THANKSGIVING -- AN EXERCISE IN COLLABORATION
A significant number of families who get together for Thanksgiving do so in an atmosphere of mutual accommodation. Yes, some wounds have festered over the years -- the time your older brother tatted your teddy bear with a soldering iron, or when Mom’s step-sister’s kid borrowed money from Dad for methadone treatment and used it for airfare to Thailand. But these are put aside for the occasion.
This post is directed at the intelligent individual whose familial gatherings are not draped with a fuzzy blanket of Kumbaya: Turkey Day With The Fam is a terrific opportunity to put one’s collaborative skills into action!
In most of these tribal squat-and-gobbles, the issues are minor. If the household is largely Republican, it might be Dad’s brother: he reads meters for the gas company and thinks anyone who makes more money than he does should be stood up against a wall and shot. In a household of a more liberal bent, perhaps there’s a dear old Grandma who cashes her Social Security check like clockwork and loves her some Medicare, but believes anyone who didn’t live through the Great Depression and walk barefoot to school every day doesn’t deserve to eat or have a roof over their head.
Take Dad’s brother aside and tell him that Bernie Sanders has become your hero, “But let’s keep that between us, okay? They wouldn’t understand.” Now that he has an ally in the room, Uncle Gas will be less prone to picking fights.
At an opportune moment, raise a toast to Granny’s rock-hard self-sufficiency. She’ll coast all the way through dinner on that, smiling with self-satisfaction. If you can get hold of a Ted Cruz campaign pin, put it on the inside of your jacket lapel and flash it to her with a knowing wink when no one else is watching. Again, that sense of not being surrounded by antagonists has a way of soothing the savage beast.
There are potential complicating factors, such as the generalized ingestion of intoxicating beverages or the upsetting news that Cousin Trevor’s meds were left behind in Omaha. But this is a blog post, not a “For Dummies” book on the particulars of how to defuse the disruptive power of ancient injuries or temporarily sweeten the unfortunate personalities of certain relatives. The point is to take into these situations an attitude of “I’m going to manage the dynamic, not let it manage me and everyone else.” Be the weatherman, see conflict coming like clouds on the horizon, and get the umbrella open before “rain” starts falling. Know that if you can be a calming influence -- a peacemaker among folks who fear not to get in each other’s faces because, well, you can’t be fired from your family -- then imagine how valued your people skills will be in the conference room, the laboratory, the classroom or the design studio.
Lastly, a valuable weapon you can take into the TG fray is a well though-out seating chart. Both around the fireplace and at the dinner table, it will keep radioactive familial elements sufficiently separated to prevent a critical mass of bristling belligerence from being achieved. Of course, the larger your clan, the more critical a WriteyBoard will be for planning out these strategies and tactics. Have a warm and peaceful Thanksgiving, everyone!