Sometimes I resort to unusual methods to solve a problem.
Recently I had two people in my office who were involved in a difficult estate situation. They were two of five adult children who had inheritance rights. So, to a degree they were united in interest. The guy was the Executor and a one fifth beneficiary. The woman was his youngest sister, also a one fifth beneficiary, who was living in the late Mom’s house.
I knew the Executor was under a lot of pressure from the other siblings to “get her out of the house and sell it”. They weren’t wrong, but he had never been firm with his baby sister.
When they came in she seemed quite comfortable with the situation as it was, and thought we were there to discuss how we (she, brother and I) would deal with the others.
I didn’t like thinking that brother wanted me to do what he should have, but I could understand his reluctance. His sister was fragile and he cared about her more than the sibs cared about her. He knew he should have been clear with her before, but he hadn’t done it.
It’s stupid to have a meeting where the most important issue is not discussed. I tried to get him to say what needed to be said, but he wouldn’t (or couldn’t) do it.
After awhile I said to them “You know, this may be a situation where I want to use the Cone of Silence, do you know what that is?” She said “It’s that thing Maxwell Smart wanted to always do when he talked the The Chief”. Yup. If you’re not familiar, here’s a Youtube link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsNR9FnxOdY.
I said to her “What I always found funny about the Cone of Silence is it doesn’t really work because other people can hear, but Maxwell Smart felt he could talk openly in there. If we use the Cone of Silence, I will speak openly about some important things. Are you OK with that?”
“OK” I said. “I am activating the Cone” …. and I made some mechanical sounds and some hand motions to indicate we were in the Cone of Silence.
I then looked her in the eye and said “Now that we are in the Cone of Silence what I want to say is this….While your brother does not like the way the others are acting, he very much wants you to leave the house. He doesn’t want to have to evict you, and he has been praying that you don’t force him to do that.”
Then I stopped, slowly raised my hands to indicate that the Cone of Silence was lifted, and said
“The Cone of Silence is off now.”
He was crying.
She finally understood.