Life as a parent is so different from life before you have children.

If you’re the first in your friendship group to have babies it can sometimes make things hard, and chances are you’ll want to branch out and meet some new mum friends.  That can be easier said than done though and it can be quite scary approaching people and hoping they’ll be friendly and want to chat.

With that in mind, here are 5 psychology-backed things you can try to get people to like you more:

5 psychology-backed ways to make people like you more

 

1. Be there

I don’t mean this in the deeper sense of being there for someone in their time of need.  Although that will naturally help them like you more.

In this instance though, I mean literally be there.  Show up and be a familiar face in their lives.  Go along to baby group regularly or get to the school gates a bit early every afternoon.

Studies have found that, due to the mere exposure effect, people tend to like other people that they’ve seen before more than people who are completely new to them.  This applies even if we don’t actually interact with these people.  And the more we see people the more we end up liking them.

 

 

2. Act as if you already like people

Once you get chatting to people act as if you like them already.

There is an interesting psychological phenomenon called ‘reciprocity of liking’ which basically causes us to like someone if we think they like us.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo and the University of Manitoba found that we act more warmly toward people if we expect them to accept and like us.  This then increases the chances that they will actually like us.

So basically, if you act as if you already like people when you first chat with them then chances are they’ll like you back.

 

 

3. Find a common enemy

One psychology-backed way to bring people closer together is to give them a common enemy.

A study by Weaver and Bosson, 2011 found that people who shared a dislike of the same person with a stranger stated that they felt closer to that stranger and felt that they knew them better.

So if you want the other parents at the school gate to feel closer to you then start up a conversation about how bad the communication is with the school, or how rammed the carpark is every afternoon.  If you can find this kind of common enemy you’ll start to form a strong sense of shared identity with the other parents.

 

 

4. Show your imperfections

I think most of us like other people to think we have it all together, but don’t worry about trying to be too perfect all the time.

Research has found that we tend to like people more when they show that they’re human, that they’re not as perfect as they seem at first and that they make mistakes too.  This is known as the pratfall effect.

So when you arrive at babygroup on time and looking relatively put together, make sure you then tell the other parents that you put the baby’s nappy on the wrong way round last night.  Or that you put the keys in the fridge the other day.  Revealing a mistake you’ve made or letting people know you have struggles too will make them feel warmer towards you than if they think you have it all perfectly together.

 

 

5. Ask them to do you a favour

This last one is possibly the most interesting.

It makes sense that we like people who do us favours and help us out, but it’s a bit more surprising to know that asking someone for a favour also makes them like you more.

For a long time psychologists believed that this was down to cognitive dissonance.  They thought that it was mainly due to us thinking that we must like someone if we’re willing to do them a favour.

There might be more to it than that though.

A study carried out in 2016 found that when we’re asked to do a favour for someone by a third party, we don’t like the person as much as we do if they ask us for the favour themselves.  So it’s the act of actually asking for the favour that makes us like someone.  Them asking suggests that they have a desire to be closer to us, or that they feel close enough to us already to ask.  We then pick up on this and want to be closer to them too.

So, ask someone to watch your baby for you at group while you go to the toilet.  Or ask another parent at school to text you the words that the children need to learn for their spellings that week.  The person you ask will be flattered that you’ve asked them and will warm to you more quickly.

 

 

Venturing out to new places and meeting new people can be really daunting.

But hopefully with these tips in mind getting people to warm to you and want to be friends should be that much easier.

I have a feeling that every parent at some point has felt that all they do is nag or shout at their children before they seem to listen and do what they’re being asked to do.  The thing is, so often the answer to the problem involves looking at our own actions and behaviours.

It’s so easy to get frustrated and think ‘my child never listens to me’, but the best way to help the situation is to stop and think about how clearly we’re actually communicating with them.

Here are some things we can do to get our children to listen, without ending up shouting.

How to get your child to listen to you

 

Think before you speak

You can’t expect your children to listen to you if you randomly shout instructions to them from another room.

So before you speak make sure you’re standing close to them, or at the very least are in the same room.  Then make sure that you have their attention by using their name and speak clearly while looking directly at them.

 

Keep it simple

When you need your child to do something, keep your instructions as simple as possible.

Young children especially can find it hard to remember 2-stage requests, so stick to asking them to do one thing at a time.  So if  you need your young child to put their shoes on, instead of giving a long-winded speech about it, stick with a simple “shoes on please!”.

Older children may well start to tune you out if you ramble on too much about them needing to do something.  So again, keep it short and snappy when you ask them to do something.

 

Focus on what you DO want

This is a piece of advice my sister gave me years ago and it’s brilliant.

