I recently read an advance copy of the new book by Jenna Hermans, a certified high-performance coach, entrepreneur, and mom of 4. It is called Chaos to Calm:5 Ways for Busy Parents to Get (and Stay) Grounded. Let’s face it, in this modern age, most of us parents are experiencing at least some level of chaos balancing everyone’s busy schedule. That is why I think Jenna Hermans’ intentional approach and life hacks are sure to come in handy for parents looking to include more calm in every day. The part of the book that really grabbed my attention was the section on how to heard. That is something that I think many people struggle with. Being heard is so important both at work and in a relationship so I consider these tips invaluable.
I am pleased to say I have been granted permission to share the Chaos To Calm excerpt on how to get people to listen and being heard.
The Chaos To Calm Book
This book well organized and easy to follow. Jenna Hermans makes her points clearly and illustrates them with great examples. This is really no surprise when you know that she has a master’s degree in organizational management and over a decade of experience running human resources. In Chaos to Calm, Jenna uses easy-to-implement strategic tools and philosophies to guide busy parents. Her tips helps people streamline the endless tasks they face every day. Chapters are targeted at Efficiency, Habits, Communication, Community, and Self-Care. Removing chaos and endless pressure to do more from our lives is essential is choosing a life of intention and joy.
As part of creating a strong infrastructure for your life that allows for better time management and reduced stress, Jenna shares how to build healthier habits for yourself. Part of this focuses on improving your relationship and communication with your partner and kids. This makes a huge amount of sense because nothing brings more stress than poor communication and connection to those you love most. You can save a lot of time and frustration with her tips for improving your communication skills.
As she puts it, “Communication consists of two parts: expressing yourself and listening to others… Active listening means not just understanding the words or the information being communicated, but also understanding the emotions and intentions behind what you hear. Being an effective communicator (we’ll get to that shortly) helps the person listening to you understand not only what you’re saying, but also why you’re saying it and what you truly mean.”
Part of me feels like I am an excellent communicator and yet I know that I still struggle to feel heard and to make my husband feel heard by me. So I know I am still need to refine my skills. I suspect many parents are in the same boat. That is why you will love Jenna Hermans’ tips!
Below is an excerpt of Chaos to Calm. It is part of the Communication section [What to Say and How to Listen to Get the Support You Need]
Copyright © 2023 by Jenna Hermans. This section was republished with permission. The book is available at your local book store or here is my affiliate Amazon link.
We’ve all found ourselves asking for help and feeling like no one is listening. One of the biggest killers of calm is when we have so much to do, and although we take the time to ask for support on one thing, it still doesn’t get done. So frustrating!
In this section, I’ll show you the best communication tips that have worked for me and my clients, which will help you get the support you need.
Be Proactive vs. Reactive
Planning ahead versus reacting to a crisis will help you maintain your calm and reduce stress. When a challenging situation comes up, and you feel there wasn’t time to prepare before having to handle it, you can still maintain a proactive state by taking a moment to think, breathe, and then respond instead of having a knee-jerk reaction, which often results in increased stress and a poor outcome.
When you take a moment before responding, you can actively calm down any harmful adrenaline and decrease your body’s stress response to get to a calmer state. From that calmer state, you can respond more thoughtfully. Giving yourself time to be mindful brings calm to you and others in the situation.
BE PROACTIVE ABOUT GETTING DIRECT HELP
When you know you’ll need support, give as much notice as possible to those you’ll need help from. Keep in mind the help you need could be anything from direct help (asking someone to pick up your kid after school) to indirect assistance (extending grace and understanding if you’re not as responsive as usual).
Communicate what you have going on, the specific help you think you’ll need, and why you need that help. The why is important here so the other person can feel empathy toward your situation and be even more motivated to help. Respect their needs as well—ask whether they can do it and whether they need anything to make sure that all goes smoothly. Send them reminders leading up to the event you need help with, which can ensure smooth support (if the other person finds that helpful).
It’s a lot easier to get support where you need it before the event versus during the need.
For example, if you know in the late afternoon you’ll need help after dinner, you can express to your partner, “I have so much to do before bed tonight. I have about a dozen emails to respond to and eight customer orders to fulfill. And there is laundry to be folded as well. What are your plans after dinner? Would you be able to help fold the laundry, so I don’t need to go to bed so late?” I promise this will work a lot better than if, after dinner, you say in mid-martyr meltdown, “Ugh, I have so much to do! I don’t know how I’m ever going to get this all done without going to bed after midnight. I feel like I have to do everything around here!” and expect your partner to know what to do and jump in at the last minute.
Planning ahead respects your family and community’s needs. If you have a big deadline at work, you can ask for help with picking up the kids like this: “I have to finish this project in two weeks and need all the time I can get. Would you be able to pick up the kids after school this week so that I can get some extra time to work?” Being proactive versus reactionary isn’t just for the sake of others; it’s for your sanity, too. Knowing you’ll have the support you need ahead of time will increase your calm.
Appointments are a key example of being proactive where it counts. There are certain appointments and events that show up at regular intervals (weekly, yearly). If you schedule your annual physical at the same time every year, you can create your list of questions leading up to the appointment instead of only seeing the doctor when something is off and you need to go in urgently. Make teeth cleanings every six months instead of when you feel a pain in your molar. Schedule your hair appointments before you know your roots are going to grow out. It’s a lot easier to get appointments when you schedule them in advance rather than when you need them urgently, and you’ll have a sense of calm knowing your appointments are all lined up.
