Helpful Holiday Tips For Communication
Nov. 19, 2021
SHSU Media Contact: Wes Hamilton
By Mikah Boyd
The holidays are just around the corner: a time for family, fun and communication. This communication can sometimes result in awkward conversations as students return home with new perspectives and experiences. Since the pandemic and many other events have occurred, it is important to know how to engage in these conversations without running the risk of an awkward family dinner.
Gene Roberts, the director of Student Legal and Mediation Services explained that while holiday home visits can be often tense, things may be a bit different this year.
“With many people experiencing isolation, having reduced employment opportunities, and uncertainty about the pandemic, the traditionally difficult conversations may be intensified,” Roberts said. “Even in ‘regular’ times, college students may find themselves a different person when they return home for a break.”
While college students find that they have changed, returning home can reveal that their family has as well. Roberts emphasized that family dynamics may have changed while they were gone, making home seem a bit different than what they remember.
Roberts explained that to properly navigate the sometimes-rough waters, students should be mentally prepared and self-evaluate before engaging in these conversations. He also touches on the importance of considering where the conversation will take place.
“Think about where the discussion should take place – in public, around a dining room table, or in private,” Roberts said. “Each of those places has its own dynamic that may help with limiting the contour of the conversation.”
When these discussions happen, it is best to listen more than talk and ask questions for clarity instead of simply rebutting or counterarguing with the person. Alongside these examples that Roberts provided, he suggested that if a conversation turns into a verbal attack, then students can walk away from the situation.
“Put some temporal space between you and the attacking words,” Roberts said. “Then come back, and if you want to reengage, do so. Your brain, and theirs, will be better prepared after a break.”
While verbal attacks are a worst-case scenario, there are times where one could be simply stumped by a question or statement. In these moments, it is encouraged to take a moment and thank the person you are talking to for presenting a new perspective and engaging in a civil discussion of what is important to them with you.
“I’d encourage people to slow down and set a positive example when they find themselves in these types of situations,” Roberts said. “Take this as an opportunity to teach others how to have a difficult conversation. And it’s also okay to set boundaries if you are really uncomfortable.”
To help prepare for difficult conversations, SHSU has plenty of resources available for students. They can visit the Student Legal and Mediation Services Office in room 327 of the Lowman Student Center. There is also a Verbal Aikido program offered by the Dean of Graduate Studies Ken Hendrickson that teaches students a type of verbal self-defense. For more mediation tips, visit the SLMS webpage.
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