“Mum and Dad are fighting again.”
Embarrassingly, this was not the passing comment of a child. It was our employee, making comment to another employee on the state of our relationship as business partners and a married couple. Yikes – talk about a wake-up call!
We are both very opinionated, passionate about life and business, and strong willed, but that was no excuse for the communication breakdowns that were obviously happening right in front of our team.
It goes without saying that open and honest communication is critical in all relationships. As business coaches, we don’t just teach you about the importance of the words you use, but we also emphasis how you communicate – your tone, your gestures, your facial expressions. And for those of us married to our business partner, it’s even more critical that we’re actively using effective communication techniques. That’s the reason we need to master it.
Every individual grows up in their own unique family situation and environment. When we form a relationship with someone, we each bring our own perspectives, conditioning, methods of communication, patterns of behaviours and response mechanisms into future relationships. Consequently, how we communicate with our partner is influenced by our own view of the world. This is likely to differ from how our partner views the world.
At Kaibizzen, one way we illustrate this concept is by giving a fictional example of John & Mary Doe. Mary grew up in a household where no-one swore except for her father when he was very angry. Growing up in this environment, Mary has an unconscious association between swearing and anger. So, when she hears someone swear, she immediately feels anxious and determines that person must be furious.
John, on the other hand, grew up in a family where swearing was more common. He’d likely hear it if someone stubbed their toe, accidentally picked up a hot pan or were running late for the office. In that environment, John learned that swearing is something you do to express a momentary pain, or minor inconvenience.
So, what happens in this relationship when John swears during an argument? Well, maybe Mary immediately thinks he’s overreacting and so she takes a defensive position. Or, maybe Mary feels the sharp stab of anxiety and completely withdraws from the argument, leaving John feeling frustrated that they can “never” have a constructive conversation.
Remember, communication not only consists of words, but also facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures and other cues. In human evolution, we had gestures before we had language. That means that the non-verbal cues we use – including rolled eyes, heavy sighs and tapping fingers – communicate more than any words that we say.
In business and in relationships, there are many issues that need to be discussed and decisions that need to be made. How we communicate in the situations we face impacts the culture and success of the business and our relationships.
It is important to remind ourselves in any conflict situation that those two different interpretations, reactions, responses and perspectives are right from each individual’s perspective.
More often than not, one of the greatest enemies of open and honest communication is making the other person wrong.
Maybe you’ve heard the formula for communication theory? Person A “encodes” their message from their own perspective, having very clear in their mind the message that they want to put across. Person B then “decodes” the message from their perspective.
Inevitably, if Person A does not ensure that Person B receives the message the way they intended, then unsurprisingly, Person B goes and does something different to what Person A wanted! This is typically how most arguments start.
So, it’s quite possible that your partner is not being deliberately hard to get along with, it’s just how they’ve interpreted what you’ve said to them!
It would blow our minds if we stopped to calculate how much energy, time and money we waste simply because we just assumed the other person knew what we meant.
Owning a business can be very stressful, and we can often take out that stress on the person we love the most.
As business coaches, we often remind business partners who are also married to be grateful that you take your stress out on each other. It might sound like odd advice, but it means that they love you enough, and feel safe enough to express his deepest feelings in those situations. If they didn’t love you enough, they wouldn’t do that. This doesn’t excuse the behaviour, but it did help me to respond from a more generous and constructive place.
One of the things that we have learned from working together is that if we don’t agree on an issue, it generally means one of two things:
(a) The person has not prepared their case well enough.. or
(b) There are things that the one person can see from their perspective that the other person has not considered
We have reached resolution and alignment on so many situations in business because we are consistently reminded that whilst individually we are good, together we are great!
Our different perspectives are one of the greatest gifts that we have EVER been given.
So, there you have it. For the success of not only our businesses, but also our marriages, it is important to understand and practice open and honest communication at home and in our workplaces. Mastering the art of communication is the very reason our business (and marriage) has thrived over the past 18+ years.
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