60 Seconds on Conflict

By Dennis T. Jaffe

To resolve conflict, start with yourself


Combining family and business relationships is always rife with potential for emotional differences. While it would be nice if there were a formula for “fixing” the misguided other person, the reality is that if you want to resolve a conflict, you must start with yourself. Here are some actions you can take:

1.     Define clearly and explicitly what you want. Consider — is this realistic or fair?

2.     Define clearly what will happen if you do not change anything — what is the expected result of no change?

3.     Define whether the issue is about a business or financial difference, or whether there is a family component. Is the business issue related to a family event? These two are often linked in family enterprise.

4.     Arrange a time to talk to the other person involved, in a safe, comfortable place without intrusions. Agree to meet for the purpose of understanding each other and agree not to make any decisions at the meeting.

5.     Listen to the other person without interrupting. Then ask clarifying questions to make sure that you understand them. Do not contradict the other person, argue or try to get your own views in.

6.     Separate your interests from what you want. What can happen to address your interests along with the other person’s? Then, ask for the same from the other person. State your position without blaming or accusing the other person, and clarify why you think your position is fair and reasonable.

7.     If (or when) things get hot and emotional, pause, take a deep breath and consider what might be going on with you.

8.     If you reach an impasse, bring another trusted person who knows you both and into the conversation. Ask their views and perspective.

9.     Keep trying. One conversation can’t undo years of differences and not addressing something.

Dennis Jaffe is Senior Research Fellow at BanyonGlobal Family Advisors. 

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