NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Q: Noah... My business partner and I share good communication and productivity. We're confident in one another's strengths, intelligence and conceptual ideas. Yet, we handle things very differently. I am a bit more mild-mannered. I bet he would say I don't always speak my mind. He is a more straight-forward negotiator, which in my eyes sometimes comes across as a bit too aggressive (loud!). These defining characteristics sometimes cause conflict over small issues which then become big issues. How can we communicate better to fortify our partnership? Thanks.
A: At the start of your question, you stated a confidence in one another's strengths. Acknowledging those strengths to one another is an excellent place to start improving communication.
Like any committed relationship, there was probably something innate and somewhat indescribable that brought you two together.
While you may approach a problem or situation differently, it's essential that you continue to have confidence not only in each other's intellect, but in each other's core motivation for being in business together.
I encourage you to keep looking at your relationship through this lens.
It's essential to remember that you're each bringing your individual histories into the partnership. You've both experienced conflicts with co-workers in the past and have obviously found intelligent strategies to overcome them.
Perhaps a good course of action is to look closely to see if your old ways need editing.
According to your question, you and your partner are both asking for paradigm shifts from the other. Therein lies the raw material to truly communicate and begin meeting on fresh, shared ground.
Since you've asked the question, my tips will address your voice opposed to that of your partner's.
- Attempt to listen without judgment. When you separate your feelings from your partner's direct critiques and focus on the content, you'll be more effective for the partnership.
- Surrender your defenses. When one tries to anticipate their partner's reactions or behaviors, they will often go into a defensive mode. This mode will automatically encourage the dynamic to reoccur. This results in a zero-win scenario.
- Rather than being fearful of potential conflict, assure your partner that you hear what's being said. This alone will diminish his excessive volume.
- Focus on the present. A miscommunication about a simple task can so quickly turn into a discussion about your entire relationship! Keep the discussion focused on the topic, not the entire history of your business. If every single decision becomes a verbal sparring match, your productivity suffers.
- Be careful not to communicate passive aggressively through negative non-verbal communication. Be mindful of your body language; eye rolling, abrupt silences, etc. These physical actions can speak loudly.
- Don't dissect! As business consists of many small activities, responsibilities, decisions and interactions it's necessary not to over-analyze every single transaction. Sometimes silence is best. Sometimes we all just need to be agreeable.
- Recreate your mission. Always remember the reason you chose to build a business together. Do not allow your different communication styles to interfere with that mission.
I wish you both the best of luck.
Last week, I had the pleasure of appearing on Huffington Post Live with host Abby Huntsman to discuss the stigma faced in our culture by those suffering from addiction.
Please send all questions to ASK NOAH at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a profitable and peaceful week,
This originally appeared on TheStreet.com on Sept. 14, 2012.