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27 Oct 2014

What Is eJournaling?

eJournaling is a Cloud-based Q&A activity where users answer questions from a proprietary database and share those answers with members of their inner circle (e.g. family, friends, co-workers, etc.) eJournals are organized in sets of four questions with additional space to write about anything that’s on your mind.

Answering a few simple questions about everyday happenings helps encourage dialogue and communication on a slightly deeper level. It is through this casual and guided dialogue that helps people know each other on a whole new level. The better we know someone the more connected we feel to them and them to us.

eJournaling is about building connection with a few others through the basic sharing of personal, but not private, information. Your favorite vacation, tv show or ice cream flavor is personal to you and only your opinion matters. Yet, it's a relatively benign piece of information that, when shared, does not put you at risk of harm, embarrassment or judgement.

Private information (which eJournaling does not try to find out) such as the first time you tried smoking, your thoughts or opinions of another person or your deepest fears and insecurities require a much greater level of vulnerability and depending on the receiver could result in judgement, conflict or embarrassment. eJournaling is not trying to access your private thoughts.

When we begin to share personal information we welcome others to learn about who we are without risk of divulging anything potentially controversial or being exceptionally vulnerable. It's the combination and accumulation of sharing little details about who we are that allow us to develop a rapport, a common reference of knowledge and a more complete understanding of the people closest to us. The more we understand and know someone the more connected we feel.

This is the essence of eJournaling - simple, easy questions that encourage us to regularly share a little with our family, friends and/or colleagues to bring us one step closer together. Enjoy!

Kevin Strauss, M.E.
FamilyeJournal, LLC
Founder & President

30 Oct 2014

Why Typical Advice For Having Difficult Conversations Doesn’t Work

Plain and simple: The easiest way to have a conversation (with your kids or colleagues) about a difficult subject is to have regular communication about all of the easy topics that occur in everyday life. The better we know each other day-to-day, the easier it is to communicate and share - about anything.

I mean no offense to the myriad of lists designed to help make conversations easier but the reality is your internet search wouldn’t result in the same generic information appearing millions of times if it was actually working. Until there is a significant change in how we relate to one another, at home or in the office, the likelihood for improvement is minimal, at best.

Try Googling “how to talk with your kids” and you’ll find in 0.42 seconds 33.5 million websites saying basically the same thing. You’ve seen the advice in various formats and it looks like this:

     1. Be positive
     2. Be a good listener
     3. Ask the person to repeat back what you’ve said
     4. Speak age appropriately
     5. Don’t be emotional
     6. Be respectful
     7. and so on.

This is all good advice but in actuality, the implementation is a lot more difficult especially when you’re in the moment. Furthermore, aren’t these tips generic to any conversation between two or more people?

Now, let’s try Googling “how to talk with your coworkers”. In another 0.42 seconds we find 6.54 million websites ready to help. Their advice is surprisingly similar and includes:

     1. Be cheerful
     2. Be complimentary
     3. Avoid gossip
     4. Be responsive
     5. Ask for opinions
     6. and so on.

Aren’t these tips simply defining the attributes of a nice person? Granted, some of us may need to be reminded but it really doesn’t address the core issue. We can’t talk about the difficult topics when we don’t really know or feel a connection with the person we’re talking with.

Furthermore, one must be careful following the generic advice or you could end up sounding insincere or patronizing. We all know it’s important to “talk with your [fill in the blank]” but when communication has been strained simply finding common ground, much less discussing a sensitive topic, is nearly impossible. Think about the last time you needed to have a sensitive discussion. How did it go? What was your current relationship with the person. How close do they feel to you? How could the conversation been improved, if at all?

Have you ever asked yourself “why?” is talking so important. I mean, beyond the obvious. Talking, or other means of communication (writing, for example), are how we can connect on a deeper level. As much as we think we’re connecting (e.g. texting, social media) our daily behaviors say otherwise. The research is clear and studies show when people don’t feel truly connected they try to compensate with the symptomatic behavior we see everyday such as bullying, shootings, substance abuse, suicide, low morale and productivity, poor attendance, disengagement, etc.

The truth is relationships take time to cultivate because in that time you’re getting to know who the person is and what they're about. Once we know someone, as a person, we’ll have a much easier time connecting with them on any number of topics, easy or hard. We’ll also have a better idea of how to communicate with that person in a way that works for them and vice versa.

