Model Your Talk

So often we talk about how we want people and our students to act.

The question is…are we modeling that same behavior ourselves?

The most powerful message comes from our behavior matching our words. How often do we get distracted by our phone, but tell our kids to put theirs down? Do we show a lack of respect, bad attitude, or display poor effort in front of our kids and then preach to them the opposite?


Think about being present.

We often speak to our students and others about the importance of being present and treating people with the proper inter-personal etiquette that is essential for making good connections with people whether in person or on the phone.  We talk about authentically listening to people rather than waiting to speak. Now, how often do we do just the opposite? This is important to realize because what we actually do speaks volumes over what we say.  If we are not present, in any conversation or moment, the body language that results gives the message loud and clear to all around us.  In addition to being just the opposite of what we are saying, these habits spread, affect everything we do, and everyone interacting with us.

For example, I cannot explain how many times I talk about not texting while you are driving. I was sitting at a stop light the other day when I decided to take advantage of the minute I was at a standstill, by taking out my phone to check a quick text. My son immediately called me on it. As I was starting to make the excuse that I was not moving, my son interrupted me with; “It doesn’t matter daddy. You are still driving.” So I stopped, thought about the example I was setting, and put the phone down (with a little bit of a bruised ego). Take this one step further. How many times do you check your phone while you are eating dinner, walking outside, or visiting someplace with someone?  Paying attention, either to your them or your phone, even in semi-social situations is noticed no matter what we say. Trust me. Be with the person in your presence because that is what they deserve.  You must give attention to receive attention.  How can we expect to make that connection with others when we haven’t given of ourselves? If we talk about focusing on the moment; put the phone down, stop thinking about how to answer, and engage the person.


Think about respect.

We often preach to our students about treating people with respect and yet how often are they with us when we do just the opposite whether in person or on the phone?  Do we try to embarrass someone because they made a mistake that happened to affect us?  Do we talk down to a person to make ourselves seem smarter or more important?  What about opening doors or the age old “please” and “thank-you”?  How often do we give advice about how to treat others and even ourselves as we do the opposite? Respect is shown in so many different ways. If we think about it in a positive manner, that means we have a ton of opportunities to practice it with others. Ultimately, it is about taking another person’s perspective and treating them the way you would want someone to treat you in the same situation. Modeling respect is as simple as the little gestures (sending a thank you card, buying flowers, holding a door, etc.) that mean a lot, to the bigger ones (spreading kindness, authentically apologizing, changing bad habits, etc.) that mean even more! The point is, you cannot tell someone to eat healthier as you begin your second slab of cake or not to smoke as you put out another butt.

Think about stress.

Discussions about not feeling anxious or quitting in the face of hardship abound; yet we do not let our kids struggle long before running in to make an easier path for them.  I often wonder if we put too many of our worries (as parents, educators, and leaders) or preconceived notions about situations or events on our students and children.  They see that, know it, and are affected by everything we do (either to them or in front of them); no matter what we say.  It is incredibly difficult to watch someone close to us struggle through mistakes and failure, but if we truly expect them to benefit it is imperative that we offer encouragement and advice rather than a way out.  We need to model strategies rather than answers.  Instead of telling those that look to us for guidance about how terrible a situation will be or that they should look for an easier path, we need to model that success only comes from hard work, failure, and a determination that each step forward leads to a happier, more successful existence.


I have found that when I am getting frustrated with either my kids or those I lead, I have played some role in the reason they are frustrating me and if I look a little closer it probably has to do with the example I set through behavior rather than words.  Truth be told, we all want the best for those we are either raising or leading. So we need to remember that those we wish to influence are always watching more than listening.

Think…What do you say about behavior?

More importantly…How do you behave?

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