Ever feel like you just aren’t in sync with someone who you interact with on a daily basis?
This experience has been one of the major factors in human communication of all types since the beginning of speech and has resulted in everything from a mild discomfort in interacting with someone to all out wars between countries.
Recent breakthroughs in the understanding of how language is organized in our brains shows that when we feel out of sync with someone, it may be due to the other person having different definitions about the details of the situation than we do. When our basic definitions are not in agreement with the other person’s as we move further along in a relationship of any kind, we can become more and more out of sync with that person and we may experience increasing conflicts of all kinds.
Today I’d like to share a new idea with you about how we can avoid these conflicts all together and guarantee building greater common purpose with anyone we interact with in every type of relationship. I’m calling this idea “Increasing Agreement Communication” because it works to ensure that both people are always on the same page and moving in the same direction during every phase of a project or relationship.
With all that we now know about how language can be used to allow synergy between people, none of us ever has to experience pointless and counterproductive conflicts due to simple differences in how we label things.
Imagine feeling 100% confident that you can move forward in any project or relationship with anyone, even someone who has been difficult to work with in the past or someone who you just met, knowing that you both will be in agreement and easily working together each step of the way.
So here’s how it works: To get the gist of this all you need is a basic understanding of what’s called informational chunking. Our brain organizes information very much like putting things in different sized boxes. The big boxes are the broad categories for things; for example “Dogs” would be a broad category. Then as you learn more about that broad category, your brain files the smaller details (the smaller chunks or boxes) inside the bigger broad boxes. For example, when you are first learning to talk, you learn the word for “Dog”, then you learn that there are different types of dogs like Labradors and Rottweilers etc. Your brain then files those smaller chunks of Labrador and Rottwieiler in the bigger box labeled “Dog”. Get it?
This works the same way when we interact with another person on any project or in any relationship. In the beginning, we agree to the broad category of how we will interact with the other person; for example we both agree we will go out for coffee to get to know each another or we will agree to start a business project. We are agreeing to the big chunk, the broad category. Then as the relationship or the project moves ahead, the smaller details (the smaller chunks) naturally come up and both people have to deal with them in some way.
This is where most conflicts can occur because the smaller the chunks are, the more likely it becomes that we may have differences in definitions or ideas about the details. For example, our definition of a great relationship may not be to get married and have kids in the next 5 years and the other person’s might. Our idea of the perfect business may not be taking the company public and the other person’s might. Without having a way to easily work through the differences in our definitions of the smaller chunks, we can often times experience conflicts and sometimes the ending of the relationship all together.
Using Increasing Agreement Communication, you will make sure that you are in agreement as you move forward into the details. Here’s how it works:
Step 1) Be aware of each chunk level that you are in. Just remember that at the beginning of a relationship or a project, you are at the big chunk level; the broad category. Then as you move forward in time, you get into smaller and smaller chunks. So in the beginning you are both simply agreeing to interact together around the broad idea.
Step 2) Get agreement for each new chunk level you move to with the other person. Before you take each step to the next smaller chunk level, check in with the person to make sure they are in agreement and get their permission for you to both move to the next smaller chunk level.
Step 3) If the other person is not in agreement to move forward to the next smaller chunk level that you are asking about, work with them from your current chunk level (the smallest one that you both have already agreed to) to discover what their ideas are and make sure you come to an agreement about what that next smaller chunk level is before moving there. There may be times when no agreement can be found and this is a good thing to discover. At that point you both can move on from a place of agreement, both knowing why it didn’t work.
Here’s a quick example of how I recently used this idea. I recently began a new project doing keynote speeches along with playing music. I wanted to learn more about how to market the keynotes and so I contacted an agent who works with some similar keynote speakers to ask if I could hire her as a consultant. I didn’t know the person and didn’t know if they would be open to the idea and I also wanted to keep the possibility of a positive working relationship open in case we might work together in the future. I knew that she might not be open to helping someone compete with her current clients.
My first instinct was to send her a lengthy email describing in great detail what I was doing and what I was thinking about doing in the future but I decided to use the Increasing Agreement Communication idea instead. So I started by simply asking if she would be open to be hired as a consultant – period. She replied with a yes, so in my follow up email I ask if she would be open to talking about the overall idea of helping me learn more about doing keynote speeches involving music (the next smallest chunk). She replied back with a yes, and so I sent another email back asking if it would be O.K. if I sent her a detailed list of the questions I was hoping to have answered before we talked. She again agreed and so I sent the list of very specific questions and let her know if any of the questions would not be agreeable, to let me know so we could adjust the meeting.
So I was able to stay in agreement with her as we both moved into the smaller details and I made sure to get her O.K. before we took each next step. If there had been a conflict, we would have both discovered it before we got there and we would have been able to either work through it together, or discover that the idea wasn’t going to work for both of us and then move on from a place of agreement, keeping the door open to possibly work together in the future.
Using the Increasing Agreement Communication model ensures that potential differences never have the opportunity to become an issue because you are staying in agreement with the other person before you reach them. One other point here is that the other person doesn’t even need to know this or consciously choose to take these steps. In the above example, the consultant didn’t know that I was using this model.
Using Increasing Agreement Communication can ensure that you stay in sync with everyone you interact with at each stage of the relationship or project.