When I was growing up, our busy family ate dinner together every night.
This was probably a massive inconvenience at times for my parents (and, as teenagers, for my brother and I too!), but it let my brother and I know how important the family was to Mom and Dad... therefore we always felt safe and welcome.
At my job with the fire department, there are very few things a meal together can't fix.
A stable dinner table creates a stable foundation for communication, empathy, gratitude and compassion.
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, recently wrote:
"Facts don't change our minds. Friendship does.
The British philosopher Alain de Botton suggests that we simply share meals with those who disagree with us:
'Sitting down at a table with a group of strangers has the incomparable and odd benefit of making it a little more difficult to hate them with impunity. Prejudice and ethnic strife feed off abstraction. However, the proximity required by a meal – something about handing dishes around, unfurling napkins at the same moment, even asking a stranger to pass the salt – disrupts our ability to cling to the belief that the outsiders who wear unusual clothes and speak in distinctive accents deserve to be sent home or assaulted. For all the large-scale political solutions which have been proposed to salve ethnic conflict, there are few more effective ways to promote tolerance between suspicious neighbours than to force them to eat supper together.'
Perhaps it is not difference, but distance that breeds tribalism and hostility. As proximity increases, so does understanding. I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln's quote, 'I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.'"
When I owned my business, I did not deploy the magic of the dinner table with either my family or my staff very well. Both suffered because of it. And so did I.
The benefits of eating together, electronics off, are quite extensive (Google it) and articles in places like Psychology Today and The Atlantic add deeper layers of understanding if you wish to dig further.
I cannot stress this enough, if eating dinner at home, unplugged, with your family or significant other is not the norm, change. (There are examples in the above links on how to do so.)
I'm serious. Decide to change and move forward.
Google "easy recipes" and cook one. Sit down for breakfast instead of dinner if you can't be home at night. Buy a meal service like "Hello Fresh" or "Sun Basket". Find a way! YOU be the catalyst. YOU are the leader.
You might have a little rebellion at first, keep your sense of humor and remain dedicated. It will fade.
Ask open-ended questions at the table. Leave criticism out of the picture.
On the job, eat with your staff, your colleagues, and your clients/potential clients as often as you can. Sit with different people at work (ask first!) and ask them how things are going. Eat food and listen!
So many of us want to go out and fix the world. That's a good thing. Taking on the world means more and hurts less when you have a strong table (community) to return home to (or offer to others). I promise.
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