A long road home - 5 emotional intelligence tips to survive a post-election Thanksgiving.

Contributed by Ruth Thomas-Squance, MPH, PhD, Executive Director, Equilibrium Dynamics and Certified Trainer

A long road home - 5 emotional intelligence tips to survive a post-election Thanksgiving.

Ideally, Thanksgiving represents a unique time where generations within a family gather and old friends catch up, sharing appreciation for one another. However, the flipside of this warm, nostalgic picture is well known from comedy screenplays. It’s a stressful inter-generational gathering with various tensions erupting into outbursts from issues both old and new.

In the wake of the highly emotive 2016 election, many Americans will be facing the prospect of sitting across the turkey from someone who voted for a candidate opposite to their own. Alternatively they may be feeling adrift because they were disinvited or decided to not go.

How can emotional intelligence guide us safely through these potential emotional land mines?

1. Feeling Management

Equilibrium Dynamics’ curriculum for emotional competence teaches the coordination of ‘The Big Four’; that is the coordination of thinking, feeling and judgment before action.

So let’s start with a time-out to plan ahead. First determine what your own satisfactory outcome would be for now and the long term from the upcoming holiday season. Be honest. Look at your feelings.  What do you want to achieve from this time with your extended family and old friends?  Are you looking to convert everyone to your viewpoint? Are you simply looking to be heard and respected - or just tolerated? Or would you rather just fly completely under the radar to get through it? Or perhaps even not turn up at all? Above all be realistic.

Once you decide your End Result Desired, plan how to best achieve it under the circumstances. 

2. Judgment

Each of these decisions has major emotional ramifications that will guide a whole different set of actions and behaviors.  In teaching judgment, Equilibrium Dynamics emphasizes the need to stop and anticipate the consequences of each action - or indeed inaction. This includes both the consequences you want and the unavoidable fallout you don’t.  You will need to evaluate the benefits and the costs (long-term and immediate), of your chosen action or inaction. Then decide if it’s worth it.

3. Pay attention to the difference between motivation and impact

Should you choose to discuss the election, this might be a perfect opportunity to ask someone to clarify what he/she meant by their action or vote.  Be mindful to listen. Also distinguish this from what you perceive their action to mean.  This is the difference between motivation and impact. Blending them is a frequent source of interpersonal conflict.  Keep in mind, discussions from opposing perceptions of the same action can frequently descend into rancor you cannot control—especially when drinking or high.  Focus on offering the civility you expect in return. And always aim for your End Result Desired, revising your plan when necessary.

4. Showcase Shared Values

You can look for shared core values with your family members, remembering that disagreements don't necessarily have to be arguments—unless everyone enjoys arguments! If disagreements persist and are not resolved, make a plan for how you plan to process and grieve the impact this might have on your relationship going forward.  Perhaps it will be more distant or just have more topics “off limits.” Contemplate this quote from Carrie Fisher, ’Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.’

5. Practice Self -Care

Make plans on how you will maintain good self-care through the holidays.  Will you keep time for exercise? Make healthy food choices for yourself? How can you protect time and space to reflect on your feelings and journal? Will you need time alone from the potential intensity of interactions of family and friends?  Pay attention to what serves to re-fuel you emotionally and make plans to incorporate that into your holiday routine.

By using these strategies to practice your skills of recognizing and managing your feelings and responding to the emotions and interactions of others, you will be developing emotional competence.  Research shows that these skills can empower people for success whenever they are applied.

And we wish you all a very rewarding Thanksgiving!



|| November 21, 2016