December 12, 2009 - Communication is the glue that holds relationships together, a make-or-break ingredient among those involved in business, whether it is family owned or a business partnership. Communication is frequently cited as the number one problem that affects families in business.
Jeff Faulkner who has a background in family therapy and is a partner with The Rawls Group notes, family issues compel business decisions and, therefore, have a direct impact on the operation, performance, and value of the business. Commitment to effective family communication is imperative to business success.
Itís one thing to experience poor communication, but another to recognize it in yourself or family members. It is important to know how to identify when communication is going south and what can be done to turn it around. The following indicators explain different aspects of poor communication:
1. Avoidance of conflict
Rolling your eyes, turning your head, and leaving the room are all characteristics of dealing with difficult issues by withdrawing from the conversation. If not addressed, conflict avoidance can lead to a pursue/withdraw pattern in the relationship where one family member runs away from conflict while another pursues them, trying to force them to talk about the issues. The truth is that conflict is the natural pathway to resolving issues and enhancing family and business relationships.
2. The gloves come off
Raising your voices at one another, yelling, throwing things, fist fights, abuse are indicate the gloves are off! It leads to an attack/counter-attack pattern in the relationship where one family member says something negative and hurtful and another family member retaliates with the same. This pattern is characterized by an assumption that if I cause a big enough stink, then you will meet my needs, but the truth is that you are responsible for your own emotional needs. You must understand what the emotional need is you are trying to get met to be heard, listened to, needed, wanted, desired, regarded, important, respected, etc. Whatever it is, you need to identify it and own it, advises Jeff Faulkner of The Rawls Group.
Now this one is easy to get into. We all interpret what other people are saying to us through our own prism of past experiences. We need to understand that what makes perfect sense to me makes little to no sense to the other person engaged in conflict. The indicators of misinterpretation: when the other person in the fight is turning what you say into something negative or something you didnít mean at all (or vice versa), or when you perceive that the other person is in a certain mood, when they say they arenít. Neither party feels heard and understood; therefore, both parties are striving more vociferously to be heard and understood. In this instance you should focus on being a good listener and seeking first to understand. If one party will take the initiative to begin seeking to understand the other, the conflict will de-escalate, and both parties will begin to listen more effectively. The speaker has to make it easier for the other to hear.
4. Failure to affirm
Failure to affirm is to disregard the other personís viewpoint and to say that the viewpoint has no validity. Have you ever had your viewpoint, opinions, or efforts put down? Have you ever felt disregarded in the midst of conflict? Has the person you are arguing with ever said that doesnít make sense or thatís illogical? The way through this negative pattern is to focus on listening for the purpose of understanding how this viewpoint could make sense to the other party. In reality, everybody's viewpoint has validity. It may be illogical, but destructive conflict is rarely is about a discrepancy in factual data. Destructive conflict is in essence emotionally driven. When you can understand that the other personís viewpoint has validity, essentially getting to the point where you can say, I can see how you see it that way. If I were in your shoes, Iíd probably see it that way too, and then you are on your way to resolving conflict effectively.
5. Deterioration or decay
This begins to occur when other conflict issues have been going on long enough that the relationship begins to lose any emotional connection. When everything in the relationship begins to turn negative and there is no positive regard for the other person, deterioration and decay are beginning to set in. The other person cannot do anything or say anything right and, therefore, they must not be the right person to be in relationship with. By the time your relationship gets to this point, all trust in the other has leaked away. Without trust, the ability to restore the relationship may be a lost hope, and a relationship split is highly probable. There is a belief that I can walk away from this relationship and go find one thatís better suited to my needs, but the t truth is to realize that the grass is greener where the grass gets watered and fertilized. Further, a recognition that the world does not revolve around you will soon come when you find another relationship only to eventually learn that the same patterns are beginning to emerge.
Poor communication can ruin any relationship. Communication takes hard work and a commitment to understanding, listening, and self-control. Proper communication tactics do not always come naturally. Communication is a skill. Just like any other skills you wish to develop, you must seek out help and work hard at developing the skills you are taught. Taking the time to develop the necessary skills for effective communication will enhance your relationships in all areas of your life, but is imperative for the success of your family business.
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