“Don’t upset the applecart”, applies, in this case to the the ‘system’ of conversation. What ‘system’, you may ask. The playwright Bertolt Brecht said “When something seems ‘the most obvious thing in the world’ it means that any attempt to understand the world has been given up.” I think that we have given up any attempt to understand the system of conversation and I also believe it is time we upset this applecart.
It seems to me that most participants of conversation comply with the idiom “Don’t upset the applecart” and have never questioned why we converse or how we should go about doing it better. Generally conversation – the applecart, is geared to discourage overt disagreement by having no standard and explicit rules for moderating poor behavior, other than trying to be civil and courteous. It’s still like the wild west when we disagree.
Evidence of this is that we tend to have lots of separate, follow up conversations, with third parties, about each other’s poor behavior during conversation i.e. gossip. This being an attempt to resolve, in our own minds, any disagreements and upsetting behavior and that may have occurred.
Object123, is an explicit agreement that helps us upset this applecart of conversation. It encourages disagreement during conversation by helping us moderate each other’s poor behavior, in real-time.
For example: Object123 “If one person is upset with anything that is said or done by the other, we agree that he or she has the right to interrupt the conversation and object, in real-time, to the perceived upsetting behavior”.
This is done by using three consecutive objection phases:
Caution – Official Cautioning – eg. “I would like to caution you”. Cautioning the perceived offender, directly and in real-time, to get an acknowledgment of the offense or an explanation, otherwise it can be escalated to:
Object – Official Objection – eg. “I would like to object now”. Objecting to the offender, in private, that an acknowledgment or an adequate explanation was not given for the perceived offense. Now, if a simple apology is not forthcoming then it can be escalated to:
Stop – Official Stopping – eg. “I would like us to stop now”. Stop because the offended person did not receive a simple apology or an adequate explanation and now an acceptable apology would be required. The conversation would be stopped until this issue was resolved.
At any time the accused offender can dispute their offense by giving an appropriate explanation but if their appeal is not sustained then they risk the caution being escalated to an objection and ultimately the stopping of the conversation until the issue is resolved.
Ultimately, this is done by taking the issue to a hearing before our peers, where it can be reviewed and adjudicated on.
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.
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 biased proposition and proposing our own 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” measured by our agreed-to moderators (DECARRT – see Moderators & Jargon below), rather than pointing out that the other person is wrong or accusing them of being biased. Prefacing our arguments and proposals 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.
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 descenting person can simply object to the bosses behavior using DCOS ie Dare to Caution, Object and finally Stop if necessary, in real-time, and on the grounds that it did not conform to DECARRT. Anger and the resultant abuse being a dead giveaway, in this instance.
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.
MODERATORS & Jargon
Moderators: DECARRT are our agreed-to moderators and require us to be mindful of them when engaging with our proposals and disagreeing with other’s proposals. Daring, Enjoyable, Considered, Accountable, Responsible, Reasonable, Transparent
DCOS: is the name we give for activating an objection for unacceptable behavior relative to DECARRT.
DCOS stands for Daring, Caution, Object, Stop and needs to be use consecutively ie
we cannot Object or Stop without using a caution first. Basically it is 3 strikes and we are out. Or similar to a free kick, yellow card and red card in soccer.
Being accountable for DCOS requires the offender to:
Acknowledge a Caution
Say sorry for an Objection
Give an acceptable apology for a Stop.
Acceptable Apology: Where the receiver has the option to simply accept or reject the apology on what ever grounds and consists of the offender stating:
1. What they did
2. Why they did it
3. What they will do next time
ALIN = Angry, Lie Ignore or Nag Failing to use our agreed to moderators will result in Anger, Lies, Ignoring or Nagging and should result in us DARING to one of our Objections DCOS starting at a CAUTION, next up is to OBJECT, and finally is STOP.
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 the abused getting (ALIN) Angryin this case, the offended could CAUTION, using and unemotional statement of “I caution you” should be sufficient to to let your boss know that his or her behavior is unacceptable. Your boss can then choose to inquire why there is an objection and has a choice to acknowledge the caution, which was on the grounds that his or her reaction to the dissent was not according to our DECARRT moderators (not enjoyable or considered for example). If the boss can acknowledge the poor behavior we can continue the discussion. However if your boss did not think your caution was sustainable or warranted, the offended could OBJECT next and ultimately STOP the discussion.
Resolve an Impasse
After the discussion was stopped, 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 Moderators & 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 moderators 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 word “precaution” suggests that it’s what comes before we need to caution or to even prevent cautioning. In fact, to me precaution does not seem to make sense until we make the statement “to take the precaution”.
Our lives are full of these precautions, so many in fact that I believe we have not thought what they are and where they are. Our whole legal and government system is one giant precautionary tool. A very expensive precaution against anarchy.
