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Just Like Us: #ListenFirst Tips for Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is a day with turkey, stuffing, family, and—perhaps unfortunately—politics.

What should we do when politics pops up, sometimes out of nowhere? When something like a blueberry vs. cherry pie could start a debate, or when some cousin makes a remark comparing the sweet potatoes to our president’s skin color? Of course, the answer is to Listen First! But, what does that really mean for Thanksgiving?

I’d actually start by listening to what we already know about how similar we are. Just like us, the people with those different views have wants. Just like us, they have needs. And just like us, they have personal stories, filled with sorrows and regrets, but also of joys and triumphs. Just like us.

By listening to them, we can start hearing their humanity and even their character—how just like us, they take care of their kids and their family; how they’re often a good friend; or how they contribute to their community as a volunteer, a cop, a teacher, etc. Then we can listen for what conversation could be helpful. Maybe we could do something in the community together. Maybe they are curious to learn more about how the other side thinks. Or maybe it’s just best to connect on something totally different and talk about baseball, or movies, or music, or dogs – whatever. After all, there’s a lot more to life and family than politics.

It’s unfortunate that we live in a world where pies or side dishes can escalate into political battles. But remember we're dealing with not just positions but people who in many ways are just like us. They have needs and wants and stories, and they are probably just like us in that they care for those around them. With that perspective, we can really be thankful to share a meal and time with family and friends this Thanksgiving.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! 

James Coan is a Strategic Advisor for Listen First Project

Also see: Top 10 Tips for a #ListenFirst Conversation