Are you experiencing frustration within your family? Do you feel unappreciated, overworked, or taken for granted?
Are you still doing everything for everyone and getting little to nothing in return?
Are you considering calling it quits on your relationship because you just can’t seem to communicate anymore?
STOP! This simple technique might be just what you are looking for.
Being a pragmatic sort (OK I know I’m Witchy Woo Woo too, but a girl can be both can’t she?) I have always considered my family to be my business. Not my job – you may note – but my business.
And in my business there are four partners. Myself, my life-partner, my son and my daughter, and for as long as we have walked this earth together we have worked together for the good of our family. For this to work we allow everyone to work to their strengths – let the organisers organise, let the domestic ones create a beautiful environment, let strong ones be strong and the weird ones be weird – there’s room for it all in a happy family!
Now that the kids are 15 and 18 they play an even bigger role in the success of Our Family Business, including passing exams (personal responsibility) and paying into the housekeeping from salary (group responsibility) but there has never been a time when they were not consulted, included and given a place in the decision making of out future.
When my son was 8 and my daughter 4 we crashed our car – well, actually we ‘crashed a deer’ as they put it and wrote off the vehicle. I had some money saved for a forthcoming holiday to Cornwall and it would buy us a new car. We sat the kids down, small as they were and explained our choice: To have one week at the beach but no car to do things ever day at home. Or buy a new car to get us about everyday and stay at home instead of going to the beach.
The kids voted to buy a car. They wanted trips out, to visit nanny, and to go on drives – rather than one week at the beach. They said ‘We can have ice cream in the garden and go to the lido to swim’ – finding their own solutions to offer to the table. And they felt empowered by being party to the decisions rather than upset at missing a holiday.
Today, a lovely lady on an FB group that I’m a part of posed a tricky conundrum: She felt unappreciated by her partner in the ways she most needed and felt she was working really hard and sacrificing lots to make her family work (including moving state, managing the kids solo whilst relocating etc – big stuff!!) She loved her husband but her resentment was growing and she felt she was going to explode..and they faced a two day car journey together imminently.
Here was my suggestion as a way of improving communications within her family and setting up for success once they moved and became settled once again – we all know how easy it can be to think new thoughts during a crisis, but quickly fall back into old habits once the routine is re-established.
The Secret Sauce to any Family Business – or happy family – is The Family Meeting.
Much like a business meeting, we can use this time to set schedules, make big decisions and re-assess our priorities. But when there are issues afoot (you know, those unspoken elephants in the room) then the meeting can take on a whole new dimension. It is important to get this meeting in the calendar so it becomes a regular, un-threatening experience. The earlier you begin this, the better, remember kids grow up watching what you do not listening to what you say (sorry to break it to you)
When this happens the meeting becomes a little like Group Therapy, a safe space in which to share our thoughts and feelings, be honest and upfront and dare to go there – even at the risk of upsetting someone. OF course, for this to work there must be strong boundaries – or RULES if you will (but who likes the word Rules, eh?)
So this is my guide to The Rules of The Family Meeting: I advise reading the rules aloud at the beginning of each meeting to remind everyone and get their agreement to maintaining them.
- Only Speak when you are holding the Talking Stick: A talking stick is a tribal method for ensuring a fair hearing for all in the circle. By passing the stick around the circle everyone is invited to speak or pass, but there is absolutely No Place for uninvited responses or ‘cross talk ‘ (changing the subject in response to another’s point). You can use a household item – a wooden spoon, or a treasured piece such as a pretty stone or crystal which is revered and treasured and will not ‘get lost’ between meetings.
- Always Speak for yourself: When it is your turn to speak you are invited to speak about you and yourself. Speak in the ‘I’ rather than the ‘You’: Say ‘I want,’ ‘I feel,’ I remember,’ I thought,’ rather than ‘You didn’t,’ ‘You never…’ ‘You always…’ ‘You are a…’ etc. You can clearly see the difference in energy and effect between the two set ups. Always speak for yourself – and tell the truth – so that if questioned later you will not have to ‘think’ of an answer, the truth is always present.
- The Family Meeting is a SAFE SPACE for the sharing of Our Truth. We are not responsible for how others feel if we are simply telling the truth as we feel it. We must not avoid telling the truth because someone else might not like it. It is vitally important in the building of trust and family bonds that we can in fact say things that others will not like – and know we are still loved and accepted by them. This is the basis of a loving family unity. To constantly be walking on eggshells so as not to upset anyone is supremely unhealthy and is disrespectful the person being mollified. The truth always comes out in the end – usually in a blazing row with everyone’s triggers and defences high. Use the safety and calm of The Family Meeting to avoid this – and model to your kids how to communicate in a healthy and honest way.
- This is what I heard: This is what I understood: After each person has ‘Said their piece’ it is important that they feel heard. Briefly passing the talking stick and allowing everyone to respond: only saying what they heard and understood – not answering or deflecting, but showing that they are present, listening and understanding. THIS IS VITAL. It isn’t something that comes naturally to us – but believe me it is the Magic Ingredient in any situation.
- Draft Proposals if needed: If something arises in the meeting that requires change, from scheduling to sharing of chores, this is the place to draft a new proposal, with everyone in agreement as to what you are trying to achieve. Of course you won’t always reach a consensus – and parents may well have a veto on financial decisions – but simply engaging the whole family in solving the problem to reach a mutual solution is massively empowering.
- Agreeing and Allocating: Once a proposal is drafted decide how everyone is to take part, allocate roles and responsibilities and allocate a time frame if applicable. Keep this agreement visible: Using The Family Planner is great to keep everyone accountable. If the issue needs revisiting – pop it on the agenda for the next meeting straight away.
- No-one is too young to take part. and there are no hierarchies in The Family Business. This is massively important as most of us were raised in a ‘Do as I say’ household and are liable to habitually follow suit. By openly acknowledging that everyone is valuable and has a part to play – you instantly raise the confidence of everyone and create a belief system for the kids grow up in of being seen, heard and valued. THIS cannot be understated. IT. IS. Gold.
- The Family Meeting can be used in many other settings: With couples, in shared houses and with extended families – anywhere where a group of people need to work and live together to create a happy life. If you are creative you may like to use a diary or journal to record what was said, and decisions made or any promises made – and decorate it as you see fit. Make it a thing of beauty, something to value and be proud of – warts and all – to love unconditionally, if you will, just like family!
This is my take on one way to run a happy ‘Family Business’ and get the most out of The Business of Family. IF you found it useful please share and comment below some ways in which YOU create a thriving ‘Family Business’.
P.S If you want more to learn more about how YOU can master your ‘Family Business, and more…grab my newsletter HERE and be the first to hear about new offerings and opportunities.
Hugs and Squishes