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• Qommit to seek Mutual Purpose. Make a unilateral public

commitment to stay in the conversation until you come up

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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? ”

• Invent a Mutual Purpose. If after clarifying everyone’s pur­

poses you are still at odds, see if you can invent a higher or

longer-term purpose that is more motivating than the ones

that keep you in conflict.

“I certainly don ‘t want to make winners and losers here. It’s

far better if we can come up with something that doesn ‘t make

one team resent the other one. We’ve voted before or flipped a

coin, and the losers just ended up resenting the winners. I’m

more worried about how we feel about each other than any­

thing else. Let’s make sure that whatever we do, we don ‘t

drive a wedge in our working relationship. ”

• B.rainstorm new strategies. With a clear Mutual Purpose, you

can join forces in searching for a solution that serves everyone.

“So we need to come up with something that doesn’t jeopard­

ize safety and quality and allows your team to attend their col­

league’s wedding on Saturday. My team members don ‘t care

abuut the game a bit. What if we were to work the morning and




early afternoon, and then you come in after the game and take

over from there? That way we’ll be able . . . ”


Let’s end where we started. Yvonne is going to try to move to

dialogue with Jotham. Let’s see how she does at making it safe in

her crucial conversation. First, she’ll use Contrasting to prevent

misunderstanding of her purpose.

YVONNE: Jotham, I’d like to talk about our physical relation­

ship. I’m not doing it to put you on the spot or to suggest

the problem is yours. I’m completely clear that it’s as

much my problem as yours. I’d really like to talk about

it so we can make things better for both of us.

JOTHAM: What’s there to talk about? You don’t want it. I

want it. I’ll try to deal with it.

YVONNE: I think it’s more complicated than that. The way

you act sometimes makes me want to be with you even less.

JOTHAM: If that’s how you feel, why are we pretending we

have a relationship at all?

Okay, what just happened? Remember, we’re exploring

Yvonne’s side of the conversation. She’s the one initiating the

talk. Clearly there’s a lot Jotham could be doing to make things go

better. But she’s not Jotham. What should Yvonne do? She should

focus on what she really wants: to find a way to make things bet­

ter for both of them. Consequently, she shouldn’t respond to the

content of Jotham’s discouraging statement. Rather, she should

look at the safety issue behind it. Why is Jotham starting to with­

draw from the conversation? Two reasons:

• The way Yvonne made her point sounded to him like she was

blaming him for everything.




• He believes her concern in one small area reflects her total

feelings toward him.

So she’ll apologize and use Contrasting to rebuild safety.

YVONNE: I’m sorry I said it that way. I’m not blaming you

for how I feel or act. That’s my problem. I don’t see this

as your problem. I see it as our problem. Both of us may

be acting in ways that make things worse. I know I am at


laTHAM: I probably am too. Sometimes I pout because I’m

hurting. And I also do it hoping it’ll make you feel bad.

I’m sorry about that, too.

Notice what just happened. Since Yvonne dealt well with the

safety issue and kept focused on what she really wanted out of

this conversation, Jotham returned to the conversation. This is

far more effective than if Yvonne had gone into blaming.

Let’s continue.

JOTHAM: I just don’t see how we can work this out. I’m

wired for more passion than you are-it seems like the

only solution is for me to put up with it the way it is or

for you to feel like a sex slave.

The problem now is one of Mutual Purpose. Jotham thinks he

and Yvonne are at cross-purposes. In his mind, there is no pos­

sibility of a mutually satisfactory solution. Rather than move to

compromise or fight for her way, Yvonne will step out of the

issue and CRIB to get to Mutual Purpose.

YVONNE: [Commit to seek Mutual Purpose] No, that isn’t

what I want at all. I don’t want anything with you that

isn’t great for both of us. I just want to find a way to have

us both feel close. appreciated. and loved.




laTHAM: That’s what I want, too. It just seems like we get

those feelings in different ways.

(Notice how lotham is leaving the game behind and joining

the dialogue. Safety-specifically Mutual Purpose-is making

this possible.)

YVONNE: [Recognize the purpose behind the strategy] Maybe

not. What makes you feel loved and appreciated?

laTHAM: Making love with you when you really want to

makes me feel loved and appreciated. And you?

YVONNE: When you do thoughtful things for me. And, I

guess, when you hold me-but not always sexually.

laTHAM: You mean, if we’re just cuddling that makes you

feel loved?

YVONNE: Yes. And sometimes-I guess when I think

you’re doing it because you love me-sex does that for

me, too.

JOTHAM: [Invent a Mutual Purpose] So we need to find

ways to be together that make both of us feel loved and

appreciated. Is that what we’re looking for here?

YVONNE: Yes. I really want that, too.

laTHAM: [Brainstorm new strategies] Well, what if we . . .


Reading a complicated interaction like this one might lead to two

reactions. First, you might think, “Wow, these ideas could actu­

ally work ! ” And at the same time, you could be thinking, “But

there’s no way I could think that clearly in the middle of that

kind of delicate conversation! ”




We admit that it’s pretty easy for us to put all the skills together

when we’re sitting at a computer typing a script. But the good

news is, that’s not where these examples came from. They came

from real experiences. People do act like this all the time. In fact,

you do on your best days.

So don’t overwhelm yourself by asking whether you could

think this clearly during every heated and emotional conver­

sation. Merely consider whether you could think a little more

clearly during a few crucial conversations. Or prepare in advance.

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