The Object Principle – How we disagree well, together

object BOOK COVER2
So, you’re having a conversation with your boss and he or she says something that you don’t agree with. You voice your dissent and your boss tells you to “Shut the f#*k! up!” as they remind you who’s the boss, in front your fellow staff members. What do you do?

It’s the times that we disagree that we are the more likely to experience anger, from both ourselves and others. Pretty obvious, right?

Rather than focusing directly on anger, this presentation will look more at how we got there. That is, looking at the cause; dissent and disagreement, rather than the symptom, which we believe is anger.

If disagreeing  with superiors, without fear of retribution, is a critical issue that every innovative organisation faces, then creating a safe environment that not only tackles this problem but actively encourages dissent, is the holy grail, we believe.

Creating a Safe Environment to Disagree

“We believe that thoughtful, unemotional disagreement by independent thinkers can be converted into believability-weighted decision making, that is smarter and more effective than the sum of its parts.”  Principles by Ray Dalio.

Ray Dalio’s use of “unemotional disagreement” for making smarter decisions is commendable, but what happens to the 99% of us who usually experience, on some level, “emotional disagreement”? For such occasions we are proposing the use of The Object Principle and believe it starts with a safe and regulated environment. Firstly, to create such an environment, we believe that it needs to be lead from the top down, and before the company is really formed. Executives, founders and investors are going to have to make a number of strategic agreements to support our proposal that encourages such open dissent.

Disagree Vs Object

To “Disagree” is basically not agreeing with how the other person has interpreted the facts or data. To “Object” however, is about disagreeing with how the other behaves while delivering their interpretation. This idea of splitting a dispute into the two components,  interpreting data and delivering this interpretation, is crucial in understanding a disagreement, as we will see later, and is the secret sauce for our Object Principle.

Disagree

Fundamentally we all have biases, so working out what is true and what is not is always going to be a difficult proposition. “Calling out” someone’s bias is also difficult because it could be that our view is the biased one. Therefore, we propose that everyone in the organisation recognizes this and agrees to simply state that we “don’t agree” or “disagree” using our agreed-to regulators (see Regulators & Jargon), rather than pointing out that the other person is wrong or accusing them of being biased. Prefacing our arguments with “I think” or “in my view” goes a long way to remind us all that these are just our opinions or interpretations of the data rather than being the absolute factual data, which ultimately may never actually exist.

Object

During this disclosure of our dissent it is possible or even likely that it is not always going to be received well. As in our example in the introduction, the response to our dissent could even be quite hostile. At this point the person disagreeing can simply object to the bosses behavior, in real-time, on the grounds that it did not conform to our agreed-to regulators (see Regulators & Jargon). Anger and the resultant abuse being a dead giveaway, in this instance.

Complain

Complaining is sort of a combination of objecting and disagreeing, only instead of being in real-time and direct it is usually after the fact and indirect and usually has a degree of anger resentment and abuse associated with it. We consider this is the poor man’s objection and usually results in malicious gossiping within the organisation.

Regulators & Jargon

Ali = Disagreeing “Well”: not getting Angry, lie or ignore.

Regulators: DECARRT are our agreed-to regulators
Daring, Enjoyable, Considered, Accountable, Responsible, Reasonable, Transparent

DTOUR: is the name we give for activating an objection for bad behavior.
DTOUR stands for Dare To Object Using Regulators and one is required to object or disagree within the bounds of these regulators.

Acceptable Apology: Where the receiver has the option to simply accept or reject the apology on what ever grounds. Consists of
1. What I did
2. Why I did it
3. What I will do next time

Put It All Together

So, back to our initial question, what do we do when our boss tells us to shut the f up?Imagine we had our agreements in place, within our organisation, to encourage dissent, this is how it would proceed. Instead of getting (Ali) Angry, or lying to oneself by obsequiously laughing it of or becoming subservient by ignoring it, we can simply object to the boss’s behavior. A simple, unemotional statement of “I object” should be sufficient to to let your boss know that a DTOUR Objection has been called. Your boss can then choose to inquire why there is an objection and has a choice to acknowledge your objection, which was on the grounds that his or her reaction to your dissent was not according to our DECARRT regulators (emotional and rude). If the boss can admit the error then a simple apology would suffice to continue the discussion. However if your boss did not think your objection was sustainable, maybe believing you deserved such abuse and overruled it, we would then have an impasse.

Resolve an Impasse

At this point we would suggest postponing the original discussion until the impasse is resolved. Part of the Object Principle requires the objector to try resolve the issue with your boss on a one-on-one basis. If unsuccessful the objector can bring a witness or two to establish the issue. If successful, at this stage the boss would be required to give a more Acceptable Apology (see Regulators & Jargon). Or, if still unresolved, the objector can bring the boss before the organisation’s team of peers. If still unresolved the peers can decide if the boss had acted outside our regulators and ultimately decide their fate, with the power to remove the boss from their position. One would hope we would never need such drastic action but such assigned powers are part of our Object Principle.

