As much as we all love stuffing and pumpkin pie, I'm willing to bet that this year there are plenty of folks who are absolutely dreading the trip home for Thanksgiving. The problem, obviously, isn't the food, it's the election. Trump's divisive victory is pretty much a sure bet to set off raging family fights across the land as relatives of opposing factions tear into each other, rather than the turkey.

Thankfully, Quartz's Lila MacLellan is riding to the rescue. On the site recently she boiled down the science of conducting a civil and effective political argument into a simple four-step guide that can (hopefully) prevent holiday mayhem at your house.

The basic approach, called non-violent communication, comes from civil rights era mediator turned communication coach Marshall Rosenberg. "The goal of Rosenberg's four-step approach to meaningful conversations is to connect about everyone's needs, not to 'win,'" explains MacLellan, who talked to Dian Killian, a certified trainer in the method, to outline its four essential steps:

  1. Observe and recap. "The NVC process begins with neutral observation. In conversations, this is most easily done by recapping what someone has said, without emotional input."
  2. Describe emotions, not positions. "Talk feelings, not issues. If you're trying to make yourself heard, clearly describe your own emotions, rather than your policy positions."
  3. Identify needs. "According to NVC teachings, all of the emotions we experience when we're upset are connected to an unmet need." In this step, "one participant pairs their or the other party's expressed feelings with either side's unmet needs. A person concerned with an immigration crackdown might say, 'I want to be confident that I and my family have some stability.'"
  4. Make a request. "At a certain point in the conversation, it's time to ask for concrete actions that would help satisfy a need... An immigration-related request might be, 'Would you be willing to read this article I found interesting about immigrants and the economy?'"

Thinking of putting this technique into practice this Thanksgiving? Check out MacLellan's article for much more detail and hepful examples. Good luck!

Are you dreading the conversation around the Thanksgiving table this year?

Published on: Nov 23, 2016
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