This time of year, our communication skills will be challenged.
Where a month ago, we might have overlooked a minor transgression by a partner, a friend or a family member, the month of December may find us less forgiving. We might notice that we are more impatient, more self-critical or judgmental of others. Who can blame us? The holidays are triggering. If for no other reason than the pressure we put on ourselves to meet others' expectations and to have other people meet ours. The fact is that we are overbooked and under-resourced. The added to do's that come with the holidays may feel like too much. And although we are often hopeful and joyful, we are are also often fearful and sad. The holidays may amplify the difficult feelings. When we are stressed out and reactive, we feel disconnected from the people closest to us. To reconnect, we'll have to do things differently. You do not have to play the victim in a repeat performance of Christmas past. Or, if you do choose a repeat performance, do it having expressed your needs honestly and with care to the people who can truly hold space for your feelings to be expressed. A thoughtful dialogue might be the only gift you need to liberate you from unspoken or unconscious assumptions that are causing you pain. Communicating in order to create connection is a skill. Here are a few sentence stems to stimulate brave conversation: 1. Ask if now is a good time. "I'd like to check in about an invitation I received. Is now a good time?" 2. Establish safety by making eye contact and pausing to take a few breaths, offer a kind acknowledgment. 3. Share your observation and a feeling you can identify. "When I received your invitation, I noticed feeling . . ." 4. Identify a need that is behind the feeling, going unmet. "I have a need for autonomy and space right now." Share a memory of feeling similarly from your childhood, if one arises. 5. Check in with your conversation partner by asking, "What was it like to hear that?" Be succinct and stay curious. Don't forget to share a gratitude with your conversation partner and to validate each others feelings and needs. Overwhelm and fear want us to feel disconnected. The goal of brave conversation is connection!