Whenever we ask people to share stories about stressful family encounters at the holidays, we are amazed at the outpouring of fraught memories. But reliving the conflicts of holidays past won’t help us deal with the present. This season, try something new. When Uncle Joe or Aunt Blanche blurts out an unwelcome opinion or a political jab, resist the temptation to engage in point/counterpoint. This quickly devolves into a situation where everyone feels the only way to “win” is to get louder and LOUDER!
Instead, ask for more information about your relative’s point of view—and actually listen to that information. (Do this even if the point of view they are sharing is a direct criticism of you.) Only true listening can provide you the information you need to have influence. And it is only when your “adversary” feels heard that they will even begin to consider another point of view (Tweet it!).
*avoid conversation killers like “You always…” and “You never…” (Tweet it!);
*show the other person that you understand how they came to feel the way they do;
*own your part of the situation and acknowledge how you may be contributing to it.
Be realistic: You are not going to achieve perfect harmony with everyone at the dinner table. But with a little resolve you can certainly improve your batting average. And with the current political landscape, every bit helps. Happy holidays!
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If you would like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion.