Communicate By Expressing Yourself and Listening
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Communicate By Expressing Yourself and Listening

Communicate By Expressing Yourself and Listening

Combining family and business can be challenging, and when a crisis such as a recession or financial downturn hits, pressure builds and emotions can blow sky high. It takes work from all parties involved to manage emotions and work towards effective communication. Effective communication is difficult at the best of times and even more so during a crisis. It's important to fully realize that there are two major components to communication: expressing yourself and listening. Let's unpack these.

In family relationships, it's easy to assume that other family members know your needs, feelings, opinions, and how to accurately interpret the 93% of your non-verbal communication. However, mindreading can lead to anger, frustration, resentment, hurt, disappointment, loneliness, and other emotionally complicating responses. So to improve your communication and get better at expressing your thoughts and feelings, you may need to take time to listen to yourself first. Asking yourself, "What do I think about this? What am I feeling right now?" is a great starting point.

State your thoughts and feelings as clearly, honestly, and constructively as you can. Focus on how the situation or issue is affecting you, rather than assigning blame to the other person or pointing out something they did or said that you think is causing your reaction. Being succinct and specific is key. Don't avoid difficult conversations out of fear of how the other person is going to respond. This is a real challenge for most of us.

Be mindful of your non-verbal communication. Your family knows you and believes what your tone of voice, facial expressions, and posture are saying more quickly than what your words are saying. On the flip side, getting good at listening requires a lot of effort. When you listen well, you encourage others to express themselves and talk about what's important to them. Listening effectively demands an attitude of respect, openness, and acceptance. You don't have to agree with what your family member is saying, but you need to respect that they are an individual with their own views that may be largely different from your perspective.

Listening also requires being attentive. Put aside what you're doing, stop formulating your response while they are talking, and show them you intend to really hear them. Check your interpretations of their feelings. Clarify, "Are you saying...?" Feedback helps complete the communication cycle. That cycle is express to listener, listener hears, listener clarifies what they heard, speaker confirms they heard correctly - cycle complete. Any shortcut to that cycle represents incomplete communication.

Finally, for families in business together, there is often an assumption that because you are in the same building, you are communicating. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. There's a lot of passing each other in the hallway, both literally and figuratively. Families must create the time and space for effective and safe communication, one-on-one and as a group. Be sure to set aside special time for difficult problem-solving conversations. A family business council is an appropriate forum to create to assist your family with improving communication.

Effective communication is difficult but essential when it comes to combining family and business. It's important to realize that communication is not just about words but also about non-verbal communication. By taking time to listen to yourself, being clear and honest in expressing your thoughts and feelings, being mindful of non-verbal communication, and practicing attentive and respectful listening, you can improve your communication with family members in business. Don't assume that just because you're in the same building, you're communicating effectively. Creating time and space for communication and setting up a family business council can help you work through difficult conversations and improve your communication overall.

Kendall Rawls knows and understands the challenges that impact the success of a family-owned business.  Her unique perspective comes not only from their educational background; but, more importantly, from her experience as a second-generation family member employee of The Rawls Group - Business Succession Planners.  For more information, visit seekingsuccession.com or email info@rawlsgroup.com.

Published: March 27th, 2023

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