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The Importance of Being Heard & Listening To Others In The Family Business

By Kyle Danner

When it comes to effective communication, the ability to listen is invaluable. Without the ability to actively listen, messages can easily be misunderstood – or missed altogether.

There is power in listening. Good listeners find themselves less anxious, more aware of their attitudes, more focused on topics at hand, and better able to see both sides of an argument. Further, good listeners experience the drive to share that growth in positive attitude with other people.



Families generally communicate differently from businesses, So, when the two communication processes merge, emotions can run high, feelings can be hurt, and relationships can get damaged without either party realizing it’s happening. These are a few reasons being heard and listening are so essential when you work in a family business

The Power of Listening And The Family Business

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of listening.

Family members communicate and interact with each other on a more personal level than they would with outside business partners. This can be a good thing, because honesty is paramount to running an ethical and successful venture.

Conversely, interacting on a business level with family members can prove to be challenging, especially if you’re reacting emotionally before you’ve had a chance to listen and understand what’s really being said.

For example, after the patriarch of our family business passed away, my family and I looked for outside help. Emotions (and tension) were high, we had some big issues to work through, and we weren’t at our best as a family, let alone as a working business team.  

I remember during one of those meetings, a family member said to me, “If I ask anyone else to do anything in our business, they’ll do it. But if I ask you, you won’t.”

Ouch. Eight years later and I can still feel the sting.

Simply writing that sentence has me feeling defensive again. I remember wanting to react in an emotional manner, I wanted to argue specifics, build my case, and defend the reasons why it might have seemed I wasn’t responsive to this family member.

But I didn’t. I stopped and listened. This person, a loved one, felt ignored and invalidated. The irony here is that I felt ignored and invalidated too. And that loved one’s feelings almost slid by me without my noticing.

There we are, in the same room talking to each other, but neither one of us is actively listening. It’s something everyone experiences in every relationship and, if left unchecked and unaddressed, can be the source of unnecessary pain and disruption – to the family and to the business.

We Have A Right To Be Heard

Everyone has a right to be heard. But if we want relationships –– family, business, or both –– to move forward and grow, the bigger responsibility lies in being able to listen effectively.

Ask yourself this question: How can I expect my loved one to listen to me if I’m not willing to listen to them?

Listening is defined as the process of receiving, constructing meaning from, and responding to spoken and/or nonverbal messages.  Successful listening requires attention being paid to the other person, and when we let that skill atrophy there are consequences.

A good example of how listening skills have started to decline can be found in the growth of social media. Social media’s rapid advance on, and influence over, how communication is approached, has us so busy shouting at, tweeting to, or commenting on inanimate social posts that we miss the fact we’re actually communicating with a real person, not simply text on a screen.

We’re No Longer Taking The Time To Cultivate Listening Skills

Today’s world is fast. Communication is near instantaneous, deals are made (and broken) with the swipe of a finger on a cell phone or a click of a mouse. Instant gratification has its downside: We’re no longer cultivating listening skills.

Listening demands that we suspend our self-interest and consider the other person. Listening is setting aside our immediate, emotional response to engage our higher, cognitive powers; it’s accepting and acknowledging that we are fallible and make mistakes; it’s about taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions, not just looking to cast blame on someone else.

Failing to listen bears real costs, personally and financially. If we’re not listening to one another in the first place, then how can we expect to work together when making critical business decisions? While exercising our responsibility to listen does not bring that immediate satisfaction, demonstrating we’re willing to listen first will put us in a better position to be heard later.

Listening isn’t the easiest thing to do, and it's even more challenging when family and business are intertwined, but it not impossible, and it’s very much a necessity.

Effective Listening + Effective Communication = Growth

Strong listening skills and the ability to be heard are necessary to the vision of any successful business, from corporate to family-run. And vision, a key component in the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), helps get coworkers and employees on the same page, opening up a pathway to growth.

EOS combines timeless business principles with a simple set of practical, real-world tools that help business owners get the most from their endeavors.  As an EOS Implementer, I can help your family business communicate effectively.  

If you’re looking to improve communication in your business, schedule a no-obligation conversation today! I'll work with you to develop techniques that can improve listening skills and strengthen your family business’s ability to make better decisions and continue to grow.

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