The Engagement & The Proposal

Steeped in history, tradition and mystery is the whole marriage gambit. But when we look logically at what it all means it doesn’t seem to make much sense.
I have been going through this process at the fringes for the last 3 years and am starting to get a grip on the whole process and believe it or not it is starting to make perfect sense.

The Engagement
Let’s start with the engagement. The meaning is in the word, it is where we engage with people that we might like to form a more permanent bond with. But we can engage with many people, at different times or at the same time and for many types of relationships. The engagement is where we learn about the other person’s thinking and our own and how well we work together and deal with each other. It is also where we draw up some rules, rules of engagement, as it were. Our agreed-to rules for engaging and disengaging and for keeping the discussions moderate. If we were birds we would be like fledglings, flapping our wings (and gums) in preparation for the next step, the proposal.

The Proposal
So we have been engaging with many many people and all the while learning and preparing for the next big step the proposal. But throughout the engagement process we would have made countless proposals but all of them leading to our skilling up for the most important proposal of our life the marriage proposal. Now all the negotiating we have done in the past during the engagement process we can use for the proposal.
This is it, the mating cycle the DNA mixing that has been around for millions of years has finally come to our door and is begging the question, “do you feel lucky punk. Well do ya?” Well, no, I don’t agree I think by this stage we may have picked up some skills that allow us to make a series of proposals that help us create and improve upon our parents engagement and proposal. We are not just a victim of lady luck we are more, we are smart.

The Aftermath
So here are some of us on the cusp of making the biggest decisions of our life and others have already gone through the process and now my question is how conscious were you aware when/if you participated in the Engagement and the Proposal. I am still becoming aware of it as I type here. What rules of engagement did you develop and what proposals did you make and agree to during the proposal stage or did/do you just rely on lady luck and wing it?

Stay tuned.

Conversation Vs Negotiation

I guess you or I have never thought to ask what is the difference between a negotiation and a conversation, well I haven’t to date, but just started thinking about it recently.

A conversation is more personal, for example: if someone said “I want you to marry me” or “would you marry me”, during a conversation your reply might “gee thanks and yes I will”. But with a negotiation your response could be less personal. Eg:
“So you want to marry me or me to marry you? Hmmmm….. Well, what I would like from you is to be more transparent and explain yourself more clearly. Can you put together a more formal proposal to me explaining in detail what you want from me and why and where etc and I will get back to you on your proposal”.
Considering this is probably the most important proposal or conversation we could ever have, putting it into a more formal context makes so much more sense than how it has been treated in the past. Especially considering the financial and legal implications of such a request/proposal.

Oh! I like the negotiation sooooo much more as it gives the receiver of such a question or request so much more power in how they reply. Imagine if every woman that was ever asked to marry replied with this negotiation skill, perhaps there would be less divorces.

Maybe it is time for more women to prepare this type of proposal for men and see how the men would respond ie negotiate or simply reply in a conversation. I am preparing myself for such a proposal and know/hope it will be much more a negotiation rather than a conversation. 🙂

My First Proposal

If I wanted to have a business relationship with you I would make you a business proposal. A proposal is not so much a question but the beginnings of a negotiation process where we state what we want and what we are willing to give in exchange.
It is, as they say a quid pro quo.

If I wanted to have a personal relationship with you then I would think the same should apply, where we make a series of proposals as part of our negotiation, with the ultimate goal of making a marriage proposal. Once again, I suggest that it is a quid pro quo.

But, somehow, I don’t think that is how it is working out in personal relationships today or ever. Sure, couples court each other, implicitly talking about what they are looking for and not looking for from each other but when the marriage proposal is made what have they exactly agreed to? Who really knows?

My suggestion is that we start to be more explicit in our negotiations and proposals during personal relationships. And, I suggest that our first proposal should be this, “let’s start negotiating and what would you like to propose?”

This may explain why there are so many broken relationships and marriages.
There seems to be so much focus on the “marriage proposal” where he pops the question and she foolishly accepts without detailing what exactly what is he proposing. What is it that he is offering and what does he want in exchange? What are the exact details for the proposal and can we put them down in writing and sign for them, turning our vague marriage certificate into a more formal and detailed contract.

If we are going to sign something when we marry then why not know exactly what we are signing for, I say. So I guess this post is my first proposal in our marriage proposal.

Rules of Disengagement

We all have heard of Rules of Engagement, used for when soldiers are in combat.
Nato have an ROE Manual and another is called the San Remo Rules of Engagement. The Geneva Convention are another set of rules but used for disengagement and used to protect people who are not part of or no longer taking part in hostilities.

Imagine if we developed a set of rules that we could agree to use in our personal and business relationships to protect us from each other when we want to no longer take part in a disagreement, dispute or argument. A set of agreed-to rules to allow us to disengage. I believe that is what is missing in our lives and contributes to enormous problems in our business and personal relationships.

I have come up with 3 simple rules of disengagement that could work if we were willing to agree to use them and give them a try.

