Conflict is inevitable. The important issue is how a family deals with conflict. Conflict is much like fever in the body. Fever is a symptom of an illness, not the illness itself. Conflict is a symptom of a relationship problem, not the problem itself.
A conflict may be resolved in a number of ways:
- Arguing, which does not necessarily produce resolution.
- Fighting, which exacerbates the problem.
- Lawsuits, which are expensive, nasty, and typically destroy what remains of a relationship.
- Negotiation and collaboration — the preferred method.
- Some form of alternative dispute resolution, such as collaborative law, mediation or arbitration.
Arguing, fighting, and lawsuits are adversarial, dysfunctional methods of dispute resolution. They are zero-sum activities in which the more one party wins, the more the other party loses. The objective is to win; relationships are secondary.
Negotiation and collaboration focus not on positions, but on the parties’ interests, needs, fears, hopes and emotions. The parties tell their stories and define the solution. The process should attack the problem rather than the parties. The intent of the activity, particularly in the context of family disputes, is to preserve relationships and find solutions that are beneficial to all parties. In cases where parties lack the communication skills to resolve the issues themselves, a mediator may be brought in to facilitate the process. Conflicts may also be negotiated in a collaborative law process, without the need for harmful litigation.
Resolving conflict and transforming the processes by which family conflict is addressed is critical in family wealth-transfer planning. SeekingNorth facilitates families’ negotiation of conflicts with the aim of preserving relationships while resolving disputed issues. We also attempt to find the underlying causes of family conflicts and help transform the processes by which family disputes are resolved, enabling a smooth transfer of a family’s wealth to other family members, other generations, individuals outside of the immediate family, and for charitable or public purposes.