Thanksgiving is that special day when family and friends join together and celebrate the past year. Often times, however, even the moments we spend together can turn out to be stressful or overwhelming. I'm not just referring to the pains of overcooking the turkey or the headaches of absurd travel delays. In this case, my concerns are mostly with the interactions we have at the table.
Historically, the table has been the cornerstone for communication—from a meal shared between natives and the first colonists in America to your last town hall or conference room meeting. Simply put, the table is a place of exchange between cultures. It's a place we come into contact with daily, but it's also one that can generate discomfort when we're not "sharing, listening, taking turns, navigating differences, [or] arguing without offending, " as Michael Pollan says.
Communication skills and tables go hand in hand like turkey and dressing. Too often, though, our communication habits tend to create tense environments. So, freshen up on these three communication tips to make your Thanksgiving (and any other interaction, for that matter) a successful one.
1) Be an active listener.
Listening is more than simply hearing what's being said. A passive listener is more concerned with what will be said next; always ready to give a solution or even mentally wandering off into another world. Ultimately, these behaviors lead to miscommunication. Instead, activate your active listening abilities by engaging with what others are saying. Practice focusing by ignoring distractions and by being present in the moment. Your family, friends, and coworkers will all be thankful for this level of attention.
2) Keep calm and carry on.
Uncomfortable situations can arise from more than just who gets the T.V. remote after dinner. Disagreements can lead to anger which often derails a conversation completely. The Harvard Business Review suggests slowing down the conversation and being compassionate in order to deescalate the arguments that stem from anger. If you notice someone start to feel surly after one too many helpings of pie, remind them to breath—yourself included. Everyone will be grateful for that.
3) Communicate gratitude.
Lastly, giving thanks doesn't need to be reserved for one single day. Expressing gratitude in your daily life helps you to communicate well with yourself and others, too. Being thankful is another way to be a cheerleader for those around you (both in and out of the workplace). This mindset ultimately promotes happiness, trust, and positivity. Having an attitude for gratitude allows you to stay intentional, stay present, and stay connected—all which have an impact on how well you can communicate with empathy.
So, whether you're at the table with friends and family this Thanksgiving, or meeting around a table at work the next week, take these three table talk communication tips with you into a new perspective of communicating with others.