July 15, 2024

‘Tis the season

Parties, music events, family gatherings, school plays. We are destined to be thrown together in the cauldron of humanity in ways that just don’t happen the rest of the year.

We will be in conversations based on both the famous taboos: politics and religion.

It occurs to me that I can be at risk of ruining many relationships if I swing from my Knower/Judger hip in these discussions.

I have many friends from all ends of the political spectrum, and every imaginable religious belief I can think of—well, maybe not Zoroastrianism—but many others including self-proclaiming  atheists and agnostics (which is a religion, by the way, but here’s how these fights get started. HA!).

So how can I possibly get through the next 30 days without putting relationships I care about at risk? I know I will be triggered by Trump. Jousted by Jesus. Bird-dogged by Biden.

I’ll be roused by Republicans and dynamited by Democrats.

I’ll be piqued by parents and trounced by teachers.

I’ll be tangled by taxmen and whacked by welfarists.

In short, the season is fair game for everybody’s personal soap box and, off the treadmill, these conversations fill the time. Our routines are disrupted, so I’m not in the gym at 7 a.m.; I’m having coffee with my brother-in-law (chaos opportunity).

In the evening, I’m not working on a presentation; I’m downtown at a Christmas celebration with a table full of extroverts with really great ideas on how to fix St. Louis.

K/Js are on the loose, and not a one has a red nose!

What do we do when we’re thrust into a conversation with people we don’t normally socialize with? We lead from our knowledge base… and our comfort zone. If we’re really graceful at it, we listen more and let the other guy lead from his comfortable knowledge (i.e., we turtle). But suffice it to say, the holiday season banter is usually not a meaningful, intellectual discourse on black-hole theory. It’s surface stuff. It’s the fodder of the TV news cycle, on which, of course, everyone’s K/J has an opinion.

But what if he’s a Biden or Trump fan, and I’m not? And did I put my foot in my mouth before he put his in his?

If the BHAG (big hairy-assed goal) here is to get through the season with your social register still intact, then I advise all to do what I discussed in last month’s article. TRY! SOMETHING! DIFFERENT! (Oops… my K/J is suddenly typing in ALL CAPS….)

The office party, the breakfast with Santa, the family Christmas dinner, and so on are all rife with trigger moments. Mostly statements or behaviors or opinions that differ from yours (or they don’t—watch for future article).

Now I believe we all have an innate desire to be right. I know I do. And there are times when it’s damned important for me to be right. But I don’t believe the family dinner is the right time. (Not saying I’ll honor that belief in the moment.

Do I need to be right because it’s meaningful to my survival or well-being? Or just because the other guy’s my brother-in-law and I have to win!?

I coach a technique to management teams where a SOMETHING DIFFERENT response to an opinion that doesn’t match mine can be some form of saying “You’re right!”.

If I go where I always go when that opinion crosses my bow, we’ll go where we always go: tooth and nail. And some family gatherings, I swear, occur just so this can happen. But what does it do in the long run?

If I casually and humanely look him in the eye and tell him “You’re right”—i.e., do something different–what happens next? The provocateur no longer needs to defend his opinion, does he? Frankly, he’s out of ammo because there’s no target to hit. The repeated chain of trigger, trigger, trigger is broken and peace can break through.

I haven’t lost the argument; that’s still in place. But I have controlled the moment, and sometimes what happens in that moment contributes greatly to the quality of life.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays and Hanukkah or whatever! Try something different when the opportunity arises. Love and light. Peace out. (From our family to yours.)


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