Lessons I learned from 'Navigating Family Conflict'

Sep 01, 2022

Lessons I learned from 'Navigating Family Conflict'

By Dan Beenken

Whew! The first session of our Virtual Breakfast Series is in the books and it was a big one!

We tackled family communication right out of the gate this year. It's such a critical issue – in my opinion, the most important of all family business topics. If you can’t talk to each other in a productive way, you aren’t going to make any progress on anything else anyway.

It was such an amazing session – lots of great ideas on how to have these crucial conversations. As I always do, I wanted to share my takeaways. I would also encourage you to leave any of yours as well in the comments section. 

Without further ado, my list of lessons learned:

  1. When a crucial conversation starts going in the ditch, rather than turn it into a Jerry Springer moment, ELEVATE the conversation. 
    By that I mean, take it up one level higher and away from the personal attacking that is otherwise bound to happen. Find a place of common ground. Look for Switzerland. Go to something that’s less directed at folks personally and more of a piece of shared commonality.

    Example: What is bothering you is related to how much more your brother is paid than you are from the company. Rather than attacking him and creating a chair-throwing incident, ELEVATE the conversation with your family to something related to your values and discover how those values are very similar amongst all of your family members. Those values could lead to an eventual discussion about compensation and fairness. 
  2. Ask yourself: Is it Helpful? Is it Healthy? Is it True?
    Heidi Vermeer-Quist is a master at family communication and she shared this one with us. Does what I am about to say move the conversation forward or am I just throwing a barb or opinion out there? I would do well to answer these 3 simple questions before I spout off and really start a fire.
  3. I heard you say…?  Did I get that right….?   Is there more….?
    I love this one. Again, from Heidi – I can’t say enough about her expertise and thoughtfulness in this area. When someone unloads on you, rather than unleashing your own wrath, take a breath and respond with these 3 elements. When our words are put back at us we quickly realize just how hateful they may sound and it hopefully gives us pause to calm down, apologize, and bring the conversation back to a healthy place. This one is just gold if you can be patient and allow it to work!!!
  4. The O-zone – you can’t change this stuff.
    Heidi made mentioned three things we just can’t change – Others, Outcomes, and Old Stuff. We don’t have any direct control over any of them. So stop driving yourself nuts trying to change them.

A few book suggestions that came out of our session last week:

That’s it for today. I hope you can join us on Oct. 20, at 8 a.m., for our next session on Values