My article, “Harnessing the Power of Being Heard”, has been translated into Mandarin, and great illustrations have been added, courtesy of my friend, Pierre duPont, of HPM Partners in New York. The article has been posted on Pierre’s WeChat account.
Here’s the article in Mandarin and English:
（Harnessing the Power of Being Heard）
Conflict is a part of life — and of family enterprises
冲突是一个普遍但重要的话题。 冲突是生活和人们交往中不可避免的一部分。大多数时候，任何一种抽象或具体的焦点都是一种需要防止或者解决的负面冲突。 负面冲突波及的范围可以从争执到完全爆发。 理想情况下，冲突处理的目标应该是将负面冲突转变为正面碰撞。正面碰撞能够捕捉所有相关人员的创造力并且从而能够产生新的更优的思想碰撞。
Conflict is a broad and important topic. It’s an unavoidable part of life and of human interaction. Most of the time, any sort of focus – abstract or practical – is on negative conflict: how to prevent it or resolve it. Negative conflict can range in intensity from mere static to a full explosion. Ideally, the goal in conflict management should be to transform negative conflict to positive conflict. Positive conflict makes it possible to capture the creativity of all involved, to allow a clash of ideas that can lead to new and better ones.
Family enterprises provide especially good opportunities for conflict. First, the different systems that constitute the family enterprise must function effectively internally, as they relate to each other, and as they relate to the wider world (which includes you, the family business consultant.) Next, family enterprises typically value non-economic concerns far more than non-family enterprises that have a narrower focus on the bottom line. Priorities can include honoring legacy, preserving family harmony (often in a dysfunctional or ineffective manner), providing family employment.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, family enterprises – by their very nature – are places where money and emotion interact. In my experience, the interaction of money and emotion is fertile ground for negative conflict. Almost any emotion will do just fine: pride, greed, jealousy, fear, and many others. When that emotion collides with money, explicitly or implicitly, the smallest spark can create conflict.
I recognize that I am in a tiny minority of people who are genuinely fascinated by conflict and actually enjoy working to help families and business manage conflict. Thus, this article is about a specific, practical perspective that all practitioners can use, even those who find conflict difficult to handle.
Why does it matter that everyone has a chance to be heard?
让每个人都有机会倾诉可以提高咨询师处理深层次问题的能力，而不仅仅是去处理浅层次问题。 容易理解的是，客户倾向于去关注问题的表象-是什么导致他们痛苦。 然而，如果采用每个人都能够被聆听的建议，家族成员将会在未来的岁月中受益。
Giving everyone an opportunity to speak enhances the consultant’s ability to get at the underlying problem, not just the symptoms of the problem. Clients, understandably, tend to focus on the manifestations of the problem – whatever is causing them pain. Moreover, the family can benefit for years to come if it embraces the concept of allowing everyone to be heard.
Negatives of people not being heard
秘密决定、突然宣布的决定和未能做出的决定都可能危害家族企业。 正如大自然憎恶真空一样，我们希望为没有明确解释或阐释而宣布的决定赋予一个理由。 那些受到这个决定的负面影响的人倾向于给它一个负面的动机，即使它是一个非常不可信的动机。
Secret decisions, suddenly announced decisions, and failure to make decisions can all do harm to the family enterprise. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, we want to assign a reason to decisions that are announced without apparent explanation or input. Those who are negatively affected by the decision tend to assign a negative motivation to it, even a highly implausible one.
The desire to be heard can be so strong that it overpowers other interests. Parties in litigation want to “tell it to the judge.” Although their attorneys may counsel them to agree to settle a case on favorable monetary terms, the need to be heard may be so intense that litigants feel they must continue – sometimes against their own best interests.
In reconciliation courts addressing past wrongs of a truly grievous nature, the ability to tell one’s story is uniquely powerful. There is no substitute for it. In more ordinary day-to-day encounters, we feel a lack of respect if we don’t have a chance to be heard. No one likes to be dismissed out of hand or ignored.
Positives of people being heard
When people feel that they are being heard, they feel respected. They have an easier time accepting decisions that they disagree with. It allows people to say to themselves — and others — “well, I don’t like that decision, but at least I had a chance to say my piece.” Their buy-in and commitment to the decision will likely be greater than if they are unhappy about the substance of the decision itself and also resentful of the process that led to the decision. Commitment to the team is easier when you feel that you are a valued member of the team.
People who feel fully engaged in a process will have greater ability to make suggestions and voice ideas earlier, when a modest tweak may have a pronounced and positive impact. When a decision has been announced and presented as final, even a small adjustment may carry too high a cost to be implemented.
Objections and responses to ensuring that people have a chance to be heard
If you are working with a family that has not had a habit of allowing people to be heard, you will undoubtedly encounter resistance – from those who can ensure that people can be heard and also from those who have felt ignored. Addressing those objections will help you work with the family to create a practice, a policy, and a system for allowing people to be heard. As you help the family create the specific structure that works for them, you can be sure that objections are considered. Here are a few likely objections and responses to them.
