The idiom “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 due to the lack of protections during disputes.
Object123, is a Psychological Safety framework that can help us upset the applecart of conversation. It encourages disagreement during conversation by helping us moderate each other’s poor behavior, in real-time, offering us protectection from being abused..
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 weekly hearing before our peers, where it can be reviewed and adjudicated on.
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.
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.