A next-generation family member said to me “I find it hard to get together with my family to talk about anything meaningful. We end up making the same old comments to each other, usually with some kind of hurtful banter thrown in. There are definitely two camps, mom’s camp, and dad’s camp - and their opinions never seem to change.” He wanted to know how the family could have a reasonable conversation without reverting to old patterns with each other.
In another example, a family member sent out a note requesting “business casual” for an upcoming family meeting. That set off a host of negative assessments such as:
· “Who are you to tell me how to dress?”
· “If you can’t take me the way I am, then I’m not showing up.”
· “For her, it’s more important that we look good rather than what we are getting done.”
· “She is always judging us”
These 2 simple words, “business casual” reduced participation at the family meeting to 50%. Distrust was increasing, and relationships were moving farther apart. We find many families have the interpretation that their family system can’t change. We have the experience it can.
What can you do?
1. Learn to have a conversation about the conversation. Pause the conversation and say “I see that we are in a disagreement about how to dress for the meeting. Let’s talk about what you mean by business casual and why you think it is important”.
2. Ask yourself if you would rather be “right” or be in a relationship? The risk of each side insisting on being right is the relationship, and the opportunity of future generations to stay connected.
3. Turn into the breakdown. Steer away from gossip and have a conversation with the person who made the comment to understand why it is important to them. Then see if you can negotiate a solution that works for both of you based on the shared understanding of the purpose.
If this sounds familiar and you would like more specific ideas on what you can do, please call our office and ask to speak with one of our coaches.