The Innovative Brain Archive
Agreements to Manage Disagreements: The four agreements and conflict management
“I wasn’t very receptive to doing things differently… when I reprimanded my buddy. I was too constrained. [Yet] once you are not constrained, the ideas flow in. ” — David Gordon Wilson, professor emeritus at MIT who developed the modern recumbent bicycle, speaking regretfully on how he once criticized a “strange” new idea.
Did you ever find yourself in a situation where a co-worker was difficult to work with? A real pain in the butt who just wouldn’t “get with the program” and stood in the way of effective work? Likely you have. No one is immune from this phenomenon.
We’re all too familiar with the difficult behaviors of THOSE OTHER people that put a damper on great ideas (the naysayers, the whiners, the know-it-all’s to name a few) and bring conflict to our otherwise ideal world of unlimited innovation. Nothing can change the fact that some work situations are harder to deal with than others. Yet what you can change is how you react to them. The ability to do this depends on YOU being able to recognize and respond appropriately to difficult behavior patterns and situations (look out, we’re about to dump it all back in your lap!). Facing and managing conflict is an extremely important skill. When we are too forceful or too meek in addressing conflict, we reduce the potential for an effective outcome. Effective conflict management requires that instead of analyzing and categorizing the negative behaviors of others, we need to seek to look at and hone our responses in order to leverage conflict and move on to a positive interaction. You WANT to be the I in Innovation —
So what’s stopping U?
It’s easy to say “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” — and we must, we really must! So what stops us from taking up the banner and charging forward to implement our great idea? Frequently it’s not being confident that we know the right moves to make to deal with a conflict and get to the other side — where our true happiness lies (or at least an easier working relationship). Other times, we know what we’re supposed to do or not do, but we don’t do it well. And of course, some times we’re just lazy and self indulgent — it feels nice to have self righteous tantrums every once in a while, doesn’t it?. That’s nice. Have your tantrum if you need to, then get over it, and follow the advice you’re about to read. Or we’ll stop talking until you apologize!
Four Agreements Applied to Work Relationships
In his book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz outlines four essential codes of conduct that can be of significant value when used as directed in a consciously applied program of mental hygiene and regular professional care — PLUS you’ll have fewer (mental) cavities.
The Four Agreements gives us direction about what WE can do to respond appropriately to difficult behaviors and make our work relationships run more smoothly. They are deceptively simple, yet are rather difficult. However, with mindful and diligent practice, they are utterly effective.
Sounds like the Boy Scout Oath? Well yes, and the Scouts have a great history of success as an organization, so why not learn from them? When we put forward our best effort, and our colleagues know they can rely on us, they are much more likely to hear us out. When we’re doing our best we are fully engaged in our task, we have passion for the work and best of all, it doesn’t even really feel like work! Doing our best brings out the best in others and that’s a sure-fire recipe for innovation.
So, how do you get there from here? If you have roadblocks lurking around every corner you may think it’s impossible or even naïve to practice these four behaviors. And it may be true that all four — all at once — is a pretty big stretch. So how about taking it one at a time? You can use mindfulness (our capacity to be aware of our behavior) to watch yourself and catch yourself in the act, of making assumptions, taking things personally, stretching the truth, putting forth a half-baked effort. Focus on one behavior, for one day. When you catch yourself — and you will — take a mental step back and think, “In what ways might I remedy this situation?” Sometimes, it’s a relatively simple thing to adjust your behavior. As you become more proficient in your behavior change, you might be amazed to notice all those difficult, conflict-filled time wasters becoming fewer and fewer and your productive, innovative, idea-generating sessions becoming greater and greater. Better yet, it gives you something productive to do: rather than trying to change the other person (good luck!), you’re able to make an impact on something you can really change. You. And to that we say a genuine, ‘good luck!”
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