The Jedi Mind Trick for Holiday Gatherings

Posted by | December 16, 2015 | Coaching | No Comments


Someone recently told us that practicing the “Partner*” behaviors we teach sometimes feels like using a Jedi mind trick. Our experience supports that. Like Jedi mind tricks, Partner behaviors are subtle, but extremely powerful.

Did you know the Partner approach can even help diffuse family feuds?

We’ve all been there. You’re at a family get together, or a social gathering. Someone — let’s say it’s Uncle Joe — launches into a diatribe on an issue about which you feel passionately — and you completely disagree with his opinion. Uncle Joe’s states “facts” that you know to be wrong! He may even be baiting you to stir up trouble. (He’s been know to do that in the past.)

Are your choices to either 1) disagree and lock horns (what we would call “going Predator”) or 2) bite your tongue and silently seethe (eg. “go Prey”)?

Fortunately, there is another choice. If you’re familiar with our work, you know I’m talking about the “Partner” style and mind set.

Here’s what to do to keep your cool and diffuse the tension:

First, adjust your external behaviors. That will support your inner mindset and attitude:

  • Breathe
  • Keep your body still.
  • Adopt a neutral stance or, if sitting, sit so you can feel your back against the back of your chair (it’s hard to fight from the back of a chair!), in an open sitting posture.
  • Soften your facial expression. (A smile of any size will do that immediately.)

Now, mentally shift your attitude.

  • You’re oblivious that a challenge is taking place.
  • You see this as a test.

When you’re ready to speak: 

  • Use a neutral tone.
  • Keep your volume strong.
  • Use large, firm gestures.
  • Use group eye contact — look at each person in the group, not just Uncle Joe.

Say something like:

  • “I can appreciate your perspective, Uncle Joe. You can probably imagine I see it a little differently.  Let’s leave it to Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton!”  

And if you’re really a Jedi, as you finish speaking, you look at someone other than Uncle Joe!

Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work the first time you try it. It takes practice. And it can take 3 to 5 interactions with someone who knows you to shift their perception of you.


FINAL TIP: If all else fails, take a cue from NBC’s Saturday Night Live and put on the new Adele song!

Cheers & Happy Holidays!

* Predator, Prey, and Partner(TM) are 3 different roles that come into play in any power dynamic of human interaction.

Pat Kirkland is the CEO of Pat Kirkland Leadership, an executive coaching firm working with F500 companies. Her forthcoming book on using her Predator/Prey/Partner™ model to crack the code of executive presence will be published in 2016. Join her email list here to be notified when the book is released.