Much can be said about the value of communication in business. But nothing is more important than clear communication when it comes to combining friendships and business relationships.
Over the past several years, I have been privy to disputes that I should never have been made aware of. Petty disagreements, cries of unfair business practices and statements meant to discredit other business people and their practices have been brought to my attention over and over. In every one of these situations, poor communication has been the catalyst to many disagreements and the poor behaviour that follows.
Starting and running one's own business is stressful and requires a level head. I have often spoken of the value of having passion about what it is that you do - and injecting passion into your business, however passion of the negative sort does not belong in a business communications and the work environment. In fact if anything, passion and emotion often clouds ones decision making ability.
Recently I heard of a disgruntled business owner who allowed their anger about a situation to take control of their emotions. Instead of dealing directly with the problem and the perceived people involved - this business owner began visiting other businesses and involving them in the dispute - asking them to take sides. It became very uncomfortable for everyone. In the end the disgruntled business owner had spoken to no less than five people about the issue and still had not yet approached the person that they had the problem with. Unfortunately this has caused hard feelings amongst several people. The actions in fact appeared to be rather childish.
Actions such as these unfortunately are not uncommon amongst small businesses. These actions are usually the result of poor communication and the inability to speak openly and honestly with others. There are several issues here that people need to be reminded of.
Business vs Friendship
In even the best of situations combining business with personal relationships there can be problems with boundaries - especially for women. Business appointments often include social talk and bounce between business and personal issues regularly. The upside of this can be that we connect on a personal and business level. The downside is that there are few boundaries and when one person becomes upset about the actions of another - the dispute becomes personal - resulting in unprofessional behaviour.
Boundaries and Communication
There must be boundaries in all business relationships. Clear and honest communication is the key to settling disputes. When angered or upset by a colleague's actions there are a few things you can do to settle the dispute with integrity
? Take a time out to clear your thoughts
? Write down the things that have upset you
? Wait a day before re-reading - remove emotion and rewrite the list
? Make an appointment to speak with that person- in person if possible stating you would like to speak with them privately about a matter.
? Do not involve other people in the matter by ‘unloading how you feel' - especially if the person is a mutual friend or business peer.
? Meet with the person and use ‘I' terms when approaching the matter. (eg I feel, or I would like, or I have noticed - not ‘you did' or ‘you said') Do not accuse others of wrongdoing
? Remember that people do things for their own reasons. Do not assume that someone has done something to ‘get you'. People often make decisions based on what they know about themselves, what they want and what is going on in their life.
Make Business Communications Professional
When considering disagreements - consider how this disagreement might have been settled in the boardroom. Treat all parties with respects and refuse to speak behind the backs of others when complaining about their actions. If you treat your business like it was a fortune 500 company - would this dispute have been handled this way? When you have a business you must treat it like a big business - and not a ‘mickey mouse' operation. Remember - you want your business to be taken seriously and that will not happen if you get personal or vindictive in your communications with others.
Finally - I cannot stress this enough. Each person sees things differently. People are driven by their own ideas of fairness, integrity, mores and values. Not everyone will agree all the time. Taking someone else's actions personally as if they were directed to hurt you or your business is unprofessional. If you have concerns - approach that person with the goal to understanding them first. Your feelings are your feelings - and only you can control them. No one can make you feel anything. The success of your business and relationships will hinge upon how you handle disputes and yourself.