Holiday Family Giving Conversations Can Reap Great Benefits

At a recent University alumnae dinner, the host asked the attendees, to indicate, by a show of hands,
who engaged in family philanthropy. Nearly the entire room or about 150 guests raised their hands. But when the host followed up by asking who engaged the family in a conversation about the meaning of philanthropy and the impact they want their donations to have both for the organization (s) and the family, only 2 raised their hand.

With the holidays providing a favored setting for family conversations, perhaps this can be an appropriate setting to start a conversation about the impact of giving for the family.

Remember these 3 tips to make your conversation more engaging, should you choose to initiate a family conversation on charitable giving. Know and communicate the intention of the conversation and its intended outcome. Keep the conversation friendly and inviting rather than judgmental and limiting. Have an inclusive conversation by ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to say what is on their minds and in their hearts, without interruption.

When each member feels heard, understood and included, they feel connected. This connection can reap great benefits for families as they initiate or develop their family giving.

Holidays and giving, bring it home for deeper cheer.

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Trust is like a Spider Web

In a book I recently read, trust was defined in one word: predictability. That was powerful. And I began to inquire: “Is that all? Maybe that’s what trust comes down to.”

So, I started looking at trust more carefully, or more specifically, my use of trust, I understood it to be more than predictability. But what more was it? I looked at trust for me and saw that what was missing in this one-word definition were the additional components that give trust its almost mercurial characteristic. I would like to mention them here.

I have found that trust includes a sense of reliance in someone’s character. Where predictability infers expectation, reliability infers consistency. Whether it is a sense of reliance in their sincerity, their competency, or the way they show up, reliance in someone is a major ingredient to trust.

Another component to trust rests in understanding one’s motivations. Motivations reveal intentions, priorities, goals and needs. When I understand someone’s motivation, I can bestow trust.

Yet another component to trust is the feeling of true authority born by experience and not merely by knowledge. When I sense that someone is a student of what they are talking about, rather than a transmitter or information, I can grant trust.

What I find interesting about trust is that we can provide trust quickly, slowly, or not at all. There seems to be a continuum for the application of trust. I have found that this continuum revolves around feelings of safety, feelings of reciprocity, and feelings of being understood. Trust is a mighty bridge to building and sustaining connection. And like a spider web-strand which is ten times stronger than steel at its same weight, trust is a strong bond between people. And again, like the spider strand which can be easily broken and change the nature of the web, trust can be broken or withdrawn suddenly, and like the spider web, changes the nature of the relationship to which it was bound.

Let me know your thoughts on trust. How do you experience trust? How do you dole out trust? What causes you to withdraw trust?

Active Listening is Key to Strong Communication

How often do we fast forward through a conversation because A: We know what they’re going to say, anyway; B: We have something we want to say and are no longer listening to the other person or C: Our mind is wandering to something else and leave them speaking to the air? Never, right?!
When communication is rocky, use this tool to change the dynamic of the conversation: Active Listening. Active listening means listening to the intention of the speaker rather than inserting your own conclusion or meaning. It means taking the time to understand what the other person is saying instead of making assumptions.

For instance, the speaker may say: “I can’t give you money. I need it.” It is easy to make a judgment or assumption about what the speaker is saying but what is really being said here? As the active listener, you take the time to find out rather than jump to your conclusions and assumptions. This is an opportunity for inquiry with an exploratory response like: “Tell me more about what you need it for” or a question like: “So I can better understand, what is important about money to you?” Inquire with a sense of wonder rather than a sense of pre-conceived judgment.

It is important to learn, in active listening, what the speaker intends, with their words. In the example above, the speaker might be inferring that they have few resources and need to keep their resources for their immediate obligations. It could mean that the speaker is not yet convinced that your request is valid or important enough for them to give you any. It could mean that the timing of your request is inappropriate. It could mean that the speaker does not trust you. It could mean that you did not approach the subject in a way that was acceptable to the speaker. There are so many reasons that could have precipitated the speaker’s response. Active listening eliminates the need to assume, to judge or to react and use an inquiring methodology with your mind open to understand what is motivating the speaker to say what they said.

When you listen actively, you provide space for the speaker to tell you about their intentions and motivations. When the speaker has completed their comment, you, the receiver, can reflect and paraphrase what you heard, and relaying what you understood their underlying motivation or interests are. For example, if the speaker were to say: “You never help in the house”, you can reflect and paraphrase by responding: “It sounds like another hand with chores is important to you.” Then follow up with a question: “What would it look like if you had help in the house?” Note how this helps diffuse any shame or blame tricks, tactics or techniques. Note how this type of a response can create a bridge of connection rather than create a wedge of contention.

