Every year in December people get together with their families and friends to spend time together, be it to celebrate Christmas or enjoy time off from work and school. Also there are lots of events with work colleagues, clients, suppliers and the networks of people who support us during the year. Even us at Working Voices had an event to get together as a group of trainers to share and celebrate another eventful year together. It’s a fascinating time to look at communication.
I spend Christmas with my family and I have noticed that there is a definite pattern to the behaviour and communication that happens. It starts towards the end of November when we start planning and thinking about what we are going to do. (Which is a bit strange because we pretty much have done the same thing every year, but anyway).
We all descend on some unfortunate family member’s house (it’s changed from being Mum’s house to my eldest sister’s) normally on Christmas Eve. We sit down to a meal (to which my other sister is usually late) and it’s all very nice and polite. People catching up on news and how busy everyone has been in the run up to the big day.
We wake up at different times on Christmas day; since age 5 it has always been me first. Everyone bustles about with jobs to do and the excitement and tension rises. Sometimes there are some spats or little tussles for attention as we go through the classic activity of present opening, lunch, settle on the sofa, clear up, drink wine.
But it’s only on Boxing day, normally after lunch, that everyone really relaxes and starts to share about what’s going on in their lives. I always notice this time because it’s the first time that genuine intimacy is present.
In my work as a trainer I am consistently working with group dynamics and one holds the strongest resemblance to this process in families. Tuckman’s Stages of Team Development is a brilliant way of looking at this. It says that groups go through each of these stages, Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing throughout their development. I can see this, in microcosm, in my family at Christmas.
We start forming by getting together, giving the update bulletin and all being in the same place. There’s storming through most of Christmas day, jostling for attention, competing and regressing to childhood roles. Norming takes place generally on Christmas Day evening when we are feeling a bit more settled and the presents are out of the way and the lunch is done and dusted. We know how to behave now and what’s expected. But it’s only on Boxing day that as a team called My Family we start to work together, listen and be there for each member of the team. Tuckman would call that performing.
Knowing this framework, I can see that we need to go through each stage in order to progress to performing. We can’t skip any one stage and it’s part of the fun of Christmas. This video shows how they go through these stages in the Avengers film. Have a look at your teams, events, families and celebrations and you may see that you are just collectively going through Tuckman’s stages. And you need to go through the stages to reach an enjoyable, relaxing, intimate Christmas.
I hope all you had a wonderful time. With some new additions to my family Christmas it ended up being a thrilling few days.
A very happy 2013 to you all.