SynergyHow can one plus one equal more than two? It requires something called synergy.

Synergy is when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. As discussed in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, it’s when our self-awareness, imagination, conscience, will, motive for Win/Win, and empathic communication skills are applied to the toughest challenges we face in life. Synergy allows for creative cooperation as we become trailblazers who open up new possibilities for others to follow.

In typical interactions, compromise means 1 + 1 = 1 1/2 because each has to give up something. But synergy means 1 + 1 = 8, 16, or even 1000. Why? Because this is the place where all the time I’ve invested in relationships and emotional bank accounts pays off. This is where high levels of trust and cooperation lead to powerful levels of communication that seek the third alternative. Instead of standing on opposite sides of the problem, we can stand together on the same side and look for a better solution. Or, as the drawing shows, we aim for the “middle” ground that is actually higher, like the peak of a triangle.

So, how does one synergize? Come to any discussion prepared to listen rather than present and create rather than defend a position. (Hmm. Sounds a lot like Habit #5.) The essence of synergy is to value and respect differences, build on our strengths, and compensate for weaknesses. It requires that I recognize my limitations and see the resources available in others. Not only does this help others lower their own defenses, it opens up avenues for new alternatives as the excitement of mutual learning creates a momentum and energy.

Synergy is both exciting and terrifying at the same time as we allow ourselves to embrace a spirit of adventure, discovery, and creativity. While relying on inward security, we then face the adventure of not knowing how it will turn out. (Personally, I see this habit like being on a rollercoaster ride where I trust my seatbelt of integrity and values to hold me while I soar the heights, twists, and turns of relationships.)

Where do I need the third alternatives that synergy provides? In my marriage. In raising my kids.  At work. At volunteer committee meetings. In working with my critique partner to become a better writer.

Synergy seeks the higher ground.

What about you? How are relationships like riding a rollercoaster? What is your seatbelt? Could differences be used as stepping stones toward third alternative solutions?

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Tools for the Journey – Habit #6 – Synergize