I challenge you to to stop and think about the next thing you do and spot all the precautions we have in place to avoid being cautioned or even to prepare us for a cautioning if we break them. Road rules, technology, monetary systems, workplace conditions, climate and environment, energy, education, health, science, sex, design, taxes, finance, legal, marriage, architecture, engineering, etc etc. They all consist of explicit precautionary policies, rules and regulations that allow our society to function and thrive even. They can keep us safe if we take them and can cause us a lot of problems if we don’t take or adopt these and many other precautions.
Of course there is a price to pay for having the precaution in place, just look at what has occurred with COVID-19 and the different precautionary policies each government undertook. The price paid by each government for applying the existing precaution of closing down travel, testing, and contact tracing early verses seeing if we could “ride it out” but possibly paying the price of many deaths later, as Boris Johnson claimed and Donald Trump implemented. I guess as a society and as an individual we have to ask ourselves how much are we willing to pay in time, effort and money for taking the precaution versus the risk of not taking it. The precautions are all there we just have to agree to them and implement them.
The precaution I would like to talk about is the precaution for when we have a disagreement or dispute in our personal and business relationships. What is the precaution we have taken for such a situation? I don’t believe we have yet any standardised precaution for this very common situation. Now, it is not a far stretch to say that most friendships or relationships end due to one or multiple disagreements and disputes and yet what precaution have we taken already? Or better still what precaution did your parents take and pass on to you?
I have taken a precaution that I call OBjECT123 and am willing to share and I would love to hear if you have taken a precaution for when you have personal disputes that you are willing to share?
One of the most financially successful sports globally, without argument, is soccer with the top three teams in the world being valued at more than $12 billion. The game is controlled by standard rules and a referee using a whistle along with yellow and red card caution protocols. When an infringement occurs the referee will blow the whistle and award a free kick or use a card against the player responsible. The following are the standard caution protocols for the use of such cards:
“Should a player receive 2 yellow cards in a game, they will be shown a red card and will be suspended for 1 match. If a player receives a straight red card, he is immediately dismissed from the field, cannot be replaced and will miss a few games. If a player believes they have been wrongly cautioned he can appeal this decision.”
Imagine trying to run a professional sport, worth billions of dollars but without standard rules of play or caution protocols in place. I say, it would be near impossible and more to the point, it is actually these agreed-to rules and caution protocols that have enabled the game to grow and flourish as it has over the last 150 years.
At the same time business and personal relationships are dissolving due to the lack of standard rules of engagement and caution protocols, in my opinion. The costs of divorces globally, in our society is also in the billions of dollars annually, not to mention the emotional and psychological costs.
It seems crazy to me that, for just a sport, so much effort is invested in standards that keep participants accountable and yet when it comes to business and personal relationships there seems to be no standard rules or caution protocols.
But lets imagine for a moment we created a simple standard engagement rule for relationships and caution protocols to govern them. For example, a standard rule being when one is offended by the other’s behavior they can use our standard protocols to govern this offending behavior. If the offender disputes a caution protocol they can make an appeal to the offended person and eventually appeal to an outsider as a last resort. I believe that I have created a simple set of caution protocols that if agreed to, could be used and could change the face of personal and business relationships.
Based along the same vein as soccer’s caution protocols, with two people relating and when one has taking offence to the other’s behavior, these caution protocols can be used to resolve such offence: *Note: These are applied by the offended person in real-time and direct to the offender.
CAUTION (Like blowing the whistle) – then the offender would need to acknowledge or it can be escalated to an…
OBJECTION (Like the yellow card) – now a simple apology would be required from the offender or it could be escalated to a..
STOP (Like the red card) – now the offender would need to offer an acceptable apology and is dismissed until doing so. *After a Stop is activated the alleged offender can appeal the decision or use an outsider if they really felt unfairly treated.
Getting upfront agreements to the caution protocols allows both parties to know how serious a dispute can get and that accountability and responsibility are paramount, always.
My aspirational thinking….. Imagine if the NRL and AFL employed me to go around to everyone of their teams to give them an Object Response workshop? (Caution: the Object Response is yet to be tested)
Where I simply tell the team members how to deal with domestic disputes by 1. Getting agreements with our partners, first and foremost, on how we approach disputes. 2. Then we agree to split the CONTENT of the dispute from the BEHAVIOR during the dispute 3. We agree to BEGGING TO DIFFER to the content and OBJECT to any poor behavior when we differ or disagree. 4. We agree that when we object to poor behavior we do it in 3 stages or phases: – Caution…& if no acknowledgment, then… – Object…& if no simple apology, then… – Stop…& if no acceptable apology then seek an external adjudicator.
What causes conflict? I believe what happens is that most people allow the first, second and even the third offense to take place and only then react or object but by then the reaction can and usually is so disproportionate to the offence. We have all been there and suffered this type of wrath, for example our partner leaving the lid off the toothpaste, and reacting with “I’m sick or this!” or “I’ve had enough! The funny thing is we all know that this reaction is wrong but we seem to be stuck in this cycle of rewarding poor behavior for even poorer behavior. I guess that is why most people try avoid confrontation but this this just maintains and possibly escalates the cycle.
