How to Handle Conflict at the Thanksgiving Table
Ah, Thanksgiving. The turkey, the cranberry sauce, the glorious days of leftovers, the explosive arguments about politics, and the resulting damage to familial relationships for months to come.
We all have relatives on the “wrong” side of the issues who seem to pride themselves in elevating the stress levels of everyone around them. (I’m looking at you, Uncle Morty.) But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Wouldn’t it be great if we possessed tools that could turn those derisive digs into constructive conversations? Wouldn’t Thanksgiving be more enjoyable if we could, say, come together with non-like-minded people for civil conversations?
To find answers, we held a dress rehearsal for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. At this feast of plenty (turkey, mashed potatoes, the works), Dr. Linda Moore, psychologist and APS Member, talked about interacting with those you don’t agree with, and Annette Lantz-Simmons, Executive Director of the Center for Conflict Resolution, led a workshop on how to resolve conflicts.
With Dr. Moore’s advice and Ms. Lantz-Simmons’s techniques, we were equipped to diffuse those tense moments around the table this year. So now we can go back to a time when the worst disagreement was over who gets the last piece of pumpkin pie.
How to Handle Conflict at the Thanksgiving Table
Dr. Moore noted that the first key to dealing with tough conversations is listening. Trying to listen, and showing your conversation partner that you’re listening, establishes trust. Paraphrasing the other person’s viewpoint, saying it back to them aloud, not only ensures that you’re hearing them correctly, but it also shows that person that you are trying to understand.
Ms. Lantz-Simmons agreed, suggesting that you should try to be a non-anxious presence, a person who can recognize and contain their anxiety. That kind of person becomes a circuit breaker to the group: they help others in the conversation tone it down.
The basis of resolving conflict, she said, is recognizing human dignity. “We are social beings, hardwired to react to the way others treat us, and we are all vulnerable. Dignity is an internal state of peace that comes with the recognition and acceptance of the value and vulnerability of all living things.”
Here are Ms. Lantz-Simmons’s 5 steps to conflict transformation:
Resolve To Uphold Your Own And Others’ Dignity
Move Toward The Conflict, Seeing It As An Opportunity
Focus On Interests Instead Of Positions
With A Non-Anxious Presence, Show You Are Listening…
Try to Be Curious Instead of Right, Try to Learn Instead of Being Protective
Dr. Linda L. Moore
Dr. Linda L. Moore is a Kansas City based psychologist, author, speaker and management consultant. She is President of Linda L. Moore & Associates, and the co-founder and former President of CenterPoint, an out-patient counseling center. Dr. Moore consults and speaks nationally and internationally and is known for her work with women, leadership training, executive coaching, stress management, and human relations.
Dr. Moore has published a book on power, Release from Powerlessness: A Guide for Taking Charge of Your Life (Kendall/Hunt – Second Edition) and is featured in a partial video adaptation of the book, Taking Charge of Your Life. Her second book, on the psychology of women, is titled What’s Wrong With Me: Maybe Not That Much. She also has a third book, Your Personal Stress Analysis, and a novel in the works.
She has been a consultant and facilitator for the Phoenix based National Institute for Leadership Development for 25 years and facilitated a yearly leadership training series for the Central Exchange for 20 years. Additionally, she conducts regular leadership training groups for Kansas City corporations. She has served as a Hauptmann distinguished faculty fellow at Park University.
Prior to her present activities, Dr. Moore was the Contributing Editor on psychological issues for KMBC TV 9 News; the host of a daily educational/psychology talk show on KNHN radio, the former KC affiliate of CNN news; Co-Hostess and Producer of “Let’s Talk”, an educational TV talk show; the Associate Director of the University of Missouri – Kansas City Counseling Center; Assistant Professor of Counselor Education at UMKC; Professor at the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia; a Management Consultant with a Boston firm; and a Counselor at the University of Virginia.
Dr. Moore received her doctorate from the University of Virginia. She is a past member of the AIDS Foundation Board, a member of The American Psychological Association and the Division of Media Psychology. She is an originating member of the Central Exchange; a founding member of the Metropolitan Organization for Countering Sexual Assault (MOCSA); a former member of the Advisory Board of the Women’s Foundation of Kansas City as well as a co-founder of the Spirituality Field of Interest Fund; a former board member for UMKC’s Women’s Center; and the UMKC Community Counseling Center.
Executive Director of the Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR)
Annette Lantz-Simmons is Executive Director of the Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR). She came to the conflict resolution field in 2002 from the business sector. Annette holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Fresno Pacific University and a Master’s Degree in Conflict Transformation from Eastern Mennonite University. Annette is a certified trainer with the STAR program (Strategies in Trauma Awareness and Resilience) through Eastern Mennonite University. With Annette’s leadership the CCR team has expanded services to include neighborhood peacebuilding initiatives, conflict resolution and restorative justice projects for people returning to their community from prison, and restorative justice in education at several school districts in the area.