Children often focus on and remember the last part of what you say to them.  So if you say “please don’t run off ahead of me”, what they might actually hear and focus on are the words “run off ahead of me”, and so off they’ll go.

What you need to be doing is tell them what you do want them to do, not what you don’t want them to do.

So in this example you’re much better off saying “please walk nicely by my side” or “let’s skip along together”.  You’re basically looking at switching from negative “don’t do that” instructions to more positive, “do this please” versions.

How to get your child to listen to you (1)

 

Put yourself in your child’s position

Again this is about slowing down a bit and thinking before asking your child to do something.

If they’re in the middle of an activity, is it really fair to expect them to stop it immediately just because you say so?  How would you feel if someone came and demanded you do something, out of the blue, while you’re in the middle of doing something?

Try to give a bit of warning whenever you can that something will be happening or if they’ll need to do something.

So let them know 10 minutes before dinner is ready that they only have that much time left to play before they’ll need to stop and come to the table.

Now, this can also be applied in a way to situations like children running off in the park or messing around in the library.  As parents we need to stop and put ourselves in their shoes a bit.  To remember that they don’t necessarily know how to behave in these situations.  So we need to talk to them in advance as much as we can, to set our expectations for how they need to behave.

 

Explain things rather than just give demands

Following on from the last point, we need to remember that children don’t know everything we know, and they see the world differently from us a lot of the time.

They may not understand why we’re asking them to do certain things, so it makes it easier for them to go along with it if we explain the why behind our requests.

If we want our children to tidy up their toys it’s helpful to explain to them that they might get lost or broken if they’re left out, that it makes it easier for them to find them next time they want to play if they’re put away nicely and that other people want to use the space and it’s nice to consider their needs and feelings.

Give them options

Children often feel that they have no control over what happens in their day to day lives, and sometimes saying ‘no’ and refusing to do what we ask is simply them trying to assert some control.

One way around this is to give them choices, to help them feel that they have a say in various things that happen.  The key here though, is to only offer a couple of choices and make sure you’re happy with either option.

So, “put this top on, we need to go” becomes “it’s time to get dressed now, would you like to wear the red top or the yellow one?”

“Brush your teeth and put your shoes on” changes to “would you like to do your teeth first or put your shoes on first?”

You can also use options like this to give consequences to your child’s actions.

So, rather than getting frustrated when your toddler won’t listen and hold your hand while walking, you give them option of holding your hand or being carried.  If they won’t put a hat on in the park then you tell them that they either wear the hat or you both leave the park.  It’s their choice.

Just make sure you follow through with any consequences you talk about.

 

Acknowledge when they do listen

When your children do listen and cooperate with you, make a point of acknowledging it.

Give them a big smile and a hug and thank them for doing as they were asked.  When behaviour is acknowledged it’s more likely to be repeated in the future.

 

Not all of these things will work with all children, all of the time. 

But that’s true of most things when it comes to parenting in my experience!

Hopefully though with a bit of time and consistency, you’ll find something in here that works for you and your family to get your children to listen without anyone nagging or shouting.

 

Have you ever had a great idea, or thought about trying a new sport or hobby, but then talked yourself out of going for it because you were scared that you’d fail at it?

I think we’ve all been there at some point.

The fear of getting things wrong, making mistakes and failing can stop us in our tracks.  Quite often before we’ve even started.  But the thing is, we’ll never do anything or achieve anything if we’re so scared of failing that we don’t even try.

Here are some tips on how we can all let go of that fear of failure and stop worrying so much about making mistakes.

How to let go of the fear of failure and making mistakes

 

Change how you view mistakes and failures

We all seem to think of failing as something really bad.  For some reason we seem to believe that we always have to get everything right.

I’m not sure when this happens though, because if you look at babies and toddlers you can see that fear of failure and getting things wrong isn’t something we’re born with.

Toddlers learning to walk don’t have this fear.  They fall time and again, but each time they get back up and try again until they can do it.

We need to get back that mindset that in order to grow we need to allow ourselves to fall, to fail, to make mistakes.

 

Make mistakes on purpose

One way to change our way of thinking about mistakes is to make a few on purpose and see that it’s really not as bad as we think it is.

Now I’m not saying you should go and mess up a deal at work on purpose that would lose the company a fortune.  I’m saying look for something small and safe that you could fail at or do badly.  If you work in an office then maybe you could skip that optional meeting that’s just not important to your role.

Find something small, mess it up and see if the consequences are really as bad as you think they’ll be.  Chances are the impact of you failing will be less than you think it’ll be, which will then make you a bit less scared of making mistakes in the future.

 

Look at other people’s failures

If you’re still feeling scared then try looking into other people’s failures.

