The Object Proposal

The Object Principle – How we disagree well, together

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.

Disagree

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.

Object

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.

Complain

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

object_principle-2

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) Angry in 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.

The Object Proposal

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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,

ASA – Acknowledge, Simple apology, 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.

  1. Acknowledge a Caution
    • Example: “Ok, I retract my jibe”
  2. Simple Apology for an Objection
    • Example: “I am sorry for my insulting remark, I was out of order”
  3. 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.

The OBjECT Principle

Having an engagement proposal is crazy without a disengagement proposal….

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.

Vietnamese – Tiếng Việt

Our Proposal

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:

  1. Caution
  2. Object
  3. Stop

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.

The Engagement & The Proposal

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?

Stay tuned.

Conversation Vs Negotiation

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. 🙂

My First Proposal

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.

Rules of Disengagement

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.