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Recognize the Purpose behind the Strategy

Wanting to come up with a shared goal is a wonderful first step,

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but it’s not enough. Once we’ve had a change of heart, we need

to change our strategy. Here’s the problem we have to fix: When

we find ourselves at an impasse, it’s because we’re asking for one

thing and the other person is asking for something else. We think

we’ll never find a way out because we equate what we’re asking

for with what we want. In truth, what we’re asking for is the

strategy we’re suggesting to get what we want. We confuse wants

or purpose with strategies. That’s the problem.

For example, I come home from work and say that I want to

go to a movie. You say that you want to stay home and relax.

And so we debate: movie, TV, movie, read, etc. We figure we’ll

never be able to resolve our differences because going out and

staying home are incompatible.

In such circumstances we can break the impasse by asking

others, “Why do you want that?” In this case,




“Why do you want to stay home?”

“Because I’m tired of running around and dealing with the

hassle of the city.”

“So you want peace and quiet?”

“Mostly. And why do you want to go to a movie?”

“So I can spend some time with you away from the kids .”

Before you can agree on a Mutual Purpose, you must know

what people’s real purposes are. So step out of the content of the

conversation-which is generally focused on strategies-and

explore the purposes behind them.

When you do this, new options become possible. When you

release your grip on your strategy and focus on your real pur­

pose, you open up the possibility of finding new alternatives that

can serve Mutual Purpose.

“You want peace and quiet, and I want time with you away

from the kids . So if we can come up with something that is

quiet and away, we’ll both be happy. Is that right?”

“Absolutely. What if we were to take a drive up the

canyon and . . . ”

Invent a Mutual Purpose

Sometimes when we recognize the purposes behind our strategies,

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.




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