17 Life Skills Every Woman Must Master
How to Protect Your Cyber Privacy
If you’ve ever shopped online, you know to look for the “https” at the beginning of any web address in your browser; without the “s” at the end, there’s no guarantee the page is secure—and your credit card info could be stolen, says Liz Gumbinner of CoolMomTech.com. But that’s not the only way to protect your privacy online.
Start with your Facebook profile, says Gumbinner: Click on the arrow on the blue bar at the top right of the page to access your settings. Go to “general account settings,” scroll down to “security” and then go through each item and make sure it’s exactly how you want it. “This controls who sees your posts, who can contact you, who can look you up, who can tag you, whether search engines can link directly to your timeline—and even who is put in charge of your account if something should happen to you.” (It’s called a “legacy contact,” and that person would decide whether to shut your page down or turn it into a memorial.)
Manage all your social media accounts this way, says Gumbinner—and remember that anything you put on Internet, private or not, can ultimately be shared. “We all have a digital footprint,” she warns. “We saw this with the Sony breach, with Snapchat content not disappearing—everything you send and do online lives somewhere.” The bottom line: Update your privacy settings regularly, and make sure you trust everyone in your network.
How to Wield a Drill
Screws fall out all the time. The world’s an imperfect place. One minute you’re hanging your bath sheet on the towel bar, the next minute it’s in a heap on the floor, with the bar, two screws and a sprinkling of sheetrock dust on top. Reach for the screwdriver, not the phone: Some household projects are just too small—and too easy—to bother hiring someone, says Leah Bolden, of SeeJaneDrill.com. Need a tutorial? Here you go. Once you’ve mastered the drill, you’ll be hanging curtains, bookshelves, toilet paper holders, you name it. No screws left behind.
How to Break Up With a Friend
It happens: You’ve grown apart—whether because of life circumstances, personality conflicts, or a particularly damaging incident. Once you make the decision to cut someone out of your life, you need to break it off quickly and cleanly. Don’t tell others in your circle about your decision ahead of time, advises lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann, and be sure to meet with this person privately. “If you need to,” she says, “you can seek wise counsel from someone outside of the friendship circle beforehand, then do damage control with others afterward.”
Swann offers some sample language: “I’ve decided that it’s best for you and I to go our separate ways in terms of our relationship. This is a decision I am making and I am comfortable with, and I ask you to respect my decision.” Don’t go into detail, she warns. “This particular conversation is about ending things—not creating a list of why you can’t be friends,” she says. “You don’t want to seem like you’re opening the conversation to fix the relationship. It’s over. It’s hard and it’s painful, but once you do it you will breathe a sigh of relief and move on.”
How to Dine Alone
When it comes to eating by yourself in a restaurant, there’s no risk, just reward. Choose a place that’s lively, or sit at the counter or bar if you prefer. People-watch, eavesdrop, read if you must—but to truly enjoy your own company, just focus on your meal and your thoughts, and keep the electronic devices in your bag. “The experience puts you in touch with who you are,” says Marybeth Bond, founder of GutsyTraveler.com. It’s empowering to know you can have a great time on your own.” Knowing for certain that you like yourself? Invaluable. Plus, now you’re ready to take a solo vacation (see How to Travel Solo).
How to Check Your Tire Pressure
Forget changing a tire—chances are your lug nuts are bolted on so tight you’d never get them off with just a wrench on the side of the road (that’s what AAA is for). When it comes to car care, the most important task to master is checking the air pressure in your tires. “When that little dashboard light comes on, don’t ignore it!” warns Patrice Banks, founder of GirlsAutoClinic.com. “You need to put air in your tires—or you’ll be more likely to get a flat or suffer a blowout, or even just wear your tires out faster due to uneven wear.”
Her advice: keep a tire pressure gauge in your glove box and know the recommended PSI (pounds of air per square inch). You’ll find that info on a sticker on the inside edge of your front driver’s side door. Then unscrew the little air-valve cap on the inside of your tire, attach the gauge to it, and the current PSI number should appear. If the pressure is low, drive over to the nearest gas station and add air to the tire (usually for free). Check the pressure again with the gauge—if it’s too high, press down on the tire valve a bit to release some air, then check again. To see this process in action, watch this video.
How to Fix a Hem
It never fails. You take one last look in the mirror before leaving the house and—oh, there it is: the hem of your skirt or pants is trailing in the back. Ugh. You could reach back into the closet for something else to throw on, and stash this garment in the sack destined for the tailor—or you could fix that hem yourself. You’ve got two on-the-spot choices: use double-sided tape to secure it, or reach for a needle and thread (instructions here). We recommend mastering both solutions, so that you never again have to utter that despairing line, “Now what am I going to wear?”
How to Say No
It’s hard, but necessary. There are four different ways to say no, according to Elaine Swann:
1. No on your own terms: When someone asks you to help them for, maybe, five hours, say no and immediately offer what help you can. Try, “No, I can’t do that, but I can come help you for one hour. “
2. No, but perhaps next time: Use this only when you mean it. Say, “I can’t do that today, but perhaps next time I can.”
3. The delayed no: “I’ll get back to you.” Buy yourself time so you can double-check your schedule or your inclination. Really think about the ask—and then come back to the person with a “yes,” a “perhaps next time,” or an “on your own terms.”
