they are less likely to make assumptions about what they think you want. When you take action in the form of asking for what you want, you also create openings for yourself that people around you might have never seen otherwise. This can be inspirational to others, as they may choose to follow your lead and empower themselves as you have!

Asking takes courage, yes. But you can do it. When you get to wimp junction, just take the plunge! The 12 year old me who sat with a question stuck in her throat, learned something that day. When I did finally manage to ask permission to go to the dance, without hesitation my mother said YES! “Well,” I thought. “That was easy!” In a single moment of being brave and vulnerable I had instantly been rewarded with the prize I was seeking. All I had to do was ask! What will YOU ask for today?



comfortzoneIf you want to be successful, you can expect to be in new situations. Whether you are adjusting to new responsibilities, a new position or even an entirely new job, your learning curve will be quicker and easier, and success will be yours if you remember the basics of getting to know people. Be ready to move out of your comfort zone to master three basic people skills: introducing yourself, remembering  names, and asking questions.

Believe it or not, even successful people under perform because of the anxiety they feel in new situations. We all feel it, but the most successful among us has learned how to put our ego aside so that we can effectively introduce ourselves, reliably remember names, and overcome the fear of asking questions.

These three basic yet critical get-to-know-you skills can be learned, but to practice them we must push ourselves out of our comfort zone. Our confidence level in new situations will grow as we practice these people skills and we will realize success building upon success!

Introducing Yourself

It is important to push through feelings like fear of making mistakes or being rejected when it comes to meeting people. And you will get farther faster if you go up to people and introduce yourself rather than waiting for them to come up to you. All you have to do is learn how to get better at it.

Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself people, just go for it. Whether you are at a networking function to meet people, or at a meeting and your new CEO is there, don’t assume someone isn’t interested in meeting you. Be prepared by having an “opening line” about yourself and a firm handshake. The first few times you stretch out of your comfort zone to do this it will feel awkward, but with some word tweaking and continued practice your opening line will be great.

Then pay attention to what they tell you about themselves. Listen intently so that they feel heard, valued and respected. First impressions don’t have as much to do with what you say, but rather how you made them feel. It is a really, really good idea to write down details about them as soon as you can. Don’t rely on your memory, especially if you are in a setting where you are meeting more than one person. This will help you remember someone the next time you see them, which brings us to our next basic people skill.

Remembering Names

We all are challenged to remember the names of people we meet, but remembering names is a skill that you can master with practice. When you remember someone’s name you are likely to feel much more comfortable with them which will lead to trust that will pay dividends in your future endeavors. Here are a few tips about how to remember names.

Firstly, before the end of your first conversation with someone you have just met, use their name a couple of times. If their name slips your mind, just ask them. Don’t wimp out here. Remembering people’s names is a skill that will serve you almost more than anything else in life. As soon as possible, write down their name, or put it in your cell phone or other device. Go back later, look at their name and purposely bring their face up in your mind’s eye. Go through your list of new acquaintances from time to time to test your recall, and when you do, associate something in their name with something you remember about them such as the way they looked. For instance, Shirley Brown might have long curly brown hair, so you can associate Shirley with curly and Brown with the color of her hair. Association is a proven method of recollection.

Lastly, when you are going to be somewhere you are likely to see someone again, go over your notes so that you will recognize them and remember some things about them. Your commitment to remembering them will not be forgotten.

Asking Questions

Most of us resist the urge to ask questions, but according to studies, the more questions new employees ask, the better they perform. Asking questions shows a commitment to superior performance and organizational success. Overcome the urge to “go it alone” and ask a co-worker or boss for guidance. But before you do, consider what you want, why you want it, and who and when you should ask. Your question should be focused and to the point. Instead of asking “how to” do something, ask to be shown. Avoid multi-faceted questions. Then say thank you.

A good practice when starting something new would be to establish a “go-to” person early on. You can set this up during your introduction to this person by asking them if it is okay to get back with them about questions you might have in the future.

In summary, as you practice these three people skills basics, your confidence will grow as you become more adept at introductions, names and questions. You will become accustomed to being out of your comfort zone as you ramp up your game. Just make a promise to yourself that you will always push yourself out of your comfort zones where ever they are. You will be better for it!

Reference credit: Success in New Situations by Keith Rollag from the December 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review via Hennes Communications on Facebook!

toothbrushesProviding mouth care to the elderly who have dementia, brushing their teeth in particular, is often a challenging task for caregivers. Thanks to Rita Jablonoski, PhD who has 30+ years nursing home experience, we can explain a few things and offer some advice on the topic. If you have encountered someone who is resisting mouth care, even biting during it, this information should be helpful.

First, the best place to do mouth care is at a sink (bathroom is best, but even the kitchen sink will work) because the familiar setting will ease the anxiety being experienced by the person who has dementia. A mirror at eye level, whether the person is standing or sitting, is also helpful as it helps to reinforce self-care memories.

