Keeping it in the Family
Why can't family businesses disputes be addressed via traditional modes of conflict resolution? A colleague of the Public Conversations Project, Ashok Pannikar, answers this question in an interesting article in the Indian online journal Newzfirst. Ashok, the founder and executive director of Meta-Culture Consulting in Bangalore, notes that the conflicts that attend generational succession in family businesses frequently arise from impaired relationships. Yet relationships are not typically addressed nor shifted through traditional modes of conflict resolution. By focusing on substance—the content and facts around the disagreement—mediators can miss the most salient factors in a dispute.
The Public Conversations Project agrees and shares Meta-Culture's commitment to shifting relationships. In his article, Ashok speaks of the important roles that trust—and lack of trust—play in the ability to resolve relational disputes. We, too, believe that changing the ways people communicate in a conflict can diminish or enhance the trust necessary to move through it constructively. Unfortunately, when in the midst of painful conflict, most of us, (myself included) often communicate in ways that impair, rather than build, trust. We forget the good and remember the bad in the other; we lose our ability to bring our "best selves" to the table.
Fortunately, we know that dialogue and other relationship-oriented approaches to conflict can remedy the situation. By changing the conditions of communication, behavior can shift, understanding can deepen, and trust can grow, even among long-time enemies. It works in India, and it works here.