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Talk to Each Other – Not About Each Other

by Richard Foulkes

In life, we often find ourselves navigating a complex web of relationships, be it with family, friends, colleagues, partners, or other BNI Members.

These relationships are built on a foundation of trust, understanding, and effective communication. 

It’s a common scenario in our lives; when faced with a challenge or a disagreement in a relationship, our instinct is to seek solace in talking to others about the issue rather than addressing it with the person directly involved or just ignoring it, hoping it will miraculously solve itself.

This tendency can easily lead to the deterioration of relationships, as communication becomes less about resolution and strengthening relationships through deeper understanding of each other. It can be more about venting frustrations, assigning blame, and it’s a pattern that can be highly detrimental. In BNI we are committed to building strong and deep relationships so when something goes wrong, it essential we work to strengthen relationships by not just putting issues to one side.

The Power of Direct Communication

The most effective way to strengthen and maintain healthy relationships, particularly those with referral partners, is to engage in direct communication. This means talking “to” each other instead of talking “about” each other. When a problem or challenge arises, the best course of action is to address it head-on, in a positive way, rather than letting it fester and grow through gossip or third-party discussions.

If you find yourself in a situation where you have concerns or issues with someone in your life, take immediate action. But not action in the heat of the moment. Reflect first. Pick up the phone and call them. Avoid sending an email or text as tone is often misunderstood. Sending a text or email to request a call or meeting is fine. Approach the conversation with the intention of understanding each other’s perspectives and finding a mutually beneficial solution. Remember that the goal is to work collaboratively towards resolving the challenges that have arisen rather than engage in the “blame game”.
A great opening is “would you be open to some feedback”?

Stay Focused on Solutions

Maintaining a “solutions focused” mindset is paramount in these discussions. Instead of dwelling on past mistakes or trying to pinpoint fault, focus on finding ways to move forward positively. Encourage open dialogue and active listening, as these are the cornerstones of effective communication. By actively seeking solutions and addressing concerns directly, you demonstrate your commitment to the relationship and your willingness to work together to overcome obstacles.

In the context of referral partners, this approach is especially crucial. Referral partnerships are built on trust and mutual support, and they thrive when both parties communicate openly and honestly. When issues or misunderstandings arise, addressing them directly can prevent them from escalating into more significant problems that could damage the partnership.

Continuous Improvement 

Often large businesses will employ market researchers to find out what their customers think about them.  They have stopped listening to their clients. The Undercover Boss reality TV show is another version of this where the Boss is no longer in touch with their own business. Getting honest, direct feedback means we can take action to improve our businesses. We need to show that we are willing to listen without taking it personally to encourage others to give us the information that allows us to improve our business.


The power of clear, open, honest, and direct communication cannot be overstated when it comes to maintaining and strengthening relationships. Rather than talking “about” each other, it is essential to talk “to” each other when challenges or conflicts arise. By doing so, we foster an environment of trust, understanding, and collaboration, ultimately ensuring that our relationships remain healthy, resilient, and mutually beneficial.

Effective communication is the bridge that leads to resolution, growth, and a more harmonious connection with those around us.

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