At the best of times holidays can be a rollercoaster - family dynamics, sometimes drama, magnified emotions, & gatherings can challenge our ability to remain clear & connected as we communication & negotiate our environment. This year those challenges may be amplified by the restriction & challenges of the pandemic.
Yes, this year is different! We may not be able to be with the ones we love or travel as we usually do. It is quite possible that this holiday season will be unlike any we've had - & with that we have a unique opportunity to create powerful memories & connections.
Below I offer 12 days for engaging in better communication & bringing in greater peace this season. These tips & practices seek to affirm the care we we have for one another, acknowledge the emotions we may be feeling, & invite more intimacy, joy, & connection. May we be gentle with ourselves & each other as we navigate this strange time.
Day #1: Sing
Whether it’s Christmas carols, Hanukkah songs, or simply your favourite song - singing is an instrument of joy. Physiologically singing balances our nervous system which supports us in being more resourceful in all our interactions. It offers a place for us to express & release emotion that may be difficult to articulate & when done with others is an excellent way to strengthen a sense of bonding & belonging. In the time of zoom & virtual interaction playing & singing along to songs can be a sweet way to connect & engage in a positive activity together.
Tip: Sing a song every day & notice how you feel.
Day #2: Receive Gifts with Gratitude
This is the season of giving & receiving. When someone offers a present or does something kind like set the table take time to appreciate the gift & say "Thank you". When we receive a gift both the giver & the the receiver get to experience the joy & appreciation. When we deny this or go into guilt - “Oh I feel so bad I didn’t get you anything” - the joy in the offering can be lost. Say thank you, appreciate the joy & be willing to receive the gifts that are offered.
Tip: Spend today noticing when people do things you appreciate & say thank you.
Day #3: Ask Interesting Questions
People are incredible! As you connect with the people in your life, whether in person or on zoom, make it more fun by asking interesting questions. It’s easy to get stuck in our usual patterns, questions, or even ideas of others - but when we shift the dynamic we create an opportunity for new shared experiences. Inviting someone to share about a meaningful experience or talk about their interests creates often makes the conversation more enjoyable for everyone. This act of engagement & curiosity removes the mundane & habitual allows us to meet each other in a new way.
Tip: Ask someone a specific question relating to a story or time in their life.
Day #4: Be Mindful of Tone
More time together can be great but it can also bring out those more difficult or challenging dynamics. The tone we use in these situations speaks volumes even more so then the words we speak. We can become more mindful of our tone by noticing where we feel it in our bodies. Steadiness is often felt as a grounding in the legs & belly, tenderness often felt in the the heart, & stress is more likely felt in the shoulders or head. When you speak be aware of your inner sensations & express yourself from a place grounded in your body. This will also help you to both speak more clearly & convey your intention with more impact.
Tip: As you speak today actively try & speak from a grounded sense in your lower belly & /or while noticing the tenderness of your heart.
Day #5: Own Your Choices
The holidays can be incredibly joyful & at times overwhelming. This overwhelm is often caused or compounded when we get stuck in the 'shoulds' or become a victim of our circumstances. Owning our choices is empowering & builds self trust. If there is something you are doing only because you feel ‘obligated’ or because you 'should' look deeper. Why are you making this choice? For example, is it because you value a relationship, because you would prefer to keep the peace, or because right now it’s the easiest option & you need easy? When you own you choice you own your power.
Tip: If at any time today you fell you ‘should’ do something pause & see if you can frame it as an active choice. (i.e. I should get my shopping done - I want to get my shopping done)
Day #6: Use “I” Language
Ownership is important in choice & is best conveyed through “I” language. This enables us to own our thoughts, feeling, & perceptions when we communicate them instead of blaming. For example saying “I felt angry when you said _______” demonstrates greater self ownership & less blame then saying “You made me so mad when you acted like a jerk.” Owning our experience means that we also have the power to change it instead of putting the impetus of our joy on the outside world.
Tip: Notice when you use the term “you” when what you are really saying is about yourself. Gently adjust or rephrase using “I’ instead.
Day #7: Notice Your Body Language
Communication is a whole body affair. Much of it has little to do with the words we say & more about how we present ourselves - our body language speaks loudly. Eye rolls, playing on our phones, or doing other activities while in conversation not only conveys we aren't listening it actually makes it harder to listen. Engaging in conversation with our body works on two levels - it sets the stage for us to be responsive & it makes our presence felt. Take time in conversations to check into your body & feel what it’s saying. Adjust accordingly - if you want to engage turn to the person, look at the eyes, & avoid distractions.
Tip: In a conversations today see if you can engage in listening with your whole body, making gentle eye contact & facing your whole body to the speaker.
Day #8: Engage in Listening
Listening is a holistic practice - it’s conveyed in our body language, the way we respond, & the space we leave. Give others the room to finish what they are saying. Ask for clarification & respond to what they are actually saying instead of your assumptions or what you were planning to say. When we meet someone with genuine curiosity & the desire to understand our communication goes beyond the surface to a greater sense of connection & respect.
Tip: Rephrase what someone has said & ask them if you understood correctly. This can be especially useful if what they said brought of defensiveness as it might help to clarify a misunderstanding.
Day #9: Take Time For You
Holidays at the best of times often come with waves of emotions & reflections. In lieu of the pandemic these feeling might very well be heightened this year. Make sure to take some time for yourself to allow emotions or reflections to move through - a hot bath, a winter walk, even 5 minutes in the bathroom to just breathe can go along way.
Tip: Make the point today to take some time just for you. It could be a 10 min walk or time to read a book.
Day #10: Reach out with Kindness
It may go without saying but we are more likely to give what we get. When we reach out to help or connect with others it often makes us feel good too. Reaching out to people we love, with mail (yes..real mail) or texts, emails, & calls is sweet way to uplift someone’s spirit & keep the chords of community strong. We may also go beyond our communities. If our community is small or we want to offer more there are also several organizations that are seeking individuals to connect with seniors & other vulnerable populations this season.
Tip: Reach out today to someone you haven’t spoken with in awhile or who you know is having a rough time. You might use some of the other tips as well (like interesting questions)
Day #11: Use Direct & Clear Language
Say what you mean with clarity & kindness. Being clear goes a long way to ensure better understanding & communication. This includes being forthright in our needs & requests. Instead of hinting or beating around the bush ask for what you need in a clear sovereign way.
Tip: If you need help with a task ask someone to help you in a clear & kind way
Day #12: Start from Connection
When we see someone, really see them in their humanity we are better able listen & hear them. When we are connected to ourselves we are better able maintain healthy boundaries & engage in a way that allows for greater intimacy & honesty.
Tip: Before or during a conversation look at the other person & see if you can see them as a whole person/ Notice how this changes the way you speak with them.
2020 has been an interesting year. I so deeply appreciate your engagement & enthusiasm in this work. This will be my las blog for 2020 as I take a break to connect & reflect. I look forward to connecting in deeper more expansive ways in 2021.
Much Love & Gratitude
About the Author Amy Thiessen is a coach, writer, & musician who focuses on helping others find & express a their voice with resonance. Her unique approach works with the wholistic mechanism of voice utilizing somatic awareness, psychology, mindfulness, spiritual practice, & vocal techniques of toning & song.
Personal relationships are foundational to our sense of self & interpersonal support. If you would like support in navigating & communication more effectively please book a free consult & we can see if 'In Resonance' Coaching is right for you. (* there will be no appointments form Dec 21 - Jan 4)