Here in Charleston, outgoing, lovely Southern Bells lay on the charm as thick as the syrupy sweet tea we all love. The ladies here like to dress in heals and Lilly Pulitzer dresses just to run to the grocery store. My shy, tom-boy of a daughter is only slightly out of place with her patched up jeans and Keds.
I’m watching her from the other side of the old Methodist church as she smiles kindly at the ladies fawning over her pretty hair and cooing, “Bless your heart,” all around her. I’ve said since she was born I feel like I’m raising an angel and I’m still not far from that truth fourteen years later. Yes, Charleston is a wonderful place, but she is no typical Charlestonian.
I, myself, have gone through the fire of becoming a personable person as not one, but both of my parents were in church ministry. On Sunday mornings, and all the churchy activities in between, all eyes seemed to be on me- and that was not an easy way to grow up. I labored over my appearance, trying to hide the intense acne and skinny frame beneath piles of makeup, pretty dresses, and a winning personality. In fact, I never had the luxury of being shy even though that was indeed what I am most cut out for.
I remember greeting every single person in a church fellowship hall much like this one I now stand with my daughter in. I remember knowing not only every person by name, but the name of their dog and all their grandchildren. I somehow became the official greeting committee as fast as the tender age of four. But, my daughter didn’t have to do any of that.
We get in the car after a brutal hour of watching her only nod and give one word answers to the people trying desperately to be friendly to her. If only they knew her, I think to myself, they would know how much she cared about them.
“Sweetheart,” I say, receiving a muffled answer back that I am pretty sure was ‘yes’, “People can’t see into your heart.” My daughter looks at me, waiting for me to add more as we stop at the park filled with azaleas by the church. “You need to ask them questions about their life and try to get to know them. Look people in the eye when you talk to them. Reach out and take their hand or hug them if you feel comfortable.”
She says nothing. She just keeps looking at the flowers.
“Each person you meet is important.”
“I know, Momma.”
“People need to feel you love them when you talk to them.”
She looked at me with her large, brown eyes, finally understanding. “I do love them.”
“I know, baby, but you need to encourage them by nodding as they are talking to you, looking at them with soft expressions, and asking them follow up questions. Give them a little information about yourself instead of just a yes or no. Being personable is very important. It helps you get jobs, gives you lost of friends, and makes other people feel loved and cared for.”
We proceeded to act out a few scenarios. Yes, it would take time, but we could practice every day. It is a very important trait to have because, honestly, she’s running out of time to be shy. As we get older, more is expected of our social skills.
Try these 5 steps to make your child more personable:
- Have your child write down on an index card 3 things they would want someone to know right away about themselves. It can be they play a sport, what their name is, etc.
- On another index card have them write down 3 questions they would want to know about someone else right after meeting them.
- Practice a scenario like this to help your child come up with winning dialogue:
- You: Wow, the weather is really bad today.
- Your Child: Yep.
- You: The person will want you to respond in some other way than a one-word answer. Try talking about just how bad the weather is or maybe talk about who is having great weather or even worse weather.
- Try the scenario again, this time having them respond differently.
- Practice another scenario, this time having them interject something personal about themselves.
- You: Do you like your math class?
- Your Child: Yep.
- You: Let’s try interjecting something about yourself like how you would like the class better if there was less homework.
- Try the scenario again.
- Now practice scenarios having them ask friendly questions. Try this one.
- You: I think I know your mom.
- Your Child: Uh-huh.
- You: Let’s try to respond with a question. You can say, “You know my mom? How do you know her?” Maybe smile a little and look at them in the eyes this time.
- Try the scenario again.
- A fun way to do these scenarios is doing them after dinner. Take out a bag of M&M’s (or pennies) and give your child one candy every time they come up with more than a one-word answer. If they can interject a question, they get two M&M’s. If they can make you laugh, they get three M&M’s. Get the idea? See how long they can keep the conversation going. Keep it fun and light.
Keep setting the example with being personable. Show your child by your actions how to have a conversation. Have them stand by you as you talk to new people. Tell them to watch you do it and give them an invitation to chime in.
Above all, keep stressing to your child that being personable is a wonderful way we show people we are interested in them and they are important.