Pandemic Holiday Problems: 3 Ways to Practice Listening Skills & Use Empathy to Help Heal Holiday Disappointments by Rabbi Simon Jacobson
Many are breaking the news to loved ones that Thanksgiving this year won't look like it has in the past. Not everyone feels the same way about risking in-person gatherings for the holidays this year during the coronavirus pandemic. When someone rescinds their invitation to host friends and family, or declines to attend a gathering of loved ones, it’s possible feelings will be hurt and conflict can occur. Here are three techniques for using listening and empathy to heal holiday disappointment:
- Acknowledge the disagreement. Don’t just overlook the conflict, brush it under the carpet and avoid it until the next fight happens. Instead, acknowledge that there is a place of disagreement. Say it out loud: “Look, I know we disagree.”
- Invite understanding. Then, let the other person know you want to fully understand their feelings and their position. Invite them to take the time to tell you. Repeat it back to them and ask if you have accurately understood their position. This exercise is important because most people cannot easily repeat something they disagree with. They’ll repeat it with a little twist here and there to be able to disprove it or weaken it. Practice the ability to repeat back another’s position without twisting it. That takes a lot of courage. Say, “I just want to hear your position. And you tell me if I said it correctly.”
- Don’t jump to conclusions. Most of us find it very difficult repeating something we don't agree with, especially if it's emotional or malicious. It affects our mind, and we don’t really hear properly. That doesn’t mean you're wrong; it just means you’re not hearing the other person clearly because you’re adding in all your own thoughts, reactions and conclusions. Practice your awareness of your own subjectivity. This requires patience, yielding and the common sense of being a humble person.
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