I’ve had quite a few interactions the past two or three days which have a common theme. And what that theme is illustrates how important it is for us, in doing lightwork, to have a good idea of the basic principles that we all subscribe to.
Obviously we all subscribe to love and that doesn’t change, apparently, no matter which dimension, form, or universe we’re in.
But I’m thinking of three other principles which come up again and again in the teams that I’m on. Those three principles are respect, fairness and integrity.
A good definition of the work of those who serve justice and the law would be the application of fairness with integrity and respect. I administered sections of a statute of Canadian Law – the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act – as a Member of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). I watched day after day as the claimants and everyone else in the hearing room cooperated, contributed and agreed to what was done with respect, fairness and integrity. Let’s look at those qualities more closely.
I live in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and I see so many quarrels start or escalate because one person feels disrespected by another. A person who feels disrespected seems to feel bitter, vengeful, victimized.
The disrespect need not show up in, say, language used. It may show up in something as innocuous as significant spacing or as difficult to observe as unconscious bodily gestures. Respect shows up in taking account of the other person, listening to what they say, and directing one’s attention with sincerity to the points they make.
A person who feels respected is a person more likely to cooperate with the team’s ends and means or correct them and stay with the team through disagreement.
As I sat hearing cases at the IRB day after day, I was struck by how the crux of the matter before me so often boiled down to a question of fairness.
I was struck as well by how counsel for the claimant remained calm and satisfied under a wide range of circumstances so long as the proceedings were seen as fair and counsel had a say in determining what fair looked like in the circumstances before us.
Fairness, to me, means that everyone sharing equally in the work and its rewards, in responsibility and acknowledgment.
Leaving love aside (and who can do that?), fairness seems to be the next most important consideration in getting along as a society and a team. On many occasions, I’ve looked for a second (remaining in line, taking turns, sharing), and either nothing approaches the desire for fairness or else the principle resolves itself into fairness in the end.
For me, integrity means the willingness to live and work in a manner that adheres to and upholds the ethics and morals of society, the laws of the land, and the universal laws.
Central to integrity is credibility. The individual team member must be seen to be telling the truth, to be reliable, to be credible.
One aspect of integrity, and where the rubber often meets the road, is to give serious attention to exceptions to the law. There are always exceptions to any law. An exception to a law may be made, for instance, in the case of a disabled person. A disability may create an unlevel playing field, in which case the disability must be taken into consideration in applying the law.
Oftentimes this translates into protecting the rights of the minority in a decision in which the majority has decided.
Here’s an example of an unwritten rule proving unfair to a minority class of people.
The bus system in my city operates efficiently and speedily. When anyone interferes with the smooth and steady flow of bus traffic, the action is viewed as being unfair to the bus passengers.
However each time a person in a wheelchair comes aboard the bus, the driver lowers a ramp, wheels the person in, fastens their chair belts, etc. When the person in the wheelchair leaves, the process is reversed. And each time the driver attends to a chair-bound person, the bus’s progress comes to a halt.
Seeing to the need of the person in a wheelchair causes the passengers to wait. The passengers would be less inconvenienced if wheelchairs were not allowed on the bus. But that affronts our sense of fairness at some level and calls for making an exception to the rule.
The outcome is that the bus passengers generally accept the wait as an exception to the rule that nothing should be permitted to hold passengers up. They see the circumstances as an acceptable exception to the rule. They regard it as fair under the circumstances to wait.
Ury and Fischer wrote about “principled negotiations.” (1) Their point was that negotiations flowed more smoothly when we first establish and agree to the principles that we’ll defer to in case of disagreement. That shifted negotiations from being subjectively-based to being objectively-based.
As we form our teams I encourage us to be aware of and articulate the principles, whatever they may be, upon which the team’s work is based and by which success will be measured. In the case of most teams, I submit that the principles that teams will be seen to follow, whether knowingly or not, are, in the vast majority of situations, respect, fairness, and integrity.
(1) Roger Fisher and William Ury. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2011.