Some of the world’s greatest inventions came about either because someone made a mistake, or because someone failed again and again until they got it right.  From penicillin and post-its to the light bulb and artificial sweetener, all sorts of things have been discovered and invented by mistake or after repeated failures.

Athletes and sports stars are also great to look at to realise that success so often comes after multiple failures.

Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed”.

 

Let other people make mistakes

It gets a lot easier for us to make mistakes, and fail at times, when we create an environment where these things happening is OK.

A while ago I wrote a post about the things I’d like my children to say ‘yes’ to, and failure is one of the things on that list.  I think it’s important to let our children know that it’s OK if they try things and get it wrong.  Or if they take a risk that doesn’t quite pay off.

We should let our children know that they won’t get in trouble if they make a mistake or if they try and fail at something.

 

I think for most of us the idea of making a mistake or failing at something will always be a little bit scary.

But the more we try things and push ourselves and allow ourselves to get things wrong, the more we’ll realise that it’s nowhere near as bad as we think it will be.  And the best way to learn and improve at anything is to fail along the way.

 

 

I remember the first time I took Rhys to baby group.

It had taken me weeks to build up the courage to go, and I felt unbelievably nervous as I made my way there.  Part of the problem for me was the fact that I tend to overthink things.  And then I manage to talk myself out of doing them, because I’ve imagined these worse case scenarios.

It’s the same with all sorts of things, from driving somewhere new to starting up a conversation with someone new at the school gate.

This little trick though can really help me (and you) to feel more confident in pretty much any situation.

Try this one little trick to help you feel more confident

 

The trick is to pay attention to the thoughts we have about the situation and basically tone them down.

What I mean by this is, to take that worse case scenario that we’re picturing and question it.  Bring in a voice of reason to argue with the little voice in your head who is busy catastrophizing.  Tone down those worries as much as you can.

Let’s use that first visit to baby group as an example.

Before I went I built up this idea in my head that I would go and no one would talk to me at all.  That I would trip on my way in and make a fool out of myself before I even had the chance to say hello to anyone.  That I would try and talk to people and be ignored and I’d end up sitting by myself.

What I should have done is question all of these thoughts.

I should have reassured myself that no one would notice if I tripped on the way in, or pushed the door when it should be pulled open.

I should have reminded myself that it was more than likely that most of the other parents there would have felt nervous the first time they went.  And that they would be friendly and more than happy to talk to me.

 

This approach can be applied to all sorts of situations.

At work before giving a presentation for the first time you can take thoughts of “I’m going to completely mess this up and I’ll never get promoted and my boss won’t take me seriously” and tone it down to “I might not be amazing at it, but everyone knows this is the first time I’ve done it and they won’t be expecting everything to be perfect”

 

In an ideal situation we’d just tell ourselves that what we’re thinking isn’t true; we’d ignore those worse-case scenario thoughts and just get on with things.  But I think we all know it’s not that easy.  What is more manageable is working to modify our thoughts, little by little.

Toning down our thoughts from the worst case to scenario to one that is a bit less dramatic and catastrophic can be enough to give us the confidence to go ahead and do what we need to do.

Do you have a tendency to think the worst, or build things up in your head so that they seem much scarier than they are?

If your answer is yes, then try this trick next time you find yourself doing it.  See how much more confident you feel once you challenge that voice and start to tone down your thoughts.

 

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

How often do you sit down and eat as a family in your house?

I know it’s something my family and I don’t do often enough.  With the children ready to eat almost as soon as they get home from school, eating dinner together during the week just doesn’t work for us.  We try to sit down together for a meal at the weekend but even that doesn’t happen as much as it would in a perfect world.

There are so many benefits to eating together as a family, but it seems to be something that doesn’t happen often enough for lots of families.

Furniture village recently commissioned a survey that looked into mealtime habits in the UK, and the findings are really interesting.  Only 22% of the people asked said that they ate their dinner at the table every night, while 53% said that they eat on the sofa more than anywhere else.

What they also found though was that 70% of the people they asked said that they believed family relationships were strengthened when everyone sat at the table and ate meals together.

It can be hard to find the time though, and when you do have the chance to do it sometimes family meals can be stressful with fussy eaters and no one really talking to each other.  Hopefully these tips will help to make family mealtimes more enjoyable for everyone.

How to make family mealtimes more enjoyable

 

Get the children to help

It’s easy to feel a bit hard done by if you’re the parent who sorts everything out for family mealtimes.  So get the children in on the action to share the load a bit, as well as get them more interested in the food they’re going to be eating.