  1. Caution – “I would like to caution you now…” This is a warning to be careful that we can activate to let the other know that we have an issue with what was just said or how it was said and a de-escalation or slowing down is necessary or we face heading towards the second step.
  2. Objection – “I object….” Where we object to what was said or how it was said and require the other to retract the offending behavior with a simple apology.
  3. Stop – “I would like to stop now…” Where we call an ending to the proceedings until an acceptable apology is given. If we get to this point it is quite likely that the person is showing the beginnings of contempt for these rules of disengagement.

These proposed rules of disengagement (ROD) need to be tested to see how useful they are and to see what issues and problems evolve out of using them. But worth a try.

Help Clarify Our Confusion

The BIG clarification question is “why are we here” or “what is the meaning of life”, but in reality we may have just begun to answer this question by asking it. If my theory is correct, quite possibly the meaning of life is to simply clarify it by reducing our confusion. And in asking such a question we may be on the road to already clarifying our understanding.

Before, I had asked and answered another BIG question of what conversation was for, by saying “to be making sure”. But now I would say “to make clear” or reduce confusion.

Just imagine if we formed a relationship explicitly around the agreement that we would help each other clarify our life and reduce confusion. In this simple agreement we are then agreeing to reduce deception and lies, to reduce anger and ignorance and anything else that contributes to confusion or a lack of clarification.

Would you agree with that?

I hope my efforts, here, have made life a little bit clearer. I feel my confusion has reduced somewhat….ha!

Flock You!

One principle with 3 simple rules to keep the flock together but never clash.

Imagine if we humans could devise a simple principle with 3 simple rules to allow us to work at our optimum together and yet not clash, crash or have overheated interactions together, even if we vehemently disagree. When you watch this video you will see how these starlings do it in flight.
Their 3 rules, as proposed by the researchers, are how one starling interacts with her 7 closest neighbours:

  1. As one flies steer towards each other of the 7
  2. If one of the 7 birds turn then the one turns
  3. Finally don’t crowd each other.

Now let’s see if we can apply a similar principle to people, to allow us to explore any topic and stay calm even if we disagree. My three-rule proposal is based on firstly splitting our conversation into two components, the Object and the Subject. The Object is the topic that we are talking about and the Subject is about us and how we deliver the Object. At any point we can step outside the Object and make the Subject the Object if we in fact have an objection to how the Subject delivered the Object or topic. This mental gymnastics has its benefits as we will see later. The three rules are for how we make such objections.
The first objections is just a caution and can be delivered as simply as “I call caution” and state the grounds.
The second is an official objection ” I object” with stated grounds.
And the third is “Stop” or three strikes and we’re out.

  1. Caution
  2. Objection
  3. Stop

At each step we agree to how the receiver to the objections should respond.
A simple acknowledgment and retraction for the Caution.
A more formal apology for an Objection
And an acceptable apology if the conversation had to stop due to the contempt for rules 1 and 2.

If the conversation cannot be restored due to the Stop call then a third party and eventually our peers can be involved to assist. It is quite possible that, like the 3 rules used by flocking of birds, we may only need to get such agreements with just 7 people in the organisation and the system could work.

Worth a try to see.

Objecting Vs Disagreeing

Objecting and disagreeing are very common and simple concepts it seems, but ask yourself to define the difference between the two and I think you will find it quite difficult.

It is only recently that I have been able to succinctly separate them and indeed, I believe, such knowledge and application will create a phase transition or paradigm shift in how we relate.

Now I know you will say “of course” when you read my definition but please know that you did not know to apply this principle in your daily conversation, and really, that is the true measure of knowledge ie when it is applied, I believe.

Objecting and disagreeing are used during conversations but more importantly in a dispute during a conversation or discussion. So here is the kicker, we disagree with the content or subject of the conversation and we object to the behavior or how the content is delivered. Again we object to the behavior (objectionable behavior) and we disagree with the content.

So what does this mean? Well, it means that we can now split our conversations or discussions into two parts and have them running in parallel, by identifying the content and the delivery of that content. We can set up agreements on what we will accept and what we will object to when we are participating in a conversation.

Personally, my brother and I have been doing this for some 30 years but I have never been able to explain it as simply as this. We have formed intricate, detailed agreements on how we will deliver information during our conversation. And we have developed a process that allows us to object in an efficient way ie direct and in real-time.

From the giving of a caution such as “careful” or “slowly” to objecting, to stopping the discussion, thereby calling out one’s behavior until it is resolved. Using acknowledgments and apologies to restore a balance in the conversation and ultimately agreeing to use an acceptable apology if one is responsible for a conversation ceasing due to one’s behavior.

This process includes objecting in real-time and direct, rather than complain after the fact and indirectly or gossiping behind our back. But I must emphasize here that we have only been able to do this by getting our agreements on dealing with such behavior, upfront.

Ultimately by forming such agreements we are assigning each other to be responsible for our behavior and anger specifically. Responsible, not by what we say that may have ticked them off but by what we didn’t say that would have helped keep the other cool calm and collected.

So if a conversation or discussion is stopped due to one’s objectionable behavior it is quite likely that both will need to apologise for allowing such behavior to occur and allowing it to get out of control.