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How to Have Productive Dialogue During the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us here in the United States, which can be a confusing time for those who want to be mindful of other holidays that one may not personally celebrate. With so many observances that occur during the season, it can be a struggle to figure out how to greet someone of another faith, how to acknowledge other festivities, or how to participate and celebrate appropriately.

One way to make sure you come across as respectful and open-minded during the season would be to immerse yourself and know the ins and outs of every various holiday. But a better approach that might be less exhaustive would be to embrace a position of openness and genuine, positive curiosity, as originally stated in this Huffington Post article.

Here are a few practices on how to have productive dialogue during the holidays.

Keep a first-person mindset.

Acknowledging the reality of other people celebrating different festivities doesn’t have to come at the cost of your own personal celebration or tradition. Just make sure to keep a first-person mindset and ask questions in that manner. As the article states, a great question to cultivate productive dialogue would be, “My family and I celebrate Christmas–is that something you do?”

It’s okay to express interest.

When interacting with a tradition or practice that’s not your own, it’s okay to want to learn more about the observance in question. Ensure that your curiosity comes from a place of genuine learning, that it is respectful in nature, and kind in execution.

You’ll make a mistake during your holiday dialogue. Embrace it.

It’s human nature to step on someone’s toes unknowingly when treading into unknown waters. What’s important is the aftermath of your mistake and how you come back from that. In the article, one main method is as stated:

“If you make an assumption, misspeak, or learn that you’ve offended, a genuine, “I’m so sorry!” can make a world of difference in maintaining or restoring relationship. Some of the best interfaith conversations I’ve ever had began with me realizing I had made a mistake — and before I could experience those rich, life-changing conversations, I had to first say, “Oh my goodness — that’s not what I mean. I’m sorry. How can I…?”

There are a few more practices to embrace open-mindedness, respect, kindness, and exemplify the celebratory season. You can read the rest through the full article below.

Read the full article here.

Stephanie Varnon-Hughes

Stephanie Varnon-Hughes

Stephanie Varnon-Hughes, Ph.D., is the Director of Cross-Cultural & Interfaith Programs at Claremont Lincoln University, and an award winning teacher and interfaith leader whose research interests include the history, theories, and practices of inter-religious education, mindfulness and compassion practices (with particular emphasis on practices from the Dharmic traditions, especially Jainism), public policy (especially regarding inequities in public education), and how digital and online resources can make education accessible and learner-focused. Her doctoral dissertation, in inter-religious education, focused on disequilibrium, resilience, and reflective practice as key ingredients for learning. She was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Inter-Religious Studies, a peer reviewed journal, and its sister publication, State of Formation, an online forum for emerging religious and ethical leaders. She holds a Ph.D. from Claremont Lincoln University, an M.A. and S.T.M. from Union Theological Seminary and her undergraduate degrees are in English and Education, from Webster University.

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Stephanie Varnon-Hughes

Stephanie Varnon-Hughes

Stephanie Varnon-Hughes, Ph.D., is the Director of Cross-Cultural & Interfaith Programs at Claremont Lincoln University, and an award winning teacher and interfaith leader whose research interests include the history, theories, and practices of inter-religious education, mindfulness and compassion practices (with particular emphasis on practices from the Dharmic traditions, especially Jainism), public policy (especially regarding inequities in public education), and how digital and online resources can make education accessible and learner-focused. Her doctoral dissertation, in inter-religious education, focused on disequilibrium, resilience, and reflective practice as key ingredients for learning. She was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Inter-Religious Studies, a peer reviewed journal, and its sister publication, State of Formation, an online forum for emerging religious and ethical leaders. She holds a Ph.D. from Claremont Lincoln University, an M.A. and S.T.M. from Union Theological Seminary and her undergraduate degrees are in English and Education, from Webster University.