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Sharpen Your People Skills and Become a Better Caregiver

"How to win friends and influence people" is a popular topic for people looking to further their careers, but developing good people skills can also help with caregiving, too. Developing good people skills helps you communicate more effectively with medical professionals, care providers, siblings – and especially elderly parents who have their own ideas and opinions about their lives and care.

Your attitude sets the quality and mood of your thoughts, which in turn influence your voice tone, the words you use, your facial expressions and your body language.

Even if you aren't a people person by nature, you can hone some skills when dealing with others that will help you be a better caregiver.

Be Likable

People respond well to people who they like and respect. No one wants to be around a negative or argumentative person, or a person who is phony or condescending. Your attitude determines the quality of your relationships. When you project an attitude that is calm, cheery, interested and helpful, others will respond more positively.

Stay Positive

Maintaining a positive attitude makes understanding easier. People gravitate to positive people because good moods are contagious. Be a "glass half full" kind of person.

Find the Right Time to Address Issues

Recognize when you or others are stressed. When it comes to dealing with difficult situations, proper timing can lead to a better outcome. Don't bring up tough issues when you are angry, stressed or rushed.

Slow Down

Sometimes getting to the heart of an issue takes time. Avoid trying to talk about and do everything at once. Communication at an even pace allows everyone to think through the conversation and how to respond. Some people speak slowly and take time to form their thoughts. Allow the person to express themselves. Be patient, and resist the urge to interrupt.

Watch Behaviors

Listen to what the person is saying and how they are behaving. Do the words and the behavior match? Could the person be talking about something very different than what they really want but does not know how to say it or ask for something? Fear may make someone hesitate to say what is really going on.

Ask for Feedback

No one likes to be preached to. Don't talk "at" someone; talk "with" them. Ask them for their feedback and opinions. This shows that you are willing to hear and explore other points of view. Conversation should always be two-way.

Deal with the Unexpected with Grace

Life is unpredictable. Expect challenges along the way, keep things in perspective, have a sense of humor, and don't take yourself too seriously. Deal with the unexpected with grace and charm, and perhaps others will follow your lead.

Don't Get Roped into Arguing

Some people like to push buttons to get a reaction. And the people closest to you know what buttons to push. Don't get goaded into an argument. If you find yourself getting upset, calmly remove yourself from the situation and try addressing the issue again once everyone cools down.

The number one rule in dealing with others is to listen. Try to understand the other person's experience and opinions. When dealing with an elder, remember that it is still his or her life and care. Focus on meeting unmet needs and not conflict. Practice even some of these skills and you may be surprised by the results.

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