Have you ever given thought as to how you communicate?  Do you think before you talk or do  your emotions get the better of you causing you to talk before you think?

Our process of communicating goes back to when we were young – how we were taught, what we observed and what we were told we could and could not talk about.  As a result when we communicate today we are on automatic pilot and replicate what we learned.

Having run the Family Business Council of Greater New York for more than 12 years, I found communication or lack of, was one of the biggest problems family business owners face.  Good communication was hard to find.  It was more like……he said, she said or they said.

There are many factors that contribute to the process of poor communication — passivity, confrontational, irrational, tone of voice.  And even more frustrating is when your spouse, significant other or your children have selective hearing. Unfortunately, the dynamics of the family plays a major role causing many issues and in some instances major conflicts.  But it can be avoided.

My husband, son and I would meet each quarter to discuss plans for our family biz and brought in a facilitator to run the meetings.  I remember our first meeting when he brought a “talking stick.”  I questioned, “What is a talking stick?” He quickly explained it was a stick that has been used by American Indian tribes in designating who had the right to speak during Councils.  When the leader of the Council was finished talking he would pass the stick to the next individual waiting their turn.  The “talking stick” doesn’t have to be anything fancy he told us  – although our first talking stick was a beautifully hand carved stick from Viet Nam – some Indian Tribes used a feather, but it can be something as ordinary as a pen or pencil.  To this day, we still use a talking stick (it’s a favorite pen) when conducting business meetings and our communication is better than ever.

This is a simple and a fun way to improve communication with family members.  But there are other ways as well.  Observe how you communicate and how you want to be heard. Be aware of your emotions, your reaction to others and don’t judge.  Good communication can mean change and giving up some control.  We don’t always have to be right, it’s ok to agree to disagree.

I have a list of the top 10 tips for good communication.  Leave a reply if you would like a copy.

Till next time