Communication Problems in Partnerships

By: Dorene Lehavi

An ongoing series of articles exploring the seven critical areas that can indicate a partnership is in trouble.


The "Seven Cs" are the danger signs that indicate your business partnership, or any partnership for that matter, is in trouble.

First, and most important, in my view, is the issue of Communication Breakdown.

Although my list of Seven C's refers to the danger signs that partnerships are in trouble, the fact is that communication breakdowns abound in all relationships. Sometimes they are serious leading to downward spiraling such as in business partnerships and marriages where the stats of breakup are astronomical. Other times they are simple miscommunications of lesser impact that don't negatively affect the relationship.

As an experienced listener, sometimes I smile when I happen to hear people answer the question they think they heard and be replied to as if they answered the question that was asked.

A recipe for trouble. Then the conversation twists and turns and no one is the wiser (but me!).

What can you do to avoid these breakdowns?

First and foremost be committed to open listening. Honestly, you don't have to be right all the time. Others have worthwhile opinions too. Don't set yourself up to judge. Put your agenda aside. You can always embrace it later. Allow the possibility that you have something to learn from someone else. Often what happens is that you may reject the idea expressed but it triggers yet another idea and another. Before you know it you've both expanded your options and have created new and exciting possibilities. Or you have respectfully listened to each other's viewpoints and feelings or cleared the air about something which needed to occur before moving on to the business itself.

In partnerships there is an additional vital element for good communication. That is a commitment to the relationship no matter what the disagreements. It goes without saying that trust is a given.

Now that you have the mindset, you can use the following techniques.

  • Be open and honest with your declarations.

  • Repeat back what you think you heard for clarification.

  • Ask questions to be sure.

    Did you mean...?

    Are you saying....?

    Did I make myself clear?

    Can I/you say that another way?

    Did I hurt your feelings?

    Have I offended you?

    That's a great idea!

    Thank you for pointing that out.

    I appreciate you saying that.

    I never thought of it that way.

    That's brilliant!

When communication is clear, you've taken the most important step to preserve your partnership and relationships.

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