A wonderful way to connect with your kids and to help them build confidence in themselves is to introduce them to the art of journaling. Not only is journaling a way to slow down the world and help your kids reflect on their experiences and thoughts, you can use journaling to connect with each other. Next Monday, December 12, journaling expert Sara Marchessault, author of Beyond Pen & Paper: 33 Experiments in Journaling, will tell us how.

In this free, all-day virtual workshop in my Facebook group Confidently Connected Moms, participants will learn:

  • The benefits of encouraging kids to keep a journal
    • What we know they get out of it
    • What we tell them they get out of it
  • Strategies to include journaling in daily life
  • Using a shared journal to communicate
  • Ideas for writing over the holiday break for moms and kids
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          Sara Marchessault

About Sara: Sara Marchessault creates books and journals that teach the use of journal-writing and self-reflection to dig deep and build a meaningful life experience. Sara believes clarity and productivity increase when journaling is used as a consistent tool. Regular writing practice helps to remove overwhelm and maintain focus. All with the added bonus of leaving a legacy in words. Sara teaches clients and readers self-awareness as the key to life-long learning and reaching their full potential. Her book, Beyond Pen & Paper: 33 Experiments in Journaling, is full of ideas to jazz up your journaling experience and get your pen moving – or even get the benefits of journaling without a pen! Sara has also published The Vision Journal: A whole brain journal and portable vision board, which gives writers a place to work with both images and words. When she’s not playing with her kids, writing, or teaching, Sara can be found on www.saramarchessault.com along with her books, blog, and freebies for journal writers.

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How to Make Conversation Gems

by Christa Hines on November 17, 2016

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Want to liven the conversation on your next car trip or when your family gathers for dinner this Thanksgiving (or any time)?

While there are fun chat packs on the market, if you’re someone who likes to get crafty this is a fun project to try. I provide conversation starter ideas, but try asking your kids what types of questions they think would be fun to discuss.

Materials

  • Clear decorative filler stones, jumbo about 1 1/2 inch in diameter (I found mine at Michael’s in the floral department.)
  • Mod Podge glue
  • Foam brush
  • Felt, Washi Tape, foam sticker or decorative tape (optional)
  • Conversation starters, printed in 9 pt. Arial Narrow font
  • 1 1/2” scrapbook hole punch or scissors

Directions:

  1. Type up questions in 9 pt Arial Narrow font. (For question ideas, visit http://www.christamelnykhines.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Conversation-Starters.pdf).
  2. Make sure you’ve formatted each question on the page so that it will fit on the stone. *You can write the questions out if it’s easier.*
  3. Print off conversation starters.
  4. Cut the questions out as circles using scissors or a 1 1/2” scrapbooking hole punch.
  5. Using a foam brush, paint Mod Podge glue over the top of the question. (Mod Podge dries clear.)
  6. Place the flat side of the stone down over the question, pressing out any air bubbles.
  7. Allow the glue to dry.
  8. You may need to trim the paper around the edges of the stone using scissors.
  9. For a pretty backing, stick a foam sticker, round stickers, sticky backed scrapbook paper, felt or washi tape to the back of the stone to cover the paper.
  10. Place your gems in a mason jar, in a pretty dish on your dining room table or in a small canvas bag to take with you on car trips.

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meetkatwarner

                                 Kat Warner

As we go quietly about our business, you may not realize as a mom how incredibly influential you are in the marketplace and in the overall economy. According to Kat Warner, owner of Green Thumb Business Growth Services, moms have 78 percent of the spending power in the United States.

Think for a moment about how you spend your hard-earned dollars. How do your spending choices impact your family? How can you turn your spending power into a more connected, sustainable community? Why does it matter?

Join us this Monday, November 14 in Confidently Connected Moms on Facebook for a special educational workshop hosted by Kat Warner. Not only is Kat a business development expert, she is an ardent supporter of moms. She is the creator of the Mom 2 Mom Guide, an upcoming nonprofit dedicated to supporting moms at work.

