What if we agreed that there were explicit rules of engagement while having a conversation, discussion, or disagreement? And we also agreed that there would be consequences if we infringed upon these said rules.
As in soccer and many other sports, the first infringement or misbehavior is just a mild caution, but a penalty could result if continued. And if this was not enough deterrent for the offender, a disqualification could ensue.
Nothing is startling about what I just said here: just about every sport in the world has them but try to apply this to a relationship, either business or personal, and people could think that I am crazy.
Well, crazy or not, that is precisely what I am proposing. To design and apply a simple accountability system for how we interact. Reasonable, right? Overdue? I dare say.
Object123.com is my proposal for how we should behave while engaging.
I have a possible solution to resolving disagreements before they become disputes, that you can try without any expensive therapy
SPLIT THE DISAGREEMENT into two parts.
The content of the disagreement and
The behavior while delivering the content. Then DISAGREE with the content but OBJECT to the behavior of the delivery when one finds it offensive. Do this in tandem and in real-time.
SPLIT THE OBJECTION into 3 levels or consecutive phases (Must always start with number 1 the Caution and escalate if unsatisfied)
RESPONSE And agree to give appropriate responses to each level. Either justify your offensive behavior or.. 1. Give a simple acknowledgement to a Caution, then return to the disagreement or… 2. Give a simple apology to an Objection, then return to the disagreement or… 3. Give an acceptable apology to a Stop, then return to the disagreement or…
USE A FINAL DEMOCRATIC PROCESS if the offending behavior is still unresolved then find some of both your peers to get them to adjudicate.
I call this Object123.com and the category is a Social Just Culture.
* ensure all parties agree before you start and be careful it has not been fully tested yet, only between my brother and I
Why is it that when we are offended by someone’s behavior we end up being even more offensive in reply? Because they started it, simple. Of course this is a childish reply and as adults we would never be seen giving such an excuse for our offensive behavior but deep down I think that is what we still believe.
It explains every conflict, dispute and fight we have ever had. If someone has dared to cross us first then we will make sure they will remember not to ever do it again, by crossing them by even more. The offended becomes the offender and so the cycle has continued for milenia.
But imagine if we lived by, and agreed to, the principle of being less offensive and what effect that would have on our lives?
The way I see it is that we have 3 choices when we are offended
To be equally or more offensive in return
To be passive or submissive and suck it up buttercup
Or to object, which is a neutral stance
Objecting seems to be a lost art. For example when was the last time you actually said to someone that you objected to their behavior? Never, is my bet.
That is why I have developed Object123. I believe it can allow us to be less offensive when we are offended and help de-escalate a situation when someone is offended by the other’s behavior, without having to be submissive.
Of course for this to work we would need to agree to use this method and the process can be even used when one fails to use it correctly, by objecting to this behavior also. So it becomes sort of a singularity that can self correct itself.
Object123 is a self-help tool for resolving disagreements before they become disputes.
Eg:“OK granted” If one is upset by the other’s misbehavior or anger they can pause the conversation & caution the offender in real-time and he/she would need to either acknowledge or challenge the caution or it can be escalated to an objectionion.
Eg:“Sorry I was out of line” If the caution is not adequately addressed then the offended person can escalate it to an objection. Now the situation would need a simple apology or a further challenge to respond to the offended person or it can be escalated to a stop.
Eg:“Sorry, I was unfair because…& next time I will …” If the dispute reaches a STOP because the original caution and objection was not addressed appropriately by the offender, an acceptable apology would now be required or the dispute can be taken to a hearing before our peers to assess the matter.
how we deal with misbehavior
WHAT IS PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY Psychological Safety is the latest buzz word for corporations especially since the 2017 article in the Harvard Business Review on Google and high performing teams. There has been a lot written on the subject with many claiming to be experts and with years of research under their belt. Authors such as Brene Brown, author of Dare to Lead and Timothy R Clarke, author of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, have written extensively on the subject and their work sounds valid but there is just so much of what we need to know in order to achieve true psychological safety.
THEIR FOCUS They seem to have focused on all the behaviors that team members should and shouldn’t do and what the team leaders should and shouldn’t do to enable these identified behaviors. Their information and data is exhaustive and exhausting.
OUR FOCUS However, there is another way to solve this overwhelming problem of dealing with misbehavior. Instead of focusing on how we all should behave (in the future) to achieve Psychological Safety, we simply focus on how we object to others misbehavior, now, and build up a knowledge of how we should behave, one objection at a time.