So, the next time you need to have a conversation about bullying, suicide, grades, productivity, attendance or a pay raise, think about how well you really know the person. Chances are the better you know them the easier and less stressed you’ll be initiating the difficult conversations and your efforts will be much better received.

Kevin Strauss, M.E.
FamilyeJournal, LLC
Founder & President

PS. I would be remiss if I did not offer a solution to help build relationships in a simple, fun and easy way. How best to learn about someone then to share answers to simple questions. and are two 5-minute solutions that you can use anywhere, anytime and in 72 languages. Try a 30-day challenge and see what a difference it makes and how much happier you'll be.

19 Nov 2014

Why Our Education System Is Failing And The Simple Solution (pdf)

Teachers/administrators, parents and students are what make education possible. The connection between teachers and students is obvious because that is the purpose of education. Schools recognize the importance of parental engagement but struggle to achieve it. The system certainly makes an effort with Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs), parent-teacher conferences and a myriad of tools, such as websites, to communicate with parents about the happenings at school and with their children. The Triangle of Communication in Education fails because there are virtually no programs in place to support and nurture the parent-student relationship.

Triangle of Communication in Education Our society is passionate about education. We dedicate extensive resources to making it better yet we’re still struggling to keep pace in the world. We try different philosophies and adjust curriculum. We build more modern classrooms and bring in computers, tablets and the internet. We try longer school days and school years and eliminate recess, art, music and physical education in order to give greater focus on reading, writing and arithmetic. We’ve shown that fewer students in a classroom helps but I’m not sure if we truly understand why.

Education involves people interacting and that means relationships. Until we focus on each type of relationship, significant improvements are unlikely. The most obvious relationship is between teachers and administrators and students. This relationship requires little explanation because the fundamental purpose of education is to share knowledge between teacher and student. This occurs all day long.

Teachers and administrators are tasked with improving students’ grades, retention, test scores and graduation rates not to mention managing behaviors. Beyond curriculum and technique, they recognize that the more parents are involved the better the students perform and behave. Why?

Is it because the parent knows what is happening at school? In part, because the better informed the parent is the better they can help guide their child. However, could it also be that when a parent is more involved with their child’s school then they are also more involved with their child's life? Albeit indirectly, the child may feel like they are important and supported by their parent because the parent is taking an interest in what the child is doing. The child feels important to their parent. (Incidentally, this is also why smaller classrooms make a positive difference. A teacher isn't changing their technique for fewer students. Smaller classrooms allow a teacher to have a more personal connection with each student.)

Assuming for a moment the above parental involvement premise is true then by improving the parent-child relationship we can more directly and significantly improve the child’s development and success. According to the Triangle of Communication in Education, we have a well established teacher-student relationship. We also have a fairly robust teacher-parent relationship. In order to have the greatest improvements in education we need to support and encourage the parent-child relationship. (It seems so obvious but it's not happening and we know this because of the myriad of symptoms we experience everyday - in children and adults.)

Abraham Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, 1943 When parents and their children feel supported and connected their behaviors improve. This phenomenon is documented in the research and affects more than just scholastics. People, at every age, need to feel connected. It is a basic human need as theorized by Abraham Maslow in 1943 when he presented his Hierarchy of Needs (image).

When a person does not feel connected they attempt to fill that void by resorting to alternative behaviors. Our society is feeling those effects and they present as drug and alcohol abuse, depression and suicide, bullying, eating disorders including obesity, gun violence and more. When someone feels a sense of connection their behaviors improve and so do their scholastics.

We always hear about the importance of family and of communication. We instinctively know why but I’m here to state it as plain as day. People need to feel genuinely connected and until each person’s fundamental need is addressed little will change… for the better.

We have a real opportunity to significantly improve our education system and it won’t occur in the classroom, it needs to happen in our homes. Just like we’re encouraging our students to incorporate fitness and healthy nutrition choices throughout their day, we can do the same to encourage a positive family communication and connection. Overall wellness is more than just physical and when we feel connected and a sense of belonging to others it feeds our mental and emotional health.

Incidentally, if you’re looking for a fun and easy way to improve communication and connection we encourage you to give FamilyeJournal a try. With our database of questions, you’ll create guided mini-journals that are shared privately with only your family members in just 5 minutes.

Kevin Strauss, M.E.
FamilyeJournal, LLC
Founder & President