It’s not a coincidence that we decided to tackle listening right before a big holiday, when a lot of us are about to spend time with family. After all, sometimes the people we love the most can be the hardest to listen to — and that can make for contentious conversation (unless you’ve got Adele to save you).
So we’re rounding out Only Human’s Listen Up project with some guidance to navigating the dialogue at your Thanksgiving dinner table. Henry Alford, who writes about manners for the New York Times, had heard about so many family trainwrecks during the holidays. And he started wondering, what would people who deal with serious conflict have to say about getting through a challenging family gathering? He called up the experts: crisis negotiators.
Some strategies he heard from the FBI: saying sorry even when you might not be, and acknowledging differing opinions without actually disagreeing. But what these techniques really boil down to is being attentive and thoughtful.
“The person who can come up to me a year later and say, ‘How’s your cat?’ or ‘How did your mother’s surgery go?’ Just any little bit of emotional recall, that’s hugely flattering,” Alford explains. We all want to be listened to, but we’re not great listeners. So this Thanksgiving make sure to offer the mashed potatoes, as well as an attentive ear.
Did you use any of our Listen Up! strategies at your Thanksgiving table? Tell us. Leave a comment here or Tweet us @onlyhuman, using #ListenUp.