Archive for the ‘Listening Skills’ Category

Communicating without Aggravating

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

My 90 year old dad called at 5:30 p.m.Wednesday night saying “Bob (my husband), Marion (his 89 year old wife) isn’t good. She wants Joan. Get her up here now!”

On July 28th they moved into a new Supportive Living Facility in a town about 50 minutes from our home. The staff don’t know them like the place they had been in for the past 18 months so they needed an advocate.

As soon as we arrived I knew Mom had an UTI (Urinary Track Infection) and needed an antibiotic. UTIs hit the elderly really hard and mom becomes confused and exhibits signs of a mini-stroke. She is also legally blind so staff have to be told so doesn’t fall if they get her to walk or stand up.

There was no way we were getting an antibiotic without a doctor’s order and they hadn’t seen a doctor yet so the only alternative was to call the ambulance and take her to the hospital  about 4 minutes away.

I focused on one message. “I’m sure she has an UTI. She needs an antibiotic and it will take her about 3 -5 days to get feeling better. ” The staff at the care facility didn’t know me, nor trust me and were following the rules.

My brother was able to find out what antibiotic worked and texted me the name while I sat with mom in Emergency. I kept repeating my key message and kept emotion out of it. Inside I wanted to scream, “Get her an antibiotic NOW!” It is so difficult to watch mom suffer and know what needs to be done.

I also had to keep in mind that the staff (supportive living, ambulance and hospital) were following the rules, were doing their best and specific procedures had to be followed. I kept all emotion out of my voice and just kept with the same message.

“No, often she doesn’t run a temperature with this, yes she becomes very confused, she vomits and moans. This tells me she has an UTI.”

One hour later, after a urine test, she was diagnosed with an UTI and an antibiotic started. My brother had arrived and the doctor told us she would be admitted to the hospital. My brother went over to see dad and my husband, who was with my dad at the Supportive Living Facility, came over and we headed home. We got back at midnight. Mentally exhausted.

Once my brother got dad settled down, he headed to the hospital until mom was in a room at about 1:30 a.m. He was mentally exhausted.

What happens to the elderly who don’t have family caregivers? The medical staff are great, and when they don’t know the history of their patients, and that patient is incoherent,  they must follow specific procedures, which aren’t always the best.

My brother and I share the caregiving and many days we are worn out. Mostly mentally, watching the parents we love and respect, struggling. At 61 and 66 we get tired too! We have supportive spouses and have each other.  My parents are able to pay for extra help when they need it. Many seniors are not.

The staff at the supportive living facility are super. They are stretched to the limit with responsibilities and since the place is brand new they are on a steep learning curve.

More staff is needed. The loads on the existing staff is huge, as it was in the last place my parents were. The staff we see are caring, professional and want to help, it’s just that they are expected to do too much for too many.

My parents have each other and family to check in. I feel for the clients that do not.


#43 House Selling and Cleaning

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

So I’ve never been a neat person. I like clean but as far as things on the counter, beds unmade,  clothes unfolded, that’s okay with me. I have always had better things to do. I know it’s all in our priorities, and mine were never on an immaculate house.

Well now we are selling our home, have it staged and it must be show-home ready in one hour, I’m finding that there are some quick tricks to keeping it tidy. No more eat something and put it away later. “Do it now” is my motto.  Before my poor husband is out of bed I’m making it and punching the pillows to make them plump and eye-catching.

“No, don’t sit on the bed!!!” I scream. “It will wrinkle.” “What you want another shower?” “Okay you did run the marathon this morning and are a little stiff, but don’t leave water marks and heaven help you if you forget to squeegie off the tiles .” I think he wonders where his wife went.

I’m hoping these new habits stay with me in a little less intense way when we get to our new home. I do like the look of the house when I come in. I certainly use my time differently now. No baking – it’s way too messy -  again my husband isn’t happy, but more time for shining and polishing. I even ironed the drapes!!! Besides we didn’t need the calories in those brownies or cookies.

I’m doing things differently and it is rather interesting how detail-oriented I can be, when I have to be. No more chat, I’ve got to run and shine up the bathrooms!!!

#41The Sandwich Generation – Egg Salad Squashed!

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Caregiving for aging parents, babysitting grandchildren, getting a house we’ve lived in for over 36 years ready to sell and buying a condo apartment had me feeling rather squashed last week. I understood I was a prime candidate for a sandwich generation photo option.

