Families come to us and want to know how to manage difficult conversations, and often those conversations show up around the holidays. Families avoid these conversations because they don’t trust themselves to have the conversations go well, so they just keep “kicking them down the road a bit” or go into cordial hypocrisy and pretend they are listening. Often at the center of these conversations is how to transition wealth without derailing the family relationships. Conflict can be generative. Below are a few tips to help you strengthen relationships through conflict.
The skills we teach to navigate tricky conversations come in handy around the Thanksgiving Day Table. This year, with so many divided perspectives it is useful to remember a few of these tips:
1. Good listening does not equal agreement. Build the emotional strength to sincerely listen without reloading your next point. “Good listening is the closest thing to being loved”-Anonymous
2. You can be right, or you can be in the right relationship. Defending our point of view to dominate the conversation because of our beliefs has a consequence. We might think we “won” the point, but at what cost to the relationship?
3. Be curious. Ask questions that reveal the underlying concerns and future action they care about like “What does your position take care of?” or “What do you think is driving this?” or “If this could all fall into place, what would have to happen?”
4. Points of view are not Truth. Often opinions are spoken like they are the truth. Ask for examples or evidence to help you understand where they are coming from.
Mixing up our point of view as Truth and fighting to defend our beliefs often leads to a lack of listening. Building the emotional fortitude to listen to opposing views without feeling like you have to win the point allows both sides to be heard and keeps the conversation safe, which leads to higher levels of trust. Take the high road this year, and remember who you are being for the people around you is what matters most.
Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with love and excellent listening!
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