4. The hard-core, full-stop no: This is the toughest no to deliver, so you need to state it clearly and concisely, says Swann. “Try saying, ‘I understand your dilemma, but I’m not able to stay late/volunteer/help you this time.” Don’t go into detail, or talk yourself back into things. Then politely change the subject to make it clear there’s no room for debate or negotiation.
How to Travel Solo
When was the last time you did exactly what you wanted, without consulting or compromising with another person? “Solo travel means having the independence and the responsibility to call all your own shots,” says Bond of GutsyTraveler.com, which offers information on destinations, safety and other tips. “And that’s liberating.” When you travel alone, no one else is filtering your experience, says Bond. You’re seeing and experiencing everything all by yourself and it’s very refreshing. “The biggest benefit of traveling alone is realizing you don’t need anyone else to travel,” she says. So the next time wanderlust strikes, you can pick up and go.
How to Fold a Fitted Sheet
This home skill is what separates grown women from college freshman. It also keeps sheets flat and contained in the closet or drawer, and ultimately results in less-wrinkly sheets. Watch our easy video on how to fold a fitted sheet and you’ll have this mastered in less than two minutes. You’ll also sleep easier. Promise.
How to Save a Life
Reality: Years of watching network medical dramas does not make you an expert in life-saving. But watching this Hands-Only CPR instructional video can—and you’ll be equipped to double or even triple the survival odds of anyone whose heart has stopped due to cardiac arrest (plus be a big help to anyone who’s lost a pulse, whether from near-drowning or other accidental injuries).
How to Accept a Compliment
This will stop you from ever deflecting a compliment again: When you reject a compliment, you’re not actually being modest—you’re dismissing the feelings of the person giving the compliment. Sounds terribly rude, right?
There’s only one correct response when someone pays you a compliment, says Swann: “Thank you.” “Don’t say ‘this old thing?’ or tell me you got it on sale, or that you tie-dyed it and here’s how you did it,” she says. “Just be gracious and relish in it.” And if you’re inwardly squirming from all the positive attention, you can simply return the compliment.
How to Buy Life Insurance
If you have anyone at all depending on you—kids, spouse, even parents—you need life insurance to provide for them if you should die. But you know this already. What is less certain is just how much life insurance you need in order to keep everyone clothed, fed and cared for in your absence. Finding out couldn’t be easier, says Ginita Wall, co-founder of financial advice site wife.org: Contact an insurance agent or do a web search for life insurance calculator. Phew—that was easy.
How to Write a Proper Thank-You Note
There are times when a grateful email is enough: When it’s your primary form of correspondence with the person you’re thanking or when you’re casually expressing gratitude for a forwarded link or resource. But when someone gives you a tangible, meaningful gift—be it a silk scarf or an impromptu evening of childcare—a proper, hard-copy thank you note is called for.
There’s a simple three-step formula to the perfect note, says lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann:
- Say thank you.
- Name the gift (the fluffy blue towels/the sparkly statement necklace/the banana bread).
- Say something about the gift and what you will do with it (can’t wait to put them in the powder room/wear it with my sweater/enjoy it with a cup of tea).
How to Save for Retirement
The true skill in this must-do is in knowing how much to contribute to your 401k—and keep at it. “It’s foolish to leave money lying on the ground,” says wife.org’s Wall. Whatever your company is matching, she says, that should be your minimum contribution. If they’ll match your 3 percent contribution, then invest 3 percent. (If they don’t match at all, contribute the maximum you can afford.) Continue to raise your contribution yearly, or whenever you get a salary increase. And to really streamline your investing, says Wall, put your money in the “target retirement fund” that applies to the year you hope to retire. These no-brainer funds are balanced between stocks and bonds and are adjusted to be more conservative over time—to maximize your money and minimize your strategizing.
How to Shut Off the Electricity in Your Home
Unless you live exclusively by candlelight, you should know where the fuse box is located and how to shut off the right switch for each room of your home. This comes in handy when you’ve blown a fuse (hairdryer plus television plus overhead lighting can equal an overloaded circuit in some homes) or when you need to cut the power to a particular room (like if you’re installing a new light fixture) or level (Water in the basement? If you can do it without getting wet, shut off the electricity). This video shows you how to cut off the power at the source.
How to Find Your Signature Dish
Your contacts list may be filled with local takeout joints, but when you entertain or go visiting, it’s important to have one dish about which you can say, “It’s my go-to.” It doesn’t have to be fancy: baked artichoke dip, chocolate-chip cookies, grilled flank steak—they all count (browse our recipe collections or listen to our podcast, Things Cooks Know, to get inspired). Perfect the recipe until you can prepare it by heart, serve it often and with love, and enjoy the warm flush of pride that comes with hearing, “Oh wonderful, you brought that dish!”
How to Fire Someone
An employee at your company. Your sitter. Your hairdresser. At some point in life, you’ll probably have to tell someone his or her services are no longer required. And when you do, make sure your legal ducks are in a row and then rip off that bandage fast. Make a checklist of loose ends before you begin: Are there last payments to be made? Tools or keys to be returned? Then find a private space to deliver the news. “Give them a clear reason why, but don’t spend time with explanations,” says Swann. “And don’t tell them this is hard on you, too—that’s just not true. In getting rid of them, you’re helping yourself.” So it does no good to pretend otherwise. Swann warns against offering references, as well: “If you’re firing them, there’s something about their performance you don’t like. Don’t offer consolation prizes.”