Important Conversations for Family Gatherings

How you can help your family unlock its ‘soul capital’

Key Takeaways:

  • A legacy conversation is a frank discussion in which the older and younger generations share their views about what really matters to them.

  • Show and tell is a good technique for getting families to reveal their values in action.

  • Combining “soul capital” with financial capital will help families clarify their core values.

Now is the time of year when many extended families get together for some R&R at a family vacation home. While the bonding and elaborate meals can be great, living in close quarters, even for just a few days, can strain relationships among even the closest of families.

Throughout the course of our work with successful families empathy has been central to our practice. Empathy is about “feeling with” another person.

“Walk a mile in my shoes” is the old adage and listening—is one of the most important ways to do that. We spend so much time texting, tweeting and multi-tasking today, that listening has become almost a lost art. But, when someone listens to you, I mean REALLY listens, there is nothing like it. The rapt attention someone pays to you is a blessing and a gift. To be heard, seen and validated is a true gift.

All family members need empathy. Renowned psychologist Carl Rogers called this “unconditional positive regard.” It is the deepest form of acceptance.

When a family needs to address legacy issues, it’s important to be honest with each other about what really matters. For a family to do this there needs to be empathy.

When I was a kid in school, my favorite activity was show and tell. To bring some special personal object in to share with my classmates was a sheer joy. I also loved hearing about my classmates’ objects and the stories that filled my imagination. Each time, I learned something new, unique and often intimate about my classmates. And of course, when it was my turn, I beamed.

Talking about what really matters

What is a legacy conversation? It is a conversation in which the older and younger generations sit together and talk about what really matters. What really matters is each other; the family relationships and the way the family relates to each other and loves each other.

Money and other family assets are important because they sustain the family into the future. These things can be seen as giving stability or causing instability, depending upon how the family is doing with itself. If the family is good, wealth is good. If the family is not good, wealth can make it worse. So the show-and-tell notion related to legacy conversations has to do with honestly sitting together and talking about who we are, how we are and what we have. The family elders tell the stories about how they got here. They inform the “middlers” and the “youngers” what worked for them and what didn’t.

These conversations become sacred conversations because they contain wisdom. I use the phrase “soul capital.” Wisdom is different from knowledge. Knowledge is information and wisdom is deep and painstakingly won insight.

Wisdom is unique and particular to each family since every family dynamic is different. So when these kinds of conversations are held, they become sacred, as spiritual capital represents something bigger than the self and family—something that guides and protects us.

Legacy conversations are “show and tell” events as well. When grandfather and grandmother are sharing at a family gathering, the stories they tell are often gems from their past. Show and tell is a ritual that reveals a family’s values in action. As this sharing continues, the family begins to show and tell together. Over time, this simple sharing turns into what I believe to be sacred conversations. In these conversations lies true wealth.

Successful families that initiate and maintain conversations about legacy, values and related issues discover deep treasure. Why is it that most families don’t hold conversations like this? In a word: intimacy. When we become intimate with each other, we reveal. Vulnerability is uncomfortable.

Discomfort creates anxiety or pain. The paradox is that when a family is courageous enough to delve into these kinds of conversations, the discomfort passes over time, and what a family and its individual members find is unity. With family unity, anything is possible.

The soul capital of a family

Legacy conversations are sacred because they contain stories from the elders, middlers and newers that carry the “soul” capital of a family. Soul capital married with financial capital clarifies and empowers families to live their core values truly. Sacred conversations lead to true family flourishing.

I use the phrase “sacred conversations” because of the depth that lives in the inner world of family. At the core is love. Love is sacred; it is divine. In essence what lies in waiting for prosperous families is a different kind of wealth—soul capital.


When a family engages in family meetings to address legacy questions, it is good to begin with show and tell. Simple storytelling captures the essence of what brought a family to have a legacy to pass on.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail


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