A (Almost) Ruined Vacation

Mutual purpose matters in all types of relationships — work, family, friends, and even employees at the places you do business. I experienced it on vacation!

Islamorada in the Florida Keys is a great getaway. You can stay at a pristine resort with houses nestled in a grove of coconut palms. It’s as close to paradise as you’ll find. When my partner and I were there after Christmas, we decided we wanted to invite my sister’s family to join us. She agreed, so while I was there, I went to the office to book the trip. We set the date for the first week of November.

Before we left, I went back to the office and double-checked, “Saundra, are we set for the first week of November?”

“Yes! I’ve got you down!”

Six months before a trip, you’re supposed to get a notification for a deposit. That time came and went and I received nothing.

I called and asked, “Saundra, do you need a deposit?”

“For what?”

“For the first week of November?”

“I don’t have you down.”

“Oh yes, you do! We talked multiple times when I was there!”

She said, “The entire resort is booked for a wedding.”

“I have the first week of November.”

“Umm…Let me talk to the manager.”

I hung up. We were at an impasse. I wanted what I had been promised, but that wasn’t being offered. I was angry.

Using CRIB Skills to Find Mutual Purpose

What do we do in these moments? How do we navigate a debate that comes from a clear lack of mutual purpose? It’s more than a misunderstanding.

When mutual purpose is at risk, first you need to step out of the pool of shared meaning. Remove yourself from the content, and call a timeout. Realise that you’re at an impasse. Then, use these four skills to re-create mutual purpose.

1. Commit to seek mutual purpose

See if the other person will talk about something you agree on. Ask a simple question like, “Can we take a moment and see if we can find something that we can both agree on?” Hopefully, the other person is reasonable. Rational people will say yes.

2. Recognise the purpose behind the strategy

Once you have their commitment, prioritise purpose over strategy. If you think about purpose as what I want, strategy is how I get there. But often we get so bogged down in strategy, we forget our purpose.

3. Invent a Mutual Purpose

If there’s not already a mutual purpose, come up with one. What will bring success to both parties?

4. Brainstorm Mutual Purposes

Ask for input. What purposes does the other person see as mutually beneficial?

Think back to my Florida Keys story. After I calmed down, I thought, “What was my purpose and strategy?” My purpose was to spend time with my sister and brother-in-law in the Florida Keys. My strategy was the first week of November. I could have argued about strategy, but I gave priority to the purpose: to enjoy a week with my sister in my favourite vacation spot.

So, I called Saundra back and asked, “Do you have the week before available?”

She said, “Yes! Thank you so much. This wedding group has been really hard to work with.”

The beauty and power of these skills is that we both won! There was no compromise. When we use the CRIB skills to create mutual purpose, we create win-win situations.

What if you could hardwire these skills? What if creating mutual purpose was as automatic as buckling your seatbelt? You’d have less conflict, less stress, more collaboration, and more respect. Genuinely striving towards a mutual purpose in our interactions makes all the difference.

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