In every relationship, whether with a colleague, peer, family member or loved one, there occur times when the stakes are elevated. When the conversation at hand with inevitably lead to a disagreement, or perhaps even an argument. How we handle those conversations matters.
When a family is working together in a business, a family office or a family foundation - those crucial conversations matter even more. Why? Because in addition to the element of disagreement we have the element of love, and we often are most harsh, and most open, with those we love the most.
When I work with a family - I always assign a homework assignment before our first meeting. That homework? Read the book Crucial Conversations; Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High (McGraw-Hill, 2002). This book provides two things that I find to be of upmost importance. First, it allows the user to learn how they themselves behave when they're in a challenging situation. And second, the user can learn tactics to help overcome their own challenges, remain calm, and elicit important information from the person on the other side of the conversation. It's a quick read, providing specific ways in which the reader can observe their own behavior and make conscious decisions to act in a specific manner.
Those of us who work with families, whether our focus is on the psychological or not, will inevitably encounter moments of difficulty in communication. Providing the family, and ourselves as advisors, tools to de-escalate the conversation to a working argument is invaluable. And though this book can't fix everything - it certainly is a great place to start.
My advice to my readers, whether you're an advisor, family member, or friend - read it. You won't be disappointed.