Interpersonal Communication, Our Blog

Five Keys to Connecting during the Holidays

By Tasha M. Troy

The holiday season is a magical time of the year that can bring people together who might not otherwise make the time.  For many, this is a wonderful time to bond with friends and family over shared traditions and values.  For many others, it is a stressful and contentious time because you no longer hold the same positions on important issues as your loved ones.

Are you doomed to live in conflict through this joyful season?  What would you think if I told you that you can control the level of conflict in your holiday season?

Keeping the Peace

If you want to avoid interpersonal conflict when meeting up with family and friends, you first need to challenge your attitude.  When contentious topics come up, it is easy to become defensive around your position.  However, you need to have clear goals for the interaction – do you want to defend your views at all costs, or do you want to enjoy the company of friends and family you might not interact with often?

I work in a field where many of my colleagues hold differing political positions from mine.  My positions are deeply held and tied to my personal values, but I choose not to engage in regular debates.  While I don’t agree with my colleagues on many points, there are many other points that I do agree on.  That’s where I will frequently make contributions in conversations.

Fact: You can refuse to respond to baiting comments.

The truth is, you won’t change anyone’s opinion with a rant or a lecture, so let it go.  Now is not the time, and here is not the place, for such conversations.


Tasha’s Tips:

If you want to make an impact on people at holiday gatherings this year, I believe that John Maxwell’s book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect holds a few keys to help us not only survive but thrive through holiday gatherings.  Here are a few tips.

  1. Focus on others.  You might have had an eventful year, but so has everyone else!  Ask questions and show interest in others.
  2. Expend the energy required to connect.  If you are dying to share your thoughts, opinions, and experiences with everyone, it might require quite a bit of energy to bite your tongue and to show genuine interest in those around you.  (However, usually once they have finished sharing, they will give you a turn to share.)
  3. Focus on common ground.  Even when divisive topics come up, there will very likely be at least one point you can agree on.  Keep your attention and comments on that point to encourage connection.  If that isn’t possible, work at seeing the issue from the other person’s perspective and speak to that.
  4. Keep it simple.  When confronted with a statement so abrasive that I simply can’t let it slide, instead of confronting the idea head on, I will usually ask a question to challenge the other person’s thinking, giving them the opportunity to discover any logical fallacies they might be embracing.
  5. Create an enjoyable experience.  By not rising up in defensive indignation, you can help maintain a cheerful, enjoyable atmosphere.

Take It Deeper

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week.  You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net

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