Communication is active. Tell me where you have found active listening benefit you.

How Could My Parents Blow It?

As the multi trillion-dollar asset based makes its way from one generation to the next, in what has been called the biggest asset transfer in history, I hear a repeating question that has plagued families for hundreds of years: “How could my parents blow it when my grandparents had so much money?”

According to the Williams Group, a wealth consultant group, 70% of wealth families lose their money by the end of the second generation and 90% of these families find their wealth has been squandered, spent, or squabbled over by the end of the third generation. And they are not the only ones to have uncovered troubling findings. U.S. Trust found, in their survey of high net worth individuals, that 78% of the wealth holders feel that the next generation is “not financially responsible enough to handle inheritance.” 64% of those surveyed have disclosed little to their children about their financial wealth.

I have heard many stories due to the work I do with families, keeping them connected across generations, when money matters. One family’s senior generation, turned over all financial decisions, after receiving a large payoff for the sale of a product, to their financial advisor. The financial advisor has become the arbiter of family and friend loans. The financial advisor decides how and when the money is to be used. The family has not established its own purpose to the money. There are no family conversations about money. Although the sale of the product was completed two years ago, there are already disagreements about whether or not to let the next generation know about their wealth, where to send their children to college, and whether or not to help an older generation with their mounting health care bills. The financial advisor is not equipped to help the family build a framework of purpose to the money so family conversations about money can be neutral rather than tense.

Another family, whose story I know, doesn’t want their children to know about the money they received from the sale of a business. They decided, after receiving their initial check that nothing would change at home. But within a few months, one parent had quit work, wanted to move their parents to live near them, and was adamant that they did not want their older teenage children to know anything about “the money” as it may ruin them. The other parent has found that they cannot engage in a meaningful conversation with their spouse about their money. It has created a gap between them.

Money, in families, needs to become just another topic conversation or more families run the risk of finding that their money becomes a “home wrecker.” When money is not talked about and understood for its role in the family’s life, data supports the fear that the next generation will “blow it.”

“How did my parents blow it when my grandparents had so much money?” is a question I am often asked. “They didn’t know any better. Nobody taught them about what money meant to them nor helped them construct a framework of purpose that the family shared, developed and sustained across generations.

What can you do to affect a framework of purpose and financial smarts in your family? Let me know I would like to hear your comments.

Change the Narrative to Connect in Money Conversations Part 1

Money conversations are not always easy. Surveys by the Certified Divorce Financial Analysts show that money is one of the top causes of divorce while Think Health Magazine finds it to be one of the top two causes of divorce.

 

Dr. Brad Klontz a financial psychologist and associate professor at Kansas State University has found that money anxieties are fostered because people are not generally used to talking about money in a substantive manner. Too often it can “seem like a mind field that can easily go wrong, Brad says.

 

Couples can find that there disparate upbringing, experiences and expectations around their money spill into their expectations and judgments of their partner’s habits and behaviors. Of course, their partner had their own set of money experiences growing up that they bring into the relationship. Because “much of their beliefs around money are held in their unconscious,” Brad continues, “they really don’t come out to play until you are in a relationship.” These money stories and scripts can play havoc on primary relationships when the current money habits and behaviors play out.

 

Allianz’s LoveFamilyMoney Study, conducted in 2014 with over four thousand adults, found that financial issues causing the most stress in spouses were: planning for future needs at 76%, covering current financial expenses at 62%, and getting out of debt at 56%. Allianz’s study further revealed that 28% felt they spent too much on unnecessary things, 29% said their financial baggage was difficult to overcome and 23% were not saving enough money.

 

Resentments can build when the right conversations are not held. It is important for couples who are arguing over money to take a moment to change the narrative. Instead of rehashing the perceived problem expressed by “the other person,” engage in a different conversation about money. Asking the right questions, which we will delve into in the next blog, make a big difference to feeling like you have a strong financial partnership.

 

How are money conversations in your home? Let me know. If they are precarious, our next blog will introduce conversation tips to transform your home money anxieties to understanding and resolutions.

Buried Emotions around Money were Revealed When…

Because I often host money workshops, I do not have the experience that my workshop attendees (mostly intergenerational members of families) have. It was a delight to be able to participate in a workshop hosted by a therapist.

 

In this money workshop, we all pretended to be a family. Although none of us were related, it did not take long for emotional dynamics to come into play between us.  

 

The first direction was to take the bills out of our wallets and give these bills to the host. Immediately questions of trust were unearthed. Would the money be returned? Should I hold back any bills? Who cares, it’s just money, right? were just some of the dynamics that came up.

