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In the United States, we are flooded daily with advertising and marketing offers, “Buy 1, Get 1 Free!” Or “Lose Weight While You Sleep”, “Sign-Up Here to Double Your Income”. Most are easy to disregard while some catch our eye. We have learned to live with the noise and clutter and readily discern which offers are meaningful to us.

And yet there is a subtler, more significant version of an offer that many of us don’t notice or recognize; the altruistic gesture. An offer of help, or to perform a selfless act on our behalf. It can be big or small, but it always offered without expectation of reciprocity or compensation.

This article is one in a series focusing on Speech Acts, a theory developed by Fernando Flores some 50 years ago. According to his theory, Offers are one of the six powerful speech acts that create action or impel change. They are important because they are the communication tools we use in our daily lives to make things come about. But as with any tool, for it to work most effectively, you must understand how to use it.

The Concept of Offers

In everyday language, we use the term “offer” to express the act of presenting something to someone, like a drink, money, assistance, or an invitation. We might phrase our offers like this.

  • Can I buy you a drink?
  • May I lend you the money?
  • Can I help you carry the groceries?
  • How about hiking this afternoon?

An offer may be accepted or declined. The offeree has the freedom to choose while the offeror stands ready. If the offeree accepts, then the offeror is committed and the proposition takes effect. And clearly, if an offer is declined, then no commitment exists.

Offers Within Business Families

Why does all this matter and how does it apply to joint ownership or working with my family, you may ask?

Well, for one, it’s helpful to be able to identify an offer; both when you hear it and when you make it. When being offered an opportunity, for example, it requires a response. And when making an offer, it is reasonable to make it to one person at a time.

If you watched Succession on Netflix, you saw that the character, Logan Roy, at one point or another offered all three of his children the future role of CEO. The offers were made in a variety of formats over a stretch of time, and each child wavered between accepting and declining for a number of years.

As a family business leader, it’s important to track your offers and be careful not to offer the same thing to multiple people simultaneously. In the realm of family business disagreements, most confusion and competitive battles among the siblings can be traced back to careless offers. In fact, there might be no better way to create division within a generation.

Offers are Collaborative

Another thing to know about offers is that they are actually a form of joint decision-making and are always to the benefit of the offeree. It is the offeree who gets to choose if they would like to benefit from the offer and clearly, a detrimental offer would never be accepted. But if at some later date, an accepted offer leads to a negative outcome, their role in having accepted it means they are accountable and have no one else to blame.

Accepted Offers are Commitments

It’s important to be aware of and honor the offers we make. When family members work together, because of the high level of familiarity, it’s common to be sloppy with commitments.

Within families, unfulfilled commitments happen a lot. But over time, it’s a surefire way to erode trust and damage important relationships. Ironic how people tend to have greater integrity when making commitments with near strangers than those with whom they are the closest.

Your familiarity, tone, and method of delivery will have a great impact on how the listener perceives an offer and its odd of acceptance.

Familiarity Bias

Offers from people we know are more likely to be accepted than offers from strangers. That means that when offering your off-spring a job, you have a strong advantage over offers from outsiders. As a parent and family business leader, it’s something to keep in mind as your child isn’t likely to be aware of their bias and it wouldn’t be right to take advantage of that.

As an example, I recall that as a young person, I had an opportunity to work at a hotel resort in Antigua — an offer made by a near stranger — and simultaneously an option to work in the family business, cleaning and painting apartments. Without much thought, I chose the latter. I’ve reflected on that poor decision many times over the years and now I realize it was the familiarity bias that drove it.

Delivery and Tone Matters

How we deliver our offers affects their likelihood of being accepted. The tone and method of delivery range from polite gestures to command-like assertiveness. So, if you want your offer to be accepted, know that people are more inclined to accept those that are politely stated.

And then there is the false offer; the sarcastic statement made to sound like an offer, but is really a trap. “Why don’t you just go home early and leave all the work to me?” Again, that’s why it’s important to assess the tone — because it may really a cry for help, and in cases like this, there are deeper issues that need to be addressed.

The point of all this in the context of family business is to help you level up our communications. The more clearly we communicate the more likely we are to connect, strengthen the relationship, and enjoy better outcomes. If both parties know an offer when they hear it, they both know how to proceed fairly.

Orientation of Offers

Again, offers are a commitment to do an action, based on their acceptance. Let’s take a look at one more aspect, orientation. Here are some examples, each resulting in a different offer of action.

“Do you need me to get those orders ready and shipped out?”

In this case if the offeree accepts, they are alleviated from doing the task. But if the offer was a false, sarcastic one, you can imagine the resentment that would set in if accepted. To be clear, the use of sarcasm and false offers are unacceptable forms or behavior when working together.

“Have my assistant help you with those shipments.”

Here, the offeror suggests how to complete the task, the offeree may decline. This is an offer but may have been meant as a command. If declined, it may be viewed as an act of disrespect.

“Perhaps we should get these orders ready and shipped out.”

In this version, when the offeree accepts they have the offeror’s commitment to help finish the task. But it’s likely that the offeror used “we” in an effort to soften the command and it wasn’t really an offer at all.

The examples demonstrate how an offer can be misused, the communication goes awry and leads to a negative outcome that chips away at trust.

I know this all sounds like too much so let me put clarify. For the sake of these examples assume I am the offeror and you are the offeree.

  • When presented with an offer, you have all the power.
  • If you accept my offer, I am bound to act, I am committed.
  • If you refuse my offer, I do not need to act, there is no commitment.
  • If you make a counteroffer, it effectively swaps our roles, you become the offeror.

As an exercise, in the week ahead, listen for the offers you hear all around you and pay attention to how they land, whether they are accepted, declined, or sort of just left hanging. Which ones resulted in a better outcome and which led to a negative one? I promise that simply being aware of an offer when you hear it, will make it more effective.

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If this article has brought your awareness to issues in your own family business, let’s talk. I am a Family Business Leadership Coach specializing in family systems and dynamics of multi-generational business-owning families. I work closely with their members to define core values, navigate complex dynamics, and foster alignment. You can reach me at

For further details, feel free to explore my LinkedIn profile.