Did you ever notice how a family business conflict can last for years, even though everyone wants it desperately to end? That’s because no one wants to take that first step and confront another family member. Here’s a better alternative: Talk about your problem with someone outside the family.
We’ve blogged repeatedly about talking to other family members about the conflict before, but according to LaManna Alliance Family Business Advisor Tom Hubler, that usually doesn’t happen. People have a problem with talking about problems.
Why? Because it’s too painful. People will instead ignore it, and hope it goes away. Tom refers to this behavior as his “speck of dust” theory.
“Families are scared to death to talk about their differences, fearful that it will upset family relationships,” he said. “So they treat it like it’s a speck of dust and ignore it.”
This will only compound the problem. The issues will magnify, the family will grow more dysfunctional. Rationally, you may understand this, but fear is preventing you from reaching out to your family.
As a result, everyone does nothing.
The Alternative to Confrontation
Is there truly an alternative to confronting your family members? In the long term, no. But in the short term, if the thought of talking to a family member has you scared, you do have an alternative: Instead of talking to them, talk to someone else.
Find a person who is not part of the family and has no ties to the situation. Then talk about your conflict.
Tom told me a story of a father who was having trouble setting up a succession plan because of an internal family conflict. It was the first time Tom had met the man, but by the end of the meeting, the owner had tears welling in his eyes.
Why? I think it was the first time the poor guy really got to bare his soul regarding the conflict. He felt comfortable talking with Tom, who is a trained family and marriage counselor. Tom also has no ties to the situation, which allowed the business owner to say anything he wanted. The result was cathartic.
Perhaps even more important than being able to vent, Tom gave the business owner something that most people are desperate to find: The next step.
Face it, many of us are experts at leading companies, mastering new technologies, and finding financial success. But when it comes to handling difficult emotional issues, we’re lost. Even the most comprehensive “how-to” book can’t help in these matters.
They’re too nuanced. They require not only judgment, but experience, empathy, sensitivity and a whole lot of training.
More importantly, resolving family conflicts are simply not part of our daily conversation. We love talking about conflict: That’s the easy part. But when it comes to resolving it, people haven’t a clue.
Conflict Gets Tough This Time of The Year
The business owner came to Tom because he was in desperate need of a shoulder to cry on, and a helping hand for guidance. According to Tom, this need is only going to get worse as the holiday season rolls around.
Holidays are when families get together and practice long-standing traditions. Whether it’s a Christmas Eve dinner or a Thanksgiving Day football game, these are the times that define our families. If there is a long-standing conflict, this can also be extremely stressful; the feelings of intense love and togetherness you’d experience in a happy family are replaced by tension and stress with a not-so-happy one.
Ironically enough, this is the time when Tom doesn’t recommend talking about the problem. Instead, you should declare a truce.
“Make a deal, for the good of the family, to have a positive holiday experience,” Tom said. “Agree to deal with the issue after the holidays are over. But do everything possible to maintain the relationships. Family rituals are the glue that hold a family together. Build on that emotional equity."
Talk to Someone. Please.
I like to use this blog as a place to exchange ideas and share insights that can help you succeed. It’s not about selling you the services of the LaManna Alliance. It’s about bettering you and the printing industry as a whole.
My advice, therefore, is if you’re in the middle of a family business conflict, find someone, and talk. I’d recommend it be a professional, with experience in conflict resolution and family counseling. Find them and just talk to them.
Tom always has a free consultation session, where he lets family members get some of their issues out on the table. If you’d like to do the same, just click on the button below to talk to Tom about what issues you’re facing.
But please, if it’s not Tom, find someone. This will help you personally more than you can imagine. When the LaManna family first spoke with Tom years ago, it was like a tremendous weight had been lifted from our shoulders. The release is hard to describe.
The road through all those conflicts was rocky, and many of it still has yet to be resolved. But that’s life. It takes time, effort and perseverance. You do that for your business. Isn’t it time to do the same for yourself and your family?
If you’d like to schedule a free “Talk to Tom” session, just click on the box below!