As our family is taking a break and trekking to my hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, I have been reflecting on how I can make the most of this Thanksgiving.

Now I know that most people will ask, “What are you most thankful for?” But I wonder: “How can I make this Thanksgiving the most memorable and meaningful?”

photo credit: Shutterstock

As you know, it is one thing to be with people and a completely different thing to connect with people.

In my profession, I teach people about how to better connect. I give strategies to help them hear their best in difficult listening situations. Today, I am thinking about taking it one step further- Let’s see if we can make the conversations not only heard, but memorable. Maybe even remarkable!

If there are people at your table who are under 7 years of age and over 70 years of age, they may have difficulties processing conversations – especially in noisy situations.  Beyond that, people at any age can have difficulties hearing.  These tips can help everyone:

  • Look at the person you are speaking with

Now, you might say, of course, that’s obvious.  Is it?  In this day and age, everyone is either reading on their cell phone or rushing to complete a task.  They might be catching up on pictures or reading the latest New York Times article on their phone.  We need to put down the phone, or pause our task, long enought to speak and look directly at each other.  Basic, right?  Difficult to do.

  • Go down memory lane

So whether you are with family or simply with acquaintances, tell and listen to stories. Follow these tips so others can engage with you.  Stories and strolling down memory lane are our way of bonding.  We all want to connect and be heard.  Your Thanksgiving will be memorable, if not remarkable, if you are able to engage with each other, learn something new, and feel like you were heard.

  • Minimize the cross-talk

Have you ever watched a tennis game?  Ever lose sight of the ball?  Imagine if two games were on the same court. What about four games with four balls?  Which ball are you following?  Do you just see a blur?

Hearing at the dinner table can be stressful for some people because their auditory processing skills are not able to keep up with multiple conversations.  If you have something to say, maybe let the first conversation end before you start a new topic.  Allow one, maybe two conversations, but try to remind everyone to wait their turn.  You will feel more engaged.

  • Slow down

If the conversation is going to quickly, it might sound like a blur of words for some people.  Again, processing speech can be a struggle for some people.  If you segment your thoughts and slow down your rate of speech, others will process it better.  You will have more of a conversation and less of a one-sided monologue.

  • Rephrase

If someone says, “What?”  Try to rephrase and go into a little descriptive detail.  Sometimes simply repeating word for word does not help.  Maybe they never heard of Google, let alone Google cars.  Maybe they need to be educated about this new thing, and just repeating “Google cars” leaves them still asking, “What?’

  • Listen

Digest what someone else is saying before you reply.  Really listen to them.

How many of us wait for our turn to talk just to bring up our thoughts?  Are we actually listening to what the other person is saying?  Are we listening or just thinking about our next original thought?  If we sit back, listen and hear what the other person is saying, we may learn more about them.  Ask the other person questions to hear even more about their story.  Give them time to be the one telling a story.

  • Talk to each other from the same room

I know what you are thinking:  “Duh, We already know that!”  My response?  “Then do it!”  The biggest complaint I hear from my patients is that they have a hard time hearing when a loved one talks to them from another room.  It’s not always easy to get up, walk into another room, ask if that person is busy, and THEN start speaking.  And, yet, it is necessary IF you want to be heard.  If you don’t want to be heard, continue to ,m ,talk away!

  • Step aside

Taking someone aside and having a one-on-one conversation is special.  When you ask someone to come to a different room to chat, you are saying, “You are meaningful to me and I don’t want to miss this chance to talk to you.”  When you have a conversation off to the side, or in a different room, you tend to have better acoustics, you are closer to the person you are speaking with, you tend to have a little more privacy, the ambient noise might be softer, and it can be memorable.  Try to take at least two people aside this Thanksgiving.  Try to do this with someone who looks like they are not engaged in the conversation, or sad.  Maybe they cannot hear, or they could simply be shy.

Follow these tips so others can engage with you.  From my family to yours, I wish a wonderful, meaningful, and memorable Thanksgiving!

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