Resolving Conflict in Your Business

Your partner just did that annoying thing AGAIN.

This has to be the third time in the last few weeks and it’s driving you insane. How can he not know how ridiculous and insulting it is when he does that? You’re furious and you make darned sure he knows it.

Sound familiar?

Everyone has these moments – Especially in business, but at home too.

Here’s the thing: If something isn’t ok with you, you have to say so. No matter how obvious you think it may seem, you have to actually communicate (out loud and using words, not eye rolls, foot stomps, glares, or sighs). When is the best time to let someone know it wasn’t ok?

The very first time it happens. When it’s still small.

Why then?

Because it isn’t a loaded issue at that point. It’s a simple reset. Something didn’t go like you expected, it’s not a big deal.  You aren’t angry over the countless times it’s come up. You aren’t frustrated yet. You just saw something that you think should deb handled differently.

Likewise, your partner isn’t dug in yet – entrenched in his behavior either. He isn’t puzzled or angry or frustrated himself because you don’t see things his way. You have insulted each other, you haven’t yelled or screamed or gotten personal. 

At this point, it’s an easy conversation to have, especially compared with the emotional, possibly business-ending one that I get called to help defuse months or years later. If it’s a personal relationship, you may just give it a chance at becoming something amazing. 

Believe it or not, it isn’t unusual for teams to have this problem. It’s also not automatic that teams figure it out. Personalities dominate, anger over perceived slights and insults festers for years without ever being resolved – even in successful companies; even in “successful” relationships. It doesn’t have to be that way… I promise!

I help startup teams and companies resolve conflict. Lack of this basic learned habit (communication) is to blame for the vast majority of cases I’m called to help with. Good communication is more habit than skill – in fact, I see good communicators suffer from lack of a routine more than quiet types who know they have to work at maintaining connection.

A typical scenario like the one at the beginning of this article happens because the owners or partners are alike in many ways. Because we share so much, we are led to a false sense of connection and we assume we will each see problems the same way.

We assume that two people, facing the same problem, and sharing access to the same information, will automatically decide the same thing about what to do.

What happens when your partner (spouse, co-owner, boss, etc.) does something unexpected? You’ve just finished talking about how tight the household finances are, and your spouse goes and spends money you don’t have on something you think is a luxury you can’t afford.

The first time this happens, you’re probably puzzled more than angry (ok, you’re probably angry too). But by bringing up the issue NOW, though,  you allow it to turn into a productive conversation and play off each others strengths. Maybe the money was spent on a networking event that holds big potential for new business, for example. Now you’ve just flushed out an important question: Is it ok to spend money to grow the business? Maybe it is. 

By having this “unloaded conversation” now, you can setup a healthy, productive routine. I suggest you formalize this routine and do it weekly. Make a standing, simple agenda that forces each person to bring up 2 simple things: Expectations for the week ahead and a *brief* review of the previous week. Now it’s not personal, you’re just going through the agenda you’ve both agreed on beforehand. 

By each being open to understanding the other’s view – just for a few minutes – and not belittling or threatening, you foster useful dialog and conversation.

A weekly meeting like this should be short and sweet – twenty to thirty minutes at most. This takes practice and it means that you have to bring up things that feel uncomfortable, but you’re worth it. Your business is worth it. Your relationship is worth it. I coach clients to use this routine, and I use it myself with my spouse. 

It doesn’t always happen, and it isn’t a 100% success, but it DOES give us a framework to use when the important questions come up. 

Which do you choose… a few words now, or a breakdown / blowup later on?

Personally, I’ve been down both roads. I know which one I prefer!