Larry, a 26-year-old man, and his fiancée, Joan, visit his parents for Christmas. Larry’s parents, Jack and Alice, have met Joan before and like her very much. Generally it is a positive situation all around. During dinner Jack announces, “We have a big gift for you this Christmas.” He continues, “We want to entrust the business to you, Larry and Joan, and have you move to Billings and run it.” Larry, gasping for air, says, “Oh, uh, thanks.” Joan says, “I don’t think that would work well for the two of us.” Alice says, “More pie Larry?” and “Joan, would you like some more turkey?” Alice continues to fill the silence with, “Jack, what do you think about this new gravy?”
The typical patterns for each person are:
- Larry generally avoids conflict and likes his parents.
- Joan is younger than Larry, and wants to find meaningful work on her own.
- Jack is forceful and used to people going along with his ideas.
- Alice avoids conflict and deflects it when it arises between others.
- What are the different positions? Interests?
- How might the parties perceive that their goals are incompatible?
- How might others be perceived as interfering in the accomplishment of their goals?
- What are some suggestions you’d make to help this family discuss the ramifications of the gift of the family business