In just under a month it will be Christmas, a time of celebration, joy, families coming together and in many cases, downright misery.
I've written about the way families communicate when they get together in last year's blog, and in Family Heaven, Family Hell, How to survive the Family Get Together.
According to Google Books: "A recent survey found that 40% of people choose to have Christmas dinner with friends rather than their relatives."
It's no wonder! Family dynamics often erode any good communication skills people may have.
This got me thinking about awareness and communication. Here I am sitting in our Impact Factory premises: there are eight of us in an open-plan office and you could say that we are 'like' a family in a way. The biggest communication difference, I think, is that we are more careful with each other, more concerned about finding common ground, more conscious of our impact on each other than generally happens in families.
I've noticed that if one of us is cross, for instance, we 'own' it and sometimes even announce ahead of time that we're cross or down or out of sorts. We also try to be aware of other's moods and adjust our own behaviour accordingly.
Often at work, if there's a breakdown in communication or conflict of some kind, then people tend to be more alert to take extra care when a similar situation arises again. Whereas in families people fall into old patterns of behaviour and communication, and awareness doesn't get a look in.
The desire people have that it will be better next time everyone gets together far outweighs the reality that unless someone actually does something different nothing is going to change.
My experience is that differences at work are far easier to sort out than differences in families.
People seem more willing to let go of resentments, and grudges aren't carried from one generation to the next! Obviously, this isn't always true and there can be some very deep-seated antipathies that never get resolved.
I'm speaking in generalities here, in the same way that loads and loads of families really do have a great time when they get together and thoroughly enjoy each other's company and look forward to Christmas and other family 'dos'. I even know families like that.
However, loads and loads of families really don't have a great time when they get together. I know a lot more families that fall into this category. Resentments and grudges are fed and hung on to and forgiveness is thin on the ground. People look for reasons to stay angry, aggrieved, offended, and dare I say, even create the environment where the same old poor behaviour is replicated again.
If you are a member of one of these families what might it be like if you used the same care and attention talking to family members as you do with colleagues at work?
It might be worth taking some time to think about situations where you have deliberately, consciously chosen an appropriate communication and behaviour at work and unpick what you did and why you did it.
It may be that you wanted to tell someone to stop being so childish but you refrained and instead showed compassion and said something along the lines of, "Seems like you're having a bad day today. Anything I can do to help?" I'm using that example as one I've used on many an occasions: my insides were frustrated but I converted those grumbly feelings in order to show empathy.
Just a couple of those kind of responses sprinkled into a testy family get together when you know your goat can be got can make a huge difference.
Good communication skills can do wonders at work; just think of the miracles they could create if you used them at your family Christmas!
By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory