David Cunningham on Dealing Powerfully with Relatives over the Holidays

Ideal vs Real

Originally broadcast, in November 2009

Sallie Felton: This is Sallie Felton and my guest today is David Cunningham. Before our break, we were talking about if you had a difference with a loved one and he’s got some strategies for making sure that there is appreciation, acknowledgement, thankfulness, a making-up time. David, what were those hints that you were going to give?

                                                David Cunningham: Well, the first one, Sallie, was, again, to have the holidays really be a time that you really are nourished by them, that it’s a time where I think everybody would love a holiday that really you walk out of it just really happy to be you and happy to be alive, right?

                                     Sallie Felton: Exactly.

                                               David Cunningham: One of the things that really just stops everything is if you’ve got an old argument in the past, something that happened a while ago. If before the holiday even gets here, you could go out of your way to make peace with somebody- suppose there’s a friend that a while back you said something and you stopped really being in communication with them or maybe there’s a family member that something happened a while ago and you’ve just been mad and you haven’t been talking and you didn’t get close again. If you could go first, just be the one that goes first, and gives that olive branch and goes and makes peace, and says, “You know what? No matter what happened, what’s important here is that we get to express our love for each other.” And if you did that before the holidays even got here, then for sure the holiday season and the holiday itself would have a whole other flavor to it. It would just be much more richer.

                                    Sallie Felton: What happens if you want to make that gesture and the other person doesn’t even want to go there?

                                    David Cunningham: Well, I think, Sallie, I think that’s again where it’s really important that you know you’re satisfied with yourself, if you’re really proud of yourself. If however you are with that person, you’re just really satisfied with you and proud of the way you handled it, even if they weren’t ready to respond or even if they weren’t ready to reciprocate, if you really are proud of the way you handled it, who you were, I think that gives you a lot of satisfaction.

Sallie Felton: It does. It really does. You tried.

David Cunningham: Yeah, you did.

Sallie Felton: You tried. You gave it your all.

                                    David Cunningham: You did and you’re proud of it, you’re proud of the human being you are.

Sallie Felton: What about something else?

                                    David Cunningham: Well, here’s another thing, okay? Another thing you could do to, again, we’re talking now about not responding to difficult things that come up holidays but how to proactively have the holidays be great, right?

Sallie Felton: Mm-hm.

                                    David Cunningham: One of the things is to, again, is to create something really exciting for the future, something that you’re looking forward to, even beyond the holidays so that when you’re in the middle of the holidays, there’s something bigger and brighter coming after them, right? So you can start talking about plans even after the holidays and things that you might do together after the holidays so that the holidays – being together on the holidays is a time where you actually created something, and it could be anything from, “Okay, let’s take vacation together next year,” or “Let’s have this special party later,” or, for people who are athletic, “Let’s run a marathon,” or “Let’s do a walkathon,” or something. Or “Let’s go do volunteer work together,” but if you’re creating something for the future that’s really exciting, that people are excited about, then when you’re sitting down at the dinner table for the holidays, you’ve got something really extraordinary to talk about and brainstorm about and be excited about. That’s also something really useful for the holidays.

Sallie Felton: That’s a great suggestion. Great suggestion.

David Cunningham: Isn’t that great?

Sallie Felton: Yeah, yep.

                                    David Cunningham: Here’s another one. It’s important before the holidays even come to just resolve something, make a choice about something, okay? And it’s what’s the most important thing and a lot of times, Sallie, we have the most important thing be whether, you know, who’s right and who’s wrong. What’s important to us is being right. What’s important to us is, you know, is somehow always being the one that somehow what we want or what we’re committed to is the right thing.

Sallie Felton: Right.

                                    David Cunningham: That becomes very important over even the little things like, again, what time the dinner’s gonna be served or how the table’s gonna be set, let alone who’s invited, who’s not invited, and how the whole thing goes, right?

Sallie Felton: Mm-hm.

                                    David Cunningham: If you can get – before the holidays, just kinda make a choice for yourself that okay, guess what? There’s something more important than being right, and what’s more important than being right is love being present. And what’s more important than having things go exactly the way I want them is that I get to really love and show my love for everybody that’s here, so I’m going to have loving people be more important than being right this year. And if you walk into your holiday season that way, I’m telling you, a lot of the arguments that might come up won’t even come up.

Sallie Felton: That’s awesome. That’s so true, David. So true.

                                    David Cunningham: Here’s another one that’s pretty simple, too, Sallie. A lot of times, sometimes the holidays we have new people there and sometimes at holidays we’re spending the holidays with people we’ve spent holidays with for 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years.

Sallie Felton: Mm-hm.

                                    David Cunningham: And especially if you’re planning the holidays for people that you’ve been together with for many years, right?