 

Next, the host asked for a volunteer to count the money the host was holding. That brought comments like: “How can we trust the counter?” “Are they going to keep the money?” “Can I count the money too to be sure they counted it correctly?”

 

Next, the host asked for a volunteer to divide the pile of money into seven uneven piles (matching the number of participants.) The host then picked up a pile, gave it to the first person, picked up the next, gave it to the second person and continued to distribute the piles like this until all the piles were distributed.  As you can imagine, this created quite a stream of comments as some felt short changed while others felt like they got a good deal from the initial amount they had given the host. One person felt like a weight had been taken off his shoulders as the pile he got was more than what he had borrowed from another player to give to the host (he did not have any bills in his wallet.) One person left the game frustrated that this was “going nowhere. You’re just moving money here and some of it was my money that I no longer have.”

 

The host then told us to put any money that we had above the smallest amount a player had in their hand, in a pile on the floor. Each participant now had the same amount of money in their possession. Tension turned to relief and awkward laughter.

 

The host asked everyone to talk about their favorite charities which we did, one at a time. The host then had us talk about what should be done with the money in the pile on the floor. Should it be returned to the participants or should it be given to one of the charities mentioned by us? We had seven minutes to reach consensus. We did not reach consensus. The host then had everyone pick a number from a hat. He called out a number and the person holding that number was identified. The host then told us we had another five minutes to reach a consensus about what to do with that money or it would go to the person holding the number he called. Still no consensus so the host gave the money in the middle of the floor to the person whose number he had announced.

 

Two people were okay with the outcome; two people were outraged that their money had been “taken from them”; one person asked what the person who was awarded the money was going to do with their new money? The person with the money said they would either give it to the charity they had defended or they would return it to each participant so they could be made whole. But the group had to come to a consensus on which choice to make. The decision was to give it to the organization that the person holding the money had talked about.

 

We then debriefed on the exercise, paying close attention to the emotions we exhibited and the feelings we had during the various sections of the money exercise. I found myself noting reactive behaviors triggered by feelings I had as a child around money.

 

Money exercises are a wonderful way to experience beliefs and emotions around money. You can identify patterns of behaviors that are unproductive and introduce new patterns of behaviors that encourage productive habits and behaviors around your money. Often, we hide and bury these feelings but they can come up in the oddest places.  

 

If you would like to explore a money exercise with your family or group, let me know. I would be delighted to develop a money workshop for you.

As They Removed Their Masks, This Choir Left Us in Tears

I recently returned from the GALA Choruses’ tenth quadrennial music festival held in Denver. With over 130 choruses and 6,500 singers from all across the U.S. and overseas, men and women commanded the various stages at the Denver Performance Art Center, the Convention Center and other downtown locations, with amazing shows.

One chorus, The Beijing Queer Choir made its debut at this festival. For this courageous and ground breaking group, joining a welcoming and supportive family of singers was very important. You see, in China, their lives as gay and lesbian people has to remain in the shadows. Family ostracization, lack of community support, and pressure from the government to marry and have children keep their identities concealed when they are performing on stage.

The members did not want to obtain individual visas for fear that “coming out” would led to harassment and imprisonment.  Although being gay is legal, it is not tolerated. Finally, three weeks before the festival in Denver began, the group was given permission to leave China and travel on a group visa, keeping their individual information protected.

Once visas were secured, plane tickets had to be purchased. As you can imagine, the cost of airline tickets this close to departure, was very high. After many conversations with various airlines, and ten days before the start of the festival, tickets were secured.

When performing in China, this eight-year-old choir performs with masks on so they cannot be individually identified. When they stepped on the Denver stage each had a mask on to cover their faces to keep their identities secret while they performed. As the interpreter talked about the great welcome and support they were experiencing in Denver, the singers, one by one, removed their masks. It was a powerful moment for the audience to watch these performers one after another, remove their masks, and reveal, for an audience, their faces, for the first time. And one singer kept their mask on to highlight the fear of retribution gay and lesbian people in Beijing have in “coming out.”

As you can imagine, the audience erupted in howling applause, tears and standing ovation for this chorus armed with courage, purpose, tenacity and commitment.

It was powerful to witness and experience the Beijing Queer Choir as they made their debut in Denver, unmasked.

Leave me a comment on how you have used courage and strength to identify and become who you are.

The Experience that Connected the Family Beyond the Photos Was Worth So Much

Knowing she was dying, Anne wanted to make sure her children knew who all the people in the pictures were. So, together, they went through five albums and hundreds of loose photos that reminded Anne of her past, her heritage, the things she did, and the people to whom she was connected by blood, but knew little about.

