Meaningful collaboration between great business minds is a beautiful thing-particularly when each party isn't shy about capitalizing on their unique point of view and skill sets. It's that kind of authentic personalization that causes a project to resonate with the public on a deep level-which is, of course, what every entrepreneur wants.
When two passionate forces come together and the sky is the creative limit, there is one very real potential problem though: difference of opinion. As with any group endeavor, everyone has to know when to accept constructive feedback, while maintaining their own personal integrity and vision. Finding that middle ground can be tough. Sometimes partners get stubborn and too comfortable with each other; a difference of opinion escalates into a very real conflict. Feelings get hurt, someone threatens to part ways, and all of a sudden you're in arbitration wondering how you got there.
Elizabeth Clemants is the founder of Small Business Arbitration Center of New York which helps small business owners effectively resolve conflicts without having to go into costly (and pain in the neck) arbitration.
Here is her best advice for communicating about a problem before it blows up:
1) Focus on interests, not positions. Don't state what you want, state why you want it. By expressing the motivation for your position, it will uncover many new potential solutions.
2) Help the other side save face. Allow the other side to meet you in the middle by opening the door for them. Some might view compromise as a form of losing. By reframing the circumstances in a way that makes everyone look reasonable, the other side is more likely to accept your side.
3) Establish credibility by first reflecting what you heard the other person say. By showing you understand the other's point of view, the other side will be more open to hearing yours. Active Listening is the cornerstone of any negotiation.
3) Powerful questions will open up the conversation to new solutions. Assumptions about motivation, interests, or history can block a solid negotiated agreement. Admit when you don't know or don't understand where the other person is coming from. Ask a question that targets an assumption. This pointed questioning allows the conversation to go deeper, bringing more potential solutions.
4) Concern yourself with what the other wants. If the other side sees that you are invested in mutual gain, they will be more open to giving you what you want.
5) Pay attention to body language. Roughly 90 percent of communication is tone and body language. If you are adept at reading nonverbal cues, you'll be more able to see the undercurrent developing in a communication-giving you an edge in negotiation.
These tips are obviously great for resolving a big conflict, but you can also practice them in smaller differences of creative opinion as well. This can help safeguard against larger problems.
Sometimes the key to personal success is having a collaborator or partner that co-explores unchartered territory, challenges you to step out of your comfort zone, and pushes you to new heights. Never forget to show your partner he / she is respected.
Keep these communication tips in mind in your working relationships and always be mindful of your colleague-even when things get comfortable. Hell, especially when things get comfortable!