Tug of war or cooperate?

My self of thirty years has returned 
Of, “Sure, black and white” and “I'm right!” 
He nuances with his mind 
The truth into a diamond 
That always changes color when you look differently 

- Harrie Jekkers (Dutch comedian/songwriter)

Agitated, you grab the rope with only one goal, getting the opponent over the line! The heels you kick deep into the sand. White knuckles on your hands show how vigorously you grip rope. The game is simple, to win you must pull the opponent three meters over the line. The heroic contest begins... However, the opponent turns out to be stronger, heavier and tougher. Exhausted, you eventually lose, even though everything pointed out beforehand that the victory would be yours!

Are you also regularly playing tug-of-war? Do you put a lot of energy into convincing people at work or privately? Despite the right facts, you fail to make the point. That's because most people persuade using the same technique they learn from childhood; tug-of-war. Where in childhood the rope was used to win over the opponent, the rope has now been traded for expensive words. It is an ineffective way of persuasion because the harder you pull, the more the other person braces himself. You achieve the opposite of what you would like.

The beautiful English expression “Choose your battles” says that you don't have to fight with everyone about everything. That you choose with whom and at what times you do or do not fight. When being proven right changes little for you, it is better not to go for your right. If you do fight about petty things, you are feeding your ego. It is all about winning over the other person. The downside of this behavior is that the relationship with the other person comes under serious pressure. Be aware that the other person's truth is as true for them as your truth is for you. When you manage to convince others without changing anything for you, let go!

But letting go is not always an option. In a lifetime, there are only a handful of all-important moments. Moments when you really have to do everything you can to prove yourself right. You will have to convince the other person. Tug of war is a sport is with one important rule, your opponent must be equal. Thus, before the match, each team is weighed and assigned to a weight class. Unfortunately, real life does not have this game rule. What do you do when your opponent has more manpower and unlimited capabilities?

In the case of the IRS with the benefits affair, youth welfare or other civil service organizations, many people have experienced that being right is impossible. Completely alone, they tried to counterbalance their unequal struggle. A battle of attrition, the rope slipped from their hands. The allowance affair taught us that you have to organize sufficient counterforce. Are you in that kind of situation? Start first to recruit team members. Create a team, forge a rock-solid coalition! Bring specialists and like-minded people together so you can carry more weight. Tug of war is about organizing enough counterforce, because when it's really about something you can't let go of the rope.   

PS: Organizing counterforce is also an important lesson for executives, account managers & product managers ;-)

Ruud Olijve

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