Sallie Felton: Yep.

                                    David Cunningham: One of the things to create is that okay, at this holiday, I’m gonna find out something new about them that I didn’t even know. You know, even if I’ve known them for a long time. Maybe it’s my husband or my wife and we’ve been married for 40 or 50 years. Here’s what I’m going to do at the holidays: I’m gonna make sure at the holidays that I just pay attention to them and listen to them and talk to them and find out something. Be surprised by who they are. I’m gonna find something – maybe I’ll just like watch them watch a movie and see what movies they like or – and I’ll see something about them that I didn’t know before that I can really, really appreciate.

Sallie Felton: I did something very similar to this, David.

David Cunningham: Did you?

                                    Sallie Felton: Yep. My family went on a holiday with my husband’s family, that side of the family, and the last dinner we were all together, I clanked the glass (we were at a restaurant and there were 15 of us, so of course it was a yelling match to hear anybody at the other end of the table) and I said, “I want to try something. We’ve been together now for a week. I would like you to look at the person to the right of you and share with this group something new that you never knew about them.” It was so fun.

David Cunningham: It is, isn’t it? And it’s –

Sallie Felton: And you could hear a pin drop, David.

David Cunningham: Yes, and you do hear new things.

Sallie Felton: A pin drop.

                                    David Cunningham: You do, and you hear new things, even if you’ve known them for a long time. You actually do find out something new.

Sallie Felton: Yeah.

David Cunningham: It’s amazing, isn’t it?

Sallie Felton: Yeah.

David Cunningham: I love that one, too.

                                    Sallie Felton: Yeah, and I’ve known some of these people for 40 years.

David Cunningham: Amazing.

Sallie Felton: Forty years.

David Cunningham: Amazing.

Sallie Felton: Yep. Taking the time to listen. We all talk.

David Cunningham: That’s for sure.

Sallie Felton: But how many of listen?

                                    David Cunningham: I think listening is the most underrated tool that we have. Listening is so powerful and I don’t think many people really understand how powerful listening to somebody is. You know, if you listen to somebody, especially – here’s what I’ve found, Sallie, is that if you have somebody around you that you even think is a little boring, they don’t talk about anything much important or especially somebody that’s quiet.

Sallie Felton: Mm-hm.

                                    David Cunningham: If you just listen to them, they actually come to life right in front of your very eyes.

Sallie Felton: Mm-hm.

                                    David Cunningham: And one of the things, too, is sometimes they talk about something that you don’t think is important, right? I mean it really could be, especially if you have somebody elderly in your family, it could be what they’re talking about is their groceries or something, right?

Sallie Felton: Right.

                                    David Cunningham: And as far as you’re concerned, that’s not interesting at all.

Sallie Felton: Mm-hm.

                                    David Cunningham: But if you just listen to it – and why would you listen to it? Because it’s important to them.

Sallie Felton: Uh-huh.

                                    David Cunningham: And if you just really listen, even to something like what are the groceries they’re buying or what’s the price of eggs these days, they will come to life in front of you and they’ll have more to say than you thought they had to say, and you’ll probably even learn something about the price of eggs. And then guess what? They’ll actually move on from that to talking about other things that are even more meaningful to them because they know you’re listening.

                                    Sallie Felton: Exactly. That’s a challenge that we want to put out there to everybody for these holidays – Thanksgiving or the winter season’s Christmas, Hanukkah, whatever. Give it a try.

David Cunningham: Right.

                                    Sallie Felton: You don’t know unless you try. I’m not big on the word “no.” You have to try first, then you can give me a no. But you have to try. We have to take a break right now, and when we come back, I want you to tell me about the Landmark Education.

David Cunningham: Great, Sallie.

                                    Sallie Felton: Listeners, this is Sallie Felton with “A Fresh Start” and my guest today is David Cunningham and he is a communication expert. The website, if you’re interested, is www.landmarkeducation.com. We’ll be right back.

                                    Welcome back, listeners. This is Sallie Felton with “A Fresh Start.” Before the break, I asked David Cunningham, who is a communications expert, would love to know more about Landmark Education, David. What is it?

                                    David Cunningham: Great, Sallie. Well, Landmark Education is – we’re a worldwide international training and development company and we have just a whole unique educational program that creates real breakthrough results for people and organizations. What we exist for, Sallie, is to empower and enable people in what matters to them. So what you and I are talking about today is holidays being great and that’s one of the things that is important to people, that matters to people, so Landmark Education, why we exist is to really have programs and ideas and ways of working with people that empower and enable them to pursue what really matters to them and accomplish what’s important to them.

