Still working through your feelings about the EU referendum result on Friday?
Tensions still running high in your home or workplace?
May aspects of mindfulness help with the divisions between friends and family that have manifested over the last few days?
There are definitely still more questions than answers as the dust settles on the UK’s historic referendum result. In fact the image that I show my 6th form students during the A Level course on England, Scotland and Ireland in the 17th century keeps popping into my head when I consider the news.
Indeed for lots of people there is a feeling that the world has been ‘turned upside down’ and this feeling may pass quickly…. or it may not…. but at the moment emotions are running high and arguments, often between family members or between close friends are occurring when people start to discuss how they feel about the referendum result and therefore ‘give away’ how they voted. So, how do we navigate our way through these tricky conversations?
On the surface there seems to be two options:
- Just don’t discuss IT. Act like nothing has happened. Talk about the weather, the impending summer holidays, the kids, just NOT the referendum result and your feelings about how the other person voted. This may be a way of avoiding confrontation,however, it is also a surefire way of building up resentment, anger and frustration.
- Have it OUT. Directly discuss how ecstatic/miserable you feel about the result and share how you feel the country got this so right/ so wrong with the other person who disagrees with you while the kids are running around your feet, have Paw Patrol blaring out and generally interrupting any half intelligent points that may be being made with contributions like ‘He hit me’, ‘I need the toilet’ ‘what are we having for tea?’ This may be a way of feeling like you’ve aired your grievances, however there is the distinct possibility that there will be animosity and potentially hurtful comments made.
So is there anything else we can do in order to ensure atmospheres don’t get too fraught at home, but that we still feel we are being authentic and principled in our conversations about something that is extremely important to many of us?
I have had two tricky conversations in the last 24 hours – one with a friend and one with a family member. I’m sure there will be more along the way (basically because however ‘mindful’ I try to be in lots of my life, I am only human and can’t help myself sometimes!) so I have had a think about how I may try and handle the next conversation about THAT result. Below are my ideas:
- Firstly, and I know it sounds basic but I must endeavour to give the person my full attention when they are talking so that I can TRY to fully take on board their opinions, and not as per Saturday night be buzzing round the kitchen trying to clean up the debris after tea AND talk politics.
- Next, do everything in my power to be mindful of my habit of interrupting and try everything NOT to do this.
- Also, take a breath and a moment before I respond (hopefully in a calm and measured manner!) to their comments.
- BUT importantly ensure I am true to my feelings and principles and don’t just nod along to a statement that I don’t have any time for.
- Silently label thoughts and feelings as the conversation progresses e.g. I’m feeling irritated now, now I’m feeling disbelief, possibly even disappointment etc. etc. This process of ‘labeling’ thoughts and feelings is meant to help keep our responses in check and so therefore I am hopefully less likely to ‘lose it’ with the person who voted differently to me.
- Also, know the above feelings and thoughts will (in all likelihood) pass and gain reassurance from this.
- Check in on physical sensations – the body will signpost if I’m about to ‘lose it’ (‘flip my lid’ or go into ‘flight or fight’ mode) so taking note of changes in my body can be extremely useful i.e. tension in my jaw, tightening of the chest, shaky hands etc.
- If at all possible try to consider what I appreciate about this person who I am disagreeing with. I can choose to remember that despite this difference of opinion we must hold some common ground on other matters. Remembering a time when I have been grateful for their company and/or help with something may also be very powerful at this point.
- Penultimately attempt to try and empathise with the other person; it is worth trying to ‘walk in the other person’s shoes’, however difficult that may be.
- When it’s all over and everyone’s amicably gone their separate ways – do a MINDFUL meditation whether that’s just a 3 minute breathing space, a short ‘exploring difficulty’ practice like the ones found on the Frantic World website or something longer.
I am hoping I remember at least some of these points next time I get into a disagreement over the EU referendum result or anything else for that matter. I’d rather my children didn’t see awkward and aggressive exchanges but that they do see me standing up for what I believe in without filling our home with raised voices and recriminations.
Have you had any difficult exchanges in the last few days, if so did any of the above steps help you or do you think they may help you in the future?
This is definitely work in progress for me – I have been known to fulfill the stereotype of a feisty redhead on occasion – so wish me luck. Good luck to you all too!