Do You Communicate ‘Business’ or ‘Family’?

Business communications can be difficult in a family business due to the existing parent-child relationship.

Mixing a family and a business is like mixing oil and water. A design problem with this dynamic shows up when two family members struggle with appropriate communication. 

As an example, if a father works in the business with his son, the father may need to give instructions to his son.  While the father may think he is talking to his son just like he is talking to the other employees, his tone of voice or body language could be sending a different message.

Since communication is as much in your tone and body language as in your words, it is very difficult for the father to not sound and look like a “parent”. After all, he is the parent!  A potential problem emerges with the child employee receiving the communication. If the child hears it as a “parent”, he tends to respond like a “child”.  To make matters worse, all of this goes on subconsciously. It’s important to remember that the parent-child relationship has existed much longer than the working relationship between the two co-workers.

How do you make your communications more “business-like”?

If you can focus on being aware of the dynamic, it moves from the subconscious to the conscious. Once you are conscious of it, you can decide to transition to a business-like manner. When one person communicates as an “adult” in a respectful way, the natural response is an “adult-like” respectful one.

Another useful method for improving communication is to define and separate the business space from the family space. When you are at the business and wearing the business clothes, work on communicating in a business-like manner.  The clearer the separation of “business” is from “family”, the better.

So the next time your employee child acts “childish” consider if you may have actually triggered the childish response by speaking to them in a “parent-like” tone. If you’re not sure how to determine this just look for one finger pointed straight out at the employee and the other hand firmly on your hip!

The same advice goes for children employees. If you bring your “child voice”, it’s no wonder your boss treats you like a child because you are the one who triggered it!

If you’re not sure how to identify the child part, just listen for a whine in your voice!

If we can help your family dynamic, just reach out.

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