OBJECT123 This is our simple Psychological Safety framework that allows us to moderate each other’s misbehavior (anger), in real-time and direct. Now the janitor can object to the CEO’s misbehavior and know that they have the protection and safety that the framework provides, with everyone being held accountable, regardless who they are.
WHAT IS MISBEHAVIOR? Whatever causes someone offence can be deemed misbehavior. For example, I find anger offensive. Others may find use of certain words offensive and then of course there is tone, volume, rhetoric, lying, ignoring, being dogmatic, etc etc etc. The point being that we should be able to argue our case during a disagreement without being offensive and be willing to modify our behavior if it is offensive. It is no coincidence that we seem to most likely to lose our cordial behavior and become angry and offensive when we have a disagreement. This is why most of us avoid disagreements.
HOW WE DO IT Object123 allows us to disagree safely. The special sauce to OBJECT123 is our understanding of the difference between disagreeing and objecting. When we disagree it is with the content in the discussion but when we object it is with the misbehavior in the discussion. The Object123 agreement allows us to Alt-Tab between content and any misbehavior at any time, consciously dealing with misbehavior when we are upset or offended by it. Thereby quickly and efficiently nipping it in the bud, any small misbehavioral incident, during a disagreement, before it becomes a dispute.
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.
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
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.
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.
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,
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.
Acknowledge a Caution
Example: “Ok, I retract my jibe”
Simple Apology for an Objection
Example: “I am sorry for my insulting remark, I was out of order”
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.
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.
Around 1850 in London it became apparent that using the Thames River as an open sewer had disastrous consequences for public health, including cholera epidemics. Although the contamination of the water supply was correctly diagnosed by Dr John Snow in 1849 as the method of communication, it was believed that miasma, or bad air, was responsible right up to the outbreak of 1866 (WIkipedia).
Eventually the Parliament realized the sewerage AKA shit, was disastrous for city dwellers in epidemic proportions, killing over 10,000 Londoners in one outbreak. So a plan was enacted to clean up the Thames by means of creating a sewerage system which transported the public waste away from London city river, diverting it to the east Thames estuary, where it is now treated.
Today, in 2018 it is also time for us to realize that domestic rage, like domestic sewerage is killing us in the tens of thousands globally and needs to be treated and dumped. From domestic rage and domestic violence in Australia, some 2 women a week are killed by their partners and it is the leading cause of hospitalized assault for girls and women in Australia. Countless families suffer at the hands of this scourge of rage and anger or more commonly called domestic violence, yet anger and rage does not appear to be singled out by governments and NGOs as the major cause of this violence.
Strange as it may seem but I have found it difficult to find an advocate for cleaning up this SewerRage. Most seem to believe that anger is natural just like shit and we are stuck with it and that “power & control” to be the causes of domestic violence. Well, it is true that anger has been part of our nature for thousands of years and has been used to as power and control to coerce others, but like the sewers of London we can treat rage and dump it where it does not harm.
How Do WE Treat Domestic SewerRage
After some 15 years of testing and developing I have a number of solutions for firstly treating our SewerRage and also how to dump it. My suggestion is….. Firstly: Create a shared reality where we agree that anger or rage is distasteful and very disruptive in a domestic environment and that we really want to do something about it. Secondly: We form an agreement like the Kyoto Protocol or Paris Climate Agreement where they can be updated at a later time but we are moving to make these changes a reality, together.
This agreement can be called what you want, let’s start with calling it the Anger Agreement. And simply agree that “although anger or rage is understandable it is unacceptable without and acceptable or agreeable apology”. This is what my brother and I have used. Thirdly: I have found that two other sub-causes need to be apologized for also and they are for lies and ignoring. I am sure you will agree that they too are distasteful and also a general cause of anger. Forthly: What we deem or agree is an acceptable apology will depend upon what you ultimately agree upon but for example we use, the following but with no blaming of anyone in the content.
What I did
Why I did it
And what I will do next time
The acceptable apology will allow us to “treat” our SewerRage and through practice allows us to dump it.
The treatment and dumping of sewerage in cities changed the world for the better saving millions of lives and making it possible to live together by the millions. I am suggesting the treatment and dumping of our Domestic SewerRage will change the world for the better, likewise. Worth a try, I say.