Why can’t we just agree to disagree yet still get along?
It’s pretty amazing to me how families cut ties from one another as a result of an event or series of events.
Human beings can be stubborn individuals. People get stuck in their corner, convinced that their version of the story is the most accurate version. They’re not willing to re-open the subject and explore how their actions might have contributed to the meltdown. They don’t want to listen to that.
It’s usually easier just to blame the other guy then to take personal responsibility.
The unfortunate reality is that estrangements start to take on a life of their own and before you know it we look around and we haven’t seen our siblings, cousins or other family members for years. The longer it continues the harder it gets for anybody to try to broker a peace treaty.
Estrangements are very devastating to the fabric of a family and a family business. Estrangement is one of the landmines on our family business landmine map.
Can estrangements be avoided or are they a natural and inevitable part of a family?
I’m not sure. Every family and every situation is different. I’m sure in some cases the estrangement between two people in a way provides some relief to the family. If two people simply can’t get along or see eye to eye maybe it is better that they don’t interact.
The problem is in most cases as soon as two people don’t get along and don’t want to be around each other, everyone else in the family suddenly has to fall in line in terms of their own loyalties and taking sides.
I love trying to help people avoid this or repair the damage. I hate to see the sadness and dysfunction it causes in the whole family system when two people become estranged.
Emotions are a real part of being human –I get that. At the same time I’m encouraging everyone to try to step back, take a deep breath and see the legitimacy of the other person’s viewpoint.
I don’t have the same values as some of my family members. I don’t always agree with how they live their life or what they do but I also stand firmly committed to gathering as a family and practicing being open-minded and supportive of all family members.
If family members can learn to step back, take a breath and put their ego aside, many times they can come back to the table and try to forgive each other and mend as a family. Forgiving family members doesn’t entirely take away the sting of certain unfortunate events but, in the long run, isn’t the family better off to learn how to forgive each other and interact in some way as a family?
Here’s the way I like to think of it to put it in perspective. How would I feel if my son and daughter (now 24 and 26 years old) all of a sudden don’t want to be around each other anymore and subsequently none of the cousins want to be around each other anymore. I would be very upset and disappointed to see my family disintegrating.
I’d work hard to convince my son and daughter to try to put their personal differences aside and find common ground to stay connected on some level so the rest of the family would feel comfortable staying connected.
Estrangement can be extremely damaging to a family not to mention how disruptive it can be to families who operate family businesses. Estrangement within family businesses can be exponentially damaging to the family and the family assets.
I’d ask people to consider the following as they contemplate their family’s estrangement:
- Can we see the value in staying connected on some level while still “agreeing to disagree” on some issues?
- Can we see the value in practicing forgiveness in our own family as a good model for our larger communities to learn how to practice forgiveness?
- Can someone be a leader and take the first step toward putting a hand out to the other person in hopes of reconciliation and mending the family?
- Can we see how our egos and stubbornness can get in the way and subsequently cause long-term damage to the extended family?
- Can we be open to seeing things with an open mind or practicing acceptance of other people’s point of view?
I think there are situations where estrangement is the best answer but for a wide range of other family situations people might think about putting their ego aside, finding some common ground and keep the family together.
I’d welcome your thoughts on this subject let me know what you think.