One of the complaints I often hear in companies sounds like this: “So-and-so does not respond to my emails.” My question back is, “What is your agreement with So-and-so about responding to emails?” Invariably I’m told that there is no actual agreement in place.
As much as one might assume that people should respond to emails in a timely manner, that doesn’t mean that they will…unless there is an agreement in place. If not, then your options are to complain, hope the person gets the hint, nag him or try to work around the unworkable situation.
The simple fact is, agreements up front can solve problems before they arise and make interacting with others a lot easier.
Why don’t we make agreements?
Because it seems like too much trouble
Because it’s easier to just complain and feel like a victim
Because we don’t know what to do when an agreement is broken, so why bother making one
As an alternative to complaining or feeling victimized, try this experiment:
Think about something that’s keeping you from your goals. Ask the person(s) involved if he will make an agreement with you that will help you reach your goals.
3 Steps to Making Agreements
Note: These steps work with both teams and individuals.
1. Figure out what agreements you want.
• Propose an agreement such as, “Let’s agree to respond to emails from each other within 24 hours.”
• If your partner says okay, write the agreement down.
• If he says no, then negotiate. For example, “Okay then, let’s say that within 24 hours we will respond even if it’s to say, ‘I’m really busy now, but will answer you soon.’”
• Keep making agreements with him until the two of you can’t think of any more.
2. When the list is done, send it to him so you both have a copy.
• You want the agreements in writing so you can refer to them and change them as necessary as time goes on. Agreements are not written in stone.
3. If one of you breaks an agreement, the other one needs to “call it” as soon as possible.
“You haven’t answered my email from 2 days ago. We agreed to answer within 24 hours. Do we need to change our agreement?”
It is well worth the effort to set up agreements. So much time is wasted in the drama of being upset about someone else’s behavior. Imagine your life being focused on how well you keep your agreements and hold others to theirs, rather than on wondering why people won’t stop doing things that drive you crazy.
Make agreements and you will notice that your life just works better.
Life works to the degree that you keep your agreements.
-- Werner Erhard
Communication, true communication, is almost impossible in the best of circumstances. It takes a ‘perfect storm’ to bring together these three necessary things:
• Your clear, concise message
• The other person’s receptivity & ability to listen
The obstacles are many. They include faulty listening filters, cultural differences, stress & hurry, moods, and – a big one -- not being sure yourself exactly what you want to communicate. How, then, is true communication possible?
Start with the main Ingredient: RESPECT.
Definition of respect: Esteem & admiration, an act of giving particular attention, willingness to show consideration or appreciation
Respect leads to the possibility of actually getting your message across by opening up the other person’s receptivity and ability to listen. In fact, if you respect the other person, you will have a natural connection with her. Your message will automatically become clearer, she will be more open to what you have to say and you will sense when the right time to talk to her is.
If you truly want to communicate with someone and do not have much respect for him, you can look deeper for what you CAN genuinely respect about him. To find respect, you first have to let go of assumptions, judgments, negativity and drama. These things kill respect and letting go of them is worth practicing.
Maybe he’s a lousy boss, but a good father, skilled businessman or powerful negotiator. Once you find the respect, you can connect with him. This is not manipulation, but truly the art of connecting with another person. Warning: If you are not genuine, your communication will fall short. Guaranteed.
You can influence the ‘perfect storm’ necessary for true communication with respect. It is ‘sweeter than honey,’ sings Aretha Franklin in the Otis Redding song, “Respect.” And it is worth finding. The other person becomes better and so do you.
You will want to read The Gifts of Imperfection if you are:
• Tired of living your life from "should" and are ready to live from your heart
• Interested in research-based information that includes the word "wholehearted"
• Done with trying to live up to the expectations of others
• Ready to follow that age-old advice: "Just be yourself"
The Gifts of Imperfection by Dr. Brené Brown is a guide to wholehearted living. The book is surprisingly un-sentimental, action-oriented and just plain true. The kind of true that will have you shaking your head yes while you are reading. From her research and her personal journey into wholeheartedness, Brown lifts up the very real possibility of actually living as yourself with no apologies.
“Worthiness doesn't have prerequisites.”
― Brené Brown
For over 20 years Susan has been a coach, consultant and corporate trainer. She is the co-founder of the Coach Group of Switzerland.