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Conversation Rules of Engagement this Holiday

We look forward to gathering with our families and friends during the holiday season and yet this year may offer interesting challenges. With the recent political upset, many families are divided and it is easy to have conversations dip into contentious territory. Here are a few tips to keep the dialogue civil –

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  • Post a Playful Sign – with a little humor, post a sign on the welcome door that says, “Enter for good food and laughs. Leave politics and punditry at the door. Eat, drink and be merry. Break the rules and you host next year.”
  • Agree to Disagree when a conversation gets stuck – “I respect our differences and I don’t think we will change each other here and now. Can we simply agree to disagree?”
  • Note Passion AND Pivot – Rather than calling someone (or their ideas) stupid you might say: “I can see you are very passionate about your stance AND (pivot to a distraction or diversion) it looks like Ana could use some help in the kitchen.”
  • Talk about the issues, not the politicians – It is easy to demonize any one politician and focus your fury on them. A helpful approach is to carry on a dialogue and identify the ground rules as: “You can debate issues but leave the politicians aside.” First one to name a politician has to buy everyone a bottle of champagne for New Year’s Eve.
  • Tell me more – Be curious and ask questions. This political year has shown that we don’t listen well to each other. Be curious and ask to know more.
  • Assign Tasks – Keep people busy and think through in advance little assignments to keep folks engaged and occupied.

Keep it civil, respect the differences and focus on what matters most – the relationships you have with family and friends.