6, 9 or something else?




Many years ago, this simple metaphor in the diagram provided a very useful way of thinking about relationships and influencing others.

The premise being that in order to influence someone to see a “9” you needed to understand why the other person saw it as a “6”. Ultimately, the skill was to convince the person that you understood why they saw it as 6, and that made you more influential to present why your 9 was better.

The metaphor served me well especially in roles where I was required to get people to a pre determined answer, as I found was often the case as part of either a change or process improvement activity. On reflection, whilst being useful it probably belonged more to a form of negotiation rather than collaboration, and might even border on manipulation, sorry persuasion!

Just recently I have been doing a fair bit of thinking about my interests and direction I would like to head in 2014, and a flurry of thoughts have been whirling around in my head, that include collaboration, conflict and innovation. All of these whirling around a solid mass which is the personality stuff that I draw on so much in my practice.

I had a couple of nudges recently. One was noticing some of the language been used by participants involved in a series of development centres, and came out during a meeting conducted between successive participants and a professional role player around a peer to peer relationship. The role player having a set of expressive behaviours that most of the participants find quite challenging. Anyway, in the de-brief, I have had a number of participants describe their success in the meeting as “achieving a compromise”!!

This language intrigued me and I wondered why they would see this as success. To my mind, compromise is that both parties have only achieved at best half of what they set out to achieve and therefore both will be dissatisfied with the result. When I questioned their use of the word, they described a state similar to my definition, and interestingly were not actually able to describe a higher form, where they were able to hold onto their own agenda and seek to really find out what the other person wanted from the meeting, and their longer term goals.

So back to my 6 or 9 metaphor, they went into the meeting trying to get a 9, realised they were not going to get it so settled for 7.5!!! Better than losing altogether, but not satisfactory to either parties. I am also wondering why they saw it as a negotiation!!

The other nudge has been around a series of conversations with clients and my wife (in regard to her job) where it has become clear to me that key to process or organisational success for many, there needs to a real clarity about expectations between different people, teams, departments and businesses.Without this clarity, then both parties are dissatisfied. Using the 6 or 9 metaphor, both parties are making assumptions about the other and even if there are different objectives, that one seeks a 6 whilst the other a 9, these are not being “explicitly” talked about, and therefore once again fall into a compromise state, feeling easier to accept somewhere between the two. Either because its easier not to confront it, or maybe just a lack of recognition of the issue.

So something else? Well recently I have been drawn to the notion of dialogue, and that dialogue is more than listening to others, but also stating opinions confidently. I work with a set of high performance leadership behaviours that are about understanding the thoughts and feelings of others, facilitating interaction, and being confident about asserting a clear point of view. Those familiar with dialogue might describe these as inquiry and advocacy.

I talked to @fuchia_blue on Skype. I found that her real name was Julie Drybrough, I bounced my thoughts around with her, got loads of nods and smiles so I took that as I must be on the right lines, and since bought a book she recommended which is my holiday reading over Christmas.

Interestingly the book is called Dialogue by William Isaacs, and its starting to channel my thoughts and get me closer to my interest.

Its early days for me yet, but already the book has thrown out some interesting thoughts that intrigue me:

  • “dialogue is a living experience of inquiry within and between people”
  • “the most important parts of any conversation are those that neither party could have imagined before starting”
  • “dialogue is not in the end merely about talking, it is about action”
  • “too many of us have lost touch with the fire of conversation. When we talk together, it is rarely with depth. For the most part, we see our conversations as either opportunities to trade information or arena’s in which to win points. Difficulties that might otherwise be resolved or even dissolved persist. And we often find we do not simply have the wherewithal to genuinely consider new possibilities, new options”

Its the last sentence that excites me, new possibilities and options. I am passionate about making work better, easier, faster, cheaper as you might expect with production engineering in my blood. I am therefore fascinated to explore dialogue as a way of doing this rather than just applying a set of models, frameworks and methodologies which seek to get people to a 6 or a 9.

Maybe, just maybe there is something else….

So as we head into 2014, and full of possibilities, maybe an answer that we might not have imagined?



One thought on “6, 9 or something else?

  1. Pingback: The art of asking instead of telling, the humble inquiry. | emergecoach

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