Getting What You Want: Forced Agreement

| Aug 18, 2008
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ReneOver the weekend, I wrote a piece for a different website, before realizing I didn’t want to share my writing with them. The nominal topic was something other than trans, but truth is, I was using it as an excuse to talk community politics. So I offer it up here instead, where it might be better appreciated…

“These are not the droids you are looking for.” And with those choice words, Obi-Wan Kenobi became a fixture in geek culture forever more. And while he was using quasi-magical powers to get what he wanted, the rest of us can learn from his example.

What he did is sometimes called “forced agreement”, and it’s a legitimate negotiations technique. By matter-of-factly stating a premise that presumes your target’s complicity, you can do away with all sorts of unnecessary, and sometimes exhausting, debate. Basic in the extreme, it is nonetheless amazing how often it works.

I first learned it in 1996. That was when I took gainful employment as a plainclothes store detective, catching shoplifters and investigating internal crime. The proper execution of my job, by definition, meant confrontation, and forced agreement was our baseline tool for gaining cooperation from “non-compliant” individuals. I can’t tell you how many times the words, “I know you don’t want to do this in front of everyone, let’s take this back to my office,” came out of my mouth. And as long as they weren’t impaired in some way, it worked quite often. At the very least, it established a calm, rational tone upon which further discussion could be built.

Twelve years later, things have changed for me. I still work for the same company, but in a different capacity. I’m also in the midst of transitioning from male to female on the job…perhaps my greatest hurdle thus far in a personal quest for contentedness. Let me tell you, it’s no small feat, persuading a major Midwest retailer – we operate approximately 180 stores and employee 66,000 people across five states – with a traditionally conservative hierarchy to jump on board a bandwagon that, at this point, doesn’t enjoy much support at the local, state, or federal level. But they’ve girded me well for situations like this.

In fairness, my employers have been radically progressive in regards to my transition, but with something like this there are always sticking points. This past week, for example, I met with my Human Resources liaisons to discuss two of the biggest concerns in the trans-community: Healthcare and bathroom privileges. Going in, there were indications that the company had extended itself as far as it was willing to, and that left me feeling vulnerable; as a member of an unprotected class, anything they give me is just that: A gift. Still, joy in what you do have is always tempered by the sadness of what you do not.

I knew I wasn’t going to get everything I wanted at that table on that day; the people there couldn’t give it to me if they wanted to. My only goal was to make sure the conversation wasn’t over. And so, after a few pleasantries, I made sure I was the first to speak; “We all know this is wrong, history has shown us it’s wrong, so what are we going to do about it?” No one disagreed with me – I don’t think anyone could have disagreed with me – and just like that the conversation was on…then and again to happen at specific intervals over the course of the next year, the dates of which we agreed upon at that meeting. My goal was achieved, and we all left the room with a better understanding of each other.

Forced agreement is a simple, fundamental tool to help you get what you want. It won’t always work, and it won’t always do all the work for you. And it helps if you don’t make ridiculous or insincere assertions with it, like telling stormtroopers they’re not looking for these droids when obviously these droids match the wanted posters perfectly. But it rarely hurts your position and quite often will help you get to where you need to be. At the very least, everyone will know where you stand.

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Category: Transgender Opinion


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  1. says:


    This is a bit off thread, but I don’t know where else to ask it.

    I do admire the writing in this essay. Are blogging your transition somewhere that I can read it? (I couldn’t even find a profile for you posted in tgforum.)


  2. ronnierho ronnierho says:

    Battle on, Xena!

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