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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
As one flies steer towards each other of the 7
If one of the 7 birds turn then the one turns
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.
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.
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.
Cultural Question by Anon:
So lets say two employees have a disagreement. The team leader and the worker runs through what needs to be done, and its all written up and seemingly agreed to. Then the worker goes in a different direction (different order of things) to what was agreed. The leader isn’t happy because this changed order effects work that he had planned.The leader is thinking of replacing the worker.
How do you think the DECARRT etc would play a role here?
Firstly, I would say don’t throw out the worker with the broken agreement.
Address the agreement not the worker. And if the worker bypassed the agreement deal with that and the how and why it occurred.
It is 10 times easier to replace an agreement than to replace a worker I think.
Through the investigation, I believe, we would find a point where an objection was not stated. Our job would be to find that point and back track.
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.