Conversation Tips for the Holidays from Holly Creek Residents

Tips & Tricks
Conversation tips for the holidays

Posted: December 22, 2023

Holly Creek neighbors share practical conversation tips for the season

For many Denverites, family gatherings can be both delightful and challenging—particularly for those with different political or religious perspectives. Holly Creek residents have compiled a list of helpful conversation tips for the holidays to spur positive, meaningful conversations at your gatherings.

Several years ago, residents who make up Holly Creek’s Spiritual Life Committee created a discussion-based forum for residents that fosters meaningful conversations between community neighbors. These Conversations That Matter (CTM) groups include at least seven residents each who are randomly assigned to meet twice a month for an hour at a time to talk about topics of interest. Facilitators are chosen to provide initial topics and help guide conversation when needed. The CTM groups and additional, resident-led groups that have grown out of this approach have helped many Holly Creek neighbors identify and hone tools for handling areas where they disagree with others. 

A Holly Creek Conversations That Matter group

 

Five conversation tips for the holidays

1. Set some expectations for conversation during time together.

In CTM groups “We lay down some ground rules at the beginning,” explained one CTM facilitator, Holly Creek resident Jim Hankins. “There’s no room for ‘I’m right, and you’re wrong.’ We’re here to discuss and learn from each other.”

While it is easier to set ground rules in a forum designed for mutual discussion, it’s not impossible to encourage some shared expectations in other settings as well. If political or other challenging conversations arise (or are likely to do so), any participant can remind the group of the reason behind the gathering (i.e. seeing each other for the holidays) and request that participants avoid potentially charged topics during this special time together.

2. Emphasize similarities and seek areas of agreement.

Holiday conversation tipsWhen disagreements do come up, one thing Holly Creek residents have learned is to look first for common ground. They have found that seeking commonalities builds a foundation of understanding and respect that can help set a more positive tenor for the rest of the conversation.

Holly Creek resident Bruce Johnson specifically started his own group separate from Conversations That Matter to discuss political matters. He formed the “WE” group to include an equal number of liberals and conservatives to discuss political topics in depth. While the group has had its challenges, one of the things they were surprised by is just how much they have in common.

“When we searched for agreement,” he explained, “we were impressed with how much we had.”

3. Address differing opinions separate from the people who share them. Encourage others to do the same.

Holly Creek residents know firsthand that it is possible to respect others while disagreeing with them.When disagreements arise, they suggest focusing on the subject matter. Avoid directing the conversation against the person with the differing view, and encourage others to do the same. This approach keeps the dialogue open and much less emotionally charged.

This has been an area of personal growth in Johnson’s life since he was involved in Conversations That Matter and now in his WE group.

“I have had to learn how to position my opinions in a way that isn’t seen as an attack,” he shared. Doing so in a group where different opinions are expected and encouraged has certainly helped him work on this skill.

4. Vet your sources when sharing information in conversation.

Nothing is more embarrassing than offering a solid example to the discussion, only to have someone else point out that it’s actually a TikTok or Facebook fabrication. In the internet and social media age, verifying sources has never been more important.

Holly Creek residents read news from verified sources regularly as a way to combat false information. Johnson reads the Denver Post, CNN and PBS news hours. Others subscribe to or regularly watch FOX and the Denver Gazette. Conversations that Matter facilitators and participants specifically research the topics they plan to discuss during their next meeting so they can speak knowledgably based on legitimate information.

5. Approach every conversation with an open mind.

Hearing different positions has helped Holly Creek residents better understand and appreciate different perspectives and those who hold them.

CTM participant Dolores Meader shared that she’s developed “a respect for everyone in my group, regardless of what they believe politically.”

In some cases, they have even adjusted their own positions because of the thoughtful, open dialogue that CTM encouraged.

“I’ve learned a lot,” said Carol Furuta, the chair of Holly Creek’s Spiritual Life Committee that oversees Conversations that Matter. “I’ve made seven wonderful friends that I never otherwise would have known at this depth.”

It all goes to prove that “winning” a conversation isn’t really success. By nature, conversation is a two-way street and can and should build knowledge and goodwill, especially this time of the year. With a couple of these tools, Holly Creek residents hope that they can inspire positive conservations in their households and those of many others across Denver this season.

This article was also published on Denver Post’s YourHub.

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