It’s been said that “We need to talk” are four of the scariest words most people have ever heard. That particular short sentence strikes fear into the hearts of the bravest of us. And yet, the willingness to have a difficult conversation is one of the factors that will boost your chances of success in life in pretty much any given area.
When we are willing to have difficult conversations we increase the chances of career promotion, relationship success, and even our ability to learn new things.
But there is one time when a difficult conversation just doesn’t seem like it could possibly lead to success – party time. No one wants to have a difficult conversation right in the middle of a family celebration. And if the stories I heard around last year’s holidays are any indication of what’s to come this year, being prepared with some practical tools for keeping the peace will probably come in pretty useful.
Here are some key things to remember during those family dinners (yeah, the ones where you are in danger of losing your sh*t.)
1. The “Reason” for the Season. Yeah, I’m not really going there. But speaking of “reasons”- the reason you are having dinner with your family most probably isn’t for the purpose of changing anyone’s mind about anything. I know this might be a tough idea to swallow. I mean, sure we all wish we could change someone’s mind about tough issues that we are passionate about, but seriously – Thanksgiving dinner isn’t the place to even remotely think this can happen. We’re here to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate our blessings. And you do remember that thing your parents taught you, right? – the three topics to just NOT bring up when you’re serious about enjoying someone’s company and you’re pretty certain you might not agree on everything? This is basically “Keeping the Peace at Family Dinner 101”. You don’t remember? Really? Okay – sex, religion, politics – those are the three topics to avoid unless you KNOW that everyone at the table can genuinely enjoy the conversation. If any of those topics is going to make someone squirmy, or pissed off, or embarrassed – well then just don’t.
2. Witchcraft. (Ha! Did you just have a reaction?) Well, if you’re reading this article there’s a good chance that you have an interest in spirituality, magic, law of attraction, prayer, meditation, or some other witchery. Basically, you want to use your superpowers to imbue the world with goodness and light, yes? Okay – here’s your chance to shine. Turn up the wattage on LOVE AND LIGHT today. Yes, I said it. If you know me you know I’m not one who ever signs off with “Love & Light”. Actually I usually sign off with “Love & Magic”. The difference? Magic isn’t always about bringing the light. It has a dark side. A shadow side. And if you’re meeting with family for Holiday dinner today, then today isn’t the day to bring the darkness. No, today, focus on bringing more light. Keep in mind that what you focus on expands. Focus on whatever good you can find. Be a Jedi. Use Be a superhero. FOCUS.
3. Imagination. Imagine that everyone at the table secretly agrees with your views. They’re just too scared to stand up for what they believe. But inside, they KNOW that YOU have the goods. Smile and give them a slightly conspiratorial wink. Just pretend. This might be my favorite tip on this list.
4. Memory. Remember a time when your views were different than they are now. I mean, you have changed your mind before, yes? You are teachable, right? Right. So, remember that everyone starts somewhere and your relatives and loved ones have the same chance of changing their thinking. It might seem impossible that it could ever happen, but anything is possible. AND…today is NOT the time to verbally try to change their thinking by debating them. (See No. 1 above)
5. Screenplay writing. You might not have an interest in writing a screenplay, but here’s why I’m bringing this up. Writing for a movie is very different than writing a book – it’s completely focused on the visual as opposed to the literary. So, if you were really intent on getting your message across without using words – how would you do it? And what exactly IS your message? Do you want to show up with a message of kindness, equality, love, hope, peace, inclusion? How can you imagine embodying that message without speaking a word? Because, basically, actions speak loudest.
6. Breathe. When you own your breath, no one can steal your peace. Obviously the rest of the people at the table might not share your Jedi mind abilities or lovely intentions and they all might just veer off into the dark side whether you like it or not. Keep breathing. Remember that YOU alone are responsible for your own reactions and responses.
7. Bank Robbers. When bank robbers do their thing it’s usually in their best interest to put the getaway car in a spot that facilitates a speedy escape. (I have no personal experience robbing banks but I have seen a few movies.) So, if it makes you feel better, park the car and keep your coat and purse in a spot where you can make a clean break if you need to. I do have experience with this strategy. One year, as a family, we made a deal that if things got heated at the dinner we were attending we’d head out pronto. We kept our word, quickly buzzing through the crowd blowing kisses, giving hugs, and saying “Was great to see you all! We’re heading out now! Love you!” And out the door we went. Buckle up kids…(imagine sounds of tires squealing). Phew. Deep breath.
Note: These next three keys are emergency measures in case you just can’t help yourself and feel you MUST dive into the fray and open your mouth. (No judgment here, I
might will probably dive in myself.)
8. Ownership. It’s important to remember that you alone are responsible for your own emotions, feelings, responses and reactions. So, no finger pointing or blaming allowed. You’re free to feel whatever you feel, of course. And you’re also free to express how you’re feeling, just remember that your feelings are about you and your values. No fair saying “You make me angry” or “He makes me crazy” – Just take ownership and be willing to say “I feel so angry when I see xyz.” A related useful idea: Your standards are for you, everyone else gets to be let off the hook.
9. Judgments. Your level of consciousness (basically your ability to make magic) is directly related to your lack of judging. Besides, your points will be received more readily if you step away from judging or blaming. Key idea: No one gets to be wrong.
10. Kindness. An idea I find really useful is that “injudicious niceness is a socialized disease”. In other words, niceness is something we’re taught at an early age and it absolutely is not always appropriate. Niceness looks like agreeing when you don’t, or laughing at a joke that’s in bad taste. Niceness usually means you stuff down your own beliefs and opinions and paste a fake smile on your face so as to not offend anyone, and often the people we are hoping not to offend are offenders of the worse kind themselves. These same offenders often say we “aren’t nice” because we refused to “sit down and shut up”. So, yeah, I’m not generally for being nice for the sake of being nice. However, KINDNESS is different. Kindness is just about always appropriate and it is a powerful act that can often facilitate goodwill where nothing else can. I’m reminded of the late Wayne Dyer’s famous question: Would you rather be right or be kind? Choose kindness, you can’t go wrong with this choice.
So there you have it! However you choose to spend your holidays, I hope you spend them enjoying many blessings, being responsible, making magic, and loving life.
Love & Magic,
If you’re interested in being able to navigate difficult conversations with ease and grace from a place of empowerment check out my “Voice of Love” self-study workshop. It’s a short & sweet workshop that gives you amazingly simple and powerful tools to support you in mastering sticky conversations. Perfect for the holidays, and you’ll use these tools for the rest of your life.