University of Northern Iowa



Breakfast Session on Crucial Conversations - What I Learned

Posted on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

Our last Breakfast Series session focused on how to have tough conversations as a family.  We drew a lot on the concept that difficult topics often get swept under the rug until they become giant “Jerry Springer moments” with our business family.

I wanted to take a minute to reflect on some things I learned from our panelists (Heidi Vermeer-Quist of VQ Consult and Warren Jacobs and Warren Phillips of Transformative Workplace Solutions).  So here are some thoughts, in no particular order:


1.  Start with YOURSELF      

The ability to have a crucial conversation on a sensitive family business topic (Entitlement, Poor job performance, Compensation, Etc., Etc. ) starts with YOU.  Its not just about “How can I talk my family into my point of view or course of action.”  We need to realize that most of the change will come internally and this is incredibly hard to accept and then accomplish.  We need to view the world through other lenses – by seeing and respecting the points of view of our other family.  This isn’t going to be easy and (like losing weight) its not going to happen over night.  

2.  Ask YOURSELF  

“How do I want my relationships with family members to look?”  If I am always trying to get my way or selling my ideas to everyone else, its going to shut them down.  If I want healthy family bonds, I have to be willing to be more like glue and less like a harsh abrasive (not sure on my metaphor here but just go with it)

3.  2 Kinds of People 

In the case of our discussion last week the world boils down to “aggressors” and “avoiders”.  First, know which one you are.  For me, its pretty easy, I tend to be an aggressor with my family.  As GI Joe always told me after school on WGN – “Now you Know and Knowing is Half the Battle”  Man I miss that show.  Anyway, once you know which type you are, be intentional about handling that.  For me, it means finding the right times to take on these topics, asking questions of others, and avoiding the use of “You Statements.” – which brings me to #4……………….


now-you-know-and-knowing-is-half-the-battle - Alpenglow Benefit ...


Of course this is also true, but still…. 

Knowing, Is Half The Battle 02/05 – BOY MEETS LIFE


And in case you now have the theme song stuck in your head:    (Man I hated Cobra)

4.  Use “I Statements” 

This one really hit me.  When a conversation goes south its often because we start saying “you did this”, “you didn’t do that”, “you always…”  Googling this concept will give you endless reading because its so important.  We need to speak from “I”.  “I feel”, “I think”, “I feel frustrated when you…”  There is a whole wiki page on this one -  - who knew, right?


That covers 4 big life lessons, with a little help from GI Joe. I know your attention span is only so long – so I can see a Part 2 of this coming soon as there were so many great nuggets of advice from this past session.  

If you are interested in how our family business programming can be a resource for your family, please check us out online and join us on June 12th when we discuss Family Governance – or as I call it “another tool to help your family avoid chair-throwing hysteria.”