Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Creating a Written Communication Policy

By Scott E. Friedman, Andrea H. Vossler, Eliza P. Friedman, and Mary Owen

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been discussing science-backed strategies proven to enhance the quality of communication among family members in business together.

These strategies include:

  • Memorializing agreements in writing
  • Sensitizing individuals to the importance of non-verbal communication, including posture, tone of voice, focused attention and even smiling
  • Introducing the practice of appreciative inquiry and
  • Increasing communication driven “positivity ratio”

But in order for these strategies to be effective, they must be formally implemented—which is why we conclude our discussion of constructive communication with a final strategy: establishing a written communication policy that includes the foregoing strategies. 

Families might benefit from establishing a formal communication policy that not only establishes regularly scheduled, face to face meetings, with ground rules to help insure attention, such as “no cell phones,” but also that incorporate the foregoing findings from Appreciative Inquiry (AI), as well as insights about positivity ratios, non-verbal communication, and other communication data.

We also emphasize that positive psychology is NOT about ignoring real issues (although, in practice, there might seem to be less of them as increased attention is given to “possibility seeking” and away from “problem solving”). For example, new studies are demonstrating that facing problems head-on, while remaining solution-oriented, increases a sense that one’s behavior matters and improves employee productivity.[1]

Next week, we’ll take a look at “fit” when it comes to employing children in family businesses.

[1] See generally Michelle Gielan, Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change (2015); Michelle Gielan, You Can Deliver Bad News to Your Team Without Crushing Them, Harv. Bus. Rev. (Mar. 21, 2016),


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