How will we follow up?
We’ve included an extended case here to show how these prin
ciples might look when you find yourself in the middle of a cru
cial conversation. It outlines a tough discussion between you
and your sister about dividing your mother’s estate. The case is
set up to illustrate where the principles apply, and to briefly
review each principle as it comes up in the conversation.
The conversation begins with you bringing up the family sum
merhouse. Your mother’s funeral was a month ago, and now it’s
time to split up both money and keepsakes. You’re not really
looking forward to it.
The issue is made touchier by the fact that you feel that since
you almost single-handedly cared for your mother during the
last several years, you should be compensated. You don’t think
your sister will see things the same way.
YOU: We have to sell the summer cottage. We never use it,
and we need the cash to pay for my expenses from taking
care of Mom the past four years.
pum N G IT ALL TOG ETH ER 1 89
SISTER: Please don’t start with the guilt. I sent you money
every month to help take care of Mom. If I didn’t have
to travel for my jobs, you know I would have wanted her
at my house.
You notice that emotions are already getting strong. You’re
getting defensive, and your sister seems to be angry. You’re in a
crucial conversation, and it’s not going well.
Start with Heart
Ask yourself what you really want. You want to be compensated
fairly for the extra time and money you put in that your sister
didn’t. You also want to keep a good relationship with your sister.
But you want to avoid making a Sucker’s Choice. So you ask
yourself: “How can I tell her that I want to be compensated
fairly for the extra effort and expense I put in and keep a good
Learn to Look
You recognize a lack of Mutual Purpose-you’re both trying to
defend your actions rather than discuss the estate.
Make It Safe
Contrast to help your sister understand your purpose.
YOU: I don’t want to start an argument or try to make you
feel guilty. But I do want to talk about being compensated
for shouldering most of the responsibility over the last few
years. I love Mom, but it put quite a strain on me finan
cially and emotionally.
SISTER: What makes you think you did so much more than I
1 90 CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS