Agreement and Alignment

In a recent conversation with my sisters, I was reminded that people don’t necessarily have to agree with the how, why or when of a particular possibility. But they do have to be aligned on the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ in order to move forward together—and the ‘who’ has to include a commitment from each person involved to the possibility of the ‘what’. In fact, disagreeing with the specifics of how to create a possibility adds value to the conversation and can inform and, in many cases, contribute to the success of the venture—whether it is the creation of something intangible (like a relationship) or tangible (like a product, project or organization).

For most, agreement occurs when one person surrenders their point of view to accept another point of view. Essentially, one perspective wins, the other loses, within the context of agreement. An example: in negotiations, the struggle for power is a struggle between perspectives that has the winner take the dominant position at the head of the table. Agreement is an either/or proposition. It does not allow space for collaboration, respect or trust.

Alignment, on the other hand, occurs when everyone involved in the conversation not only acknowledges each other’s point of view, but also commits to creating a possibility that can include all perspectives. All win in the context of alignment and everyone is respected for how they ‘see’ things. The essence of co-collaboration happens when a group of people create a vision of something that doesn’t exist yet and then align themselves in committing to it as a possibility.

We are, for the most part, taught to believe that agreement is to be reached before we can move into action. Yet, my experience has been that, once people are aligned in their commitments, they can move forward into action without knowing the details of how they are going to fulfill their vision. The real power in alignment is in the freedom it gives us to move into action, whether we agree or not.

As I enjoyed the last few hours of my family visit, my commitment to reconnecting with and understanding who my sisters have become aligned with their unspoken, yet obvious commitment to let me see them as they are today. I am amazed and grateful for the opportunity to be with them again and, whether we agree or not on specific issues, I will always be aligned with their commitment to have a relationship with me.

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