How to communicate with your business bestie
Communication is key to any successful relationship, whether it’s a marriage, a friendship, or a business partnership.
It’s so easy to get stuck in our heads and wonder why things go wrong instead of communicating. We often fall into the trap of believing that other people should be able to read our minds (or we try to read their minds) and completely neglect to find out what’s actually going on.
The good news is that communication is a skill, and skills can be learned.
I talk about this all the time in podcast interviews with incredible female entrepreneurs. When I ask what makes a business partnership really work, communication is always one of the first (if not THE first) topic that comes up.
So let’s look at some communication techniques that can take your business partnership (and any relationship) from good to great.
Our favourite communication techniques for you and your business bestie
1. Rate your commitment to your wants
Okay, what the heck do I mean by that?
You’ll run into situations when you want one thing and your business partner wants something else. This happens in all relationships, and we often make the mistake of thinking that our partner wants the same thing we do. Or maybe we’re not that set on our desire and we don’t realise how important this is to our partner.
A brilliant way to clarify this is for both of you to rate your desires on a scale of 1 to 10. For example, maybe your partner really wants to invest in a training for your contractors and you think it’s a waste of money. You might think you’re equally matched here. But if you both rate your feelings, you might realise that one person is way more invested in their position.
Maybe your partner is an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 and really wants that training. She thinks it would make a huge difference in your business and she’s confident that you could earn back the investment ten times over. But maybe you’re just a 4. You think you could use that money another way and you aren’t super excited about the training, but you know this investment wouldn’t bankrupt you and you agree that the training might have some benefits.
When you have that kind of clarity, you can start working on a solution. It might work best to yield to the person with the strongest desire, or you could work out a compromise. But you have to start with clarity.
Which leads to my next point...
2. Seek first to understand
This one is HUGE.
When we’re upset, our first instinct is to make ourselves understood. We want everyone to know how hurt WE are or how unfair this is for US. We’re usually happy to explain our side of things or our thoughts on a subject, but do we put the same effort into understanding someone else’s point of view?
It’s difficult and counterintuitive, but understanding someone else’s point of view can solve a lot of issues before they escalate.
So talk to your business partner and ask for her thoughts. Listen. Ask questions to clarify.
And this doesn’t just apply to conversations about tense issues, but all conversations. Enter every interaction with the intention to understand.
Remember, everyone acts in a way that is completely logical to them based on their own thoughts and feelings. When you understand those thoughts and feelings, their actions start to make a lot more sense.
When you understand, you have a much more rounded perspective and it’s much easier to find solutions.
3. Practice active listening skills
We all know that listening is fundamental to good communication and relationships in general, but most of us struggle with basic listening skills.
Be honest: when was the last time you interrupted someone? When did you last zone out while someone was talking to you? Have you acted passive aggressive with your body language?
If you’re like most people, you probably just realised your listening skills could use a tune-up. As they say, we listen not to understand but to reply.
Try these tips to get started:
Shut up. Don’t interrupt unless it’s absolutely necessary to ask a clarifying question.
Maintain eye contact.
Lean toward the person slightly instead of away. This shows that you’re interested and engaged instead of wishing you were somewhere else.
Avoid passive-aggressive body language like crossing your arms, sighing, and tapping your foot. And whatever you do, DON’T roll your eyes.
Make sounds to show you’re listening. A little “yeah,” “right” and a nod or head shake can make a huge difference. (Just don’t use these as a way to appear that you’re listening when you’re really a million miles away.)
Repeat their thoughts back to them to make sure you understood. For example, “You’re angry because I forgot to send that email” or “You’re feeling burned out and you want a break.”
A little active listening goes a long way.
4. Speak without blame
If humans hate anything, it’s feeling like something is our fault. We hate to accept blame, but we love assigning blame to someone else.
Don’t do it!
It’s easy to say things like “You hurt my feelings” or “You messed up”. You might want to express how you feel with those statements, but what kind of response do you think you’ll get?
Your bestie will probably get defensive or feel attacked, and that just doesn't lead to a productive conversation.
Instead, frame your thoughts in “I” statements so you can express yourself without attacking your partner. For example, “I feel hurt when you don’t consult me about big decisions” or “I feel undervalued when you take over the meetings and don’t give me a chance to talk.”
Your partner might still feel a little defensive, but this is much more likely to open up a solutions-oriented conversation.
5. Meetings and check-ins
With all the busy-ness of running a business, it’s easy to go days or even weeks without actually talking to your business bestie beyond the basic gettings-things-done talks. It’s important to set aside time for good conversations to talk about ideas and if she needs help in any way.
A good way to get around this is to have check-ins once a day, once a week, or on another schedule that works for you to have a quick chat, reconnect, and make sure everyone’s on the same page. This doesn’t have to take up a ton of time or turn into a cycle of unproductive meetings that waste everyone’s time, but it helps to schedule these so you don’t get out of the habit of talking.
Communication makes the world go round
You probably make professional development a regular part of your routine, but don’t forget to include just as much personal development.
Communication is an area where we can all improve, so consider this a vital part of your business (and life) education. Stay open to learning more!