As a behavioral economist, entrepreneur and creative, Kat will share ways we can make more empowered, informed decisions every time we open our wallets. You’ll learn:

  • How to build community and connection through every dollar you spend
  • The power of a mom’s dollar
  • Going local: How to put conscious consumerism into practice—even on a budget

“The world is changing. Are you going to change it or are you going to let it change you?” ~ Kat Warner, Green Thumb Business Growth Services

About Kat Warner:

Kat’s love for strategizing and the arts began early in childhood. She decided she couldn’t study just one thing and completed three bachelor’s degrees in Economics, International Business & Language, and Spanish at the University of Tulsa.

She then went on to complete her master’s degree in Environmental & Developmental Economics with a speciality in Behavioral Economics at the University of Oslo in Norway.

Not quite ready to depart Oslo, Kat took her Jill-of-all-Trades status to the next level and studied photography and graphic design. Along the way, she continued to explore her crafts as she helped friends and family get their startup dreams off the ground.

After years of gathering skills and experience working for others as well as herself, Kat is now pursuing her passion for helping others and shares her unique mix of services with every entrepreneur she can.

Kat spends her free time with her loving and supportive husband, Ben, two amazing little boys and her faithful malamute, Rocky Bjorn.

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Show Your Patriotism Through Community Engagement

by Christa Hines on October 26, 2016

Often we think of patriotism as displaying the flag, participating in the pledge of allegiance or singing along to the Star-Spangled Banner. While these are symbols of our national pride, to me patriotism also means taking steps to create a more positive, caring community that we can be proud to live in.

In the spirit of our upcoming presidential election on November 8 (VOTE!) and Veterans Day, on November 11, I’m listing a few ways we can share our pride by investing our time in our communities throughout the year.

You’ll not only be rewarded with those feel-good endorphins that come from helping others, chances are you’ll also meet other like-minded individuals who share your passion for giving back to the community. What a positive, proactive way to form connections! 

Help out at your child’s school. Schools are always looking for parents to share their time assisting at events, coordinating extracurricular activities and helping in the classroom. Head Start preschools also often seek caring adults to help in the classrooms.

Help support your local police department. One national organization that helps facilitate and train police department volunteers is Citizens on Patrol. Check it out to see if your community police department is seeking volunteers. 

Sign up to help teach ESL (English as a Second Language). Not being able to speak the native language can be isolating. By taking time to help someone interested in learning English, you’ll help them assimilate better into their new community, more successfully connect with others and reach their goals. Find a local literacy center here

Volunteer for Veterans Affairs. Check out this link for ways you can participate. 

Host a foreign exchange student. By hosting a foreign exchange student, you not only have an opportunity to share your pride in your community by giving your student an extended glimpse of life in America, you and your family will have the opportunity to learn about your student’s background and culture.

Volunteer as a crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line, “no Ph.D. required”. Mental health issues remain a top concern in our country. 

Are you a mental health professional? Consider volunteering some time to help support the mental health needs of military members and their families. Give an Hour is a nonprofit founded by Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, a psychologist in the Washington D.C. area.

Join a Fun Run to support an organization in your community that is important to you.

Share your love of reading with troops stationed overseas, wounded warriors, military families here at home and veterans hospitals. Donate gently used books to OperationPaperBack.org. They’re also seeking children’s books that deployed soldiers can read to their kids via webcam or on DVDs.

Reach out to an elderly neighbor. Often our elderly neighbors have trouble getting out and about or no longer feel safe driving. This can lead to dangerous isolation. Check in on him or her periodically in person and/or on the phone. Share a meal with her or find out if she needs you to run an errand or take her to an appointment.

Donate blood to the American Red Cross

Organize a clean-up of your local park or neighborhood.

Start a walking group. Help create community engagement and stave off isolation. Invite moms in your neighborhood to come together for exercise, friendly companionship and conversation. Organize through your neighborhood e-newsletter, Facebook page or on MeetUp.com. Through Charity Miles, you can walk and raise money for your favorite nonprofit anytime. 

Build neighborhood engagement. Start a Facebook or e-neighbors site to help your neighborhood feel more interconnected. This a great place to post about lost pets, neighborhood block parties, information about trusted businesses and crime awareness.