Depending on a child’s age they can help with:

  • Menu planning
  • Food shopping
  • Preparing ingredients for the meal
  • Cooking the meal itself
  • Laying the table and clearing up afterwards

 

Play some games

You can make the dinner table a happy, fun place for everyone to spend time together by playing a few games during mealtimes.

Here are some ideas:

  • Would you rather?  Ask your children age-appropriate questions like “would you rather be the teacher at school or a student?”.  You can ask really silly questions or more serious ones, depending on the mood everyone is in.
  • Who am I?  This is a game we play in the car sometimes.  One person thinks of someone (normally someone we know in real life) and the others ask them yes or no questions to try and work out who they’re thinking of.
  • What am I?  This is basically the same game, but you think of an object rather than a person.
  • Carry on the story.  One person starts a story, along the lines of ‘once upon a time there was a little girl with blond hair’.  Then the next person makes up the next line of the story, and then go around the table with each person adding more to it.  The aim really is to make the story as silly as possible.
  • ABC.  Think of a topic like countries or foods or people’s names and then go around the table coming up with an answer for each letter of the alphabet.

 

Get the conversation going

If you’d rather chat with your children than play games, then you can start a conversation by asking what the best and worst parts of their day were.

Then move on to more random conversation topics, like:

  • If a genie granted you a wish, what would you wish for and why?
  • If you could pick a new name for yourself, what would it be?
  • If you were a superhero, what would your special power be?
  • If you could only eat one food for the next week, what would you chose?
  • If you could visit the setting of any book or tv programme, where would you go?

The great thing about these kinds of questions is they’re quite fun for the adults to answer too.

 

I know these ideas won’t magically solve issues with fussy eaters or get fidgety little ones to sit still and eat their food.  

There are always circumstances that make mealtimes stressful and no fun for anyone involved.  Hopefully though these tips will help to get children more interested in sitting down together.  They might distract them enough that they’ll put more food in their mouths without a big fuss.  They might engage them enough that they’ll stay sitting at the table that bit longer.

Do you have any other tips to make mealtimes more enjoyable for the whole family?

 

I had a cuppa and a catch up with a friend the other day.

We hadn’t seen each other for a month or two and it was really lovely to chat and get up to date on what’s been going on in each other’s lives.  That evening I was talking to my husband about it, and how it had suddenly occurred to me that we had been friends for around 7 years now.

It just felt like such a long time ago that we met as exhausted first-time mums at the local NCT baby group.  And it was so lovely to think how our friendship has developed and how openly and honestly we can talk to each other about things.

It makes me so glad that I pushed myself to go to baby group all those years ago.  That I stepped out of my introvert comfort zone and started making small talk with the other mums there.

I know a lot of introverts really struggle with small talk.  For me it’s more about social anxiety but I know for others it’s about wanting to go deeper than small talk and chit-chat allows.  The thing is though, you have to go through that small talk phase to be able to build relationships and make friends.

So, here is my guide to making small talk for introverted parents.

The introverted parent's guide to making small talk

 

Whether you’re a brand new parent heading to baby group or you have older children and want to get to know people at the school gates, these ideas will help.

 

Break the ice

Take a deep breath, this is the hard part for so many of us.

If you see someone you want to chat with then you’ll need to find a way to break the ice and get the conversation going.

Jennifer Latson, author of ‘the boy who loved too much‘ suggests a three-step approach to greeting people.

  1. Compliment them.  It can be as simple as saying how much you love their baby’s name, or how happy their child is going into school.
  2. Ask about their well-being.  You can go with a simple, ‘how are you today?’ or go a bit further and ask if they were struggling with the morning rush to get to school on time like you are!
  3. Choose a topic to chat about that is relevant to them.  This is pretty easy if you have children the same age, you can just ask their thoughts on any issue you’re dealing with at the moment, or how great different parts of being a parent are.

 

Ask open-ended questions

This is a classic way of getting conversations flowing.

People quite like to talk about themselves, so showing interest and asking questions is a great way to start chatting.  The trick though is to steer away from ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions which can stop a conversation in its tracks.

One way to do this is to ask ‘why’ questions instead of ‘what’ questions.

So at baby group you can ask someone their baby’s name, and then keep the conversation going by asking if there was a reason or special significance behind their choice.

 

Return their questions

If you find it hard to think of questions to ask, you can just wait for them to ask you one and then ask the same one back.

So when they ask you “Is this your first baby?”, you can reply “No, it’s my second, how about you?”

 

Introvert parent's guide to making small talk

 

Make other parents feel like you care about them

Ask their name (not just their child’s name) and use it when you speak to them.  When we’re used to being called ‘so and so’s mum’  that it feels quite special when someone makes the effort to call us by our actual name.

