Hello November! Welcome cooler weather, cute and cozy sweaters, autumn scented candles, open windows, fall baking and pumpkin everything!
I LOVE fall! The beginning of November is an exciting time as the beauty of fall is here but the rush and stress of the holidays are still at a distance.
Of course we know that November means that Thanksgiving is close! It usually means gathering with friends and family to enjoy a meal and fellowship together. It sounds so cozy and wonderful doesn't it? But, in real life, families may be a bit more complicated! Sometimes spending hours on end with family turns cozy into confined. Relaxed gatherings become stressful as conversation lulls and we begin to wonder, what are we going to do now? Age differences, various seasons of life and just a general difference in perspective can cause communication barriers.
How do we prepare for those awkward Thanksgiving home moments? It can begin with you! The universal language of love is giving full attention. One of the best ways to do that is by listening. This opens up an avenue to understand each other better, find common ground and learn the beauty of true fellowship.
If you are ready to make this Thanksgiving gathering one of the best ever, here are five ways to refresh your listening skills as you gather with friends and family this holiday season:
1. Turn off all technology. The TV, the phones, the tablets—anything with a screen! It’s hard to be fully present in any conversation with those kinds of distractions. The best gift you can give someone is your full attention.
2. Maintain eye contact. It sounds simple and obvious, but really, how many times has someone asked you a question and just as you were answering, they looked away at something or someone else? Listening involves looking. Listen not only to their words but their body language as well. Are they tense, relaxed, exhausted, fearful, anxious? These are all clues to help you with number 3: asking questions.
3. Ask questions. Invite them to go deeper into their story by asking clarifying questions. Not sure where to begin? Instead of starting a question with “How’s (your job)…“ try, “Tell me more about (your job)…”
4. Practice active listening. Regardless of what you hear, suspend judgment and refrain from making critical opinion statements. Resist the urge to turn the conversation to yourself—even if you have a relateble anecdote. Listening without judgment does not mean you have to be in agreement with their statements; it simply means you are willing to let them be heard and respect their humanity.
5. Listen. Just listen. Don’t solve or fix. Listen to what they are saying and let that be enough. If your follow up response is, “You need to…,“ stop yourself. Instead, respond to what you are hearing and the emotion behind it. Sometimes only two words are needed as a follow-up: “I’m sorry.”
As we begin Thanksgiving preparations, let's practice these listening skills and make this the best Thanksgiving ever! Don't forget about gratitude....sharing and reflecting on what we are thankful for is a sure way to make those connections.