Whatever your plans are, it can be a stressful time – we know that well, here at Calm Mediation. This year, we’ve put our thinking caps on to come up with some strategies to help you mediate during this emotional time.
Yes good people, at Calm Mediation we’re about to close for the season of joy: for celebrations and New Year sparkles. We all have much to look forward to, whether it’s a quiet break in one’s own company, with family and friends or amongst strangers, these mediation micro-skills are sure to help.
Behold the power of ‘Open Questions’
Open questions can be extremely powerful and even transformative during mediation. There are two criteria that makes a question an open question:
- no suggestion is being made
- it is almost impossible to answer it with just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’
If you are identifying more with the grinch rather than merry elves this season, why not try these questions on for size:
- What could you do to acknowledge your gloominess?
- How could this be combined with the realities of Christmas festivities?
- If you were to ignore Christmas all together, how would that make you feel?
Asking open questions, and closed ones at the appropriate times, with an honest curiosity can help explore emotions and discover new solutions. Open questions can help you in any mission; to come up with present ideas or mediate food or venue choices.
Focus on ‘Shared Goals’
Aside from heavy shopping pressures, Christmas is a time for warmth and fun, with families, spouses, children, neighbours, friends new and old.
All different people and personalities will gather together, with their varied life experiences, temperaments, needs, goals and stretch goals that may be unknown to others. ‘I’ll enjoy Christmas without feeling stressed or stressing others.’; ‘I’ll keep politics off the kitchen table even if there is a chance to put others right’; ‘I won’t comment if someone’s having more than their fair share of potatoes.’ Luckily, there will be some amicable shared goals that can be voiced and agreed, even if they are temporary and directly connected to having a sane time during the festivities.
The Christmas Dinner is the most obvious shared goal.
Buying for it, helping prepare it, clearing up after. Entertaining the children with games is another goal. Asking what would be useful towards the shared goal can help, regardless of any underlying differences. And should those surface, again, life and mediation skills can help. Why, is that a well-intended shoehorn you see right before your eyes? Yes. Yes, indeed, it is.
When someone fudges up. Name it.
During the holiday period, differences in opinion are inevitable. As mediators we have learned to anticipate these. Not every situation needs to be commented upon.
And as in mediation, it is often helpful to name what is right before our eyes. Done with kindness, diplomacy and genuine curious observation, it can be a shortcut to the next stage of effective communication rather than leading to embarrassment.
Be aware, discretion and accepting different perspectives may be harder in a familial context. But remembering that each person has a viewpoint, which is validated with their own reasons, may help you remain open to other possibilities.
Example: Someone has gone vegan, they arrive for a festive meal but find there is NOTHING that they feel they can eat. Hunger combined with feeling excluded is not easy on anyone yet, a vegan version of the Christmas dinner may seem a ridiculous notion or burden to one family member. Yet, for whose benefit the effort should have been made, it would have been a heart-warming gesture of respect and acceptance of them and their choices.
When Calm Mediators plan their feedback they go through the following questions:
a) What did they do?
‘You didn’t let your family know I am vegan.’
b) What was the impact?
‘This meant they did not know to make anything specifically for me that didn’t have meat, fish, eggs or dairy. I am still hungry and it’s Christmas, so everywhere is closed. I can make myself something, but I feel upset that I have to do that. I also feel hurt because your not telling them means to me that perhaps you don’t think me important enough to be considered in planning such a big family dinner. I feel hurt and humiliated.’
c) How would you like them to do it differently next time?
‘I would like you to help me understand why you didn’t let your family know. And next time, I would like you to let people know, or ask me to let them know if there is any confusion.
In the family context I would side with saying ‘less rather than more’; you can always explain yourself further, but you cannot un-say things. Said lightly without too much emotion, this approach should open up room for further discussion and a better understanding.
Even if you don’t say anything on the day, consider saving yourself a memo for 11 months in the future using your calendar, to help you avoid the same pitfalls next year.
I hope you can see how transferable these skills are; whether it is home, work or a family situation, they can bring value. But nowhere more than in relationships that are most important to us.
The entire team here at Calm Mediation wishes you all a very happy Christmas and looks forward to our conversations in the New Year.
We would be thrilled to hear from you about your own tips and stories – drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was written with the invaluable help of Nina Joshi Ramsey who is a Writer, Speaker and Coach.