This Thanksgiving I imagine you may be sitting down with family and/or friends to enjoy a meal. When you do there will probably be a conversation. If there are football fans there may be some comments about a recent game. If there are people with different perspectives on the recent tragic killing in North Minneapolis (young black man by white cop) there may be a conversation on that situation…or not. God bless the grieving family of Jamar Clark and God help the man who pulled the trigger. There will likely be strong feelings expressed if you are brave enough to go into that conversational hotbox.
I challenge you to make space for a variety of perspectives and to modulate the tendency to fight, flee, freeze or appease. I invite you to engage and not let your reptilian brain run the show. How do you do that? Meditation and breathing can help. A natural gift for facilitation can help. Mediation training won’t hurt. And here is one more idea: choose a new role in the conversation.
This is possible to do. If you are the one who tells a lot of stories then decide to listen more. If you tend to be a listener then speak up more. Tell a family alley you intend to do this and enlist their support. I changed roles once at a Thanksgiving party and it was really fun. This role change was based in the belief that in a given group of people there is only so much space for a certain role. The role I was about to take on was the “card tyrant”.
We like to play cards. One person in the family takes on the task of being the one who keeps things on track and somewhat serious. I think you know this role. They want to keep the game moving, they do not like distractions. They make comments to keep the group focused. This can, at times, be irritating to some. My idea of any card game or board game is they are meant to be fun and not too serious. So one time I decided to be the tyrant, mostly for fun. I made a choice to be very strict and made several comments when people were not bidding quick enough or getting distracted. After the third or fourth comment I made, in my most serious sounding voice, the one who usually has that role said to me “Tom, relax, it’s just a game.” I said ok, and backed down from that role: breakthrough! And I secretly enjoyed being so serious.
I am grateful for all the serious and playful support I’ve received from so many of you this year. I have just loved doing the “Beyond Minnesota Nice” conversational adventures. I will be doing more in 2016 and going deeper, since that is what most of you have said you want to do. So watch for info in the next several weeks.
May this note you find you choosing gratitude and being a source of love and unity this Thanksgiving.
And if you do a conversational experiment this Thanksgiving please check in with me and let me know how it went.