Are you a “definitely dog” person but cats are not allowed? Beef YES but beets NO? At ISTS, one of our Core Values is Respect Everyone. That means that if you are a dog person and a coworker is very feline-friendly, we expect interest, support and curiosity, never judgement or finger-pointing. We give everyone an opportunity to share their uniqueness and preferences.

Being respectful takes self-awareness and discipline, especially if someone’s beliefs, preferences, likes or dislikes conflict with yours. I was listening to a podcast recently about conflict resolution and the interviewee shared the positive impact of using a tree as a metaphor. When we approach disagreements as black and white/win or lose, someone is going to come out of the conversation as a “loser”, which is not likely to positively enhance the relationship with the “winner”. His suggestion was to start with writing down all the things on which both parties agree. For example, we both agree that: data security is important; that a hack could cripple our business; that we want our clients and employees to have fast and accurate access to data; that we want to keep our clients and employees happy and satisfied. Now that we’ve agreed to what we have in common – the tree trunk – we can begin to add the branches and leaves, the metaphorical approach to listing our differences.

In the case of how we get to a comprehensive data security policy, for example, there can be different opinions. But when we start with what we have in common, on what we agree, the how we get there part will be less win-lose due to the improved relationship that comes from focusing first on our shared desired outcomes.

This tree metaphor is a great way to enhance respect in all our relationships, focusing the majority of our time on what we both want and going back to the trunk when we experience a difference or feeling that the other person is ‘wrong’. In the dog-cat example, we both agree that pets are an important part of our lives and that we want them to be happy and healthy. When we start with and spend time in commonalities, we give and get more respect, gain insight and develop more rich and nuanced solutions.

– Becky Sharpe, CEO