Table talk

Published 4:20 pm Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Have you ever thought about what goes on around kitchen tables? Or have you contemplated how long tables have been a part of our world and what transpires at “tables?” Also, for a moment, think about what happens around your own kitchen or dining room table. I know for sure that what is discussed can range from being totally sacred to being immensely toxic. “Table Talk,” if negative, can shame others, and if positive, empower people to form an intimate bond with those at the table.

Tables have been used by many different cultures in many diverse ways. The early Egyptians utilized the table to keep objects off the floor. The Chinese used tables for writing and painting; Romans and Greeks used very decorative tables for eating and were stored away after a meal. King Arthur was given a very large round table, which seated more than 100 knights. The Lord’s “Last Supper” table had no chairs and, according to historians, was probably U-shaped or three-sided. In 1896, Henry A. Jackson, an African, fully developed and patented the more traditional kitchen table that we use today. Around these tables, we chat, cry and come together to celebrate our lives with family and friends.

Recently, over a span of four days, I was seated at many different tables. These “Table Talks” were very uncomfortable and did not bring the participants closer. There were times when some of those seated at the table kept checking their phones while others interrupted the person speaking. Then there was the person who had to be in control of the discussion. Some of the participants sat with arms closed and crossed, deep frown lines on their faces. There was no direct eye contact nor listening from the heart. It was as if I were watching an episode of one of my favorite soap operas, “As the World Turns.”

Respect for difference of opinion or a new way of thinking was not welcomed during these “Table Talks.” Although words of love were stated as the intention at the beginning of the talks, it was not shown throughout. At one point, I was asked to agree with an item that would bind me for many years. I decided to be truthful in a tactful manner. Needless to say, it was not accepted and the talk ended with a demand: “It’s this way or not at all.” The talks ended with all of those present, including me, getting up and leaving the table in frustration and disappointment.

Later that day, I reflected back upon the language, verbal and nonverbal behaviors, and the tones of voice utilized by the participants. I was in awe; what had transpired had seemed so unrealistic, almost surreal. These unpleasant feelings in the pit of my stomach led me to more closely examine how” Table Talks” can destroy our lives, if we allow it.

So, how can we make these episodes of “Table Talk” lay the ground work for more internal growth? Since we are approaching the holiday season, and we will have many moments where we will be engaged in conversations around different tables, I came up with some guidelines that I will be using in the all of my table conversations:

1. Telephones and electronic equipment will be turned off (even the TV).

2. Use plain, honest, direct and empowering speech.

3. Be mindful of who you invite to be seated at your table and who you sit down with.

4. Give yourself permission to exit gracefully if the discussion becomes heated.

5. Leave your assumptions at the door.

6. Listen from your heart.

7. Sometimes, religion, politics and your lifestyle are not topics for discussion or debate.

8. Respect yourself and others.

Not all of the world’s problems will be solved, nor even my own personal issues, during “Table Talks.” However, harmony and intimate time spent with family and friends is precious and sacred. Cultivating love and respect, along with an attitude of gratitude, will enhance and expand our ability to change only ourselves. Then, we can “Positively Inspire” others by being the example of Light, Love and Peace during “Table Talks.”