I think that there is too much emphasis on us NOT being offended and NOT speaking up when we are offended. And what we see are terrible arguments, domestic disputes, malicious gossiping etc as the result. That is, very poorly delivered objections, that we have been encouraging people to build up and contain and when eventually released, usually ends up being even more offensive than the original offender’s misbehavior.
This is a tweet from Mark Manson #1 NYTimes bestselling author of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”. I beg to differ with Mark as I mentioned to Mark, although I do agree that how we choose to be offended should be done wisely:
And then you have this from his followers….
It is no wonder we have so many relationship issues in our society when everyone is being encouraged to basically “shut the F#*K up!”
Object123 goes in the opposite direction, I believe, by encouraging team members to actively and openly object to offensive behavior or misbehavior in real-time. Emphasizing how and when we object being the most important point and that we agree to use a singular platform to do so. Finally, we can now rightly know that we can even take offense to these idioms, and no longer think we have to accept being called a Snowflake.
Our written history began around 10,000BC with the Agricultural Revolution. After this, came the Industrial Revolution and we are now in the Digital Revolution or Information Age. My prediction is that the next revolution that builds upon the Information Age will be the Agree-cultural Revolution.
What is the Agree-cultural Revolution? I believe it is where we have created a simple culture within our business and personal arenas that encourage and enable “real” agreements to occur.
I see conversations today, generally with people being obsequious, compromising, acquiescing, assenting to authority and avoiding the asking of “dumb” or “difficult” questions. This is understandable as we don’t seem to have an explicit and standard way to resolve inevitable disputes that occur when we have disagreements and the resultant poor behavior they can cause.
Object123 is our proposal for creating such a safe, agreement culture or environment. Where we make one singular agreement that if person A is offended by anything person B has said or done, person A has the right to pause the conversation by objecting and have a parallel conversation about our behavior. This is done by agreeing to use three consecutive phases, if needed, starting with a Cautioning and then an Objecting and finally a Stopping, if necessary.
I believe the actual reason we have conversation, besides practice, is to form and improve our agreements. That our agreements are supposed to be in a constant state of flux where we can return to them at any time and disagree as we gain new information and renew and improve our agreements. And by using the Object123 Agree-cultural framework we facilitate these agreement conversations, making them enjoyable and not the stressful a chore that we are used to when we are having disagreement.
I hope we agree.
It seems to me there are two approaches to creating a Psychological Safety Framework:
- Describe 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.
- Propose a singular framework for objecting to misbehavior that team members and team leaders could agree or disagree to use together.
The former takes a book or two and months of workshop learning.
The latter takes a paragraph, a one hour conversation and a lifetime of engagement.
The word “precaution” suggests that it’s what comes before we need to caution or to even prevent cautioning. In fact, to me precaution does not seem to make sense until we make the statement “to take the precaution”.
Our lives are full of these precautions, so many in fact that I believe we have not thought what they are and where they are. Our whole legal and government system is one giant precautionary tool. A very expensive precaution against anarchy.
I challenge you to to stop and think about the next thing you do and spot all the precautions we have in place to avoid being cautioned or even to prepare us for a cautioning if we break them. Road rules, technology, monetary systems, workplace conditions, climate and environment, energy, education, health, science, sex, design, taxes, finance, legal, marriage, architecture, engineering, etc etc. They all consist of explicit precautionary policies, rules and regulations that allow our society to function and thrive even. They can keep us safe if we take them and can cause us a lot of problems if we don’t take or adopt these and many other precautions.
Of course there is a price to pay for having the precaution in place, just look at what has occurred with COVID-19 and the different precautionary policies each government undertook. The price paid by each government for applying the existing precaution of closing down travel, testing, and contact tracing early verses seeing if we could “ride it out” but possibly paying the price of many deaths later, as Boris Johnson claimed and Donald Trump implemented. I guess as a society and as an individual we have to ask ourselves how much are we willing to pay in time, effort and money for taking the precaution versus the risk of not taking it. The precautions are all there we just have to agree to them and implement them.
The precaution I would like to talk about is the precaution for when we have a disagreement or dispute in our personal and business relationships. What is the precaution we have taken for such a situation? I don’t believe we have yet any standardised precaution for this very common situation. Now, it is not a far stretch to say that most friendships or relationships end due to one or multiple disagreements and disputes and yet what precaution have we taken already? Or better still what precaution did your parents take and pass on to you?
I have taken a precaution that I call OBjECT123 and am willing to share and I would love to hear if you have taken a precaution for when you have personal disputes that you are willing to share?
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.