We have extraordinary programs all around the world, Sallie. We’re really in over 20 countries now around the world and so – we have a core program, our main program is called the Landmark Forum, which is really exciting. It’s a three-day, one evening program that takes place over a weekend, a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and then a Tuesday evening, and in that program, it’s really designed, again, to really give people the opportunity to deal with what they need to deal with and get the resources they need to be able to live the exact life they’d be committed to live.

You know, a lot of times when we grow up we end up living a life that we didn’t really intend to live. It’s not the one we would’ve designed for ourselves in the second grade. In the second grade, we never would have said, “Oh, when I grow up I want to have a job where I’m kinda bored,” right?

Sallie Felton: Yeah.

David Cunningham: We never would’ve said that.

Sallie Felton: No, I don’t think so.

                                    David Cunningham: But then we end up with a job where we’re kinda bored if we did. What Landmark Education is about is really it’s by coaching through a really like a powerful coaching through just conversations with people, dialogue with people, in which they can have the life they would’ve intended to live, not the one we end up living.

                                    Sallie Felton: Now, David, is this a seminar relationship center? Is this – does one have to physically be at Landmark?

                                    David Cunningham: Yes. For right now, the programs that we have, they’re – you go there, so we have offices in many different cities around the United States and Canada and Europe and all around the world, as I said, and again, if your listeners wanted to go to the website, again: www.landmarkeducation.com, they could find all the locations closest to themselves. And then we have – our first program is called the Landmark Forum and that’s the one everybody starts with, and after that, Sallie, we have programs on particularly just on relationships, we have different seminars on money and finances, we have seminars on fitness, we have seminars on being happy, creating happiness in your life.

So we have all kinds of seminars that are – each one of them gives people access, access to being powerful in their life and access to creating life in a way like more power than they think they had to create the life they want.

Sallie Felton: How exciting is that? How do people register for this, David?

                                    David Cunningham: Well, there’s, again, if they go to the website they can register online or also on the website will be all the phone numbers of our centers and they could call the phone number of the local center nearest them and our staff there would love to tell them about which programs are available and what it takes to register.

Sallie Felton: Is there a prerequisite course?

                                    David Cunningham: The only prerequisite is that first program I talked about, which is the one everybody would want to do anyway. It’s the most exciting, I think, of course, it’s the most exciting in the world, right?

Sallie Felton: Exactly.

                                    David Cunningham: So, you know, and it is a program that now a million people have done around the world and – but it’s called the Landmark Forum, and that’s the first program everybody would do that’s really exciting.

                                    Sallie Felton: This is fabulous. Again, www.landmarkworldwide.com.   One final thought, David. If someone can’t do your holidays thriving tip because they just can’t get over being mad at a loved one, what is the one thing that they can focus on this holiday season?

                                    David Cunningham: The one thing I think they can focus on is to really, again, look to see someplace, there’s someplace they could bring some joy to somebody. There’s someplace they could bring love to somebody. Even if it’s not everyone if there’s just somebody they are, “I can’t do it with that person.” Good. Find somebody else. Find somebody to bring joy to and find somebody to bring some love to, and if you find just any other human being to do that with, it will make your holidays richer.

                                    Sallie Felton: Great tip, David. Great tip. I wish you the very best for the holiday season. I’ve so enjoyed having you as my guest, and I would love to have you back in 2009.

                                    David Cunningham: Great, Sallie, thank you. Anytime. Tell your listeners Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Holidays.

                                    Sallie Felton: That’s great. There’s so much more we can talk about, especially with relationships, and I’m serious, I’d love to get you back 2009.

David Cunningham: Great.

                                    Sallie Felton: Terrific, David. Thank you so much. Listeners, best to you, and I’ll see you next week. This is Sallie Felton.

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Mary Chelmy says:

Holidays are the one time we get to connect to our loved ones, meet them and cherish all the old memories while making some new ones. I am very very excited during the holidays but my husband always used to avoid his parents. During my landmark forum, I realized that I too am not close to his parents or family because he never makes any plans. I wanted to know whats wrong and when asked he said he grew up amongst fights and arguments and did not want to go back. I tried to convince him but he still wasn’t ready to part from those bad memories. So after discussing with my forum coach, I planned his upcoming birthday and decided to give him a surprise. I called his family over from Spain and we celebrated his birthday so well that we are in awesome terms with his family now. His mother visits us every six months and we recently took a family holiday to Cuba together. Whilst thanking me for meddling between their relationship and making it fine my husband thanked me and cried. I still remember how happy he was to see his family together bonding and having a ball. This was all possible because of the amazing landmark forum!

Jill Richards Weed says:

This article was a welcomed reminder for me. Thank you. Wishing you and all who contribute to and work for Landmark Education Joyful, Healthy, Abundant, Expressive and Loving Holidays. I appreciate all the contributions made.

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