Securing Agreement

When Abraham Lincoln was forming his cabinet, he wanted people who would challenge him rather than just say yes.  He wasn’t concerned about loyalty.  In fact, several of them doubted that he would be a good president.  He knew that he needed to win their loyalty, not demand it.

Lincoln knew that preserving the union would be his primary challenge, so he picked people representing different parts of the country, both political parties, and all had more experience than he had.  Some had reputations for being very disagreeable.

Lincoln believed that agreement on sustaining the union could only be achieved by securing agreement from those who were likely to start with serious disagreements.  That’s contrary to how many people approach tough issues.  Think about what we can learn from Lincoln.

When we involve those who challenge us in working through an issue, we diffuse their number one argument:  I was never asked for my opinion.  Not only were they asked, but they also helped shape the resolution.

When those who are likely to oppose solutions are engaged early on in finding a solution, you are dealing with different perspectives before positions become hardened.  The likely opponents become advocates instead because they own the solution.

Having disagreeables in a discussion of an issue can make them less disagreeable.  Sustained working together helps build personal chemistry that is essential to gaining acceptance.

There are also strategies that can build a workable solution which bring together different perspectives.

  • Seek common ground through expressions of humility, not blustering.
  • Focus the resolution on a limited number of vital areas that are essential to a final solution.
  • Ask questions of each other rather than making demands.
  • Discourage defend-attack cycles.

The most important thing to remember in reaching agreement is that the most important person you need to persuade is yourself.  This comes from humility, curiosity, and a true desire for a workable solution for all.

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“I have never in my life learned anything from any person who agreed with me.”
– Dudley Field Malone (attorney)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.