The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.

   Paul Coelho

As we enter the holidays this year with family and social gatherings, we may want to be mindful of the conversation. This may be a good idea, as the world just seems to be more combative and less civil then in years past. Ideology appears to be more polarizing, so if a person’s ideology does not align with yours, the conversation may become heated. So how do we engage in healthy dialog while being civil, respectful, and less combative, even when our ideologies do not align?

The following thoughts may help to infuse the conversation with civility, respect, and build healthy relationships in the process.

Be respectful of the person or group you are conversing with. Remember there is probably no one on the planet that agrees with you on everything. Even the best of friends and family will never agree with everything. So do not make it about win-lose. Some people feel they must win an argument or change the view of the other person, but instead use the skill of empathy which is understanding we do not have to agree or disagree, take a side, or make a choice, we can simply listen and ask questions to understand the perspective of those we love, even when it does not align with our thoughts or ideology. We give people value just by listening and do not have to do anything else. However, we may even learn and grow as we interact with others with varying perspectives.

Some families enjoy engaging in healthy debate and the holidays may be the opportunity to do so. I do suggest that there may be some ground rules; first to let people know it is a safe place to express themselves. Keep to the issues, no personal attacks, no yelling, letting people speak their opinion without interruption, etc. The skill of learning to have difficult discussions is also a valuable skill learned in the home, that may benefit us in all areas of our lives.

Many times, however, it is not the time or place for heated conversations, so before that happens ask yourself, is this the right time and place? Is it necessary? Is it kind? If the answer is no, then transition to another topic. People like to talk about their passions and experiences, so actively engage in those conversations by listening and asking questions.

These are just a few thoughts that can assist you in developing great communication skills. Many of us have relationships with others that look, act, and think like we do, but as we grow in our communication skills, interacting with others who are different then we are can positively expand our world. I once heard a person say, “good people skills are getting others to like you, great people skills are getting them to like themselves, for having been around you. So, lets apply these skills to allow others to like themselves better this holiday season and all through the year!

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