- Recognize the bait. If you feel that someone knows or assumes, they know your stance on a particular topic and they bring up that topic anyway, avoid having that conversation. How do you do this? Redirect. Answer a question with a question.
- Choose your battles. Elections/ Presidents will come and go, but family (and some friends) is forever. I have heard people say that they can no longer support a relationship with their sibling, parent or other family member because they have different values. Sometimes you have to decide if this the issue upon which you will sever permanently or whether you can agree to disagree.
- Find common ground. Is there some neutral territory that you have in common or that you can explore? There has to be something that you and another person love, hate or are both ambivalent about where conversations are safe. Is there a movie that you just saw, book you just read, or trip you just took that you can discuss? If there is no neutral territory for whatever reason, consider finding your favorite family member and just spend time with them if that helps you to avoid landmines.
- Avoid landmines. No one knows how to get under your skin faster than the people who are closest to you. Likewise, you also know (whether you want to admit or not) what will trigger them. You’ve got history, right? Well, think of each historical moment with that person(s) as a landmine and try to avoid explosions. If you know that bringing up a particular topic, person or event will lead to an uncomfortable or hostile situation steer clear of it. Plus, you don’t want to create new landmines this holiday season.
- Don’t be a mirror. Although the Golden Rule tells us to treat people the way that we want to be treated, human nature shows us that most people treat people the way that they are being treated. This holiday mirror decide not to be someone’s mirror and do not reflect whatever bad behavior they are showing you. To take it a step farther, do the opposite of what they do. Speak calmly to someone who is speaking erratically to you. Lower your voice when someone yells at you. Smile at someone who frowns. This break in the chain of escalation can literally alter the course of a conflict and give everyone a chance to think and make better decisions.
- Is it them? You have to separate the person from the problem. There are two ways to do this. First, ask yourself if you are reacting to who the person is or what the person is saying or doing. If you would have no problem if the statement or action was from anyone other person in the world except your mother-in-law or teenage brother, then you need to check yourself and figure out why (there might be some landmines there). If you are reacting to the problem, then similarly you have to reflect on why this is a problem to you and perhaps, if possible and there is time, figure out why the person is bringing this up/ doing this. Sometimes people are just projecting, they are going through something or this may have absolutely nothing to do with you. Conversely, maybe it has everything to do with you, but you won’t know if you don’s separate the person from the problem first.
- Have an anchor. Bring someone or something that can keep you grounded and bring you back to reality during the those particularly trying moments with your family. You can also think of your anchor as the source of your superpower like Blank Panther’s vibranium, Thor’s hammer, Wonder Woman’s lasso or Diego’s backpack. Something that you can use to help you to keep the peace, solve a problem or thwart drama. I usually wear my glasses to family gatherings and take a moment to adjust them to slow things down and give me a moment to choose my words and be thoughtful about what I am saying and doing in that moment.
- Bonus tip – Silence is Golden. From the first moment that you see conflict bubbling or if you have tried tips 1-5 and you still see the storm coming your way, sometimes the best technique is to not engage and remain silent. First, people talk more when you are silent because in low context communication cultures people tend to want to fill the silence with noise- words. Second, for most people, it is hard to fight with someone who is not fighting back. My grandfather used to say that it takes two to tango. That usually holds true in most conflicts. So put some food in your mouth, smile, nod and hope that the moment will pass because you chose to say nothing instead of engaging.
Other tips that Damali is prepared to provide include:
- Focus on the Issues not Person
- How do we heal? How do we talk to each other?
- Remove the temperature from the conversation
- How do we move forward?
- How do we restore balance post-election?
- How to recognize when to walk away from a conversation or relationship.
You may have opportunities to apply one or more of these tips for the upcoming election. Remember like anything that you are learning or implementing for the first time, some of these tips will take practice to perfect. Test them out as many times as you can. Plus, the people closest to you tend to know your habits, rhythms and patterns. If you are known for being a great debater or super chatty and you decide to be silent, your family might be thrown off and wonder what’s wrong with YOU this election season!
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