I loved every minute of each adventure it’s just that as I age I’m not quite as resilient as I used to be. Add in a few unexpected mini crisis and there are not enough hours in the day to complete needed tasks.

The question became, how to pick and choose and still feel good.  When I was honest with myself, I could elimnate some of the things like make my bed, cook from scratch and vacuum. So I  made a list, checked it twice and priorotized.  I stopped using drastic words like horrible, worst, never and I began to reframe my self-talk. It wasn’t the worst day of my life, it was an amazing day where I could see two of our grandchildren plus my parents all in one day. Once this was done I smiled, counted my blessings and carried on.

The grandchildren were a much needed tonic as little arms squeezed me tight, I had a great visit with my parents when I dropped off the medicine that was needed immediately and you know what? Our house is still here, needing a little tender loving cleaning care. It will happen…. When I’m ready.

So I poured myself another cup of coffee, sat down and admired the snow capped Rockies and the magpies chatting in our mature trees. This was a good day. A busy day and very good.

#39 Reframe, Change How You Think, Confront Problems

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Sometimes we wonder why we are doing so many things. Does anyone notice or care? Often this happens as we become more and more tired.

Has anything I’ve done today made life better for another human being? These are questions we might ask ourselves as we are trying to fall alseep.

Falling asleep? Who can do that easily with so many  ‘little nasty voices’ circulating in your brain. It’s time to reframe those thoughts. How can you make an idea or thought into a postive instead of a negative?

It’s takes mental elbow grease to change how you think. As soon as you hear a negative thought coming into your head, stop and ask yourself “Is this true?” Often we exaggerate. Then state what is true and do it in a positive manner.

“I’m so tired because I did all the work to make that presentation happen” might become “Isn’t it lucky I could do the work to make that presentation so successful.” or “Why does the boss always ask me to do the crappy jobs?” might become “The boss must really trust my ability to ask me to get these things done.”

Instead of fretting about what is happening, if you can do something about it make a plan. If you can not do anything, let it go.Think about a balloon filled with helium and release it into a clear blue sky. Don’t let it clutter your brain and poison your thougths.

If you are making a plan, think it through, run it by a trusted colleague, practise what you are going to say out loud and when you are confident, talk to the person. Be thoughtful as you plan. Keep your thoughts to two or three key points. NO MORE! Keep it brief or they will give you grief!!!

No one is mind reader. So if you are unhappy, you must let the person know. If you present your thoughts in a non-confrontational, honest, caring and short way, the person will listen and try to understand. Try it today!



#37 Stressed, Tired and Unhappy At Work?

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

“It’s not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted.”

Mary O’Connor, Romance Writer

I love quotes that make me laugh. That’s exactly what the one above did for me and then… it gave me a slap upside the head. Why are so many people SO busy and SO stressed and SO tired?  And why are other people, who are just as busy, happy and content?

I wonder if some aren’t like the mosquito, sucking all the blood out of others by negative attitudes and never looking within, for answers or help. If we keep pointing at others and pointing out how they are upsetting us, we will never stop and take an honest look at ourselves.

Do most of your sentences start with ‘but’?  Get rid of that word. Catch yourself and substitute the word ‘and’.  If ‘but’ is in your self-talk you might be using it to make excuses for your own behaviour.. ‘But he never listens to my ideas’. “But I was hurt at my last job, that’s why I won’t try again.”

How do you speak to yourself? Are you looking for trouble before it happens? Are you blaming the past? Are you setting yourself up for failure? If we keep enough negative words circling in our heads we become like the mosquito. People see us coming and they wish they could reach for the spray.

If you find yourself making sweeping negative comments, stop and ask yourself, ‘Is this true’, ‘what is true’. Those two phrases will help you reframe your thinking. Often we use phrases like ‘he ALWAYS’, or ‘she NEVER’, when in fact if you ask yourself ‘what is true’ the situation is far less earth-shattering.

When dealing with difficult people, we are told to ask questions for clarification. ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Why do you say that?’ Perhaps it’s time to point your finger back at yourself and ask yourself those same questions.

Learn to listen to yourself and think about what messages you are sending before you start to judge others. Ask yourself, ‘are you a bee or a mosquito’?

Joan Craven’s bookGot It! 21 Communication Tips for Busy People is available on Amazon and as a Kindle.


