Guidelines for Holding Family Meetings & Practicing Good Communication

  • Try to hold the meeting in person if possible, but not over a holiday or during a family celebration, when emotions may already be running high. Avoid email, as it can lead to misunderstanding.
  • Hold the meeting in a space where everyone feels comfortable. Familiar places can reinforce old habits, so a neutral location may be preferable.
  • Err on the side of inclusiveness, especially at the beginning of the process. Inviting all family members, including spouses, ensures that everyone hears the same information firsthand.
  • Take a walk on the land beforehand if possible to give everyone an opportunity to reflect on what the land means to him or her.
  • Ask everyone to avoid making assumptions and try to keep an open mind. Criticize ideas, not people.
  • Give everyone an equal opportunity to share his or her thoughts. This may mean encouraging quiet family members to talk and asking more vocal ones to listen.
  • Use questions or “tell me more about that” to explore underlying concerns and interests.
  • Be clear about who is responsible for what and when. Establish follow-up tasks and deadlines.
  • Use the services of a trained facilitator if family dynamics suggest that your family needs assistance conducting healthy conversations and reaching consensus.