ATTENTION! Holiday time = practice time!

about stories crafting stories learning edge life stories makes me think practice Nov 23, 2021

 I remember laughing out loud at hearing Pema Chödrön once say: "If you think you're enlightened, go home to your family."

 She has a good point.

 If you think you're a good leader / facilitator / conflict resolution coach / mediation specialist / meditator / process host / [fill in the blank], one of toughest places to be tested is at home with your own family. And there's a good reason for that.

Your family is full of stories.

And not only the "remember that time when...." stories, but also stories about who they think you are (and everyone else is), how they believe the world works and what they believe about the people and events in it.

Each of us is shaped by the stories we made up to make sense and meaning of what's happened to us and what's happening in front of us now. Each of us has a mosaic of stories that builds our foundation of agency in the world. This mosaic acts like a lens in a pair of sunglasses and our world is coloured by it.

The challenging bit?

Most of us don't realise that the stories we shaped about the world are now shaping us. And we can get stuck in them and hold onto them like they are the totality of the truth.

That can make a Thanksgiving dinner or the next holiday meal into a minefield.

But stories -- and a good dose of curiosity -- can also offer us a way out of the mess.

Before you head home to family and friends, do a little preparation. Here's my five point toolkit...

1. What question can you ask yourself to keep yourself curious about another person, even in the thick of things? Keep it where you can see it.

2. What questions can you ask to elicit a story about something another has a positive emotion around? [What do you most love about a holiday meal? What's your favourite memory of this holiday? When you were small...] Brainstorm a few to have up your sleeve.

3. What story can you tell to get the ball rolling around the table? Think of a moment that demonstrates what you'd like to hear more of. [I remember a time when...] and have your question prompts ready.

4. Use the phrase "I'm really curious about..." to invite someone into sharing. Use the phrase "I'm making up a story that..." if you want to test your assumptions about something.

5. Be kind to yourself. If you feel you're getting hot around the collar, BREATHE. Breathing all the way down to the bottom of your stomach helps you stay calm. Remind yourself that you won't always like what people do, but you can love them, regardless, and you can love yourself more. It's all a matter of practice. 

Good luck and happy Thanksgiving, Happy Hanukkah, happy holidays!

Isn't it time to have a brilliant ally on your side?

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