The Third Phase of Objection

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.

Three Phases of Objecting

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.

TOP Agreement

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.

The agreement

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.

Ok….now……let the conversations begin.

We nominate and inform each other what we are offended by and build our relationship around what agreements are reached in this area. Maybe that is what a relationship is for.

Agree How to Agree

How ironic is this. The fact that we make hundreds of agreement with each other and yet we do not have an agreement on what an “agreement” is or means to us. You will be surprised to find out just how much you may differ on what an agreement means to you and the people you are making them with.

Here is how I define an agreement and how remis it has been of me not to ensure that I have not thought of implementing this before, with my brother and business partner of 15 years.

AGREEMENT = “An idea that we believe to be true, together, for a prescribed time and depending on the stipulated conditions, at the time.”

My proposal

Think back to how many times you have thought you had an agreement and expected it to be carried out only to be let down by the timeline or various conditions that had changed?

This fundamental definition will change your life, in my view, especially if you agree with it and get the person that you are agreeing with to agree to it also.

Try it and let me know or let me know if you disagree.

The Object Proposal

The Object Proposal is my attempt to get a level playing field for personal and business relationships. It allows us to deal directly and in real-time with controversial issues when we don’t want to be walking on “eggshells” to avoid the resultant disagreements, arguments and conflict that can come with them.

Forming the Object Agreement

Firstly it requires discussing the behaviors that we find offensive and setting up agreements with each other that allows us to object in real-time if we feel these agreements have been breached and we have been offended. It consists of proposals on how we be behave when we engage and proposals on how we disengage if these agreements are breached. Here are my proposals:

ALIN – Anger, Lying, Ignoring, Nagging

The basic premise of the Object Proposal is that while engaging, if one person is offended by the other’s behavior, whether that is through Anger, Lying, Ignoring or Nagging, then they can temporarily suspend the topic of conversation, by objecting to that behavior, in real-time. There are 3 stages or levels to the objecting process starting off with a simple caution. An analogy is baseball’s three strikes and we’re out, or soccer’s free kick, yellow card and red card.

COS – Caution, Object, Stop

  1. Caution: Starting with a caution, the offended person can inform the offender of the perceived breach and if the caution is sustained the offender can simply Acknowledge their breach and the conversation can resume. This can continue with any number of cautions and does not necessarily need to escalate to an objection unless the offender refuses to acknowledge their breach.
  2. Object: Failing to acknowledge the caution means the offended could step up at this point to an objection and now the offender would be required to give more than just an acknowledgment, but now a Simple apology.
  3. Stop: And you guessed it, if the objection is not given a Simple apology then the offended can escalate the objection to a Stop and the offender would then be required to give an Acceptable apology,

ASA – Acknowledge, Simple apology, Acceptable apology

This is how we make amends when our behavior is deemed objectionable. The level of our contrite response will also correspond with the level of objection used as with COS.

  1. Acknowledge a Caution
    • Example: “Ok, I retract my jibe”
  2. Simple Apology for an Objection
    • Example: “I am sorry for my insulting remark, I was out of order”
  3. Acceptable apology for a Stop
    (Needs to be accepted by the receiver)
    • What I did, “I am sorry that I used insulting language”
    • Why I did it, “Unfortunately I fell back into my old habits of name calling”
    • What I will do next time. “I will deal with the issue next time, by offering you an agreement proposal to fix my problem rather than use name calling”

For far too long, I believe, we have allowed each other to get away with poor behaviour, especially during disputes and disagreements. This poor behavior will add up over time and eventually can erupt into overblown conflict when “the last straw” is added or “death by a thousand cuts”. The Object Proposal (and agreement) is a great way to bring us into line (if in fact we want to be treated well and we are willing to treat others equally as well) and dissipate any anger that may be building up due to mistreatment during a disagreement. It also encourages us to speak up and be heard, knowing that we are protected by our explicit agreements and by a simple process that allows and encourages us to OBJECT.

The OBjECT Principle

Having an engagement proposal is crazy without a disengagement proposal….

Who can deny that all conversation is an exchange of some sort or another, from the exchange of pleasantries, “Nice day, isn’t it?” to exchanging of proposals, “If I come back to you will you welcome me and marry me”
The exchange in in the sharing or our thoughts and or ultimate proposals.

So how do we make this exchange fair and equal, where we both gain more than we put in? Well, for exchanging pleasantries we generally use reasonably standard social mores to help as there is not much to be lost and gained. But for grand proposals it is a different matter, where we could lose or gain possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even our life and the lives of our future children could be lost. It is in this area where we are going to need more explicit agreements, in my view, on how we go about both engaging and disengaging with our proposals. This is where the Object Principle comes in.

Vietnamese – Tiếng Việt

Our Proposal

My brother Steve and I have been working on our proposals for newer and improved agreements on our behavior for years now and here is an example of a shared proposal that we have agreed to. I am hoping to apply it within an even more personal relationship such as a marriage someday.

We propose that when we have a conversation that we recognise that all conversations seem to embody an exchange of some sort i.e. from exchanging of pleasantries to exchanging grand proposals, and every level of exchange in between.

Hence, during our exchanges we believe it’s useful for us to have an agreed process, protocol or principle – that helps to guide the conversation towards more productive and mutually beneficial outcome.

Often, protocols and standards are implied within peer groups and societies generally, though we believe we can have our own explicit agreements on a process that helps moderate our conversations or exchanges.

So, for example if we don’t agree with the other’s tone, volume, context, rhetoric or simply detect unwanted anger (whoever “wants” anger?) then the agreement allows us to object to prevent us from feeling intimidated by the other person’s use of words or behaviour during our exchange. We can do this by using COS to either de-escalate or disengage.

COS stands for:

  1. Caution
  2. Object
  3. Stop

COS works by accounting for recalcitrant exchanges with 3 strikes and we’re out.
Strike 1. A Caution is applied and an acknowledgment is necessary from the offender eg “ yeah ok, I retract”.
Strike 2. An Objection is raised “I Object” and an apology is necessary.
Eg. “Yeah sorry I was out of line”.
Strike 3. Stop is applied and then an acceptable apology is necessary.
Eg What was done, why it was done and what would be done next time”. And this apology needs to be accepted by the receiver.

The COS 3 strikes should be applied consecutively ie. We cannot use Object or Stop unless we have used Caution first. We agree that we are both responsible for moderating each other’s behavior, during our exchanges, using COS and if we ever reach Stop we both agree to follow up later in an exchange to see how we allowed ourselves to get to this level of objection, as obviously the ideal is to never need to use COS or only get to a the Caution level. Another example is like the free kick in football, then a yellow card and finally a red card, where the offender is sent off.

And finally this proposal and any other from us can always be improved through our future conversations/exchanges and any updates to this or any other process or principle should be appreciated, anticipated and ultimately encouraged.