Are you 50 or older? The AARP Foundation Experience Corps seeks adults 50 years and older who are interested in tutoring K through 3rd grade students who are struggling to read. 

Golf for military families. Participate in or organize a golf event to support Folds of Honor, a non-profit organization that provides educational scholarships to families of killed or disabled American military.

There are many, many more ways to share the volunteer spirit. What are ways you invest your time and talents to connect with others?

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Join us this Wednesday in my Confidently Connected Moms group for a special writing workshop hosted by my friend and mentor Christina Katz.

christina-katzsmallWriting, like other forms of creativity and art, can be an invaluable portal toward self-discovery. If you’re someone who loves to write, but would like to take your writing to a whole new level or could use some helpful advice or direction, then you definitely don’t want to miss my next educational workshop on Facebook with guest host Christina Katz.

Christina is a prolific author and journalist and a highly-regarded professional writing coach who has mentored some of the best writer mamas in the business. She will be joining us all day on Wednesday, October 12, in my Confidently Connected Moms group on Facebook.

Christina has been an influential mentor to me throughout my writing career, and I’m quite certain I wouldn’t be where I am today without her expertise and guidance.

Christina’s day-long workshop is titled “For the Love of Writing: Writing as a Path to Self-Discovery and Family Closeness.”

In this workshop, Christina will cover the 12 benefits of writing consistently, including:

1.) Writing as a centering tool

2.) Writing as a method of self-expression

3.) Writing as a path to personal transformation

4.) Writing as a gateway to serendipity

5.) Writing as a way of sharing

6.) Writing to spark engagement

7.) Writing to acquire self-esteem

8.) Writing to access personal abundance

9.) Writing to build professional prosperity

10.) Writing as staying power

11.) Writing as a step to what’s next

12.) Writing as a uniqueness mirror

While the information she shares will be there for any member to read and go over at her leisure, those who take time to participate and comment during the 24 hours that Christina is appearing will be eligible for a free gift!

Still not sure what I mean by a Facebook workshop? In my monthly virtual workshops hosted in my Facebook group, members have an opportunity to interact and learn from an expert in the field. Because the educational workshop goes on throughout the day and is completely online, you’re free to pop in and out as it’s convenient for your schedule—perfect for busy moms. And if you can’t make it that day, you can always read through the posts later at your convenience.

If you aren’t already a member of my moms-only conversation hub on Facebook, you can join here. (Of course, it’s a totally free resource.) Don’t forget to invite your friends!

About Christina Katz:

Author, journalist, and writing coach Christina Katz knows how to inspire her writing clients to achieve the results they desire and has spent over a decade and a half doing just that. Writers who work with Christina learn how to channel their heart and soul into a body of work that makes an ongoing difference in the world.

Christina has an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago and a BA in English from Dartmouth College. Her nonfiction appears monthly in a variety of publications all over North America and Internationally. She coaches an ongoing group of prolific writers and authors and offers video courses in foundational professional and life skills inside her global online school. Learn more about this three-time Writer’s Digest author, acclaimed platform development expert, and writing career development coach by swinging by her virtual home at ChristinaKatz.com.

When she’s not writing, Christina enjoys scouring antique stores and flea markets for vintage décor, collaging her dreams into reality, going on mini-adventures with her husband and daughter, and snuggling up with her six playful pets.

Know an aspiring mama writer? Please share this post with her!

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After last night…is there a positive side to politics?

by Christa Hines on October 10, 2016

As we raise the next generation of voters, we have to decide as parents and educators how to teach our kids to think carefully and critically about the complex issues facing our country. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to appear on our local Fox news station to talk about what kids can learn from politics.

Below is the interview.

Some of you may have made the decision to guard the younger, more sensitive ears in your household from what was discussed last night in the debates. (Are they going to have to start rating political debates as PG-13?)

As we head into the final weeks ahead, keep listening to what your kids say and ask. Keep encouraging them to consider different sides. Ask open ended questions like: “How would you solve this problem if you were president?” “How would you make it fair?” “What do you think?”  Every issue affects different people differently depending on what is going on in their lives. Help your kids listen to learn in order to build empathy, understanding and tolerance.

