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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Problem with Expecting Instant Communication

Hello friends.  Happy Fall!!  I hope you’re off to a great new school year or a great Holiday season.  Let’s talk about communication.  Today, things have really changed and I know you know this.  As you know, we all assume that everyone has a cellphone (mostly) and we also assume that everyone keeps their cellphone with them at all times.  With these assumptions, comes expectations of instant or very quick responses.  I’ve had several friends and colleagues lately discuss the pressure and even the annoyance of these expectations.

Most of us have experienced leaving someone a voice mail or text and expecting or wanting that person to respond within the hour or for sure, the same day.  When and if that response doesn’t come, we start thinking things like, “something is wrong,” or “they’re ignoring me,” or “they must be mad at me,” or etc.  These feelings happen because of our expectations of immediate or quick response times.

Likewise, if we are the receivers of a text or voicemail, as soon as we receive it, the pressure to respond starts mounting.  Perhaps we’re not ready to respond, or perhaps we need more information, or perhaps we’re just not in the mood, however, the longer we go, the more anxiety most of us feel regarding our response.

Wow, it really has changed.  What can we do to just help with all of the expectations?  We can make our expectations perhaps more clear.  Let me give you a few examples.

Leaving a voicemail:
  • Hey Sara, it’s Monica.  Just wanted to say, “Hi.”  No need to call back but would love to talk when you have some time.
  • Hey Sara, it’s Monica.  Could you give me a call by tomorrow?  I need to ask you a question before I buy those tickets tomorrow.

Texting responses:
  • Got your text.  Will respond when I have more time to think about it.
  • Thanks for your text.  I appreciate hearing from you.  Give me a few days to think about it.

It’s rude to not return calls and texts but  it’s also rude to expect other people to stop what they’re doing and respond instantly to our correspondence.  I think we all would benefit from being more patient with each other and realize that we each have very busy lives and sometimes, we simply cannot respond.  Perhaps if we lowered out expectations with regards to instantaneous responses, we would avoid hurt feelings and wrong assumptions.  Ladies and Gentlemen are patient, kind and avoid making assumptions about other’s behavior.  Let’s do our best to respond to correspondence in a timely manner, even if that response is just a request for more time.

Have a fabulous month.
Monica Irvine

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Raising Children to Be Happy

Raising children is hard.  If you’re a parent, this is something you know deep down in your bones.  As I go around the country teaching and interacting with young people, I see a few common threads, some are a little discouraging, but many are so full of hope.  What makes me sad is when I meet children and teens who seem to be lacking in so many essential skills to help them to be successful, but mainly to help them to feel good about themselves which is the key to them being successful. These lacking skills are often; self confidence, integrity, charity, empathy, ambition and social skills.  However,  where I find hope even when I see the lack of these skills, is in the children’s desire to learn these skills and make them a part of their lives.  

Once children understand the “payoff” for acquiring these skills, they are usually very interested and even dedicated in mastering these ideas.  Parents, the most important thing for you and I to realize when it comes to helping our children develop these attributes, is to know that our children are not born with them...they MUST be taught by example and by constant discussion and constant praise and reinforcement.  Children want to be proud of who they are.  Children want to make the right choices.  Children want to be good because being good is what helps us to be happy.

So how do we do this?  We must look for opportunities every day to show our children the joy we feel by living these precepts.  Do our children watch us...

  • being kind with words and deed to all those we associate with, especially inside the walls of our home
  • live a 100% honest life
  • do hard things with grace and gratitude, always believing that things will work out
  • serve others continually, always looking for opportunities to do for others
  • as we NEVER speak unkindly about others, but instead only notice the good that others have to offer
  • as we demonstrate impeccable manners, always striving to speak and act in a way that shows how much we value those around us.

Parents, what do we really want?  If you’re like me, you want your children to be happy and successful.  We have to invest everything we have; our time, our energy, our prayers and especially our love into the constant mentoring of our children.  But when we do, we will ultimately have what money and status can never acquire, and that’s happy children.

Have a wonderful month,

Monica Irvine

Thursday, October 29, 2015

We Are One Human Family

A lady and a gentleman do not see each other as different but rather as similar with unique and different qualities.  What do I mean?  I mean that instead of seeing each other noticing what is different like skin color, dress, education level, sense of humor, behavior, religion, sexual orientation and the list goes on and on, we see each other as people...moms and dads, sons and daughters all striving and hoping to find love, peace, acceptance, respect, appreciation, sincerity, and more.  

