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Quick guide to making agreements

The scenario

Making the agreement

It’s 09.00 on Saturday morning. Friends are due for supper at 19.30. There’s shopping to do and the meal to prepare. You would like some help.

In particular, you want to make the kitchen a more welcoming space. It has become a dumping ground for all sorts of ‘stuff’ that belongs to other members of the family and that you would like to be housed elsewhere.

So before you leave to do your shopping, you say to your partner: ‘Would you help me by tidying up the kitchen, please’

The response you get from behind the newspaper is a pre-occupied ‘Yep. No problem.’

When you come back from your shopping

Nothing has happened. The kitchen is as it was when you left.

You voice your disappointment. ‘But you said you would tidy up.’

‘And I will’ comes the reply. ‘I just haven’t got round to it yet’.

Two hours later

… you’re getting agitated, wanting the kitchen to be sorted out in good time. ‘What about the tidying up?’ you ask.
You get a slightly irritated response. ‘I said I’ll do it, didn’t I?’

30 minutes before your guests arrive

With a sudden flurry of energy, your partner descends on the kitchen, gathers up all the newspapers, tools and items for recycling, piles them up in a heap out of the sight of visitors – and looks at you with a triumphant smile. ‘There you are. I told you I would do it.’
You are speechless. You had something very different in mind.


What happened to the agreement?

You and your partner had very different ideas about what tidying up meant and when it would be done. So an apparent agreement was potentially the trigger for an argument.


What could you  have done differently?

You could have more clearly expressed your need.

For example: ‘I feeling a bit anxious about getting everything done so to put my mind at rest, I’d like some help.’

That way, it’s easier for others to connect with what’s going on for you. It’s more fun for them to contribute to your wellbeing.

You could have been specific about what you would like to be done, and by when.

For example (following up your earlier statement) ‘Would you cut out the newspaper articles that you want to keep and put them in the office, put the rest in the recycling bin and then put the tools away in the shed? I’d love it if you would clean the work surfaces too. And could you do that before I get back from shopping so that I have clear space to start preparing the meal?’

If the timing seems to be going astray, you could ask when your partner was planning to do what had been agreed. Or you could give a gentle reminder of the terms of the agreement.

‘I getting a bit stressed about getting everything done – and I’d so like to be calm and relaxed when our friends arrive. Are you still planning to do the tidying up? If so, would you do it in the next ten minutes?


Where else does this apply?

Everywhere – whether the agreement is within your family, with friends or at work.

Whoever you are entering into an agreement with, be specific about your needs and about the suggested strategies that would meet them. If it’s really important, write it down so that you and the other party each have a shared record of what has been agreed.

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