In turn, listen to their concerns and address their confusion when people who are supposed to be role models, aren’t. Our kids know that it’s important to treat others with dignity and respect. We teach them that every day through manners, managing conflict and learning to be good friends to others. (Much of this I discuss in my book Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected.)

There’s no question that the debates we’ve witnessed so far lower the bar of polite conversation. But if you do watch together, use these events as examples of how not to treat other people. We live in a very competitive country. Everyone wants to win. Conflict is a fact of life. But in real life, our relationships suffer if we hang onto an opinion like an angry bulldog and lash out at those who disagree with our stance.

Agree to disagree. Learn to walk away. That’s not weak. It’s smart. It’s sane. It’s thoughtful. Return to the conversation if it feels safe to do so. Apologize if you said something you regret.

These are ways we can role model and teach our kids to manage conflict in a positive, proactive way. They’ll learn to recognize the people they need to move away from and the people who they can trust with their sacred hearts, friendship and time.

When we teach our kids to build bridges, to find common ground and negotiate, we’re giving them a gift. We’re showing them how to thoughtfully solve problems and how to build up rather than tear down. And in that lesson, we’re offering them a path to more joy in their relationships and their lives. Don’t we all deserve that?

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Connecting through Protest: One Mom Shares Her Experience

by Christa Hines on September 27, 2016

Suffragists marching in New York City, 1913

When nearly 8,000 suffragists marched down Pennsylvania Avenue past the White House to demand the right to vote in 1913, they had objects thrown at them. They were spit on and they were physically assaulted. (Imagine how they would’ve been treated if social media had existed at the time.)

But the violence these courageous women endured worked in their favor, waking the sleeping giant and furthering their cause in the national conversation. That’s what protest movements can do.

Throughout the 20th century and now into the 21st century, we’ve seen women connect with each other by calling for equal rights, stricter gun control, healthcare rights and an end to the silent rape culture prevalent on many college campuses. From breastfeeding in public, maternity leave for working women and concerns about chemicals and dyes in foods, mothers are especially activist-minded, particularly when it comes to protecting the health and wellbeing of their children. 

Collectively, many women find satisfaction participating in a social movement that resonates with them. They find common ground with others and a sense of purpose. Kelly Daniels, a portrait photographer and mom of two grown sons, recently felt compelled to join the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Here’s what she shared about her experience on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota:

Kelly Daniels with her sons at the DAPL protest

Kelly Daniels with her sons at a DAPL protest.

“I’ve never in my life been to a protest, but my sweet sister Lori, who has Down Syndrome, put a fire in my heart when it has to do with people being bullied or mistreated, people that have no one to speak for them–especially people who don’t have the ability, physically, or financially. And the Native Americans have had nothing but tragedy given to them by our governments for 500 years since Columbus landed here. I believe it’s time to stand up for a people who have had no voice.

“The people I camped with in North Dakota were not ‘protestors’ as many people envision. They were families camping in tents and tipis; elders being acknowledged around the fire while inspiring people to be strong and peaceful; women cooking large vats of food over open fires; children playing on logs; young men and women moving through camp on horses. These were people… A struggling people… with a purpose beyond self. The purpose to keep the water clean for their children.”

kellydaniels

Photo courtesy Kelly Daniels; Daniels with a little girl at the Dakota Access Pipeline Protest

Protest is meant to make everyone from the policy makers to the voter more aware and a little uncomfortable. Peaceful protests and marches can work to advance civil rights and ultimately drive positive social change.

“Every little thing you do to make this world better makes a difference. Even good thought. Every good deed. It just takes showing up. And living your truth. Do whatever you can to make a change in this world for future generations.” ~ Kelly Daniels, in a speech at a DAPL protest.  

How we go about adding our voices to the conversation is up to each of us personally according to what we each have at stake. If you run a business, for example, do you risk alienating your customers? You have to decide where and how it’s appropriate to share your opinions.

Personal safety can also be a risk. Protest can cause tensions to rise and tempers to flare. Some people are happy with the status quo. Others fundamentally disagree with the message. And sometimes the wrong people hijack an otherwise peaceful movement to drive their own personal agendas of hate and violence, which can detract from the group’s core message.

