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.

ImageRow, row, row your boat gently down the stream… Sing it twice as you wash your hands, working up a good lather as you go, and you will be practicing one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness in all settings from your home and workplace to healthcare facilities.

It’s just common sense, really. Consider all the surfaces we come in contact with throughout the day – hand rails, door handles, ATM buttons and the like. What do all these things have in common? The human touch. We move about our day touching things everywhere we go.  

Imagine what it would be like to be a simple cold or flu germ.  Influenza viruses can survive on hard surfaces such as books or doorknobs between two and 8 hours. [1] Now, that may not seem like a very long time, but in “virus years” it can be an eternity.

Let’s say you are coming down with a cold and have decided to “gut it out” and go to work. With only a sore throat and a stuffy nose, you don’t realize that you are a veritable germ factory, and the first time you blow your nose and fail to wash your hands right after, you will soon be sharing your cold germs with everyone around you via everything you touch. Cold and flu germs can survive on some surfaces for up to 48 hours [2] and so the calling cards you leave behind when you handle things can be transferred by contact to anyone coming along behind you who touches it. This can include the telephone at the reception desk, the buttons on the copy machine or the handle of the coffee pot in the employee lounge. And as you run errands on the way home from work you are leaving cold germs along the way on the handle of the cart at the grocery store and the ballpoint pin you used at the bank teller’s window. 

Yes, germs are lurking around us all the time. They hitch a ride on us when we touch a surface on which they have been left. And if they make it to our eyes, nose or mouth, their most common entry point into the body, they will invade our body and perhaps make us sick. But there is a fast and easy way to defend ourselves against the spread of germs. Handwashing. 

According to the CDC (Centers of Disease Control) we should wash our hands before, during and after preparing food, before eating and before and after caring for someone who is sick or taking care of a cut or wound. Of course we all know to wash our hands after using the bathroom or changing a baby’s diaper. Hand washing is advised after taking out the trash or touching an animal, feeding it, or cleaning up after it. And of course it is especially important to wash our hands after blowing our nose, coughing or sneezing. [3] 

Now that we know when to wash our hands, let’s take a look at just how to do it. The CDC advises that we first wet our hands with warm or cold clean running water. Then apply soap. Next, rub the hands together to make a rich lather and scrub them well. Remember the backs of the hands, between the fingers and under the nails. This vigorous scrubbing should last at least 20 seconds. (Twice singing the song, Row, row, row your boat.) Then a good rinse under running water and a clean towel or air dry is the recommended finish. [3] 

As a side note, the use of waterless hand sanitizers is also addressed by the CDC. When soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol can reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations when using them and know that they will not eliminate all types of germs. [3] 

Simple handwashing is truly the vanguard of infection control. No other infection control measure goes further in protecting us against the spread of germs. So row, row, row your boat gently to the closest sink and wash your hands. See you there!

Bo Ramsey is a CNA Instructor at Express Training Services, LLC at the Destin Training Center. ETS is home based in Gainesville, Florida and has several other training centers in Florida that offer fast-track instruction for certification in many healthcare occupations. For more information call 866-346-0660 or go to





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