Ah, the holidays. They are full to the brim with so much meaning. With built-in rituals and celebrations, we get to experience the beauty of our connection and revel in the joy and love of the season. And, whenever you get people together who have history with each other, we’re also bound to experience communication hiccups along the way, yes?
When those communication hiccups happen, who is the first person you blame? Yourself! Even if it looks like you’re blaming someone else, somewhere deep inside, most of us are thinking, if only I’d said something differently maybe I could have prevented the argument, hurt feelings, or soul-crushing shame! We look at our less-than-perfect responses and mercilessly thrash ourselves, sometimes for the slightest unintended word or action, and then take that out on the people we love because, hey, to admit our hurt or vulnerability, that’s just too much. This gets exacerbated during the holidays because this is supposed to be a time of good cheer.
So, what do we do? The only thing we can – be our authentic self with genuineness and compassion. Here are the steps I follow before I venture into a sticky conversation. I invite you to give them a try:
1. Pause, take a breath, and take your emotional pulse. If you’re feeling anything other than peaceful, take a reprieve and come back later. Resist the impulse to get into it because you think you’re right. Nothing good ever comes from reacting out of anger or fear.
2. Give yourself some compassion. You are a beautiful, imperfect human being. Cut yourself some slack. (Not to be confused with making excuses.)
3. Before communicating, ask yourself:
- Is it true? Do you know that what you are sharing is true in fact?
- Is it necessary? Do you need to address this or can you let it be?
- Is it kind? Perhaps the most important criteria of all, do unto others . . .
4. Reflect on your deepest truth. This helps answer question one above. Even if you’re upset about something that someone else has said, you are still responsible for your experience. This is liberating because you can do something about that! Take some time to reflect on this before sharing.
5. Use Marshal Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication format to express your truth:
- What did you observe – the facts?
- What did you feel (not thoughts)?
- What need of yours are you wanting to meet that was not met?
- What specific, doable action are you requesting (not demanding) as a result?
While you’re sharing your truth, ask the other person what they perceive, what they feel, and what their needs are. Be curious. Listen with an open mind and open heart.
6. Finish the conversation by expressing your sincere gratitude to the other person for listening, because the truth is, they didn’t have to listen. Share how their gift of listening met your need for understanding, support, respect, or whatever else you might have needed.
When I have followed this process, my challenging conversations have gone so much better than I could have imagined. My clients have experienced this as well. Why? Because you bring your authentic self to the conversation and you invite the other person to do the same. That creates credibility and trust. Even if you don’t agree or get closure on some issue, you have given the gift of authenticity, and that can’t help but build a more solid foundation for future interactions. It’s important to note that not everyone is conversant in this kind of process, but if you are, you can be a catalyst for greater understanding. That’s pretty cool.
So, bring the gift of love to your family, friends and coworkers this holiday season by bringing the gift of your authentic self. If I can support you, you can reach me at Andrea@AndreaBeaulieu.com.