Rallies around a cause can effectively advance change by breaking barriers and creating empathy. Those of us on the sidelines can, at the very least, do our part by listening to protesters’ stories and experiences with an open heart and an open mind, realizing that in general, people simply want what’s best for their families. 

Through listening and attempting to understand, we can lift up conversation and begin problem solving.

But before we can get to the table where productive, healing conversation can begin, sometimes we must first put one gentle step in front of the other. 

*Parts of this post were excerpted from my September newsletter. To subscribe to my monthly newsletter, head here.

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“Autumn, the year’s last loveliest smile.” ~ William Cullen Bryant

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Kristin Fritchman and her baby girl have hiked over 150 miles together. 

We’ve heard time and again the benefits of spending time outside, both for own wellbeing and for our kids’ physical and emotional health. With its milder temperatures and gorgeous colors, autumn is truly one of the best seasons to get outside with our families.

But what are the best ways to truly enjoy all that nature has to offer if you’re the parent of a baby or toddler without the outing becoming a logistical headache?

Find out this Friday when my next guest host shares her knowledge and expertise in my Confidently Connected Moms Facebook Group!

Strap ‘em on and go! This Friday, September 23, mom and avid hiker Kristin Fritchman, co-leader of the Kansas City Branch of Hike It Baby, will spend the day with us. She’ll share tips and answer your questions about how to hit the trails and enjoy the great outdoors with our youngsters this fall and throughout the year, especially if you have a baby or toddler.  

Here’s what you’ll learn during the workshop:

* Benefits of getting outside

* Benefits of baby wearing

* Baby wearing resources – finding the right carrier

* Finding trails and groups

* Hiking with baby

* Toddler-led hikes and nature play

* Camping and micro-adventures

About Kristin:

Kristin Fritchman is a full-time working mom in the Kansas City area. After giving birth to her daughter in April 2015, she became involved in the Kansas City branch of Hike it Baby, and is now on the Branch Team that helps maintain and promote the group in Kansas City.  Kristin and her daughter, Emily, have logged over 150 miles together outside.

Kristin grew up in Southwest Missouri. Being outside in nature has always been an integral part of her life. As a child, she and her family spent most nice weather weekends enjoying camping, boating, and fishing trips to the lakes and rivers in the Ozarks. She also helped her grandparents out on their farm, and spent summers exploring the neighborhood with her brother.

Since graduating from University of Missouri – Columbia in 2009, she has worked as an environmental engineer at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Chicago Bridge & Iron. 

How do you join?  Learn how to integrate nature and hiking into your family’s life. Follow the link Confidently Connected Moms to join on Facebook. This is a closed group to protect the privacy of the conversations. Once I receive your request to join, I will add you. Once in, you can also invite your friends.

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The Power of Curiosity: A Book Review

by Christa Hines on September 14, 2016

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-11-35-41-amCuriosity has been on my mind a lot lately. Maybe you’ve noticed.

The October issue of Parents magazine includes my article “Eager Learners: Encouraging Your Child’s Curiosity at Home Will Spill Over Into Class” in the School Age ages and stages section. And last week, I wrote a post titled “How Curiosity Helps Us Connect.”

I’m fascinated by how this one concept can create a positive reverberation across our relationships, personal and professional, both online and offline.

While doing the research for the Parents article, I had a chance to connect with Kirsten Siggins, who was one of the sources for my article. Kirsten is the co-author of the book The Power of Curiosity: How to Have Real Conversations that Create Collaboration, Innovation and Understanding, which she wrote in collaboration with her mom Kathy Taberner.

The mother-daughter team are the founders of The Institute of Curiosity, a coaching and training organization that helps individuals learn and apply the skills of curiosity to their personal and professional relationships.

As a journalist, I’m constantly reading books in my research and many are excellent resources for parents. (You can check out the growing list of books I recommend in my resources section.) But The Power of Curiosity struck a particular chord with me because it parallels so much of my own thinking about building meaningful relationships in the digital age.

