By Susan Begeman Steiner
One of the complaints I often hear in companies is “So-and-so does not respond to my emails.” My response 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. In the absence of an agreement, 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 bugging you about someone and/or keeping you from your goals. Ask the person(s) involved if she will make an agreement with you that will help you reach your goals.
Below are 3 Steps to Making Agreements. 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 to the agreement, write it down.
• If she 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.’”
2. After you write the agreement down, send it to her so you both have a copy.
• You want agreements in writing so you can refer to them and change them as necessary as time goes on. Remember, agreements are written on paper, not in stone. They are amendable.
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 when a simple agreement could go a long way to clarifying what each person wants. Also shared agreements are the basis for partnerships and for teamwork. Without them, everyone is assuming agreement, when it most often is not there.
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.
Life works to the degree that you keep your agreements.
-- Werner Erhard
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Self-Help Book / Personal Development