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9 Benefits to Being the Oldest in a Family

9 Benefits to Being the Oldest in a Family

I am the oldest of 4 on my dad’s side and the oldest of 2 on my mom’s side. I married the oldest of 3. Unless we are an only child (which has its own idiosyncrasies), we are going to find good things and bad things in regards to our birth order. My husband and I have three sons and even though their personalities are very different (as are their looks), I wonder if some of what makes them who they are is based on the order in which they were born. For example, I wonder if my middle son loves that he was in the middle because he wasn’t the “guinea pig” the oldest might have been and he wasn’t the one youngest either.

Growing up, I didn’t like being the oldest. I realize now that the things I dreaded most was hearing the phrase, “You should know better.” Especially as this came back to bite me when I retaliated and I was usually the one who got caught. Even when I tried to just have my own space and keep my two little sisters (who are 11 and 14 years younger than I am) out of my room, they would always still find a way in. The scribbles in my junior high yearbook have all the proof I need. With my brother being just two years younger than me, we did a lot of things outside, including playing tackle football in our front yard. I still have the scar on my knee from when I tried to tackle him and I slid into a metal sprinkler.

Now that I am older (and still the oldest too), I wanted to share a few things that actually benefit the oldest sibling in any family. The burdens once placed on us now have a different twist and have shown me why those moments really weren’t so bad after all. If you are the oldest child, expect to hear a lot of, “You are so lucky”…even if you aren’t sure why.

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1. You set the precedence for every other child.

Every rule, every milestone will happen for the other kids only when it happens to you first. You are essentially where everything begins. You are the model for everything your brothers and sisters will ever get. You are the gauge for every important milestone — If you get a TV in your room at 12 years old, then your younger siblings will want to be 12 too. You are the example — whether it come to trying a musical instrument, going out on a date, or even just getting the chance to pick the paint color for your own room. That bar is set with you. In addition, you will get to try more things. Depending on your experience (and your parents’), chances are your siblings getting to try new things may get lost as the years go by. If you fall in love Boy Scouts, other younger brothers might be nudged in that direction too.

2. You never have hand me downs.

Let’s face it…we all like to have new clothes. There is just something about putting on something that isn’t found in any other family pictures with your brother wearing the same outfit 2 years earlier. However, having two of my sons just 13 months apart, their clothes were practically interchangeable. The only guarantee the younger ones were getting new clothes is if we were doing a family picture and we all needed to wear matching clothes. Even that backfired on me once — we just don’t talk about the striped sweaters anymore. If you are the oldest, you are going to get stuff with the tags still attached and sometimes, you are glad you have moved away from the velcro shoes that light up when you walk.

3. You never have to share a room.

Especially as you get older, the oldest child ends up getting his or her own room because “they need their privacy.” The younger kids don’t even know what that means, but they want it too. Growing up, I loved never having to share a room with my sisters and it meant I had one place in the whole house that was MY place. Growing up, it was where I could do my homework, listen to my music, and basically, whatever I wanted. The hardest part of having your own space was keeping it to yourself. In my case, my little sisters went to great extremes to be with me — even when I didn’t want to be with them. (Side note, today we are all very close and very good friends.)

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4. You are given more responsibility.

Sometimes, this was a burden more than a good thing. I became the automatic babysitter for my younger siblings, but many times because they required more care and attention, I usually was left to fend for myself more. Don’t worry, I never really got into any trouble when given the benefit of the doubt — I was too much of a goody two-shoes to try anything too crazy. But being the oldest meant you didn’t have to prove yourself right away. Your parents didn’t know what you would or would not try because they couldn’t compare you to “what your older brother or sister did.” Being the oldest, I became very independent as I transitioned into an adult.

5. You have more childhood pictures.

As a mom of three, I know I took more pictures of my oldest son that I did of the other two. I am hoping they don’t notice. With one child, your time and attention is devoted to that child — you don’t have to split your time between other  kids and you can even tag team your spouse to fill in when you need a break. With our three boys all under the age of six, we were completely outnumbered and because of that, we probably missed a few really great pictures of the younger two. Not that you have a shrine built in your honor, but finding a childhood picture for the yearbook is much easier for the oldest children. I’m just saying.

6. You are never pushed around.

Growing up, I remember my brother getting picked on in elementary school and once, he found me on the playground and told me what was going on. He never got made fun of for getting his “big sister” to stand up for him, but no one ever picked on me. The oldest becomes the “fighter” for the other kids when someone outside the family steps in. There is a phrase out there that reads something like, “I can pick on my little brother or sister, but you can’t.” Whether there is just two of you kids or 13 — the oldest ones are told to look out and protect the younger ones. No matter what.

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7. You are a role model.

I know, just what you want…someone watching your every move, right? Who didn’t get tired of the “He’s copying me!” game that never seemed to end until you just stopped letting your younger brother or sister “get” to you? Even at a young age, you represent who your younger sibling wants to be. They watch everything you do. They look up to you — even when you want them to look “the other way” or remind them to “not tell mom and dad.” (This is usually done once until they rat you out and then you are just done with telling them secrets.) The truth is — you are their hero and being related to someone “as cool as you” is something every little brother or sister wants. You just never know what they will remember and use later in life, so be careful what you show them.

8. You have your parents all to yourself.

Although you were probably too young to remember these years before your younger siblings came along, you got to have them at their best. Your parents were young and energetic about their new family. It was something they could manage with work, home, and other obligations. You had one schedule to work around when it came to your activities and the chances of both of your parents attending your events was pretty high. Once a younger sibling comes along, the parents have to split time and “tag Team” one another just to make sure they are where they are supposed to be. You are their life and they live theirs around you.

9. You get to be first…in EVERYTHING.

Let’s face it…this is the BEST part of being the oldest. You are the first to drive…the first to walk home from school by yourself…the first to have a date. Sometimes, you will even get to give input on important things like helping to name the new baby or the new pet. As the oldest, you are the first to move away from home, the first to graduate from high school, the first to make something of the family name. When your parents are talking about their kids, chances are you are mentioned first. You are the first to not have to hold mom’s hand in the grocery store and the first to celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Days. It is because of you that those days now have some significance.

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I will never know what it is like to be the middle or the youngest in a family and although there were some moments that I really despised being the oldest. Looking back now, I can appreciate the benefits of being the oldest and why those experiences help make me the person I am today. We can all find things to nitpick about because of where we fall in the birth order in our family. But perhaps, changing our perspective a bit can make everything a blessing, even if it was in disguise most of the time.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

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Michelle A. Homme

Author, Speaker, Quote Writer, Empowerment Coach

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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