The first thing I bring up with any new client is that it all starts with communication, and it is not just about the words. There are so many elements of communication, it is the lifeblood of relationships—both personal and professional. Yet, despite its importance, we often struggle to communicate effectively. Let’s look into it a bit more.

The Family Business Conundrum

You run a family business, and you dream of passing on your success to the next generation. But why do some family members shy away from joining the business? The answer often lies in communication—or the lack thereof.

Common Roadblocks

  1. Avoidance: Difficult conversations are difficult. Ever heard, “You never tell me anything “. We dodge hard conversations, hoping they’ll disappear or go away. But avoiding discussions about business roles, expectations, and succession plans can harm the family and the business in the long run.
  2. Misunderstandings: Misunderstandings arise when assumptions replace clear communication. Years ago I had a friend tell me they constantly refer to the 3C’s in their house. Crystal, Clear Communication. Without it you will have misunderstandings, and with misunderstanding come frustration within the family and business.

Understanding Family Communication Styles

Our family members are as diverse as the colors of a rainbow. Each person brings their unique communication style to the table. Recognizing these differences is essential for fostering stronger connections. Here’s why:

  1. Variety of Styles: Just like you, your family members have distinct ways of expressing themselves. Some are direct, while others prefer subtlety. Understanding these styles allows us to tailor our communication approach.
  2. The Unspoken Language: Beyond words, our body language speaks volumes. It accounts for over half of our communication. Pay attention to gestures, facial expressions, and posture—they reveal emotions and intentions.


Effective Communication Elements

There are three crucial elements of effective communication that we need to be aware of. It is not just about the words.

  1. Body Language (55%): Our visible actions—gestures, eye contact, and posture—speak louder than words. When we lean in, nod, or maintain eye contact, we convey understanding and openness. You can set the tone of any discussion just by slouching, rolling your eyes or crossing your arms.
  2. Voice (38%): The way we speak—our pitch, pace, tone, and volume—shapes our message. A warm tone fosters connection, while a harsh one can create distance. Think back to when you mother just yelled your name. You knew you were in trouble just by the tome.
  3. Words (7%): The actual words we choose matter. Choose your words carefully and actively listen. You can change the direction of a conversation in just a few words.

Consider all three elements when starting or are involved in any form of communication. It all matters.

Pointers for Stronger Family Communication

  1. Active Listening: Put down your phone, look into their eyes, and truly listen. Understand their feelings, fears, and aspirations. Show empathy.
  2. Open Dialogue: Encourage family members to express their thoughts openly. Create a safe space where everyone feels heard and valued.
  3. Conflict Resolution: Disagreements are natural. Address them promptly, focusing on solutions rather than blame.
  4. Regular Check-Ins: Schedule family meetings. Discuss business matters, personal updates, and shared goals.


Remember, communication isn’t just about talking—it’s about connecting. By nurturing effective family communication, you’ll not only strengthen your bonds but also lay a solid foundation for a thriving family business. If you feel you can’t do it alone, reach out to a family business advisor to help.