photo credit;

Thinking About Holiday Conversation

The family gathers. Okay,maybe, Aunt Tilly doesn’t show. Friends gather. Okay, at the last minute , Frank calls to say he’s bringing his girl friend, Mabel, but that’s fine, because she can take Tilly’s place. The feast is prepared. Okay, there was chaos enough,one broken glass and some spilled wine, but it’s all in the spirit. Eventually, we sit. Okay, it’s a bit crowded and the table doesn’t look exactly the way you’d envisioned it, but we’re here. The moment has come.

Time to eat. And talk.

Fun for some. Terror for others. What if I end up next to Uncle George? I have nothing to say to Uncle George. What if I sit next to Millicent? She never stops talking, all about her cat, and it’s so boring.

What can you do to increase the odds of having joyous and satisfying holiday conversations?

Plan Ahead

Some basic planning before you sit down can really help. Try these simple planning strategies:

– Identify some personal goals for the conversation. For example, I want to connect with Mary, or I want to find out about how Uncle James is doing, or I want to get advice from several people about how to start a business, or I want to tell everyone about xxx.

– Identify three topics you’d like to talk about. For example, how to develop good habits, or how to stick with an exercise routine, or the best childhood holiday memories.

– Identify three questions you can ask that will stimulate good conversation. For example, What’s one thing you did this year that you feel proud about? or What’ a favorite holiday memory or routine from your childhood? What’s one hope you have for the coming year?

– Identify one story you’re willing to tell, and what follow-up question or statement you’d make that might stimulate others to tell a story.

Conversation Tips

No matter whom you’re talking to, or under what circumstances, use the opportunity to practice good conversation skills, such as:

– Be a good listener. Show that you’ve understood by summarizing what the speaker said and asking a follow-up question, or inquiring further. “Tell me more about that” are sweet words to say and to hear.

– When it’s your turn to speak, speak authentically and  about something that’s important to you.  If you find your inner voice saying “this is stupid” then take responsibility to make the conversation better.

– Balance speaking and listening. Don’t dominate the conversation, but we willing to speak out and share your experiences or opinions.

Try something bold, like:

  1. Suggest a “ritual topic” for everyone. Generally, this is some common subject that you can go around the room and have everyone share briefly. Good examples are:

– Something (in the past year) that you are thankful for (especially good at Thanksgiving)

– Something that you have learned.

– Something that you have done that you feel proud about.

– Advice you’d give to any couple contemplating marriage.

2. Set an intention to learn something new about each person at the gathering. This one will require you to engage each person, and to ask good, open ended questions.

3. Develop a story (e.g. an incident that was new and different, or where you learned something, or felt a strong emotion.) to tell. Plot it out in advance, practice it, then create an opportunity to share it.

4. Ask, “What is the best life advice you’ve ever received?” Of if you were giving advice to someone starting out (e.g. just graduating from school), what would you say?

5. Ask, “Have you ever wanted to write a book? song? play? make a movie? etc. What would it be about?”

Conversation as Opportunity

Every conversation is an opportunity – to express who you are, to get to know someone, to learn, to connect. This holiday season, be proactive and make your holiday conversation count. Use this opportunity to express the best of you and to bring out the best in others.