Talking to friends and clients since the US election, I’ve heard many fears about seeing their family members over Thanksgiving weekend and having the issues of politics come up. Many families feel divided on the issues and feel like “us” vs. “them”, and many people I talk to are scared of feeling judged and alienated around family members.
For those outside the US, this applies to any time you feel disconnected from family members.
Right now, more than ever, it is important to feel harmony and unity at home, because our home is the foundation of safety and security that we can take into the world. So how do we feel united when we have issues at hand that threaten many of our feelings of safety and security?
It makes sense when we look at family members as “them,” because this helps us feel less threatened. But this also objectifies “them;” it prevents us from feeling connected to their humanity. And feeling connected to each other’s humanity is the key to making decisions together that benefit everyone.
Even if you want to change their mind, they will dig their heels in if they don’t feel connected to you first.
So how do we feel connected to our family members even though we have such different opinions?
1) Get curious about what positive experience they’re looking for, underneath their opinion. You can ask yourself “why” questions in your headlike your inner-5-year-old would do. If they got what they wanted, what would that allow them to experience? Ask again and again until you reach something like safety, security, freedom, influence, sovereignty, or feeling “right.”
We all want to experience these things, so when you connect to the “end” experience, even when you don’t agree with the method, you can feel compassion for what they want to feel. At a deeper level, you can recognize that we all want to feel these things. That helps you feel more connected as they share their opinions.
2) Validate their feelings. Regardless of the reasons, those who hold the strongest opinions want CHANGE! Many of us are tired of feeling stuck, powerless, frustrated, stressed out, threatened, downtrodden, overworked, undervalued, scared, overwhelmed, etc.
Validation is saying something like, “It makes sense that you feel/were feeling [feeling word like scared, angry, stuck, etc.]
When you validate their feelings, even if you don’t agree with their opinions, you’ll feel more connected.
Communication is over 90% body language and tone of voice, not the words you say. So if you engage in conversations from a place of deeper connection to their desired experience and their feelings, they won’t feel you as an “opponent,” and then you can share your desired experience and your feelings, and you might even agree on these deeper desires, even if you don’t agree on what direction you want society to take.
Try these 2 tips and post in the comments how they work for you!