Yes of course we may look different, but why notice?  Why not look at each other through different lenses?  The lenses that focus on the things that we have in common.  I know we might think that we are not prejudice or we do not make differences but often we do and we do not even recognize it.  For instance, have we ever said, “There was this cute little black boy on the playground this morning...”?  Why wouldn’t we just say, “There was this cute little boy on the playground this morning...”  Why would we ever point out his skin color?  Why do we need to do that?  What difference does it make?  Does it make our story better?  Does it play into some stereotype we are trying to make a connection to?  Do you see how this is pointing out differences that aren’t important?

I’m sure all of us want to be proud of our heritage, our cultural, our families ( at least I hope so),  but a lady and a gentleman see each other as valued human beings that share common hopes and dreams.  A lady and a gentleman strive to show value in each other and know that words really do matter.  It’s a wonderful thing when people   recognize valuable things about other cultures and races and draw attention to those beautiful things.  Let’s be careful however, not to point to generalizations regarding races and cultures.  None of us enjoy to be placed in a big group and then assumptions  made about us depending on the group we have been associated with.  We are unique.  We have our own thoughts, ideas and goals.  Let’s give everyone the same benefit we be recognized for our accomplishments, our character, our integrity, our hard work.

Have a great month,
Monica Irvine

Certified Etiquette Educator and Life Skills Coach

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Self Control...A True Etiquette Principle

Hello Friends.  Happy Spring.  I would like to discuss a skill that all gentlemen and ladies should strive to possess…that of self-control.  Self-control is an attribute that requires one to consciously make an effort to be in control of one’s emotions, actions and speech.  We all know people who have little self-control.  They are the ones who “blow their tops” rather quickly, get easily “rattled” and “put their foot in their mouth” very often.  I hope this isn’t us.

When we consider that we want to raise our children believing that they are not a victim to circumstances or helpless to physical appetites or pleasures, we might want to examine if we live our own life in a way that exemplifies this belief system.  Here are some self-checks to consider:

  • Do we find ourselves often being blamed for other’s hurt feelings?  If so, we might need to ask someone we trust, love and admire to be honest with us by asking, “Am I rude?  Do I sound condescending or judgmental when I speak to others?  If you were to advice me on one thing that you thought would help me if I changed in my conversation with others, what would it be?”  Then, be courageous enough to hear and act and thank your friend who loves you.
  • Do we find ourselves angry at least once per day?  How about once per week?  Either of these amounts is a sure sign that we are struggling with understanding and controlling our emotions.  Studies show that people who get angry more often are more unhappy.  You might be saying, “Duh?”  However, here’s something to consider.  We choose to be angry.  No one forces you or I to ever become angry.  It’s a choice.  And when we choose it, we are choosing unhappiness.
  • Are we a slave to a bad habit?  Do we have to have an alcoholic drink each day to “calm our nerves” or relax us?  Do we have to have our coffee in the morning or we have no way of being responsible for our grouchiness, sleepiness or lack of focus.  I could go on but the simple truth is this.  If you need outside unhealthy habits to keep you going, you are allowing something other than yourself to be in control of you.

Choose to be an example that your children can look to in all things, even in self control.

Have a great month,

Monica Irvine

Monday, March 16, 2015

Let’s offer Everyone the Same Rights

This great country that you and I are privileged to live in is a gift, a gift to be cherished, protected and honored.  As ladies and gentlemen, it is our duty to demonstrate to others through our actions and our words that we respect and honor their rights, opinions, beliefs and the guiding principles that they live by.

I know we talk about this often, but it seems to be a topic that further discussion and exploration is always needed.  Most of us have come to believe certain ideas and principles to be true.  We’ve reached these beliefs through our upbringing, our life experiences and often research and study.  Thank goodness we are in charge of our own brains.  If you’re like me, you want to be allowed to believe what you believe and not be judged, ridiculed or persecuted assuming that our beliefs and actions do not place the safety of those around us in jeopardy.  

Please allow me to give you an example of a “hot topic” issue to illustrate my larger point of this consideration.  Example–– if you want to believe that marriage is only between a man and a woman, then you must also allow others to believe that marriage is between any two people, regardless of gender.  If you support that marriage is between any two people, regardless of gender, than you must also allow others to only support that marriage is between one man and one woman based on their beliefs.  Yes, you absolutely can speak of your beliefs and try to persuade others to come to the knowledge of the truths that you believe, but you must do so only by acting in love, patience, kindness and understanding.  

