Thanksgiving has long been among my favorite holidays. It’s devoted to being grateful for all we have and considerably less commercial than other holidays. Despite the euphoria that might set in as we visualize how wonderful our upcoming Thanksgiving might be, many leave the holiday feast feeling fat, angry and disillusioned after “quality time” with family members. Here are some tips on making your holiday conversations more fulfilling; by the way these recommendations are effective at work too.
- Find the Right Time. One of the CEOs I work with was planning to have a conversation with his brother over Thanksgiving weekend about his brother’s lack of involvement in the company that both of them own together. Holidays are not the time to confront issues that have been festering. The same principle applies at work. When you plan to confront others, find a good time for all parties, seek a private location and focus only on the issue at hand.
- Be assertive. Assertiveness is about stating how you feel and why. Critiquing others or letting them know that you disapprove of what they believe or say is a recipe for disaster over the holidays and at work. For example saying, “I get frustrated when I don’t feel heard” is a better statement than “You don’t listen to me.” The first expresses your feelings directly and the second is judgmental often leading to an argument.
- Show that you care and listen. Sometimes we are so focused on what we want to say that we don’t take time to hear the other person’s view, especially when we think they will disagree with us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve facilitated a meeting with people in conflict at work or informally among family members when one person doesn’t give the other a chance for “air time.” An equally non-productive situation is when one person attempts to appear that they are listening, but the entire time, they are rehearsing in their mind what they will say next. Neither party feels heard and resentment can build.
Sometimes we can’t avoid getting into a difficult conversation at a less than ideal time. Here’s a good article on what to say to resolve conflict that shows you care and want to listen.
Holidays are the time when we bring gifts to each other. Bring the gift of staying present and listening to others in your conversations. And, remember what one of the great masters of comedy, George Burns, said when interviewed about his talent, “timing is everything.”