Have you ever had a conversation with someone and created a new idea, project, or solution? Then, later, found out they didn’t agree to everything you remember them agreeing to?
This happens frequently. Why? People rely on their memories … and memories can be faulty or selective.
After a short delay, conversational participants may recall from memory fewer than 20% of the specific ideas that were initially expressed.
People overlook the importance of and impact of different memories when getting everyone on the same page, closing sales, and building good working relationships.
Sandra, a business owner, had listed her office building for sale. She’d had great conversations with a potential buyer, and they got along. But after the initial discussion, no one thought to put any of their agreements, changes, or concerns in writing. Then came the day to sign the agreement! Brouhaha broke lose. The other party thought Sandra was trying to scam them. Sandra said, “No! I’m not. Your memory and my memory are different on two key issues. Let’s step back and talk them out.”
Suppose Sandra hadn’t taken responsibility for moving the agreement forward. In that case, it could have ended up in court with no winners or built a bad reputation with both parties accusing the other of lying.
5 Tips to Avoid Agreement Disputes
Put It in Writing! Use a napkin or notepad (cell or paper) to take notes. Then, immediately, memorialize in an email, text, and/or letter and outline points of agreement. This includes noting dates and times. Also, include points of disagreement, other concerns, and opportunities not yet discussed. Ask the other party to review and make any changes. Go back and forth until both are satisfied. Remember, time is not your friend when relying on memories … so follow-up and follow-through asap.
Pay Attention and Ask Clarifying Questions. This is not a time to multi-task. If the other person is not 100% on board, ask, “why?” Let’s use the example above: if the buyer needs an additional bathroom in the office area, write it down. Ask, “Where would the bathroom be located? Why is that important?” Then, note who will talk with the plumber, find out if a building permit is required, and/or speak with the city code enforcer. All this will be done by what date?
Everyone Makes Their Own Assumptions or Interpretations. These can be deal-breakers if not addressed! Don’t gloss over details. Don’t dismiss concerns by stating, “It’s not important.” Or, avoid talking about any elephants in the room! Continuation of the above example: “Who will pay for the new bathroom? What happens if an additional bathroom cannot be added?”
Allow for Silence and Don’t Talk Over Them. Stay focused on the topic. Allow for silence and reflection during the conversation. Remember, being dismissive or minimizing a detail can (and will) haunt the agreement and ability to work together in the future.
Talk Straight and Don’t Hedge. Don’t say, “Maybe we can talk about it later.” If it’s an important issue, talk about it now. Or schedule time to complete the conversation. Send current notes now. Before each scheduled meeting, send a short agenda and continue taking notes and memorializing the additional conversations. Note any changes or additions to ensure everyone stays on the same page.
Remember, keep all notes in the same file or email thread, making them easier to find later. Include date and time. Be specific to ensure accuracy and win-win-win outcomes. For example, it’s easier when creating a legal agreement (if needed) or determining if and when you’re ready to launch a new project.
©Jeannette Seibly 2022 All Rights Reserved
Jeannette Seibly is The Leadership Results Coach. She has been an award-winning international executive and family business management consultant, keynote speaker, and author for over 29 years. Her focus is to guide leaders to make a positive difference. Feel stuck moving your team forward? Want straightforward counsel on how to do it? Let’s chat! Contact Jeannette for a confidential conversation.
A note from Jeannette about preventing agreements from becoming disagreements: too often, in our haste and busyness, we believe everyone is on the same page. Only to find out later they were not! Our differing memories can have significant consequences and impede progress in a project or launching a solution. Having trouble getting everyone on the same page? Let’s chat now before it’s too late!