You may not know when or why, but it is inevitable that you will disagree with your partners at some point. Learning how to diffuse a contentious situation is paramount to your companies continued success.
No matter how successful you are, life’s always going to throw some curve balls your way. That applies to both your personal life and the day-to-day operations of your business.
Given that curve balls are unexpected, there isn’t a lot you can do to prevent them (or even anticipate them). Still, you can take steps to minimize the damage.
Let’s take the example of an unexpected disagreement with a business partner. Out of nowhere, a major argument develops and your points of view are literally polar opposites. Neither of you is willing to give an inch. The conversation begins to devolve into shouting, insults and even threats.
What do you do?
1. Slow down and take a breath.
The passage of time can provide added perspective, in part because cooler heads really do prevail. Police officers know that walking into a domestic dispute can be incredibly dangerous because both parties involved are angry; that’s why the first step for the police is always to get one party to leave the house for the night.
Hopefully, you’re not thinking about attacking your business partner with cooking shears, but the principle here is the same. At some point, you and your partner had similar visions for your business. While some partnerships end up irrevocably broken, there’s a good chance you can ultimately find some middle ground. Take a day or two away from each other.
In the same vein, don’t get the lawyers involved right away. Adding a legal element to the mix immediately ramps up the confrontation level. Your legal representative is likely to counsel you to steer clear of your partner for days and weeks on end, which is going to make the chances for reconciliation more unlikely. Lawyers, at least initially, think in a winner-takes-all mentality. You’re going to want to compromise instead.
It’s not a bad idea to have an intermediary get involved to try to resolve the dispute, but it shouldn’t be someone with a legal background or solutions grounded in legal principles.
2. Figure out your company’s value to your customers.
This is the reason your business exists in the first place. By concentrating on that, it buys you some time to work on resolving the dispute, and that work needs to continue anyway lest the conflict destroys the company.
Remember, your customers don’t care about a dispute, they only care about the product or service your provide them.
And it may sound a bit New Ageish, but a positive attitude can’t hurt.
Your main goal should be to move forward and to adjust to any problems you encounter. It’s likely you’ve run into problems before (where you and your partner were in agreement) and found solutions for them. There’s no reason that the same thing won’t happen here.
Our current social climate has fostered a no-compromise mindset, but that’s the last thing you want to do here. Until extensive discussions have been completed, you must assume compromise is possible.