Helping Families Thrive for Generations to come...

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Building Harmony Across Generations
By Tom Conway, Conway & Associates, LLC

“Oh, it is so frustrating talking to my dad. He never listens. He says he listens, but his actions speak louder than his words. He says he wants to hear my thoughts and opinions, but then he just goes off and does what he wants to do.”

The frustration came out of Jane’s mouth as she shared her last conversation with her dad. She was exasperated, feeling misunderstood and undervalued by her father.

Jane was not a 13-year-old child; she was the 26-year-old executive director of the family foundation and had worked diligently to establish fund-request protocols with the board’s approval. Then Dad stepped in. Someone had approached him—off-line—asking for a gift that the board had previously declined. Dad reversed the decision and approved the request over the phone. From Jane’s perspective, it was just one more example of disrespect.

This family experienced a generational disconnect, a failure to understand and appreciate differences of age or stage of life. This creates feelings of disrespect that lead to surface-level communication as relationships weaken or even fracture. The children feel their parents aren’t listening. The parents feel their kids are being rebellious. Both sides become frustrated and discouraged. Unaddressed, the family drifts into a growing generational disconnect.

What can we do to build harmony into our family and respect the generational differences? Seek out paths of active listening. Active listening is only possible through the lens of humility. Humility frees us to listen with an attitude of respect and an expectation to learn.

See how you are doing with active listening by pondering these questions:
1. How have you exhibited disrespect to the other generations in the family? How have you exhibited an attitude of humility?

2. Have your busyness and broken promises created a barrier in your relationship with anyone in the family? How might you ask forgiveness from that person?

3. What exercise can you think of that would bring your family together and allow each generation to connect better with the others?

From the book, unHeritage: 11 Pitfalls to Family Legacy and How to Avoid Them
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