- 我们从来没有这样做过。 这种反对意见可能适用于你所要求改变的任何建议。事实上，你给现有情况所带来的一些价值就是你对现存系统的一种不可避免的破坏。适应你在功能性失调的循环中作为一个断路器的角色，并且强调你是为了帮助家族企业采纳并实施一些新的方法。
- We have never done it that way. That objection probably applies to any suggestion you make that requires change. In fact, some of the value you bring to the situation is your inevitable disruption of the existing system. Embrace your role as circuit breaker in a dysfunctional loop and emphasize that you are there to help the family enterprise adopt and implement some new approaches.
- 这不是他们做出的决定。 重要的是要记住，允许人们发言与给予否决权或者给他们投票权不同。 允许人们被聆听并不一定意味着正式决策机制的变化。
- It is not their decision to make. It is important to remember that allowing people to have a voice is not the same as giving them veto power or even giving them a vote. Allowing people to be heard does not necessarily mean a change in the formal decision-making mechanism.
- 它会打开麻烦的大门。 承认有必要解释允许人们被聆听的界限在哪里，目的是什么可以聆听和什么不可以聆听。
- It will open the door to trouble. Acknowledge that it will be necessary to explain the parameters of allowing people to be heard, what the purpose is and what it is not.
- I don’t need any more input in the decisions I make. Encourage objectors to be open to the possibility that they have not considered every potential problem or solution.
- 我的门总是敞开的。 从首席执行官或创始人（无论是否是同一个人）的角度来看，似乎很明显所有这一切投入都是受欢迎的。 对提供多少投入的真实的审查可能产生其他人可能有不同看法的意识。
- My door is always open. It may seem, from the point of view of the CEO or the patriarch (whether the same person or not), that it is obvious to all that input is welcome. An honest examination of how much input is offered may lead to a realization that others may have a different perception.
- 更多的投入将花费太多的时间。 与大多数情况一样，短期便宜的方法将比长期关注家族企业的方法花费更少的时间。将这一投入视为发展未来领导力的一个方面。广泛的聆听可以让现在的领导层确定谁可能作为潜在的未来领导人而被忽视，并且考虑他们为了专业化和个性化发展需要得到哪些已经确定的支持。
- More input will take too much time. As with most things, the short-term, on-the-cheap approach will take less time than a long-term, investment-in-the-family enterprise approach. Consider this input as an aspect of developing future leadership. Listening to a wide range of people allows current leadership to identify who may have been overlooked as potential future leaders, as well as to consider what support they, and those already identified, may need in order to grow professionally and personally.
- 为什么要说出我的意见呢？ 他们不会听。 如果现行的做法不是要确保人们有机会被聆听，那么可以预计的是：对那些努力发言并失败的人来说可能会觉得太失败了以至于不愿再次尝试。您作为顾问的角色是双重的。 首先，您将需要向以前沉默的人保证正在进行改进。其次，您将需要帮助负责人创建和实施一种方式来确保人们被聆听。 但是，请记住，这个想法是创造一个被聆听的机会，而不是强制人们说出来。
- Why would I bother voicing my opinion; they won’t listen. If the prevailing practice has not been to ensure that people have a chance to be heard, it is to be expected that those who have tried and failed to speak may feel too defeated to try again. Your role as a consultant is two-fold. First, you will need to assure the previously silenced person that a change is underway. Second, you will need to help those in charge to create and implement a way to ensure that people will be heard. Keep in mind, however, that the idea is to create an opportunity to be heard, not a compulsion to speak out.
- 我会开一些会议，但只有一次。 这个想法不是一次性的申诉和宣泄的会议，之后每个人都会过着愉快的生活。 这个想法是创造一种新的沟通方式，这种沟通方式将成为家族企业根深蒂固的方式，最终好比家族企业的第二天性。结果也将终有回报。
- I will have some kind of meeting, but only once. The idea is not to have a one-time grievance airing and venting session, after which everyone lives happily ever after. The idea is to create a new way of communicating that will become ingrained in the family enterprise and eventually feel like second nature. The outcomes will be worth the effort.
- 我会通过议案，但仅此而已。不真诚会产生比解决问题更多的问题。正如一个不诚实的道歉可以是煽动性的，只是简单的假装表现出对人们很尊重 – 特别是与家族企业分享生活的人-可能会造成持久的损害。
- I will go through the motions, but that’s all. Insincerity would create more problems than it solves. Just as an insincere apology can be inflammatory, simply pretending to act respectfully toward people – especially those with whom you share life in a family enterprise – can do lasting damage.
- 我看到这样做的价值，但我不知道如何去做。让客户放心你会给予他们帮助。 你会提供最好的合作，为家族及其业务提供量身定做的解决方案。通过实践，这种新的沟通方式将会变得更好和更容易。
- OK, I see the value of doing this, but I don’t know how. Reassure the client that you will help. You will work together on the best, custom-fit solution for this family and its business. With practice, this new approach to communication will get better and easier.
Practitioners can use a wide range of tools and techniques in their service to family enterprises. Harnessing the power of being heard is one way to flip the conflict switch from negative to positive.
Jane Beddall, MA, JD, CFBA, CFWA is founder and principal of Dovetail Resolutions, LLC in New Haven, CT. She has a special interest in helping families and their businesses manage conflict effectively.