The elephant in the room

In the lead up to Christmas, Art of Resilience has through this blog and our Strengths Advent (check it out on the Strength Heroes Facebook and Instagram) addressed some dilemmas and challenges. For example, how to be kind, how to persevere and be brave. We have also asked whether striving for a perfect Christmas is doing us more harm than good? While it sounds logical, research has found (yes, someone researched it) that those people who decide to do less with less fuss in the lead up to Christmas have happier and a more satisfied Christmas. This week its time to tackle the Christmas elephant in the room, awkwardly waiting to trap the innocent, the good and the patient. If, like me, your mind immediately starts to thinking, no it’s not how to respond to the present you get that you don’t like. Strength Heroes posed questions on that topic on day 17 of our Strengths Advent. We asked, is honesty the best approach? Do you smile and say thank you or do you share the way you are feeling about the present? While a worthy contender, there is another topic that can fill us with dread as we all make our way to our respective functions or strike us mute after we have asked the obligatory, “Hi, how are you?” Quite simply, Christmas is a day when family or framily (friends who we have chosen or not chosen as family) come together. Often, at Christmas, we see people who we catch up with once, twice or a few more times if there is a funeral. With some, we slip into conversation without missing a beat. But then there are those people who even as they walk up to you or you sit down for the meal you are desperately trying to work out how you can sustain a conversation after you have enquired after their work, health, if they are having any time off over the holiday season and when they go back to work. So, how do sustain and heavens above actually have satisfying conversations this Christmas? The first and most important thing to remember: “There is no secret” There is no one way to communicate. There is no magic formula or step by step guide. There are however some things you can do to enjoy more confident and interesting conversations. The first thing is to check your thinking. If you tell yourself you are going to have the most boring conversation with Great Aunt Bertha, then guess what? You will. The quest for interesting conversations starts by putting on your metaphorical explorers hat, ask adventurous questions and be curious. What is an adventurous and curious question? It’s the ones that generate conversation. For example: How did you celebrate Christmas as a child? What has been your favourite holiday ever? What has been your highlight of the year? If you could travel anywhere in the next year where would you go? What was you favourite read of the year? Remember when asking questions. There are no wrong questions, some are just more helpful at getting people to talk. For example, open questions starting with “What” and “how” generate conversation. Closed questions won’t get people to talk but are perfectly fine when you want to confirm something they said. Be careful of “why” questions. They can get be misunderstood and be full of judgement. For example, ”Why would you go to Bali, its full of Australians?” A better question is “What do you like about Bali?” At Christmas, I have been known to bring out my conversation cards (Kikki K sell some good ones). However, that is not for everyone and can seem very forced. Also, be prepared for groans when you announce your intentions. Usually people have fun but resistance is normal. So, what if talking is natural for you and you are talking to a person who is quiet and never seems to say much? Well you need to stop talking, stop thinking and listen. A conversation is two people sharing information. It is not two people taking it in turns and waiting to tell the other person something. For example, if you ask someone what their highlight of the year was and while they are telling you, you are thinking about your highlights and which one you are going to tell them, then you are not listening. While you are listening, thoughts will come, and you need to let those thoughts go. Be prepared to learn a lot by asking more questions. You know your highlights, so you don’t need to make sure you get yours out. Remember that some people need a bit more time to think about their answers. So be prepared for silence, be careful not to shut down a conversation before it begins by not allowing them to respond. A sparkling conversation can seem like an impossible nirvana this Christmas but it may with a few unique questions take you on an interesting adventure. Remember, conversation is not a game of snap where you take turns to get rid of your cards of information. Give the gift of STRENGTH this Christmas We have the whole family covered for last minute or stocking filler gifts. Our 2018 Strength Heroes parent/child workshop bookings are live! We have four play based 2-hour workshops starting in February to choose from. Art of Resilience January holiday workshops for kids aged 6-12 at locations in Scarborough, Claremont and Leederville are fun art and play based all day workshops. We are also running our very popular two-day Mistake Maker workshop. Visit for all our workshops, including Teen Retreat (Jan 17) and Seniors Not a Bookclub (starting in February). Wishing you all a satisfying Christmas full of sparkling conversation. Remember be kind to others and yourself and take some time to be grateful for everything you have. If Christmas is a bit of a chore remember what our Strength Hero Victoria says, "take a few deep breaths and think of Boxing Day. This too shall pass".