How to communicate at Christmas after a year from hell

Communication at Christmas can be fraught at the best of times.

But this year, after the cluster-f…storm that has been 2020, the potential for conflict is higher than usual, with many people stumbling towards the finish line exhausted, traumatised, and polarised in their opinions.

Tolerance levels are low, tempers short, stress levels high, and patience virtually non-existent.

Many of us are not at our best and when we’re not at our best, our communication is not at its best either.

So how can we make it through this holiday season with our relationships with family, friends and colleagues intact? How can we communicate effectively when we’re so on edge?

To help you out, I’ve dusted off my 10 strategies for managing difficult conversations at Christmas and given them a 2020 update. Here they are:

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Five traps that add to your stress

Are you heading towards burnout in what has been a crazy, high-stress year?

If so, you’re not alone. Many people are skating dangerously close to the edge and barely hanging on as they limp towards Christmas.

But while a lot has been totally outside our control in 2020, have you stopped to think about the self-sabotage traps you may be falling into that are making your stress even worse?

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People drive performance

The culture and performance results of a team are driven by the focus and communication of its people.

That culture can range from thriving to diving.

Below, I unpack each level of my ‘People Drive Performance’ model. 

I encourage you to reflect honestly on where you, your team and organisation sit now, and where you would like to be.

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Watch your words

The words we tell ourselves have the power to influence how we feel.

I was reminded of this last week when, in a morning of frustration, I caught myself muttering over and over, “I hate remote learning.”

You see, I have three primary school-aged boys at home at the moment and although my husband is here to help (thank goodness!), some days the working from home/learning from home juggle is brutal.

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For yourself, your team, your organisation, your family?

Not drop but consciously and deliberately put down.

This is a question for everyone but particularly leaders.

I have had conversations with people from a wide range of organisations over the last couple of weeks as the situation in Victoria has grown direr.

The feedback has been consistent: Many people are not ok. They are overwhelmed, exhausted, stressed and anxious – more so this time around than back in March.

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Ten tips for communicating with a mask on

Of all the things I thought I’d be writing about at the start of 2020, how to communicate while wearing a face mask was not on my list.

But here we are, and the good news is, I’ve got some tips to help.

As many of you have probably discovered, wearing a face mask takes getting used to and although vital at this time, does create challenges for communication.

But while wearing a mask does impact how we communicate, it doesn’t mean we can’t communicate effectively. We can!

We just have to work a bit harder and get more conscious, deliberate and exaggerated in what we do.

(My big expressive hand gestures and crinkle eyed smiles were totally made for this!)

Here are 10 tips to help you communicate with a mask on:

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Courage, not confidence is the key to success

“If only I had more confidence…”

“When I’m confident, I’ll…”

“I don’t have the confidence to have that conversation (so I won’t have it).”

I hear versions of these statements frequently.

It seems many people believe developing confidence is the answer to their problems.

I disagree.

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There is no such thing as common sense.

It’s a phrase that’s been uttered by politicians and medical experts repeatedly over the last nine weeks in relation to community behaviour and our response to COVID-19.

“Use common sense”, they tell us.

“It’s basic common sense”, they say.

Every time I hear it, I cringe.


Because common sense is not common.

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Don’t assume that all requests of you are urgent.

Too often we assume a request from a colleague, or task allocated by our boss must be actioned immediately, without question.

We drop whatever we were working on and get started on the new request straight away.

This reactive, rather than responsive approach is a sure-fire path to stress and overwhelm.

Our to-do list grows, our distraction levels are high, and our days are filled with ‘busy work’.

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Soft is the new hard

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