How couples in business together work through difficult things
Unfortunately for all of us, there are a lot of situations which call for difficult conversations. Maybe someone is overspending, or a project has stalled. Whatever the reason, couples in business together need to work through their differences. Eventually, someone is going to have to initiate and handle a tough conversation.
The idea of having a potentially tense conversation with your spouse is daunting for most of us. It can be tempting to brush confrontational topics under the rug in order to keep the peace, but you’ve got to resist the urge to do this! When a couple is in business together, it’s extremely important to work through things, especially the difficult things.
While difficult conversations can be more challenging for business couples, they don’t have to be. We’d love to give you an exact formula for how to approach every conversation, but the reality is that every difficult situation is different. However, there are a few ways you can diffuse the tension before it even begins.
Best Ways to Handle Difficult Business Conversations with Your Spouse
Think About the Root Cause
Before you initiate any difficult conversation with anyone, including your spouse, you need to understand the purpose of the conversation. A great question to ask yourself is what will having this conversation accomplish for our business and will it ultimately be productive? You’ll need to understand whether you’re looking to correct an action that’s harming your accounting firm, or you’re simply frustrated and want to take it out on your spouse (it happens!). Possibly, you need to deliver news that’s not going to go over well. That’s probably a situation you can’t avoid. No matter what, take the time to check yourself so your delivery of the information doesn’t become passive aggressive or dismissive.
Once you’ve determined what you’d like the conversation to accomplish, then step back to decide if the conversation is worth having in the first place. If so, state the root cause to your spouse so it’s obvious your intentions are pure.
Plan for the Conversation
You’ll probably never regret over-planning for anything, but under planning? That’s a different story. This is even more true with difficult conversations. We all know from experience that difficult conversations can go south very quickly, but planning helps you avoid emotions taking over and turning a conversation from productive to totally destructive.
On the other hand, resist scripting the conversation. Aim to give yourself an outline of talking points, but make sure the other person knows that you’re open to having a conversation and not just speaking your script.
Avoid an Accusatory Tone
So many difficult conversations occur because one spouse is doing something within the firm that the other spouse doesn’t agree with. In these situations, it can be easy to adopt an accusatory tone and put the other person on the defensive. Promise yourself that before the conversation even begins you’ll approach the other person in an open way, not an it’s me against you way.
What does it sound like to be open with your spouse? Language is everything! You want to say things like How can we work on this together? or What are some ways that I can help turn this around?
Remember to avoid any language that isolates the other person, like You need to do better or You need to clean up the mess you made! Let your partner know that you’re in this together, you’re willing to help and not looking to place blame.
When you approach anyone in an accusatory way, spouse or not, it immediately halts the progress of the conversation. If your spouse feels defensive, then hearing what you’re saying or making any kind of change becomes difficult.
Acknowledge Your Spouse’s Perspective
You may be broaching a subject that your spouse is aware of or you may be bringing up something completely new. Either way, your spouse might have a different perspective than you do about the subject. Since you’ve thought through what you want to say, it can be easy to fall into the trap of not considering an alternative perspective.
A difficult conversation should be exactly that…a conversation. By being open to your spouse’s perspective. This conversation is truly a two-way street.
Be Constructive – Suggest Solutions and Alternatives
A difficult conversation shouldn’t leave anyone hanging. No one likes being accused of doing wrong without an opportunity to explain. A solution or an alternative should always be a part of the equation.
A great way to wrap up a difficult conversation is to say something along the lines of – How do we work together to remedy this? I’ve come up with x,y and z suggestions…do you have any thoughts? This might not work in every scenario, but you get the idea. You’re offering your suggestions and asking for buy in by listening to your partners.
Bottom Line…Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Your spouse is not a mind reader. How often do you get upset about something, never bring it up, expect your spouse to know you’re upset and when that doesn’t happen – you get angry. I think we’ve all experienced this or done it ourselves. Don’t do this to your spouse! If something is bothering you, it’s your responsibility to say something.
Communicating regularly is important in every business endeavor, but even more so for couples in business together. Whether you keep your personal and business lives separate is up to you, but in either area effective communication (and lots of it) plays a big role in helping you reduce tension and maintain marital harmony.
Remember this, one day it could be you on the other side of the difficult conversation, and you’ll want your spouse to treat you with respect. Honoring your spouse while having this conversation helps ensure that you’ll get the same treatment when you’re in the proverbial hot seat.
If you remain patient during the learning curve, create boundaries and become each other’s support system, your accounting firm will flourish in ways you never imagined. Plus, your personal relationship will strengthen from the intensity of working together. And in the end, if you find it impossible to deal with conflicts, a business coach can help you smooth out the rough edges. If you’re considering hiring your husband, and want some guidance, let’s talk. I offer a complimentary discovery session.