This article was written by Linda Stewart

The holiday get-togethers are now a recent memory, and for some they are memories they would rather forget. If you are struggling with an issue experienced with a family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker, let’s SOAR to deal with it.

SOAR is an acronym that has been around in the business world for many years. SOAR stands for: Situation, Obstacles, Action, Results.

In business, your SOAR document could look like this:

Situation:    TurboTuba orders are not shipping on time

Obstacles:   Parts from a vendor are backordered and manufacturing cannot make the product

Action:         Alternative vendors are identified; inventory level assessment done

Results:        Alternative vendors were able to supply at a higher price for the short-term to clear up orders; inventory levels for parts were modified; supplier contract with current vendor is updated to include non-performance penalties.

This is very basic and boring, but this can also be used to address an issue at the annual holiday dinner.

Let’s look at Little Sister’s experience at Thanksgiving dinner at Big Brother’s house.

Little Sister is upset after leaving Big Brother’s, and a friend asks what is wrong. “Cousin Q took all of the mashed potatoes, and I didn’t get any. Auntie M is the queen of mashed potatoes, and I look forward to them every year. Cousin Q is a jerk!”

Friend suggests that Little Sister let Cuz Q know how upset she is, but recommends that they use the SOAR method to figure out how to talk with Cuz Q without causing a family uproar.

Situation:  1st Try:  “Q took the last of the potatoes at Thanksgiving dinner.”

Already the message has changed from “all of the mashed potatoes” to “the last of the potatoes.”  Friend tries to get more clarity.

“Does Auntie M normally run short on potatoes at these family events?”

“Oh no,” Little Sister proclaims, “Auntie M always brings extra. They still get eaten, but everyone is stuffed when they’re done.”

“Okay – was there anything else the family was running short on?” Friend asked.

Little Sister pondered on that question, and then gave Friend an unusual answer. “We were running short on table space. And that’s strange, because Big Brother has lots of folding tables for these events. But the kids were sitting on the floor to eat, and other adults were sitting on the couch.”

Let’s pause here and think about SOARing.

If the Situation is left at “Q is a jerk,” it makes defining the Obstacles, Actions, and Results difficult because, let’s admit it, it’s hard to fix a jerk.

We’ve also eliminated Auntie M as the situation, based on Little Sister.  M knows the secret of cooking for large families and doesn’t come up short.

Little Sister has likely hit on the real situation though – more people showed up than were expected.  Little Sister calls Big Brother and finds out that one family group did show up unexpectedly and early. When dinner was served, the party crasher parents jumped in first and started their children’s plates with a big helping of mashed potatoes because Mom knew that they all liked potatoes. ☹

Now we can move into getting RESULTS that will minimize the risk of this ruining your party.

Situation: Unexpected guests can create problems with food and space at a group event.

Obstacles: Difficult or impossible to send guest (especially family) away when they show up at your door; unfair to ask contributors to make more food than is needed for the possibility of unexpected guests; challenging to keep invitees from forwarding their invitation on to others.

Actions: Always ask for an RSVP by a specific date, and follow-up if you don’t get a response; Tell invitees to ask about the guest list before passing the invitation on to other family members; Communicate with food providers on the guest count; As host, always have a supply of extension foods – boxed stuffing or macaroni and cheese, canned vegetables, and/or canned ham. (Have the extenders be foods your family would normally eat so that it doesn’t become a budget buster if you don’t prepare the food for the feast).

Results:  As Little Sister wanted, she will get some of Auntie M’s mashed potatoes;  A less stressful day for the host and guests;  Not guaranteed, but hopefully less drama in the next family gathering.  😊  Win – Win – Win

Happy New Year!