 

The first time I stopped by, I was shown where the photo albums and most of the loose pictures were located but Anna did not open the albums.  The second time I came over, Anne instructed two of her adult children to show me the pictures on the guest room wall and explain who everyone was in those photos. But her children were unsure of who these people were. Yes, they had listened as their Mom went over the pictures with them, but they quickly forgot the information as these people did not mean anything to them. The photos were merely pictures of the past without anything more to connect with them.

 

So when I returned to the room where Anne had set up her daily life, I asked her to step back, in her mind, to a time of her life, when she was a little girl, 10 or younger, I could see her expression change as she remembered that time in her life. I then asked her to conjure up someone, perhaps a school teacher, a religious teacher, a sports coach, a friend’s parent, an after school organizational leader, someone who had a tremendous positive impact on her. Without hesitation, she exclaimed that she was thinking of her friend, Lisa. I asked Anne to describe Lisa which Anne did, a smile growing on her face, her eyes sparkling with joy and contentment. I then asked what one stood out as being a powerful trait that Lisa had. Again, without hesitation, Anne gazed into my eyes and boldly stated: “Acceptance. Lisa showed me then, as she always has, the power and possibility of acceptance.” Delving into the importance of acceptance to Anne became a powerful point of Anne’s story. Tears welled up in her eyes as she talked about the power and beauty acceptance has had in her own life.

 

I, who has known Anne for ten years, felt a shock wave confirming my own experience of how important acceptance has been to Anne. Anne confirmed this by saying acceptance is one of the most important principles and traits to her. She smiled. I looked over at her adult children, who had witnessed this conversation and their eyes expressed a sense of shock as they just learned something about their mother they had never known. It was a profound moment of great bonding.

 

As her children witnessed a greater sense of their Mother, tears came to their eyes. They said: “We have gotten to know our mother more powerfully in this conversation and in ways we will never forget and in ways that we can carry forward and nurture. We wish we knew the people in the photographs like that. This is where the connection is, not in the scene they are in or the pose they have struck.”

The Time Has Come and Yes, I Do Feel Different

I have experienced discrimination. I remember being an early longshore woman in the Midwest, before woman were able to join the union. I was the woman who could last long enough to make it into the union, but the union kept its doors closed to me.

 

I remember being ridiculed for driving a truck, for being intelligent, for wearing pants in college, and for running for office in organizations that had not yet nurtured or cultivated women leaders. I did these things, not to prove a point, but simply because I could.

 

So, today, I have to admit, it does feel different now that a woman will be the official nominee of a major political party in the U.S.  I feel that I and women in general must be taken seriously when we step out of “traditional roles” and contribute talents, skills, perspectives and brain to the fabric of society.

 

This is a great moment, a legacy moment that will carry us, with more grace and confidence and acceptance into the world we shape.

 

We asked for this. We got it. Now we have to take responsibility for what we have created. This is big. It is a legacy moment.

 

Let me know how it feels to you to have a woman candidate of a major party here in the United States. I would love to read your comment.

The Family Mission Becomes the Family’s Valuable Compass

By drafting a family mission statement, you are providing your family a compass to guide it on its journey as a cohesive unit through the years, through individual successes and challenges as a cohesive unit This mission becomes the family’s compass to guide it as a unified unit while also building independent and productive individual lives.

Today it is common to find a break in connection within two generations of a family. Siblings grow up, form their own families and meet up again only on social media and occasional family gatherings. Without a common and shared bigger purpose their connections weaken with the growth of their own lives and families.

Having a common purpose that is actively developed and supported by all members creates bonds of trust and a community of companions that stays connected. Their compass becomes their trusted anchor and guide. It remains steadfast through their lives.

It does not take that much to create a family mission statement. Here is a simple checklist to consider as you guide your family or your clients’ families to staying connected for generations.

  • As a family, identify and talk about your individual as well as your collective values. This provides an opportunity to ask yourself both as an individual and as a family: “What matters most to us?”
  • Determine together the mission of your family. This is the opportunity to ask yourselves, as a family:” What do we stand for?”
  • Create your shared mission statement that, as a unified body, you want to develop with your strong foundation of unified values. This becomes your community compass
  • Discuss how each individual can add meaning to the family’s shared purpose and mission with their strengths and values and actions that strengthen the mission and their bond.

 

Having a family mission sets roots for a family’s heritage and legacy to develop for years and generations to come. It is a rich compass for a family to nurture and perpetuate.  

Leave me a comment with your thoughts on building a family compass by finding its mission. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic