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.”
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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. 🙂
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.