25 Nov Resolving Family Conflicts Around Money, Wealth & Entitlement
As part of the Tatler SOS Experts’ Corner, we delve into the subject of investing sustainably and ethically. Here, Dr. Paul Hokemeyer from Drayson Mews shares his advice on how to resolve family conflicts when it comes to investment differences.
Full Reader SOS: My husband and I recently transferred appreciated shares of a big tobacco company to set up a family foundation. My daughters are insisting we liquidate the shares, but the dividend enables us to give generously to organisations we care about. Now my daughters are threatening to resign from the board. What can we do?
First, move out
This requires a high level of maturity and the ability to cultivate grit, which is the capacity to tolerate short term discomfort to reach a long-term goal. In your case, you and your husband must be willing to surrender your impulsive need to control your daughters’ reactions and create space that allows them to express their opinions, uninterrupted, uncriticised and unquestioned.
The value in stepping back is two-fold. First, it will give your daughters a stage where they will feel seen, heard and validated for the autonomous adults you want them to become.
Second, by moving out and providing your daughters a klieg light that illuminates their position, you will allow the entire family’s cognitive functioning to come back online.
Studies show there’s an inverse relationship between emotional reactivity and social/cognitive functioning. When we are emotionally agitated, feel threatened, disrespected or unseen, our limbic system overrides our logic and forces us into extreme, overly exaggerated positions. Your daughters’ threat to quit your family foundation’s board, evidences such an amplified place.
This mere act of becoming willing to hear rather than speak is a highly effective clinical technique known as mirror listening. Through it, you will reduce the tension in the relationship and allow everyone to retreat from their inflexible and radial positions. While there are many benefits to mirror listening, it will provide value for your family in the following three ways:
1) The process will let your daughters know they’ve been heard, understood, and supported.
2) It will force your daughters to articulate their position succinctly and, in the process, provide them with an opportunity to see any irrationality in it.
3) It will give you an opportunity to consider any irrationality in your position and to consider other options to move your family forward.
When families approach their differences with a sense of curiosity and respect, they’re well positioned to successfully negotiate them and elevate their family to a superior level of functioning. In my work, I’ve found a high percentage, around 90 per cent in fact, of families find that once each member is given a platform to state their case, they feel validated and respected. In this place of validation, their rigidity around threatened consequences softens. The key is creating a safe, contained and strategic process to enable this recalibration to occur.