“I'd like to talk with you about something," she says.
"What now?" he asks with a sigh.
"Well I'd like to know what we are going to do about this problem," she says, starting to get frustrated.
"I'll take care of it. Stop pressuring me!" he shouts.
"I'm not pressuring you. I just want to help and I think we should talk about it," she says imploringly.
"I said I'd take care of it. I'm working on it. Why won't you get off my back?" he says emphatically.
Does this conversation sound familiar? If it does, then you are most likely married or in a long-term relationship. These types of conversations are even more typical when a married couple also works together. Even though they may be common in relationships, it doesn't mean they are healthy. In fact they are frustrating and can cause long-term damage.
In order to change the course of these conversations, there are three things to keep in mind. First, when couples live and work together there is an increased potential for misunderstanding. The more you are around anyone and the more you talk with that person, the more opportunity there is for miscommunication, misunderstanding and arguments. Second, when you work with the one you love, misunderstandings carry more weight than they might with someone you are not as emotionally connected with. You care more what they think of you and if they believe you care about them. Third, men and women problem solve differently. While men are competitive and want to prove themselves by solving the problem on their own, women strive to include others in the process of problem solving to come up with a group decision.
So if we take another look at the dialog above with these three considerations in mind, the miscommunication is much easier to unravel. First, the wife is trying to have a conversation with her husband about a subject that they have probably beaten to death, and with no resolution. She means well, but he feels like she is just shoving his face into the problem once again. Secondly, the husband also believes that she is accusing him of failing to solve the problem or to solve it quickly enough. In reality, she is offering to help him solve it. Third, the wife assumes that her husband understands that she is trying to help when she asks questions, but he can only hear that she is asking questions he cannot answer. (Click here read the reverse dialog when the couple understands these communication differences.)
It may not always been this simple. It takes a lot of hard work to try to navigate communication pitfalls, but it can be done. The better you are at reading those subtle differences in style that can lead to tragedy or success, the more likely you are to be successful in all your communications in business. Set up an appointment with a marriage therapist/family business coach who can help guide you through this process.
For more information, take a look at my book Entrepreneurial Couples - Making it Work at Work and at Home.