In an interdependent situation, synergy is particularly powerful in dealing with negative forces that
work against growth and change.
Sociologist Kurt Lewin developed a "Force Field Analysis" model in which he described any current level of performance or being as a state of equilibrium between the driving forces that encourage
upward movement and the restraining forces that discourage it.
Driving forces generally are positive, reasonable, logical, conscious, and economic. In juxtaposition, restraining forces are often negative, emotional, illogical, unconscious, and social/psychological. Both sets of forces are very real and must be taken into account in dealing with change.
In a family, for example, you have a certain "climate" in the home -- a certain level of positive or negative interaction, of feeling safe or unsafe in expressing feelings or talking about concerns, of respect or disrespect in communication among family members.
THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE Brought to you by FlyHeart You may really want to change that level. You may want to create a climate that is more positive,
more respectful, more open and trusting. Your logical reasons for doing that are the driving forces
that act to raise the level..
But increasing those driving forces is not enough. Your efforts are opposed by restraining forces --
by the competitive spirit between children in the family, by the different scripting of home life you and your spouse have brought to the relationship, by habits that have developed in the family, by work or
other demands on your time and energies.
Increasing the driving forces may bring results -- for a while. But as long as the restraining forces
are there, it becomes increasingly harder. It's like pushing against a spring: the harder you push, the harder it is to push until the force of the spring suddenly thrusts the level back down.
The resulting up and down, yo-yo effect causes you to feel, after several attempts, that people are
"just the way they are" and that "it's too difficult to change."
But when you introduce synergy, you use the motive of Habit 4, the skill of Habit 5, and the
interaction of Habit 6 to work directly on the restraining forces. You unfreeze them, loosen them up,
and create new insights that actually transform those restraining forces into driving ones. You involve people in the problem, immerse them in it, so that they soak it in and feel it is their problem and they
tend to become an important part of the solution.
As a result, new goals, shared goals, are created, and the whole enterprise moves upward, often in
ways that no one could have anticipated. And the excitement contained within that movement creates
a new culture. The people involved in it are enmeshed in each other's humanity and empowered by
new, fresh thinking, by new creative alternatives and opportunities.
I've been involved several times in negotiations between people who were angry at each other and
hired lawyers to defend their positions. And all that did was to exacerbate the problem because the
interpersonal communication deteriorated as it went through the legal process. But the trust level was so low that the parties felt they had no other alternative than to take the issues to court.
"Would you be interested in going for a win-win solution that both parties feel really good about?" I would ask.
The response was usually affirmative, but most people didn't really think it was possible.
"If I can get the other party to agree, would you be willing to start the process of really
communicating with each other?"
Again, the answer was usually "yes."
The results in almost every case have been astounding. Problems that had been legally and
psychologically wrangled about for months have been settled in a matter of a few hours or days. Most
of the solutions weren't the courthouse compromise solutions either; they were synergistic, better than
the solutions proposed independently by either party. And, in most cases, the relationships continued
even though it had appeared in the beginning that the trust level was so low and the rupture in the
relationship so large as to be almost irreparable.
At one of our development programs, an executive reported a situation where a manufacturer was
being sued by a longtime industrial customer for lack of performance. Both parties felt totally justified in the rightness of their position and perceived each other as unethical and completely untrustworthy.
As they began to practice Habit 5, two things became clear. First, early communication problems
resulted in a misunderstanding which was later exacerbated by accusations and counteraccusations.
Second, both were initially acting in good faith and didn't like the cost and hassle of a legal fight, but saw no other way out.
Once these two things became clear, the spirit of Habits 4, 5, and 6 took over, the problem was
rapidly resolved, and the relationship continues to prosper.
In another circumstance, I received an early morning phone call from a land developer desperately
searching for help. The bank wanted to foreclose because he was not complying with the principal
THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE Brought to you by FlyHeart and interest payment schedule, and he was suing the bank to avoid the foreclosure. He needed
additional funding to finish and market the land so that he could repay the bank, but the bank refused
to provide additional funds until scheduled payments were met. It was a chicken-and-egg problem
In the meantime, the project was languishing. The streets were beginning to look like weed fields,
and the owners of the few homes that had been built were up in arms as they saw their property values
drop. The city was also upset over the "prime land" project falling behind schedule and becoming an eyesore. Tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs had already been spent by the bank and the
developer and the case wasn't scheduled to come to court for several months.
In desperation, this developer reluctantly agreed to try the principles of Habits 4, 5, and 6. He
arranged a meeting with even more reluctant bank officials.
The meeting started at 8 A.M. in one of the bank conference rooms. The tension and mistrust
were palpable. The attorney for the bank had committed the bank officials to say nothing. They were only to listen and he alone would speak. He wanted nothing to happen that would compromise the
bank's position in court.
For the first hour and a half, I taught Habits 4, 5, and 6. At 9:30 I went to the blackboard and wrote down the bank's concerns based on our prior understanding. Initially the bank officials said nothing,
but the more we communicated win-win intentions and sought first to understand, the more they
opened up to explain and clarify.
As they began to feel understood, the whole atmosphere changed and a sense of momentum, of
excitement over the prospect of peacefully settling the problem was clearly evident. Over the
attorney's objections the bank officials opened up even more, even about personal concerns. "When we walk out of here the first thing the bank president will say is, 'Did we get our money?' What are we
going to say?"
By 11:00, the bank officers were still convinced of their rightness, but they felt understood and were
no longer defensive and officious. At that point, they were sufficiently open to listen to the developer's concerns, which we wrote down on the other side of the blackboard. This resulted in deeper mutual
understanding and a collective awareness of how poor early communication had resulted in
misunderstanding and unrealistic expectations, and how continuous communication in a win-win spirit
could have prevented the subsequent major problems from developing.
The shared sense of both chronic and acute pain combined with a sense of genuine progress kept
everyone communicating. By noon, when the meeting was scheduled to end, the people were positive,
creative, and synergistic and wanted to keep talking.
The very first recommendation made by the developer was seen as a beginning win-win approach
by all. It was synergized on and improved, and at 12:45 P.M. the developer and the two bank officers left with a plan to present together to the Home Owners' Association and the city. Despite subsequent
complicating developments, the legal fight was aborted and the building project continued to a
I am not suggesting that people should not use legal processes. Some situations absolutely require
it. But I see it as a court of last, not first, resort. If it is used too early, even in a preventive sense, sometimes fear and the legal paradigm create subsequent thought and action processes that are not