‘Tis the season of joy, generosity, and at times, bad judgement. A season of carolers, quality time with people you care about, and of course, conflict with those loved ones as well. It can all be a bit much.
Political discussions heaped with sarcasm at the dinner table. Petty squabbles that bring childhood rivalries and resentments back as if they’d happened just yesterday and not decades in the distant past. Misunderstandings, mistakes and mistletoe. Innocent words getting lost in translation.
These are the less than lovely aspects of the holidays, but it is on each and every one of us to calm that chaos and bring about resolution before it becomes a conflict. And we can. We can by making a few small changes in how we interact with each other. Let me explain.
Singing yourself into a better place
For some reason, since my son was born, I’ve found myself bursting out with lyrics from songs or nursery rhymes that I don’t remember learning. My most recent outburst was, “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better”, from Annie Get Your Gun. The classic show tune is a playful duet between the two star-crossed protagonists, Annie and Frank. They boast about their accomplishments, and attempt to outdo one another with their singing talents.
I love this song, especially because I can identify with Annie’s competitiveness and sass when I’m discussing/debating/arguing with my husband (and sometimes a few other lucky souls). But I must admit – I usually don’t have as much fun as Frank and Annie seem to be having.
We can learn about our own argumentative tendencies by watching these two belt out their claims. If you look closely, you’ll notice each of them waits for the other to say their line. They make their points clearly and succinctly (usually in one or two sentences), and allow for lulls and pauses. It’s an exchange – a dance. When was the last time you left space for silence in a confrontation?
I think if I incorporated the singing aspect into my own ‘spirited debates’, the outcome could be better. Imagine how different business meetings, debates, and arguments would be if we sang and danced what we were attempting to communicate. Remember: when we converse and interact, our entire body shares a dialogue all its own.
Would we be able to express more with a tune and free body movement?
Think back to a recent debate you found yourself in. What would have been clearer if you’d been able to illustrate your point in a musical fashion? While bursting into song in the middle of an argument may seem a bit odd, it doesn’t hurt to think along those guidelines.
Here’s an exercise for you. Next time you’re in a meeting, discussion or argument think along the lines of a song in a musical:
- Express yourself – what would your song be? A melancholy aria? A joyful chorus? A head-banging rock n’ roll anthem? A whiny violin?
- Simplify your speech – e.g “I hear you” or “What can we do to make it better?” or “I am not happy with this situation but I am ready to turn it around”
- If you feel yourself bristling, take a few deep breaths and relax your body as best you can. Tensing your muscles only creates more discomfort.
- Put mean-spiritedness aside – being reactive or petty does not create solutions
- Listen. Truly.
- Wait for your turn – give yourself some time to consider what the other is saying before responding.
- Allow for the interludes – silence can be great. New solutions can be found as we contemplate what has been said.
And the next time you’re doing a round in the ring with your husband, child or business partner, remember: you can sing yourselves into a better space.
Of course, not everything works for everyone and sometimes even what has helped in the past, might not be enough for what you have in store for you this year. This holiday season just might be that perfect storm of all the right people, in one place. You love them, but that doesn’t make dealing with them all any easier. If that is the case, or you think it might be the case, I have something special for you. I’ve just published my first book and just in the nick of time. Introducing –
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Let me know what your go to techniques are for dealing with conflict with family members and loved ones.