#36 Family Caregiving – Stressful and Satisfying

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

When it comes to planning, my parents have always been ahead of the game. They moved into a condo before my brother and I thought they needed to and now are talking about moving into an assisted living facility. At 87 and 88 they are slowing down. Mom still cooks most of their meals and dad drives around the town they live in so they can pick up small amounts of groceries and go to medical appointments.

Lately mom has had some health problems that her family doctor is trying to figure out and dad’s shingles still bother him. Is it time for a change? Who knows. I have looked into having a home care aide come in once a week for about 4 – 6 hours and see if that is enough. We will meet next week and put that in place.

The assisted daily living facilities seem to be small and I think it would be a difficult adjustment for my parents to live in it. Also when my mom cracked her pelvis they had meals on wheels and they didn’t enjoy the meals so I can’t see they would adjust to three meals a day in an assisted daily living facility.  The place they live in offers meals and they go down for dinner twice a week and that seems to be enough.

So far mom and dad make their own decisions and my brother and I support them. Hopefully a home care aide once a week will allow them to be in their own home and still feel safe and happy…..I’m not alone in this care giving role. Almost all of our friends are making this caregiving  journey too. What I hope is that I’m filing away what I’m learning so as we age, we have a plan in place so our kids don’t have to make difficult decisions some of our friends have had to make.

Even when your parents try to be positive, keep their sense of humour and not put too much pressure on their kids, it is still a stressful time. I think mainly I feel so sad that my parents are fading and wish I could magically fix it. I know it is a journey and I’m lucky to be part of it. Many people my age don’t have loving parents.


I Got It! #28 Want To Improve Your Communication Skills and Your Job?

Monday, October 24th, 2011

In a recent survey of recruiters from companies with more than 50,000 employees, communication skills were cited as the single more important decisive factor in choosing managers. Communication skills, including written and oral presentations, as well as an ability to work with others, are the main factor contributing to job success.Source:
Before you start working longer hours and improve your technical skills your first step to getting ahead at your job should be an assessment of your communication skills. Do people frequently misunderstand you? Are you easily frustrated by others? Do you talk more than listen?
People often say that communication skills are soft skills. I disagree. Communication skills are essential. Think about a successful leader you know. My bet is he or she is a good listener, is able to get along with most people and works collaboratively with others.

I Got It! #26 Would You Like to Reframe and Listen to Your Self Talk?

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

I had an interesting chat with Erica Jefferson, host of Be Inspired,  in mid June about the power of words in communication. Do you listen to what you are saying to yourself? Are you striving for perfection, when good enough is good enough? As the summer winds up, you might like to hear a portion of the interview.

Just click on the following link:

Joan on Be Inspired radio show June 16, 2011

I want to thank Erica Jefferson for having me on her radio show – Be Inspired.

I Got It! #25 Sharpen Your Listening Skills

Friday, July 29th, 2011

When I hear clients recounting negative interactions with others I often say, when in doubt, say nothing. When upset it is best to listen and before answering or commenting, think before you speak. As many before have said, “you can’t regret something you haven’t said.”  When you do speak, think about your body language, your tone and then the actual words.

Saying ‘should have’, ‘can’t because’ you never’ or ‘you always’ will lead you down a path that is not good for your soul or your career. Each day we make a choice about how we will communicate. Only you have that power. Use it wisely.

Remember what Abraham Lincoln said, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

I Got It! #24 Can’t Get A Direct Answer? Quick Communication Tips

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Doesn’t it drive you crazy when people won’t give you a direct answer? People who use noncommittal language such as ‘perhaps’, ‘maybe’ or ‘sometime’ are often avoiding being honest. For the receiver of the message you don’t get closure or direction. What can you do? Try phrases like “When you say ‘maybe’ what exactly do you mean?”  They may hedge so ask another more specific question like, ” What conditions would need to be met for you to be able to say yes?”  or “When you say ‘perhaps’ you are telling me you haven’t come to a decision yet.  Am I correct?” Then  you could say ” When will you be ready to decide?” or “What will it take for you to decide?” Then stop talking, look the person in the eye and wait for an answer.

The most difficult part is to wait for an answer. Sometimes if the person says “I don’t know” you can look at them and say “what would the answer be if you did know?” Your face must match your concern for an honest answer. While not perfect, I’ve tried this and it often works. Good luck!