Starting a company is like having a baby. You and your team are creating something special where there was nothing before. Because you and your team care so much about what you’re building, highly contentious conversations are inevitable. You will have disagreements about everything – from completely meaningless things like how you should answer the phones, to key decisions that will fundamentally affect the course of your startup.
The question is not whether you will have these conflicts – all founding teams do. Instead, you have to figure out how to turn the lemons into lemonade, and these clashes result in positive and productive outcomes. The best way to do this is to take a timeout. Take a timeout when the conversation is counterproductive and spiraling downwards.
It’s even better to be proactive when you can. If you need to make a contentious point, ask for a delayed reaction. For example, if you want to give your partner important feedback, but have experienced negative, knee-jerk reactions in the past, start by saying, “I want to give you some feedback, but I don’t want you to react right now.” This delay will diffuse the emotion and give him time to think rationally before engaging emotionally.