When we are helping clients to rehabilitate their terms of business, we often need to reflect on the nature and quality of their agreement (and its opposite). And although we have been taught that agreement is good and that disagreement or conflict is bad, adopting an accord-centred approach makes it possible to reflect a little more deeply.
Accord = the relational aspect of agreement. Often overlooked in traditional contract making, it represents the heart and spirit of the parties’ agreement – their shared and separate hopes – the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of their commitments in ways that also authentically represent the “who”.
Discord = active disagreement, often manifesting in open conflict and disputes – but sometimes containing the potential for accord in narratives thickened around threads of the “absent-but-implicit”.
Dys-cord = unhealthy agreement, the illusion of agreement, often reflecting power imbalances – may represent the compromise that everyone is unhappy with – might also represent the type of “one-up” approach to contract-making and negotiating that tips the parties towards conflict and bickering over the contract at the first upset. Although dys-cordant agreements can be legally enforceable, they often leave the parties with a lingering sense of discontent and distrust that may lead to non-co-operation and eventually undermine their true “loyalty to the bargain”. Dys-cordant agreements are inclined to “leave value on the table” – especially intangible value.
How much of what passes for agreement is something less than true accord? And how might a more integrative approach, guided by purpose and values, help parties resolve discord and make healthier agreements?
* Adapted from Andrew C. Wood (2018) The Recruiters’ Casebook.