If you’re sitting with a few other mums at baby group or at the school gates then make sure to bring everyone into the conversation.  If you notice that one parent in particular seems to be left out, make a point of directing some questions to her and making sure she’s ok.

 

Ask fact-based questions to start a conversation.

At baby group ask if they know what time it finishes, or if there are any other nice groups that they know of in the area.  At the school gates you can ask about homework, or events that the PTA are planning.  You could ask if they know which swim school is best to go with locally, or if they know of a good karate or ballet class.

 

Find a common enemy.

There’s something about complaining together that brings people together.  And while being a parent is wonderful there are also lots of things that we can complain about, all of which make pretty good topics of conversation.

Lack of sleep, teething and weaning troubles are good things to complain about together when your baby is little.

 

As your child gets older then there are bound to be all sorts of school related issues that you can bond over.  It can be as mundane as complaining about the fact that it always rains during the school run, it will still break the ice and get you chatting.

 

I know for a lot of introverts small talk is painful. 

You want to go deeper than chat about the weather.  But you have to go through the small talk stage to connect with people and move on to the next level, so hopefully these tips will help make the process a bit easier.

The weather, and the temperature in particular, has been a real topic of conversation over the last few months.

The recent heatwave that seemed to go on forever was being discussed everywhere you went, and all over social media.  And now we’re not even in September and people are starting to talk about how chilly it’s getting and debating whether or not they should put the heating on.

The perfect temperature at home is definitely a subject for debate, but First Utility are looking to end the discussion with their guide to the ideal room temperatures throughout our homes.  When it comes to our general well-being at home then it seems that a temperature of around 21 degrees is best.

It’s not just about our comfort though, feeling hot or cold can have all sorts of interesting effects on us.

the surprising ways we're affected by temperature

Temperature influences our creativity

Research has found that different types of creativity can be encouraged depending on whether we feel hot or cold.

People in one particular study were made to feel warm in a variety of ways. They were given a hot cup of tea to drink, or were placed in a warm room for the study. Under these circumstances they were better at creative drawing and coming up with ideas for presents for other people, amongst other things.

When they were made to feel cold instead, however, they were better at recognising metaphors and thinking of abstract gift ideas.

In this case it seems that being warm helps people with warm relational creativity. So, they might feel psychologically closer to other people and more generous towards them. While being cold seems to produce more distant and cold processing, as they feel colder and more distanced from other people.

 

It changes how we view people

And how much we cooperate with them.

I’ve written before about how holding a warm drink can change the way we view other people.  We’re more likely to see them as warm and friendly while we have a nice warm cup of tea in our hands.

Research has shown that it goes further than this though.

A study carried out in 2013 called ‘the iterated prisoner’s dilemma‘ found that temperature can also affect how much trust we put in another person and how willing we are to cooperate with them.

In the study participants were put into pairs and put in a pretend jail. They were told that the authorities didn’t have enough evidence to convict either of them but that they each needed to testify against the other.

Some of the participants were given hand warmers to hold during the experiment and others were given ice packs.  The study found that the people with the hand warmers were twice as likely to cooperate with their cell mate and refuse to testify against them.

The researchers believe that it’s possible that the physical feeling of warmth increased the warmth the participants felt towards each other and increased their interpersonal trust of one another.

temperature changes how we view people

 

It influences the way women dress

We all know that the weather affects the way we dress.

In summer we wear light clothes. Dresses and shorts to try and keep cool. Whereas in winter we layer up in warm and cosy jumpers and cardies.

Researchers have found something quite interesting though, that is specific to women.

One particular study found that women were more likely to wear clothes in shades of red and pink on days when they’re ovulating.  The theory put forward by the researchers is that this is down to a subconscious idea of these colours making us more attractive to potential partners.  Jessica Tracy, lead author of the study, wrote that “the basic idea is that read and pink colours are sort of a sexual signal”.

What’s really interesting though is that this preference for red and pink clothing during ovulation only appeared in the colder winter months.

Tracy says “maybe what’s going on here is that in the summer when it’s warmer, women have more ways of dressing seductively”.  In the winter though it’s normally too cold for things like shorter skirts and low-cut tops, so we choose colour instead.  She also noted that it’s pretty controversial to suggest this idea that women behave differently when they’re ovulating but all sorts of other studies have shown that it does happen in various ways.

 

When it comes to finding the ideal temperature for our homes it might be worth thinking beyond our physical comfort.

With the knowledge of how the temperature affects us we can potentially create the environment that we want.  So we can make our home a little warmer to encourage our children to cooperate with each other more, or lower the temperature if we need to work on problem solving or a task that needs a bit of critical thinking.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post