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It's Nothing Personal … But I Hate You

on Wednesday, 06 September 2017.

47% of clients engaged in commercial litigation admitted that they were motivated in their pursuit of the case by personal dislike of their opponent in a survey by a City law firm.

Let us think about that.

Everyone ought to know that legal disputes are costly, take up huge amounts of management time that could be better spent more positively, cause stress and sap energy. Litigation or any dispute should be a last resort. Yet surveys suggest we allow our human emotion to override rational thoughts that might see us act very differently.

It's All in the Brain - but Which One?

This is not however surprising when you remember how we are made up as human beings. Our outer brain, the neocortex, governs our rational thinking and our ability to communicate through language. This is the homo sapiens part of the brain that saw us pull ahead of our close cousins, the apes.

But it is our ancient Limbic brain, the inner core, that controls our behaviours, feelings, and decision making - gut instinct, if you will. We then apply our neocortex minds, sometimes to change the Limbic decision, but more often perhaps to justify it. We are emotional beings and our emotions dictate our behaviours and decision making, however much we might like to pretend otherwise. Business disputes are no less personal than, say marriage or relationship breakdown disputes, it would seem.

Emotions Run High

In a family business, there is an obvious emotional dimension to any dispute or tension within the family. Although many family businesses attempt to separate the family from the business in their decision making, it is inevitably hard to do. However rational he or she may try to be, a family member told that there is no place for him in the business or no promotion, will react emotionally as will the family member delivering the bad news. The decision might have been based on feelings too.

Channelling Emotion

There is no easy solution to the challenge of aligning family dynamics with the business given that we are hardwired to be driven by our feelings. However, a framework to help cope with and manage change - whether you call it a charter, a statement of core values, a shareholders agreement or a constitution - can help future proof business and family relationships and provide confidence to face the challenges the future may bring.


If you would be interested in discussing future proofing your Family Business, please contact David Emanuel on 0207 665 0848 for a confidential discussion without obligation.

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