The Key to Negotiating Thanksgiving With Your Family

Thanksgiving_Table.jpgEric Barker wrote in his blog “Barking Up The Wrong Tree” that gratitude is the tactical nuke of emotions. That when you bring yourself to feel it, gratitude does a remarkable job of wiping the negative emotions away.  That’s totally true and one of the key reasons top success performers like Tony Robbins teach people to focus on gratitude.

OK, so that helps with how you feel when you’re navigating your typical day – but what about when a family member at Thanksgiving is punching your buttons just like they have since you were a kid?

The same skills we apply from hostage negotiation for phenomenal results in business deals work with family, when used with appreciation, respect, and genuine integrity (which is what we advocate in business, by the way). 

Use the label skill we teach, but label the inverse when someone close to you is expressing a negative.  When a family member is criticizing something that happened 20 years ago again say “It’s always been it important to you to get things right”, or “It’s important to you that I appreciate where you’re coming from”, or “You wish I’d have respected you more.”

Say it with respect, not with accusation, and then let what you said sink in.  In other words, please be still.

If you can hold yourself back just long enough to appreciate what’s good about what they’ve said, you will be astounded with the results.  You’re also going to find that the more you focus yourself on weeding out the good from the bad in what they’ve said, it will go a long way to keep you from boiling over.  Rehearsing this in advance works wonders, as may go through your typical dread of the déjà vu interactions. 

This is a little more of a direct approach than our normal version of a label which begins with “It seems like…” or “It sounds like…” or “It looks like…” (then you fill in the blank).  Empathy is a little trickier with family. People close to us have more significant expectations of understanding because they have known us for so long.  And at the same time they are still human beings with deep needs to be understood, respected and appreciated.  They do tend to hold us to a higher standard.

People close to us may also feel left out of our lives when we rarely see them.  Comparisons also inevitably crop up and we as human beings feel competition.  They may feel that some aspects of life have passed them by.  We may feel that.  With all these clashes of mixed feelings, holidays can quickly become challenging.

In any negative emotion that’s being expressed, there is also a companion, flip side positive emotion that is true.  A fair way to deal with the negatives then, can be to feed the positive ones with recognition and appreciation.  You’ll want reciprocity yourself and may be worried about not receiving it.  That’s OK.  Feed the positive in them accurately (don’t make things up), make sure it’s genuine and it will come to you.

Nurturing positive emotions in others can be deeply gratifying.  And it’s an inverse way of healing old wounds as opposed to settling old scores.  Label the positive opposite of the negative they are expressing.

Let the tactical nuke of gratitude this Thanksgiving, however large or small it may be, bring you and your family blessings this entire holiday season.

The Black Swan Group wishes you the very best.

Make it rain! 

(Check out Eric Barker’s post New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy)

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Posted in Empathy, Negotiating with Family