Benefiting from the Need for Harmony

November 28, 2016

Benefiting from the Need for Harmony

In the last post, you attempted to table a proposal but were left hung out to dry. You hadn’t realized that the need for harmony trumped support for a good idea. Are you doomed to let Tod run the show? Not necessarily. You can be aware, respect, and even use the need for harmony. Let’s rewind and redo the meeting.

The second meeting (reprise)

YOU: I’d like to table my proposal.
Tod: We have to deal with Finance’s first.
YOU: How about hearing mine so we can compare? (turns to group) Who’s for that? Show of hands. (all hands go up)
Tod: (grumpily) Fine. Let’s get it over with.

Using the need for harmony

Okay, very clever. You used the need for harmony to move your agenda forward by:

  • Sidestepping a direct confrontation. Last time, you went head-to-head with Tod, disturbing the need for harmony and making everyone uncomfortable. They punished you by silence when you needed them to speak.
  • Asking the group for something minor and non-verbal. In addition, rather than asking them to speak and risk Tod’s sharp tongue, you just asked for a show of hands.  Much easier, especially if you already have your hand up.

Other ways to use the need for harmony

So, Tod has had to agree but you can be assured that he won’t give up. You need to respond in ways which respect the need for harmony.

  • Use humor. Tod said, “Customer relations wants to take over. The tail wagging the dog.” Rather than retorting angrily or even factually, you could have said, “Well, I don’t know about this tail-wagging thing. Although we do wag a mean tail.” Humor deflects the aggressive statement. The group will laugh at even a weak joke. Some might speak as the atmosphere seems more harmonious.
  • Ask Tod to elaborate on part of his idea. He’ll be taken aback as he’s in attack mode and it might throw him off his stride
  • Be inclusive. Irwin, I tried to include Strategy’s issues but I’m not sure I did. What do you think?
  • Don’t respond to Tod’s jabs. This is where you need the patience of Job. Do NOT rise to the bait. If you don’t engage, you’re not the troublemaker and the group might start to come to you because you’re so forbearing. Even if you come out with a chewed up tongue.In these ways, you can signal that you`re not trying to disturb the harmony of the group or create a threatening atmosphere.

Is this really harmony?

Probably not. However, organizations, and people also, opt for the appearance of harmony if the real isn’t available. True harmony would mean you could raise your idea without attack. Pros and cons could be discussed calmly and the best option agreed upon. And if you work in that kind of company, stick with it. It’s pretty rare.

More often, groups and people go for the appearance. Couples can bury their issues under a calm façade and so can groups. The illusion of calm is preferable to unleashing the real issues lurking. Better to pretend they don’t exist than have to deal with touchy subjects.

I’m not saying that’s how it should be; I’m just saying it is. You can fight it or you can work with it.

Next post: whether silence might not be the best course.

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