Giving your Family the Bird this Thanksgiving

Some members of my family, when forced to use the word liberal, tend to spit it out the same way one would expectorate a dung beetle that had just flown into one’s mouth.

It’s a family of strong feelings — not all shared. Between the coming election year and the attacks in Paris, the chats at Thanksgiving dinner promise to be robust. I won’t get a word in edgewise, so here’s my take:

I happen to live in one of those states with a Governor who is demanding that the Feds stop sending all refugees (not just Syrians) here. So here’s the question…does the fear/caution justify the consequence of that policy and that mindset? It’s popular, but is it wise?

Fear, after all, is the best motivator ever. Fear works for terrorists, political candidates and erectile-dysfunction commercials. Fear makes people mad, and these angry, outraged people tend to vote other, evil guys out of office. These same folks then buy more guns & ammo and stop talking to strangers.

Although we all tend to react emotionally to tragic events at first, we can do better. We also can learn to help other people judge risk, fear and anger better. Here are some Thanksgiving dinner conversation kick-starters. Good luck.


Fear and Loathing in Your Head  

Here’s the conclusion of 50 years of research involving 27,000 people and 127 different studies…pretty strong evidence:

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that fear and anxiety also make people more isolated and reduces their empathy:

First thing’s first: people who are scared or mad aren’t necessarily irrational…far from it. Fear and anger, after all, got us out of the swamp and to the top of the food chain and has kept us alive all of these years. However, if the job requires reasoned conversation, then you’ve got to manage the emotional space first. Try this:

But is it Safe?  

“We don’t know, 100%, what will happen with groundwater as a result of uranium mining,” said one environmental activist in a recent interview. She was referring to an ongoing push to stop the few remaining historic mining operations near Grand Canyon — new mines are already prohibited. She’s right of course…there’s no 100% guarantee of anything and mining is a risky business. The legacy of uranium mining in the Southwest is horrendous and shameful, but does the current fear justify the proposed action? I’m not sure. Good decisions need to be based on technical, economic, environmental and social options and consequences, not just on gut reactions and politics.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not dismissing feelings and instincts. I worked a bit with Gavin de Becker some time back. He wrote The Gift of Fear and Fear Less, two books that focus on security, safety and the cultivation of instinct and prediction. We can and should nurture and trust our ability to see around corners and act. The following story illustrates this in a pretty shocking way:

And once you realize that everything’s trying to kill you, it keeps things in perspective:

Outrage du Jour  

After the Paris attacks, one of the local morning TV news channels teased their upcoming stories featuring European outrage over the attacks; outrage over subsequent comments made by Obama about the attacks and public outrage over State’s new immigration policies. It was an outrage trifecta. I couldn’t peel my eyes from the screen…

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean somebody isn’t really after you. You’ve probably heard that quip before. Quite often, we manage issues involving “black helicopter,” “one world order,” “Agenda 21” conspiracy theorist-kinds of people. It’s challenging, and I’ve always suspected that these folks were mostly loner, isolated anti-social types who wear aluminum foil in their caps. Apparently, I’m wrong:

A Wink and a Nod  

It’s funny…we’re mostly in the speaking and writing business but I get more questions about non-verbal communication than almost anything else. Here’s an in-depth tutorial on what to do with your noodle:

There are things that you can do to improve your own persona – the way that you present yourself and your own brand. I’m not exactly sure who the “highly successful” people are that this guy’s referring to, but maybe it’s you:


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