WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — It’s that time of year again! Family, food and heated current event arguments around the dinner table. If you think topics like the pandemic or presidential election will polarize your friends and family, don’t worry. Damali Peterman, Conflict Resolution Expert, reminds you to BREATHE through the holidays.
B- Breathe. Actually take a breath. Slow things down and use that moment to think. Mirror neurons in the brain are stronger than you think. That’s why conflict escalates rapidly once a series of events unfold. A deep inhale can give your brain a moment to switch from the fight/ flight/ freeze mode to re-engage your executive function and make cool calm decisions if a sticky topic comes up.
R- Resist. Regulate. Remember. Resist the bait. Resist the drama. Resist losing control. Regulate your emotions and responses by silently reciting a mantra (“I’ve got this!). Remember who you are to help you ground yourself and consider how you want to be remembered in this moment.
E- Engage in a positive way. Find common ground and stay there. If you know a certain topic will set you or the person you are with off, don’t take that path. Try to avoid landmines.
A-Accept a person’s reality. The old “yes and” technique from improv. This pillar of improvisation suggests that we should accept what a person has stated and then add to it by expanding. How? If someone says the sky is purple. You would say “YES, AND it is also blue.” Of course, this is not always possible especially if there is a fundamental difference. The goal here is to understand that you can disagree with some without using the words “I disagree” and this is a tool to keep the conversation going.
T- Test the Waters. If you want to switch topics in a conversation, especially if you are exploring uncharted territories or if you know fairly certain that a specific topic may trigger certain emotions. Test the waters by asking a broad question that’s not targeted at the person with whom you are speaking. Instead of asking how Brian feels about “x”. Say “I heard a lot of people have mixed feelings about ‘x’”. That way you give Brian a choice as to whether he wants to disclose how he feels or to remain silent on where he stands.
H – Hear. Oftentimes in communication, people think about the output or what people are saying. But what is equally as important as the output is the input or what the person is saying. You have to actually hear the other person and be present in the moment.
E- Enjoy the time and company spent with another person. 2020 has been exceptionally hard and many families and friends circles will have an empty chair at their table for a variety of reasons. If you have an opportunity to spend time with someone else, whether electronically or in person. Value that time and use it wisely. And try to enjoy yourself.