BE PROACTIVE ABOUT GETTING INDIRECT HELP
When you’re going through a transition or a period of time when you know you won’t be able to be as responsive as usual, take a proactive stance with your relationships as a way to foster calm. For example, if you have a huge deliverable at work, are training for a marathon, having a baby, moving, lost a loved one, or a child is in crisis, everyone will benefit from your strategic communication to set expectations on how responsive you can be. For example, if you’re having a baby, text your friends before the baby’s born and tell them they may not hear from you as quickly as usual because you need a few months to acclimate to
If you want to focus more on Chaos to Calm techniques, let everyone know you’ve embarked on a personal journey and need a lot of time for self-reflection. Make sure they’re aware that if you don’t reply right away, it’s not personal. You’ll reply when you can. So often, especially for us women, we drop everything to be there for a friend. Certainly that is kind and generous and a good thing to do. We need people to drop everything for us too sometimes. When I proactively let my friends know what I’m going through or training for, their feelings aren’t hurt when they don’t hear back from me immediately, and then calm ensues. This has worked for me time and time again.
In fact, while I was writing this book, I proactively told many people in my world that I would need to postpone coffee dates and catch-ups to focus on writing as much as possible. And when someone I hadn’t told reached out, I transparently shared that I was head-down until the book was done and that I would reach out when I had finished and had more time again. Most of the time, people’s reactions—if they are genuine friends (see Community on page 100 to help you figure out who is a true friend)—are completely supportive and understanding.
Still, sometimes, there will be people who come off as mad, aggressive, disappointed, and unsupportive. Nine times out of ten, I’ve come to realize that their intention is not malicious. They are simply responding to their environment. These people either have a strong defense mechanism or they have their guard up because of distress they are experiencing or have experienced. They may lash out if you’re not responsive because a different friend or someone else important to them may have hurt them in the past. Start by presuming positive intent (the next topic)—it’ll help you handle that kind of human behavior in a less stressful and more constructive way.
Presume Positive Intent
Everyone’s doing the best they can—yes, even your nosy mother-in-law— and if you remember that in your heart, you’ll see the world much more calmly and positively.
Assuming positive intent means that when you’re on the receiving end of a negative action or behavior, instead of assuming that the doer (or neglector) is a thoughtless jerk, redirect your thoughts to presume that their actions were done with no ill intent. For example, maybe a truck cuts you off on the freeway. Your instinctive reaction is probably shaking your fist and yelling, “What a jackass! He almost ran us off the road!” But you could choose to think, “He may have had an emergency and needs to get to his destination quickly.” Or, “Wow, he must be late for something very important and obviously needs to get there very quickly.”
Of course, it could be he’s just a total jerk-wad, in which case, finding the funny in the situation is always a good coping mechanism.
When you assume positive intent, especially with those closest to you, they’ll feel your positivity and openness, which will facilitate a supportive relationship. People are more willing to help and support you when they experience you as a positive and open-minded person.
Here Are More Positive Intent Reframes:
Situation: Your partner lets the kids be on screens for hours, and you disagree with this adamantly and it sends you into a rage (not calm!).
Negative Assumption: He’s so lazy and doesn’t want to spend quality time with his own kids!
Positive Assumption: Maybe he’s going through a difficult moment (no judging what that is) and really needed the kids to be entertained.
Calm Action: Ask from a place of calm what’s going on and how you can support him. If this is a common occurrence, ask to brainstorm other ways that the kids can be occupied without screens, like scheduling play-dates or visits with the grandparents.
Situation: Your colleague is late to deliver their portion of a project.
Negative Assumption: Ugh, she has the worst time management skills! How did she even get this job? Does she think I have time to do it all?
Positive Assumption: I hope she’s okay. Maybe she had a family emergency or health issue that prevented her from being able to complete her work on time.
Calm Action: Approach her and share that you noticed she’s been behind on her deliverables. You can ask if everything is okay and whether
there’s anything she needs to get back on track.
Situation: Your teenager asks, “Why are you wearing that?”
Negative Assumption: Oh my god, I look like a fool and my teen is so embarrassed by me. I should change!
Positive Assumption: Maybe they’re not judging my fashion sense, maybe they think I’m just at home today, and they don’t know I’m having lunch with an old friend.
Calm Action: Respond with, “I love this dress and haven’t worn it in forever.” And then, if you want to actually know the answer, you can ask, “Why do you ask?”
It is beneficial for your calm to assume the best.
In the absence of information (maybe their communication skills of proactively letting you know what’s going on aren’t as honed as yours will be now), it’s beneficial for your calm to assume the best in people. So often we assume the worst in others, and when we do that, we bring unnecessary stress on ourselves. And when you presume that others are coming from a place of kindness and positivity, you’ll be able to keep anxious thoughts at bay and create calm.
I hope you enjoyed these great tips from Jenna Hermans on how to be heard. You may want to follow her on Instagram. Learning how to get people to listen to you and really hear you will be helpful at work and at home, as a woman or as a man. These tips work best when both parties are aligned and understand how to listen actively and as well as communicate effectively. So maybe try reading these tips together as a couple and realizing you can both probably do better at implementing these effective communication skills. Partnership and teamwork make a marriage and other relationships work.