Christmas 2020 will be unlike any other in recent memory. As you deck the halls and roast chestnuts, it’s possible that a political argument or two will erupt, with some family members expressing vindication while others voice exasperation.
With all the tension over politics, the pandemic, mask-wearing, and civil discourse–not to mention colliding workplace and family issues–how can we restore peace both at work and with family members this holiday season?
According to research by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, New York Times bestselling authors of Leading with Gratitude and cofounders of The Culture Works, few things are as effective as gratitude at unshackling people from toxic emotions and providing stimulating effects on the brain, which can help create a more positive attitude this holiday season.
Gostick and Elton, who recently appeared on the Love in Action podcast, offer three ways to bring more gratitude into your holiday-season festivities:
1. Commit to fairness
Fairness may seem like a simple concept, but whether approaching a negotiation or an important conversation, a good rule of thumb is to first state your intention to treat anyone you are talking with fairly–and then live up to that goal.
During this holiday season, as you meet with family members (virtually or in-person), it’s a great idea to state that all conversations you engage in will be fair. Elton shares, “That means if at any point someone doesn’t feel they have been treated fairly, then you go back and fix it.” Gostick adds, “You’ll find people are more grateful when they believe they’ve been treated with fairness. And when they feel grateful, they are more amenable to hearing others’ viewpoints and listening with empathy.”
Real connection can happen only when people feel they are on the same level and know that there will be no power moves or disproportionate voices.
2. Assume positive intent
When conversations get political, the authors note that it’s important to resist the urge to scold people for their pronouncements or strike back. Instead, “we recommend trying to walk in their shoes,” says Gostick.
If someone expresses disappointment with election results or the state of the country–even in harsh terms–ask the person how they’ve been affected and if they’re doing okay. Thank them for sharing what they’re going through. Keep in your heart an assumption that everyone–whatever their political leanings–truly does want what’s best for their family and the country.
“Oh, and one more thing,” shares Elton. “Part of assuming positive intent is to be openly grateful to those of your loved ones who you see trying to connect with others who have different ideas to find common ground.”
As a final tradition this holiday season, the authors endorse the act of “tailoring specific expressions of gratitude to each person you love–letting each family member or friend know exactly why you are thankful for them.”
One example is sending them a specific video message or a handwritten note detailing how they’ve made your 2020 a little more bright. This kind of gratitude can also be a terrific way to cap off any holiday party you are able to have, letting each person take a turn to express who they are thankful for at the gathering. “The only rule,” says Gostick, “is that they have to pick someone who hasn’t been thanked yet, and they need to explain why that person is deserving of gratitude.”
After all of this, if someone you love is still bothered by politics, empathy can go a long way, note the authors. “Get personal by asking them how their situation has been affected by who won the election or how the country is doing,” says Elton. This can convert a divisive red vs. blue debate into an empathetic individual-to-individual dialogue that shows you care about them.
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