I was in the middle of a storm at sea last week when my lover, wife and partner of 40 years spoke some wisdom into my life. She said, “Tell me what happened, step-by-step, play-by-play.”
So I did.
She said, “Honey sometimes when you’re talking with someone face-to-face, you think you’re being clear when you’re really not.”
And then she gave me some examples.
And then she asked the questions that my adversary should have asked. She said, “Roy, you slammed the door on that relationship pretty hard. So what are the odds of this being worked out? Is there any chance at all? Give me some numbers.”
I said, “His odds are about 50/50.”
She said, “That’s what you need to tell him, immediately, the next time you talk.”
And then she asked me several more questions and demanded detailed, specific answers. And in every case, she said, “He deserves to have that information. Trust me. You’re much harder to read than you think you are.”
Forty years is a long time. You’re sort of required to listen to a person who has shared the majority of your waking moments with you since Richard Nixon was President. Pennie and I have been together through Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. And 4 of those guys served 8 years each.
In the end, I had a follow-up conversation with my friend and everything is fine now. But we agreed to use a code language as a form of insurance.
When both people know the code, all a person has to do is ask, “How strong are your feelings about that?”
People deserve to know when they’re walking into a minefield.
The code was taught to me 36 years ago by my friend Richard Exley. I should use it more often than I do. Would you like me to teach it to you?
It all comes down to assigning a number to the strength of your feelings.
ONE: “No emotional attachment.”
TWO: “I have an opinion.”
THREE: “I have feelings on this subject that cannot be changed, so be very, very careful.”
When two people know the code, at any point in a conversation a person might say, “I’m at about a 1.5 on this. Where are you?”
The other party might then say, “I’m at like 1.0.”
In that exchange, the first person said, “I don’t really have an opinion that I’m willing to defend. In fact, this whole subject doesn’t really matter much to me at all. I’m just sharing some things that are popping into my head.”
And the second party – the one who had a 1.0 – basically said, “I’m just trying to hold up my end of the conversation. In reality, I have no feelings on this subject whatsoever, so I’m fully prepared to let someone else make the decision.” In this instance, the code helped both parties understand they were discussing something that neither of them cared about.
If both parties tell the truth, the system saves a lot of time and it helps to reduce misunderstandings.
When you say you have a “number one,” you are saying, “You can ignore this completely. You can laugh at it, mock it or kick it to the curb, just please don’t judge me by it because I haven’t put any thought into it whatsoever. In fact, it may actually be a really stupid idea.”
When you say, “This is a number two,” you’re saying, “I need you to take this seriously and not just blow it off. I have an opinion and I have some feelings attached to it, but I’m open to hearing your thoughts. I believe this needs to be discussed.”
I’ve never heard anyone say, “That’s a number three with me,” because to have a true number three is to say, “I have a loaded pistol aimed at your head with the hammer cocked. If you so much as blink, this relationship is over. So if you care at all about remaining my friend, you won’t say another word.”
I’ve had people tell me they were at a 2.8 or a 2.9, but no one has ever said, “Number Three.” And I’ve always appreciated knowing that I had stumbled into an area where there was essentially no room for discussion.
My friend and I very nearly parted ways forever because he stumbled blindly into an area where my feelings run deep. So I shared a couple of stories with him, thinking that he would understand what I was telling him. When he didn’t respond correctly, he crossed a line.
My life-partner helped me understand that my friend hadn’t even known the line was there.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
Is there a chance that a person who wounded you, offended you, or made you furious had no clue they had walked into a minefield?
Or maybe you’re a person who was blown to bits because you had no idea you were walking on someone else’s holy ground.
Avoid misunderstandings, and
Arrive at conclusions more quickly
if you know the code.
And now you do.
Share it with people you care about.
Roy H. Williams