The book is an easy-to-read, comprehensive resource for anyone who wishes to enhance their communication IQ and maintain stronger relationships.

“Without curiosity, relationships fracture, and understanding and connection are lost. We live in a time where change is constant and our future depends on new possibilities and innovative outcomes.” ~ Taberner & Siggins, The Power of Curiosity

From a parenting perspective

The authors recommend active, curious listening. Engaged parents who listen carefully to their kids when they share their interests, problems and thoughts, build a deep sense of trust and help their kids appreciate the power of listening in their own relationships. As our kids get older and start pulling away from us, the connection we’ve nurtured from the beginning will matter all the more.

Furthermore, by role modeling our own spirit of curiosity and wonder in the world, we encourage our kids to grow into life-long learners, who are interested in engaging with the world around them (which I cover in my Parents article).

Helping us manage conflict

Taberner and Siggins also do an excellent job of explaining how curiosity can help us during challenging conversations, which many of us are facing right now during an incredibly tense and divisive political season.

“Curiosity is your most powerful tool—a tool you can use in any conversation to better understand what has been said, why it has been said, what is going on for the other person and what is going on for yourself. Curiosity is the key to resolving conflict so that relationships remain intact…” ~ Taberner & Siggins, The Power of Curiosity

The truth is, few of us were ever taught how to engage in conflict in a respectful and thoughtful manner. Conflict brings up powerful emotions. Online and off, many of us go into a confrontation with the goal of shutting the other person down. You know, what I mean—“I’m right. He’s wrong. And I’m gonna prove it.”

We’re all guilty of it at some point or another.

Other times, we dive head first into conflict without an understanding of what the outcome is that we’re even seeking. Meanwhile, in our quest for rightness, we forget that words can poison, and we look back with regret on the limping remains of a relationship that may not weather the tongue’s arrows.

Could curiosity solve all of our relationship troubles? Maybe not. But it could certainly help us make better sense of the world and of each other. I’m curious to find out. How about you?

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Check out the October 2016 issue of Parents magazine on news stands now!

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How Curiosity Helps Us Connect

by Christa Hines on September 6, 2016

I bet you have stories to tell.

Happy stories, sad stories, triumphant stories and tragic stories.

But did you know that none of it matters? At least not in the moment when you’re trying to get to know another person.

Let’s say you’re headed to a get-together where you won’t know a lot of people. As much as you may dislike it, you understand that a little bit of small talk gives you a chance to find common ground with someone else at the gathering.

But once your past initial introductions, there’s sometimes that awkward moment of silence… and a decision looms. Do I excuse myself to refill my drink? Do I tell that story about what happened on the way to work today or the funny thing my toddler said? Should I check my phone?

Try deepening the conversation by tapping your curiosity. What could you learn from this person?

When we’re curious, we’re most open to listening and learning. And, you’ll not only get to know people better, you’ll also come across as more likable.

An important part of asking questions is to actually be interested in the answers rather than trying to think about what you’re going to say next. This is hard for a lot of us because we may feel a little nervous entering a conversation with someone we don’t know. But allow yourself to be present in the moment and to just carefully follow their story. People typically love to talk about their kids, their pets, their passions and their hobbies.

Here are a few questions to try:

  • What are you most excited about right now?
  • What are you reading right now?
  • If you learn that they have children, ask what their children are like. What activities do they like to do? (Sometimes this is a clue about what the person you’re talking to is interested in as well. In fact, this could be your next question–“Oh, did you like playing tennis as a kid too?”)
  • How are you enjoying this age (in reference to what it’s like to parent a toddler/school-age child/middle schooler, etc.)? What do you think are the biggest challenges?
  • Where do you and your family like to vacation? What is it that you like about that part of the country?
  • What do you like to do for fun in your spare time?
  • What would you have done with your life if you hadn’t gone into sales (or whatever it is they do for a living) or was that always your passion?
  • If they have an especially interesting career, ask how they made it happen. What was their big break?

Watch what happens in the conversation. Not only will you remember fascinating details about the person you just met, they’ll remember you too. Even if they don’t learn a lot about you, they’ll like you because you took time to listen. And very few people do that anymore.

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