We all want the same rights to act upon our own beliefs, but so often, we try to eliminate the rights of others through legislation and other methods, simply because we do not share their beliefs.  We personally attack those who do not share our beliefs by using terms such as bigot, self righteous, judgmental, closed-minded, etc.  We have a system in this great country in order to make change.  We allow our voice to be heard through our vote, through contacting our representatives, by protesting and teaching and giving information and all of these are acceptable practices in trying to bring about change.  Ladies and gentlemen, use the appropriate methods to give support to your causes and speak, speak loudly, but do so without insulting those you disagree with you.  We must do all we can to protect the rights of the innocent, the rights of individual freedom and the right for all to pursue happiness.  No apology is necessary for believing the way you do, but respect for those who do not share your beliefs is required for every lady and gentleman.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Showing Value to Others

Time...time is the equalizer for us all.  We’ve all been given time, some shorter than others but nevertheless this “time” is important, because what we do with our time is what determines our happiness, success, and future.

Watching the recent events in Paris have caused me to ponder again the lack of knowledge of so many on the value of human life.  This lacking value system is vas and complicated but truly we can do our part to influence a better way, a better ideology by showing those we come into contact with that we do indeed value them and all human life.  How do we do it?  We start here.

We start by living our lives in a way that shows value to others.  That’s what etiquette is all about, remember.  Etiquette is an outward demonstration of how we feel about others.  It’s NOT a list of do’s and don’ts that we “check off” and when we do we can announce that we have good etiquette.  It’s an inner belief that others should be placed above ourselves.  When we do this, we give ourselves the most valuable and rewarding gift that can be given, self respect.

Today, show your children that you value them by setting down your phone, moving away from your computer for an extended period of time and focus on nothing else but them.  Look them in the eyes, listen to their questions, find out how they are feeling today.

Today, show your spouse or companion that you value them by doing a small act of uninvited service for them.  What would make their day a little easier?  Maybe ironing their shirt, maybe fixing them a piece of toast and glass of orange juice, maybe helping them look for their briefcase.  Just do something that reminds them that you care, you love them and serving them makes you happy.

Today, show your colleague that you value them by asking them about something that you know they are concerned with, whether it’s their wayward son, a big account, their stock portfolio, etc.  It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as they know that we were listening last week when they shared just for a moment something that was bothering them and we remember.

Today, show the stranger at Starbucks or the stranger you pass on the street that you value them by smiling and saying, “Good morning.”  Just something to show them that you see them, they are not invisible and you care.

It starts small.  May we never miss an opportunity to show others that we value them.  It’s the only way to be valuable.

Have a great month!
Very best,

Monica Irvine 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Guarding Against a Condescending Tone & Words

The deal with “Condescending”

I want to talk about a topic that I think we as parents need to guard against...speaking with a condescending tone to our children (or anyone for that matter, because our children are listening).  The definition of condescending is: having or showing a feeling of patronizing (believing that we are more intelligent or better than others) superiority. Basically, it’s really a “slap” in the face.

Let me describe the unspoken or spoken messages we are sending to who we are speaking to, when we use condescending language or tone.  They are:

  • I can’t believe you would be stupid enough to say (do) that!
  • Surely you don’t really believe that is true?
  • Do you literally have no idea regarding consequences?
  • I however, would never do (say) such a thing.
  • I am never guilty of such an offense.
  • and the list goes on

Here, allow me to give you a few examples:

Child helping dad wash the car.  Dad looks at the front where child has washed and says, “Really!!  So I guess you think bugs on the car is considered clean!”  What does child hear?  “You are so stupid that you can’t even get bugs off the car.  I can’t believe that’s the best you can do.”  Instead, Dad could have said, “Hey man, yeah that front is tough to wash.  Let me show you a little trick I use to get those nasty bugs off.  Let’s see if it works for you too.”  Difference...child now wants to do better, instead of feeling humiliated.

Mom is helping child write a paragraph for English class.  Child is mis-spelling words and failing at making complete sentences.  Mom says, “Honey!  I can’t believe you’re misspelling simple words.  You should know these.  This doesn’t even make sense.  I thought you already learned what makes a complete sentence.”  What does child hear?  You fail at writing so why try.  Instead, Mom could have said, “It took me a while to figure out the difference between the different ways to spell “there”.  Let me draw a picture for you to see if it helps.....”  Difference...instead of child becoming exasperated due to the multiple corrections, the child can feel accomplished when they understand the one grammar rule thus leading to confidence to move on to second rule.

Parents, let’s watch our tone.  Speaking with compassion and respect to our children creates a greater desire to learn and obey.  If our children hear negative “unspoken” messages too often or for too long, then we will have no one to blame but ourselves when we hear our children speaking this way to others and when our relationship with them as adults is not what we would hope.  

Start today.

Monica Irvine