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5 tips for dealing with business conflicts

As with marriage, establishing a business partnership has its upsides. A knowledgeable, hard-working partner can serve as a sounding board for new ideas and can provide an extra pair of hands when the workload becomes too much for one. When conflict develops, however, its impact on a business relationship can be as negative as it is for a married couple.

Since both types of relationships rely on communication and trust to strengthen their bonds, it may not be all that surprising to learn that conflict-resolution tips for business owners are similar to those provided in couple's counseling. For those who recognize the signs of impending problems, these steps may help to lessen tension at the workplace:

1. Recognize that conflicts will occur

Unless you are working with a carbon-copy version of yourself, you are bound to disagree with your business partner. The difference in perspective that helps to develop a well-rounded marketing strategy can become detrimental when that outlook diverges from yours with other business prospects. Those who are conflict-averse will have trouble discussing issues that inevitably arise when people have a vested interest in developing a product, whether that product is one that is marketable or biological.

2. Discuss the issue early

Even the most successful relationships, business and otherwise, experience ups and downs throughout the course of their existence; those that endure have conflict-management skills to thank for their longevity. While it may be initially painful to confront an issue with a business partner, letting the problem fester without addressing it will prove more damaging to the relationship.

3. Create a script

Should you be concerned that your words will fail you when you broach a contentious topic with your business partner, consider drafting a script of talking points. Locating and sharing evidence to support your opinion can show your partner that your concerns are well-founded. Creating a rough outline for the discussion can help you stay focused when you are presenting your opinions. Anticipating your partner's objections will help to strengthen your case and will show him that you have considered his opinion when drafting your bullet points.

4. Keep conversation neutral

Conversations that devolve quickly are those that contain vocabulary that is heavy on emotion and light on reason. It may be difficult to use neutral terms when discussing something that you are passionate about; however, retaining a dispassionate tone will promote civility. Sentences that begin with accusations are tough to forget. Verbal finger pointing will break down the channels of communication within your company.

5. Be prepared to compromise

Compromise is the backbone of any successful relationship. While it may seem that your solution to a problem is better than the one proposed by your partner, you may need to incorporate aspects of his suggestions in order to keep the peace in your company. Think about the long-term ramifications of stubbornly committing to one solution and failing to acknowledge others. Is this issue worth dissolving a business relationship? If it is, how will this dissolution influence your bottom line? How will it shape productivity? In most cases, compromises can strengthen a business.

As with marriage, business relationships develop and change as a result of positive and negative experiences. When dealing with conflict, business partners who work well together learn to treat problems as "just business" even when issues seem to be anything but business-related.

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