So my simple solution is to agree beforehand to use a mild objection for behavior that offends us, such as a: 1.Caution in real-time, as a proportionate response to whatever is offensive, “I would like to caution you”. Then to receive a simple acknowledgement in response to the caution. But if our caution was not successful in receiving that acknowledgment then we can raise the stakes to the next Objecting phase and use an official: 2. Objection to receive a simple apology, “I would like to Object”. And finally, if still unsuccessful and we don’t receive a simple apology then we can raise to the next Objecting phase to a: 3. Stop, in which case a more complex and responsible acceptable apology would be required from the offender, “I would like to stop now”. And part of the apology given by the offender would be in reference to how and why we go to the third phase of the objection. The apology would be along the lines of :
What I did
Why I did it and
What I will do next time
As I mentioned this will only work if the process is agreed to before hand, applies to all parties and any false objections would also need to be acknowledged and apologised for if the objection was eventually overruled.
Few people if any really know the difference between objecting and disagreeing, until it is explained to them and then it makes perfect sense. Please tell me if I was wrong and leave a comment below if you knew.
Even in wikidiff it doesn’t clearly explain it. The difference is, I think, that we object to people’s behavior (delivery) in a conversation but only disagree with the content of their delivery. So simple in hindsight. And why is this important? Because now that we understand this we can split a discussion into two parts focusing exclusively on the person. ie. their content and their delivery of the content. Disagreeing only with the content and objecting only with the delivery.
Most psychologists recommend we focus only on “the issues not the person” but somehow we seem to have ended up throwing out the baby with the bath water. Now that we can focus on the person again, – delivery and content, we can work on some agreed to rules of engagement, especially about delivery or behavior. It is imperative, however to ensure that we agree to these rules before engaging. Here are a few I have prepared before hand.
When we find the other’s delivery to be offensive in any way we can object, in real-time but here is the trick. We can split the objection into three phases that starts out very mild and increases in accountability if there is any recalcitrance or disputing of the initial objection.
For example: If we agreed that the first objection was called a 1. Caution and it just required an acknowledgement from the offender. If this was done, then we could return to the conversation or discussion.
However if an acknowledgement was not forthcoming then the offended could ratchet up the objection, in real-time, to an 2. Objection, which now would require a simple apology to continue.
And you guessed it, if the simple apology was not forthcoming by the offender then the objection could be raised to a 3. Stop and now an acceptable apology would be required by the offender. If that was not forthcoming, in real-time then the discussion would end until the objection was resolved. An example of an acceptable apology is, What I said. Why I said it and what I will say next time.
Of course their are variants in how this plays out as the objector may have misread the situation, in which case the alleged offender may be innocent. This would require further discussion and clarification until resolved and may even involve a third party to help resolve. Also each phase is consecutive and would always require us to begin with a caution.
After 35 years of contemplating and investigating relationship disputes I have come up with the simplest of solutions to reduce domestic violence, divorce and heated disputes in business and personal relationships. Yes, as grand as this claim is I am claiming that I have a formula proposal that I intend to prove over the next 5 years.
So, what is the TOP Agreement? Well, TOP stand for The Object Proposal and it simply requires us to form an agreement with whomever we want to have productive disagreements with, before we converse and disagree. Where we agree that our discussions, negotiations or debates are moderated equally by each other and we hold each other to account by objecting to any offenses that occur during these conversations.
Firstly we need to agree what an “agreement” is and the proposal for that is as follows: “An idea that we believe to be true, together, for a prescribed time period and depending on the stipulated conditions, at the time.” In other words an agreement is only as good as the information used to form it at the time and it can be reviewed and renewed at any time after but needs the consent of both parties to agree to any alteration, of course.
The Object Proposal (TOP)
Simply put, TOP is based on baseball’s 3 strikes and we are out or soccer referee’s whistle, yellow & red cards. Three levels of Objection and a higher level of accountability for each. ie. 1. Caution – Acknowledge 2. Object – Simple Apology 3. Stop – Acceptable Apology
During a conversation it will be both parties responsibility to keep track of when they are offended by the other and, in real-time, inform the other person with a Caution. eg “I caution you”. If the offence is acknowledged by the offender, then fine and we continue with the conversation. If not acknowledged and not explained why, then the alleged offence can be escalated by the offended person to an Objection. eg. “I object”. Where a simple apology would now be required. If the alleged offender complies then fine but if not then the offended person can escalate to a Stop where the offender will now be required to give an acceptable apology or explain why they believe the offence is not sustainable and the conversation is ended until the alleged offence is resolved.
As we learn to apply the TOP agreement we can apply any clauses and caveats that may be needed as we go along from what we learn during the process. For example, what we consider is offensive can be book marked. Or if the offence and objection is not sustained and is instead overruled through debate then the objector will need to back down and acknowledge their error instead. In some, if not a lot of offenses are more misunderstandings rather than intentional offences.