Throwing Mashed Potatoes at Them is Not the Answer

This Thanksgiving it is possible someone will make a comment about something other than the football game or the quality of the whipping cream on the pumpkin pie. Maybe even the recent election. This could be challenging. We are living in highly polarized times, and even the most skillful communicators are challenged when people who voted differently gather around the same table.

We may feel triggered by the comments of someone at our table. I invite you to modulate the tendency to throw food, stomp and yell–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. Throwing mashed potatoes at them might feel good, for about 10 seconds.

And here is one more idea, in case none of those play to your gifts: become curious about their point of view. Work harder to understand them than to express your own values. I know this is hard. Because they are somewhat or fully dim-witted, when it comes to right and wrong. And you have been enlightened. Right?
Curiosity is a possibility for everyone. But how to do it with that relative who drives you nuts with their political choices? I can think of two ways: the harder way and the easier way.

The harder way is this: forgive those who have hurt you so that your hot buttons melt away and you no longer react so strongly to their (dumb) ideas; accept them for who they are with all of their warts and farts; realize you are the pain-in-the-rear for someone else, just as they are for you; and after listening and engaging them, be willing to speak your truth to them.

The easier way is this: take three deep breaths, from your diaphragm, before opening your mouth, count them out, silently; look at them, in the eyes, and find something to appreciate, maybe the color of their sweater, or their command of the English language (judgment and appreciation can’t easily live in the same moment); tell them one thing you are grateful for, about them; and then ask them three questions about the topic (with no barbs or passive aggressive tones, if you can).

I know we all have times when family drives us crazy, just as we have times when we feel inexpressible love for them. Do not let politics of our day make you forget your love for your family and friends at this time of year.

I am grateful for all the support I’ve received from my family and friends this year. It has been pure joy to perform stand-up comedy as Fr. Vito Sarducci, along with Karen Paurus in the “Beauty and the Priest”. If you have not seen a show, check out this 14 min clip. We aim to do another, perhaps a Valentine’s Day Love show, in Feb 2019.

May this note you find you choosing curiosity and gratitude, along with your mashed potatoes. May you be a source of love and healing.

And if you do a conversational experiment this Thanksgiving will you please check in with me and let me know how it went?

Thanks-giving.   Not potato-throwing.

About Tom Esch

Tom Esch works with health care companies, counties, cities, construction companies, business analysts, attorneys, executives, owners, managers and non-profit executives to grow interpersonal awareness and foster effective communication.