In working with family-owned businesses for several years now, I’ve seen one pattern of relating that consistently doesn’t work over the long term. In many families there is a mantra that dictates the family members’ behavior, and that can carry over to the business as well. It is: “Now let’s all just get along.” While the “just get along” message sometimes is promoted by the patriarch, it is more often a core value for the matriarch.
The focus on “getting along” comes primarily from an avoidance of conflict, including a dislike for arguing, anger and/or “raised voices”. There is also a heightened fear of hurting someone’s feelings.
There are a number of problems that result from this style of communicating within a family (and especially within a business):
- People wind up not being honest with each other.
- Individuals tend to “stuff” their true feelings in order to keep the peace.
- Difficult situations and the “hard facts of life” are not dealt with.
- Indirect communication patterns grow – which leads to miscommunication and people talking about others.
- Eventually, either “blow-up’s” occur which result in damaged or broken relationships, and/or
- Negative consequences occur from not dealing with difficult life situations (the natural consequences of drug/alcohol abuse, poor financial decisions, unsuccessful businesses.)
So, with these common negative consequences, why do people continue to utilize “everybody just get along” strategy? Primarily, there is a temporary absence of conflict. Some people in the situation just have a heightened fear of any conflict. And secondly, there is a sense that “everything is ok” (but it is not based in reality). So they don’t have to make any difficult decisions or deal with negative results.
There are some good resources to help individuals and families break out and get past the patterns of avoiding conflict and living in false peace. I would encourage you to look at one or more of these books: Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend; Crucial Conversations by Patterson, et al, or The Lies We Believe by Chris Thurman.