Hollywood picture postcard images of Christmas bombard our senses earlier and earlier each year. The festive season is heralded as a period of fun, celebration and joviality amongst family and old friends. However, over recent years a common theme I’ve observed amongst family and friends is pure exhaustion in the effort to surpass the culturally and socially constructed expectations of a “perfect” Christmas.
Our festive traditions replicated year on year become entrenched deeper within our cultural norms, and the real meaning of Christmas is often overshadowed. My original Watson Family Christmas Day rituals embedded from childhood involved bucks fizz, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, present opening, the compulsory brisk walk and glutinous food consumption all followed by a post lunch snooze. These annual habits formed a comfortable, familiar and predictable routine. However, recent exposure to different festive cultural rituals such as cycling around Rottnest Island in Western Australia or enjoying off-piste skiing in Flegere, Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France have challenged my preconceived expectations and broadened my mind.
The collision of different customs, cultures, generations, organisations, relationships, families’ expectations or ideals at Christmas offer an excellent opportunity to redefine our Cultural Intelligence (CQ), shift our core values and beliefs and flex to accommodate other cultures. Our individual malleability “to cross divides and thrive in multiple cultures” (Common Purpose, 2015) offers the chance to shape our conversations, interactions, behaviour and more importantly positively influence the overall experience. This notion can be expanded upon through the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) presupposition where the “meaning of communication is the response you get” (ANLP, 2009). In essence, we have a personal responsibility for all our verbal and non-verbal exchanges.
Recent research based on the work of Judith Glaser’s study of conversational intelligence reveals frightening statistics where “9/10 conversations miss the mark” (Anixter, 2013). Physiologically our brain receives two million pieces of information every second; yet our neurons can only consciously process approximately seven pieces per second (ANLP, 2009). These numbers indicate that the majority of information our brain receives is deleted, distorted or generalised so focused listening skills form the key foundation for intelligent conversations. The real power of Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ) is “knowing that the words we use, and how we use them, have a direct impact on the brain neurochemistry of the people who hear what we say” (Anixter, 2013). Over mince pies and your selected festive beverage of choice, pause for a moment to reflect and ensure you foster intelligent conversations that create and build genuine relationships and promote mutual understanding.
On Friday 25th December 2015 I’ll be reflecting on my rich tapestry of Christmas Past, reveling in the Christmas Present and dreaming of Christmas Yet to Come. These three visions will intermingle to play host to foreign and unknown traditional Maltese customs and culture amidst unfamiliar family traditions across different generations in St. Julians, Malta. I’m not exactly sure how the day will unfold, though I’ll endeavour to carve out a special moment for myself – that might simply be heading outside along the sea front for an early morning run with my husband to clear my mind and prepare to be culturally and conversationally intelligent.
Have a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and continue to Reach for More. over the festive season.
Photo 1: Festive snowy adventures down the Valley Blanche, Chamonix Mont Blanc,