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Communication isn’t important …

By Family Conflict ResolutionJuly, 2021March 18th, 20243 min read
Communications 2nd Generation

Research has shown that 60 per cent of failed intergenerational family wealth transition are due to problems with trust or communication. Communication isn’t important in families. It is everything. If a family cannot communicate, it cannot function as a group. It’s that simple.

What does poor communication look like? An absence or lack of communication (e.g. “it’s none of their business”, “they don’t need to know”, “we know what is best for them”) is patronising, infantilising, and leads to a loss of trust. There is often hesitance to discuss family wealth or estate planning with family members because of the conflict it might cause. But not discussing simply leaves the latent conflict to fester. Some cultures have a strong concept of strictly obeying the mature generation – this has the potential to create interpersonal and internal communication barriers. Negative, emotional, distracting and damaging interactions among family members can lead to the “Family Drama Vortex”.

What does good communication look like? Creating a space where family members can ask and answer difficult questions like “What is our wealth for?”, “What is our family’s purpose?”, “What is our true value?”.  To communicate effectively, we need to listen. This may sound like a platitude, but not everyone can do it, especially when talking to someone we think we know well, such as our children.

A history of poor communication in a family means you have to work extra hard to regain trust and learn now to communicate well. To address toxic situations like the Family Drama Vortex, we must recognize that the drama and dysfunction are rooted in underdeveloped communication and interpersonal skills.

Because communication is difficult, especially across generations and borders, it can help to have external guidance and facilitation. That is best coming from a specialist, and not necessarily the ‘default’ choice of lawyers and accountants.

Consider This: How would you rate your own family’s ability to communicate? Are there some issues that “we don’t discuss” or that are shut down whenever they are raised?

Further reading: 

Here is more on reading on family relationship conflict resolution.

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