Husband and wife Al and Kay Betz operate Outfluence, a Westminster-based company that runs seminars that teach social skills and strategies for success for business people and teenagers.
After thinking about the twin issues of drug misuse and violence that affect young people, the couple realized that many of the skills they teach in their seminars might also be applicable in helping at-risk youth to find a different path.
As members of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, the Betzs were already working on the second annual Drug and Violence Awareness Expo, which will return to the Carroll County Agricultural Center's Shipley Arena on Thursday. They decided that they would join the slate of speakers at the free event and give a presentation on how social skills and strategies could help reduce drug use and violence.
A collaboration involving the local business community, law enforcement, prevention professionals, people in recovery and concerned parents, the expo is aimed at bringing the community together to grasp the reality and scope of the problems of drug abuse and domestic violence in Carroll, as well as to formulate solutions. The Betzs will speak at noon.
The Times caught up with Kay Betz to learn more about the couple's upcoming presentation at the expo. She responded through email.
Q: Through your business, Outfluence, you run workshops designed to help people develop soft-skills. Can you explain what that means and how you work with people to develop these skills?
A: We include the following when we refer to soft skills: Communications skills — especially face-to-face, relationship skills — respectfulness, consideration, empathy, teamwork skills — leadership, followership, responsibility, commitment.
We conduct facilitation sessions in which there is a sharing of ideas. There are no absolutes regarding the issues we present or incorrect answers to the questions we ask; there are only diverse experiential backgrounds resulting in different viewpoints. Sharing those viewpoints helps to develop awareness, sensitivity and compassion.
Q: How does your work at Outfluence intersect the issues of drug misuse and violence?
A: The main concept is that we become like those individuals with whom we spend our time. We encourage students to choose friends carefully and intentionally with that thought in mind, and to explore other community options in which they can discover and develop their own identities, rather than succumb to the detrimental outcomes of the drug and violence cultures.
Q: What the title of your presentation at the expo?
A: Ganging up on Drugs and Violence.
Q: What made you decide to speak on this topic, at this time and at this event?
A: We became aware of the information regarding the high percentage of teens engaging in drug misuse and those becoming either victims of or perpetrators of violence. As members of the Chamber Business and Education Committee, we were working on the expo and felt we could provide a unique perspective on avoiding or escaping drug misuse and violence.
Q: What would you like people to take away from this presentation? Are there any actionable steps you feel people can implement right away?
A: Individuals can live their lives in reactionary mode, or they can make a decision to intentionally create a life that they envision. The key word is intentional. To get started on an intentional life journey, we encourage them to take a personal inventory of how they spend their time and the people with whom they associate. The ways in which they invest their time and the people they associate with are the strongest predictors of success, mediocrity or failure.
Q: Is there anything you think people don't understand about soft skills and the importance of community that they should appreciate better?
A: Soft skills are more than a firm handshake or looking someone in the eye. Soft skills include being respectful and others-focused, rather than self-centered. Soft skills are about taking the time to build relationships with others, speaking less and listening more, taking a genuine interest in the people with whom you interact throughout the course of every day and investing the time to discover commonalities, rather than reacting to differences.
Communities are where we share some sort of interests. When we choose our communities — places and situations where we determine to spend our time — we should think about what we can contribute to that community, not just what we can derive from it.