One Simple Rule to Reduce Conflict

People do not understand what makes someone a jerk at work.  Sure, sometimes its obvious, they are a backstabbing piece of shit but usually you hear things like, so n’ so is just hard to work with…  What does that mean?  Seriously, last time I checked, being hard to work with was never one sided.  Which reminds me of something my ex said, “we would not be arguing if you weren’t disagreeing with me”.  Direct Quote.  I think we feel that way at the office all the time.  That person is just difficult.  But where does that really come from, if someone doesn’t speak your language, I get it, if the are they low on the horse power scale, I get it, otherwise what is it?  In reality its probably nothing like that, the people you are calling jerks are probably nice, smart, capable, trustworthy people.  So why do they seem like jerks?  Remember the Steve Martin movie The Jerk?  He was nice the whole movie too, he was a jerk at the same time.

thejerk

So after attending 10000 hours of meetings I am now considered an expert meetings attendee (its true, look it up) and I have learned 99% of friction in the office comes from meetings where one of the participants is forcing their perspective on another.  Forcing you say?  Yes forcing.  If you are the recipient it feels like the forcee has a bunch of brussel sprouts and they are being crammed down your throat.  In actuality, the forceful one is pushing for people to agree with their perspective right there in the meeting.

Trying to get everyone or anyone to agree with your way of thinking right there in the meeting ALWAYS goes bad.  That’s because people don’t like to be told what to do and forcing someone to agree with you right here in the meeting is akin to ordering them to apologize right this second, ordering them to change their perspective on who is right or wrong.  And if they don’t, you are going to twist their arm off…

The deal is you cannot have both *your time* and *your way* with other people so you have to decide, is it more important you get the answer you want or do you just need an answer.  Most people want both.  Nope sorry, you have to decide door number 1, answer right now, or door number 2, answer later, which will likely be the answer you want…

So, if a particular open issue is blocking things from moving forward then you ask for an answer right there in the meeting.  Since all you need is to unblock things, you accept the answer and you walk away happy, things are unblocked.  Thank them profusely for making a decision and promptly send a follow up mail articulating the decision for all to see.  Consider the case closed and everyone will think you are a great person.

Sometimes how an issue gets resolved is critical to your success.  In these cases, you need people to come around to your way of thinking, you need them to join the dark side.  Don’t worry, your side is always the dark side, just ask your sibling.  When you need a question or issue resolved a certain way then you use the conversation to provide people with data that supports your argument and thinking but you specifically work to keep the issue open.  You say things like, “Yeah, that is a good point.  I need to research that a little and get back to you.”  After you go away, either you change your mind on the desired outcome or you hone your argument, do more research, and find better ways to articulate your position and then you meet again.  In the next meeting, you probe to see if they might have warmed to your position.  If not, you provide more data on your improved argument and work to keep the issue open again.  Wash, rinse, repeat as many times as needed until you get the answer you need.

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Of course truth be told, you cannot keep issues open forever and you have to be sensitive to the point at which the issue starts to block other people, at that point you have to let a decision be made even if it goes against the direction you need.  If not you are the Jerk for forcing everyone to agree to keep the issue open…

When I think about it, the amount of friction caused in the world from people improperly wanting others to just see things a certain way right now, is alot…  We want North Korea to respect human rights, immediately, as in yesterday, and change their way of life.  Gee, they are digging in their heals?  Really?  Go figure.  Imagine how much better our chances of changing their views if our diplomacy goal was to educate rather than attempting to force them to agree with our way of life, right now, while Denis Rodman is in town?

That makes the US jerks, does that make you a jerk?

I rest my case

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