Knowing from Doing the Right Thing and Achieving All Your Goals at the Same Time
Doing the Right Thing is a book about people who work in offices, why we fight, and how we can stop fighting, solve our problems, and get back to work. All materials on this site Copyright © Marianne Powers 2002. All rights reserved.    Home    Back    Next

Doing the Right Thing and Achieving All Your Goals at the Same Time

Full Book Outline:

---People Are What They Are and It's Irrelevant Anyway
---We Don't Know What Other People Are Capable of Achieving
---People Are Not Accountable for Their Thoughts and Feelings
---We Don't Know What Other People are Thinking and Feeling
---People Are Accountable for Their Words and Actions
---Assume Everyone is Doing the Best They Can
---Assume Everyone Has a Good Reason for What They Say and Do

---Listen Very Carefully
---Welcome Information, Criticism is Information
---If You Have a Choice, Don't Choose to be Hurt
---Examine Your Motives
---Targeting Problems is Good, Targeting People is Evil
---If You Want Someone to Do Something for You, You Have to Be Completely on Their Side
---When People Don't Understand, Listen Better

---State Your Position Clearly and Ask for What You Want Specifically
---Tell Them Even If You Know They Won't Understand
---All You Can Do is Tell Them, You Can't Make Anyone Do Anything
---When People Don't Meet Your Expectations, Change Your Expectations
---Give Them 100 Tries to Get It Right
---If They Can't Get It Right in 100 Tries, There Must Be Something Wrong with the Procedure
---Teach Everyone to Do Everything

People Are Accountable for Their Words and Actions
When we want or need to communicate with the world outside of ourselves, we have to speak, write, sign, or act. Although we sometimes say we “have to” say or do something, what we say and do are really choices we make. We choose to say or do something and also to whom, what, where, when, and how. When we choose to communicate with other people, we are accountable to them for our words and actions, not because we have to get their permission, but because they will react to us.

If we want to do the right thing and accomplish all our goals, we need to really think about the choices that we make, what we say and do. What we say and do affects other people. With our words and actions, we can help or hurt, inspire or discourage, anger or bring happiness, and everything in between. We need to choose our words and actions with care for their effect. We also need to pay attention to what other people say and do and make choices based on those things.

We are accountable for what we say and do. At the beginning of a relationship, a job, a project, we need to explain what we are trying to do and why. We need to explain again when we say or do things that seem contrary to our stated goals. Hopefully, people will point out our inconsistency if we say one thing and do another, and question us if we say, for instance, that we believe in them as a group but we belittle some of the individuals in it. People help us by holding us accountable when we get tired or forget or don’t realize that we’re not doing what we said. Based on what we say and do, people make choices about helping or fighting us, being with us or leaving us.

Other people are also accountable to us and to everyone else for what they say and do. We have the right and the responsibility to question them, tell them when we think they are wrong, and support them when we think they are right. The thought, “What did they mean by that?” should almost always be followed by the question, “What do you mean?” When people say they are going to do something, they invite questions about how they are going to get it done. When people say they are not going to do something, they invite questions about why. When people praise us, they owe us the specifics of what they thought was good. When people insult us, they owe us the specifics of what they thought was bad. When people do things, they should expect us to check on them to make sure what they are doing is consistent with their stated goals. If they are not, they should expect us to say so. When people do odd things, they definitely owe us an explanation. We can’t make anyone do these things, of course, but we can ask and make choices based on the answer or even based on no answer.

One time, I walked into a room and several people were talking about a coworker. “She’s really mad about something!” they said. “How do you know?” I asked. “Because she just flounced in here and slammed the charts down on the counter!” one of them said. “Did you ask her why she did that?” I questioned. “Nooo!” she said. “I think you should have asked her,” I said, “It seems to me like she was begging for you to ask her!”

Sometimes, what people say and do is unacceptable because it hurts someone else. It is our right and responsibility to say so and set ourselves apart from that person if they persist. Sometimes, what people say and do is unacceptable to people in general -- otherwise known as illegal – and they are set apart in a formal way. If we do not speak up or do anything when we see someone else say or do something that hurts someone, we are accomplices to it.

Even when we are responding to someone else, we need to make sure that our words and actions help us achieve our goals. We are still responsible for what we say and do even when “provoked”.

I used to think that other people made me angry. Now I know that I make myself angry because I hear their words or see their actions, interpret them as hostile to me, and leap to my own defense, usually with an attack of my own. I used to say, “I couldn’t help it, she pissed me off!” Now I know that I have a choice. I really haven’t changed, I am still who I was, and I still have the same internal reaction to the same stimulus, but now I know I can chose what I say and what I do in response to it. Now I know that no good will come of it if I speak while I am still angry. Now I know that I have to take the time, maybe just a moment, to figure out where I want this to go and how to get it there.

Usually, if I don’t strike back right away and just listen instead, people will explain themselves. Many times, it will turn out that the insult I perceived was not intended (or maybe they heard how they sounded, too, and decided to change it). If not, I can get them to explain by telling them what I heard and maybe how it made me feel. I might say, “When you asked me if that was done yet, you sounded impatient, as if I should have had it done already. That makes me feel like you are saying I am being lazy.” If they agree that’s what they were saying, we could have an interesting conversation about that! But, if that is not what they meant, they could explain their impatience, I could explain when I can get the job done, and we can come up with a new plan if necessary.

Alternatively, I might decide it’s not really about me (most of the time it’s not about me, I find when I look at it calmly). If I just keep repeating that to myself, I can usually keep myself from responding in anger. Then I don’t need an explanation, I can just ask for what I want instead of fighting. I might say, “I need a few more days to get that done,” or “I can get that done today if someone from your department can give me a hand.”

Either way is better than responding in anger. Even if they were trying to piss me off, that doesn’t mean that my responding in kind is right or helps me achieve my goals. I still need to choose what I say and what I do. And, even if I choose to fight, that needs to be my conscious choice, not my knee-jerk reaction!

We are all accountable to each other for our words and actions.

Next Section: Assume Everyone is Doing the Best They Can

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