The Real Test of Our Social Skills
Families — fond memories, sentiments that bring us closer together. I’ve sure we’ve all got those. Unfortunately, it seems families aren’t absolved of people who aren’t a joy to the world, of incidents involving human error. Bad times, miscommunication, and conflict come along with the package family deal.
I know more than one person who has thought of starting over — electing a new family, demoting those currently in familial roles — she just doesn’t know how to tell the family she was born into.
It’s not a solution as far as I can see.
I have noticed that we often cut our new friends and new clients more slack than we do our families. Family history gets in the way of our relationships moving forward again.
It sure seems that where we have relationships — yeah even those stuck in a time warp — we might try our best social practices for connecting in positive ways when relationships aren’t happening.
Here’s a four-point plan to reconnect with people that you’ve had a history with.
- Smile. Be joyful to see them. It’s a chance to change history. Be the change you want to see. The surprise alone often changes their demeanor.
- Live that smile through and through. Folks we’ve had history with have put us into a content and context box. They use their experience and how we look, what we say, what we do — to recognize signs that might validate that smile. Belief and consistency in the smile through every test gives you and them a place to stand.
- Never let ’em see you sweat. When we’re at our best we’re authentic. If they ask, tell them life is good and that you’ve decided to look at the world with a positive view. If they bring up bad events, agree that the events were bad and be glad that they’re over. If you need to point out that the happy occasion isn’t the best venue for sorting out history.
- Make everything about everyone in the room. Be a great guest who is helpful, curious, and interested in the folks who came. Talk about what they want to talk about. It’s an afternoon with the audience who knows you better than any client ever will.
We know how to meet, interact, and build communities with our friends and customers here. What if we do that with our families too? If we let go of old stories, we might find that the curmudgeon in our family is really someone who wants to be listened to. The hardest ones to know can be holding great bits of wisdom. What if we made it a quest to get to it?
Lots of us know that our families don’t see us clearly. It seems only logical that it must be true the other way too. If we start connecting, imagine what we could be learning. We’ve got the skills and the tools.
What if we try this at home over the holidays?
Meet someone you already know this holiday season.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz!!
Kay Ballard says
Liz, thank you for the wonderful and timely reminder!
ME Liz Strauss says
I was reminding myself … 🙂
Very timely advice. Its been 5 years since I’ve been home for the holidays and over 10 years since I’ve been back home.
I’ve had to relearn the connections –
its been the best gift I’ve received – this chance to reconnect.
Richard Reeve says
A psychologist once shared with me that at family gatherings every one regresses a decade…unless of course we are conscious of the tendency. My challenge with this, as I try to arrive with my “present” self, is to allow others the leeway of that decade, and to accept the funny things that sometimes emerge because of the familial history. One thing is for sure…it’s always a great opportunity to face our shadows and grow.
Franklin Bishop says
A great reminder for me and everyone else. Thank you for this post and I hope everyone has a great holiday.
Todd Smith says
Great post, Liz. I might add one more: if someone starts bugging you, ask yourself when and how you do the same thing. It helps generate a lot more tolerance and compassion.
My experience is that when someone bugs me, I’m doing the that behavior too somewhere in my life. The main reason it bothers me is because it reminds me of what I do.
John Haydon says
Just the thing I needed to read. I’m seeing my son’s mother’s family for dinner tomorrow (my ex and I get along great). Her family loves, and I love them, but we haven’t seen each other in a couple of years.
I’ll be meeting them with this post in mind.
Thanks so much.
P.S. I hope you realize the profound impact you’ve had on people this past year!
Your friendship and support are the best gifts I could have – thank you for all you do!
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!