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Invent a Mutual Purpose

Sometimes when we recognize the purposes behind our strategies,

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we discover that we actually have compatible goals. From there

you simply come up with common strategies. But we’re not always

so lucky. For example, you find out that your genuine wants and

goals cannot be served except at the expense of the other person’s.

I n this case you cannot discover a Mutual Purpose, so you must

actively invent one.

To invent a Mutual Purpose, move to more encompassing goals.

Find an objective that is more meaningful or more rewarding than




the ones that divide the various sides . For instance, you and your

spouse may not agree on whether or not you should take the pro­

motion, but you can agree that the needs of your relationship

and the children come before career aspirations. By focusing on

higher and longer-term goals, you can find a way to transcend

short-term compromises, build Mutual Purpose, and get to dia­


Ilrainstorm New Strategies

Once you’ve built safety by finding a shared purpose, you should

now have enough safety to return to the content of the conver­

sation. It’s time to step back into the dialogue and brainstorm

strategies that meet everyone’s needs . If you’ve committed to

finding something everyone can agree on, and surfaced what you

really want, you’ll no longer be spending your energy on unpro­

ductive conflict. Instead, you’ll be actively coming up with

options that can serve everyone.

Suspend judgment and think outside the box for new alterna­

tives . Can you find a way to work in a job that is local and still

meets your career goals? Is this job with this company the only

thing that will make you happy? Is a move really necessary in

this new job? Is there another community that could offer your

family the same benefits? If you’re not willing to give creativity

a try, it’ll be impossible for you to jointly come up with a mutu­

ally acceptable option. If you are, the sky’s the limit.

CRIB to Get to Mutual Purpose

So when you sense that you and others are working at cross­

purposes, here’s what you can do. First, step out of the content

of the conflict. Stop focusing on who thinks what. Then CRIB

your way to Mutual Purpose.




• Qommit to seek Mutual Purpose. Make a unilateral public

commitment to stay in the conversation until you come up

with something that serves everyone.

“This isn ‘t working. Your team is arguing to stay late and

work until we’re done, and my team wants to go home and

come back on the weekend. Why don’t we see if we can come

up with something that satisfies everyone?”

• Recognize the purpose behind the strategy. Ask people why

they want what they’re pushing for. Separate what they’re

demanding from the purpose it serves .

“Exactly why don ‘t you want to come in Saturday morning?

We’re feeling fatigued and are worried about safety issues and

a loss of quality. Why do you want to stay late? ”

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