Change Anything QA

Crucial Applications: A Six-Step Formula to Help Kids Lose Weight

According to a study we recently conducted, three out of five parents fail when trying to help their kids lose weight.

The research found that parents and children alike have far less control over their behavior than they think they do because they’re blind to the influences keeping them stuck. Parents can’t change their behavior, much less their child’s, until they understand the six sources working against them and marshal the sources to influence their behavior for good.

Here are some tips for reversing childhood obesity by changing bad behavior:

Change their impulses: Help your kids change the way they think about what they currently consider to be unpleasant behaviors such as healthy eating or exercise. For example, show them how healthy habits are important to their favorite sports hero.

Overcome ignorance: Teach your kids skills for making and keeping new habits like enrolling them in a new sport or teaching them about the food pyramid. For example, in an experiment to resist eating a marshmallow now for two later, 50 percent more kids were successful at earning two marshmallows when they were taught distancing tactics to distract them while waiting.

Turn accomplices into friends: Don’t underestimate the power of your kids’ peers. Bad habits are a team sport. Encourage your kids to spend time with friends who model good behavior.

Call in a coach: Coaches are crucial to behavior change success. While you might be a great cheerleader, enlist the power of an external coach to support your child, such as a sports coach. Research shows those with a half dozen coaches or mentors are almost 40 percent more likely to succeed than those without a half dozen coaches.

Reward small successes: When used in moderation, rewards can motivate kids to keep good habits. For example, if your kids meet their weekly goal of exercise, reward them with their favorite game, small treat or additional time with you.

Restructure your home: Make physical changes to your home that enable new behaviors. Put out healthy snacks instead of junk food. Schedule active family time, such as bike riding, as opposed to TV watching.

Crucial Conversations QA

Mediating Marital Disagreements

Dear Crucial Skills,

I have been a certified Crucial Conversations trainer for more than a year. Prior to my certification, I learned the strategies by teaching them to my family. While we aren’t perfect, we have come a long way in improving our communication.

I have a friend who is miserable in her marriage mostly because she and her husband frequently move to silence and violence or toggle between the two during even everyday conversations. It is painful to watch their marriage crumble. I lent them my copy of the Crucial Conversations audio companion, but I’m not sure they bothered to listen to it. I want to offer to mediate an argument so I can show them how to communicate effectively during a crucial conversation. What do you suggest?

Sharing the Love

Dear Sharing,

One of the toughest challenges is knowing how to help someone—especially if they haven’t asked for your help. There are some principles in Crucial Conversations that will help you, and I’ll use a couple in my advice to you.

First, I point to chapter eleven of Crucial Conversations, “Yeah, But . . . Advice for Tough Cases.” Some situations are tougher than others and we discuss seventeen of these situations in this chapter. Here are a few subtitles that might deal with the challenge you face:

  • My Overly Sensitive Spouse
  • Failure to Live up to Agreements
  • Failed Trust
  • Won’t Talk About Anything Serious
  • Shows No Initiative
  • Endless Excuses
  • Regretting Saying Something Horrible

One of the findings of our research is that sustaining good results and strong relationships is based on how rapidly and respectfully people can resolve differences. Our work supported the findings of Howard Markman, a friend and one of the best researchers on relationships in the world. In his book, Fighting for Your Marriage, he states that the number-one predictor of lasting, happy relationships is “how people argue.”

You mentioned that you lent them your audio companion, and I think that is a good first step. This conversation might have sounded something like this. “My husband and I have found this CD very useful. It has helped our family communicate more effectively. I was wondering if you’d like to listen to it.”

A little note here. You said that you lent “them” the CD. Were they both present, or did you lend it to your friend and expect her to find a way to invite her husband to listen? If so, that may have been the problem.

You might want to get permission from your friend to see if you could try a more proactive step with both of them. By getting her permission, you would avoid any surprises. As an important side note, a recent study shows that when individuals have problems in their relationships and they go to their “friends,” the vast majority of the “friends” are quick to join in criticizing the spouse or partner rather than encouraging them to save the relationship. It looks like you’ve tried to help, but it’s important to note that your friend’s husband may not see the relationship the same way.

I suggest you use contrasting to clarify what you are not intending and what you are intending. In tough conversations, make sure your intentions or motives are clear before you engage in the conversation. So make sure both of them are in the room and that it is a safe and private environment.

It might sound like this. “I’d like to share some of the skills I train. I don’t want to be pushy or step in where I’m not invited. What I want to do is offer something that is helpful to both of you. I’m wondering if it might help if I share some of the communication skills I train at work and that I’ve found useful in my marriage?” And then you pause.

You might choose different wording, but the point I want to make is that clarifying your intentions first helps make it safe. Your friends might say no. They might say yes. They might question your expertise. They might get mad. But you made it clear that you were trying to be a friend—trying to be helpful and not wanting to meddle if your offer wasn’t accepted.

Even if they refuse your help, speaking up is so much better than saying nothing. I’m sure there are many, many individuals and couples who wish they had a friend like you.


From the Road

From the Road: Anxiously Awaiting August

Steve WillisSteve Willis is a Master Trainer and Vice President of Professional Services at VitalSmarts.

From the Road

I’m writing this article, as I have many times in the past, during my plane ride home (Woo-Hoo!). However, I’m not returning from conducting a training, as is often the case, but rather from a number of certified trainer workshops that were held on the East Coast.

These sessions really reinvigorate me. I see familiar faces of those I’ve certified and worked with in the past. I get to hear about how others are using the materials. I’m exposed to a whole range of best practices (e.g., some people have taken questions submitted to the authors via the newsletter and sent them as part of the invitations to attend training with a teaser like, “Come to training to find out how to best respond to this and other similar questions.”). And I especially enjoy hearing the firsthand accounts of how participants responded to and utilized their newly acquired skills.

This whole last week has got me really excited to see everyone at the REACH Conference this year. I can hardly wait. So help me out. Give me something to tide me over. Please send me some of your recent experiences with the training or cool new ideas you can share with me to help the time go more quickly.