Second, smile a lot! This may sound overly simple, but the mouth care you are trying to give may seem threatening to someone with dementia. If you have a big smile on your face they may be less threatened. Also lower the pitch of your voice because this makes it easier for them to hear you (as we age, it is harder to hear the higher pitches.)

Allow them to do as much as possible. If you are afraid they aren’t doing a good enough job, however, you have a few options. You can guide their hand or pantomime the mouth care to guide them along. Try putting the toothpaste on the brush for them. It may also be helpful to just let them hold a toothbrush while you do the mouth care.

Some things to avoid include trying to reason with someone who has dementia as this will only increase the likelihood of their resistance. Instead, use simple one-step instructions, giving them time to process the request before you repeat it. Resist the urge to talk to them in a baby-talk manner using plural pronouns such as, “It’s time for us to brush our teeth.” This is called “elderspeak” and has been documented by nurse researchers as a guarantee for care resistance. It also raises dignity issues. People with dementia will forget many things, but they will not forget that they are an adult.

Try singing while performing mouth care if you meet with resistance. This will sometimes distract the person with dementia and if they sing along, you will have easier access to their teeth. Giving them something to hold on to such as a stuffed animal may provide comfort and help melt their resistance. Talking about their favorite things also serves to distract and relax someone with dementia. Sometimes getting creative works too. Rita describes an approach that worked for a lady in a wheelchair who clenched her teeth during mouth care. The staff tried sitting her in front of a mirror as they stood behind her, reaching around to do mouth care. This worked like a charm in her case as long as she could see herself in the mirror.

One more thing. Remember to use tepid water as gums recede as we age, making teeth especially sensitive to cold water. And make sure the toothbrush has soft bristles.

An alternative to brushing is flossing, but not with the typical waxed string. This flossing is done best with a small toothpick-like device called a proximal brush or interdentate stick. They can be used like toothpicks to go in between the teeth, and when dipped in mouthwash they are even better. After this type of flossing, tooth brushing may be met with less resistance. Rita recommends having the resident say “EEEEEEEEEEE” during this particular type of mouth care.
Rita admits that there is no sure way to get people with dementia to cooperate with a caregiver’s efforts to brush their teeth, but the advice she offers is to just keep trying. Her decades of experience has proven that eventually resistance will diminish with time.

resume graphicThe typical resume contains information about previous responsibilities, personal attributes and contact information. This traditional format is just not cutting the mustard these days for job seekers who are running into throngs of people all competing for the same job.

Make your resume action and results-oriented. Hiring managers do not want to see a rehash of past duties; they want to know about your successes. If your resume shows action, accomplishments and quantifiable results, you will capture and hold a manager’s attention. Here is how to do it. 

  1. Create a list of your tasks from previous jobs. If you already have an up to date resume, this should be an easy thing to do as your tasks are listed there for you. If they aren’t, take time to make a list of performed tasks for each of your previous jobs.
  2. Consider this list of tasks. Think about the accomplishments associated with each, and write those accomplishments down.
  3. Use these new details to create action/result statements for your resume.

For example, if your former position was as a CNA in a nursing home, one of the things that you were responsible for was taking care of residents. Your action-oriented tasks would be that of assisting residents with their ADLs, observing and reporting, etc. The associated successful result was doing it efficiently and in a timely manner. To quantify the result, you can specify the number residents you typically were responsible for during your shift and how long it took you to perform your tasks. If you received any recognition for your successes, all the better! 

Once you have put together your “numbers” then you are ready to compose your action/results-oriented statements. Using the above example it would be something like, “Delivered quality Restorative Care to 15 (on average) long term care residents and Rehabilitative Care to 4 (on average) short term care nursing home residents per eight hour shift.” 

In addition, including any special recognition you received on the job is a perfect way to demonstrate your success to a hiring authority, and if you have good attendance, claim it! The appropriate action/results-oriented statement in this regard would go something like this: “Have worked six consecutive months with perfect attendance.” 

Keep in mind that your resume is one of several from which a new hire will be chosen. To hiring managers, one resume looks like the rest after a while because most resumes focus only on responsibilities/tasks. Your resume will stand out if it is action and results-oriented. It is likely that the person doing the hiring is already familiar with the requirements of your former jobs anyway, unless you are changing fields. And if you are changing careers, results are results and success is success regardless of the industry. 

Remember that on the quantified job results will lend credence to your claims. This is one reason the action/results-oriented method of resume writing is so effective. Hiring authorities with any experience have learned that a candidate’s past success is often a reliable indicator of their future success. You can make any claim you want on your resume, but showing the results of your successes will bring you successful job seeking results of your own. 

Revising your resume using the action-oriented method may take a bit of time, but it will be time well spent. You will not only have a handful of action and results-oriented statements, you might also come away with a new appreciation of your own special expertise!

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