The recent thawing of US-Cuban relations begs the question, “What does it take to get removed from the “naughty” list?”
For 50 years The United States and Cuba have been on each others’ “naughty” list. In December of 2014 the United States restored diplomatic relations with Cuba. In January of 2015 new travel and trade regulations were enacted that enable U.S. travelers to visit Cuba without first obtaining a government license. In April U.S. President Barak Obama attended the Summit of the Americas in Panama, meeting and visiting with Cuba’s president Raul Castro. More recently Obama stated his desire to remove Cuba from the list of states who sponsor terrorism.
Numerous polls, cited by the Council on Foreign Relations, show public support for improved relations among Cubans, Cuban-Americans, the American public, and Latin American countries. Still, there is significant resistance to lifting the embargo, the most significant American effort to isolate Cuba and restrict their ability to function.
We all have our list, the list of people who we’ve written off. Those people or organizations (or countries) who did us wrong one to many times, committed the unforgivable sin, or threatened our way of life. People on our list are bad, evil, corrupted, lacking moral character, losers, and not worth our time. If we perceive them as dangerous enough, we won’t ignore them. We may even invest significant time and energy trying to control them, hurt them, avoid them, or teach them a lesson. From our perspective, we are OK, they are not OK.
What happens when it’s no longer working? What do we do when the cost of having someone on our list no longer makes sense?
Here are my Seven Steps to taking someone off your naughty list. These steps apply compassionate accountability, our signature approach for using the power of positive conflict to create a better world. It applies equally to individuals, organizations, and governments. These steps are difficult and don’t promise quick solutions.
Step 1: Start with being open. Be honest about what’s working and what isn’t. Disclose any and all agendas and feelings that are motivating behavior. Until there is honesty and disclosure, efforts to problem-solve next steps are doomed to fail.
Step 2: Ask for what you want by being clear about desired end-states. How do you want to feel differently? Do you want to feel safer, more confident, more successful, less stressed, less anxious? Don’t focus on solutions, but rather on how you want to feel. Most negotiations are an effort to replace negative feelings with positive ones. Put it out there, because unless these feelings are on the table, we don’t know what we’re working towards.
Step 3: Be resourceful in problem-solving. Create a space for free-flow of ideas, opportunities to experiment safely with new options, and a curious test-bed for innovation. Practice Plato’s definition of wisdom, “simultaneously entertaining opposing points of view.” Drop your ego, your fear, your skepticism long enough to try alternatives on for size.
Step 4: Embrace the consequences of letting go and moving on. Moving forward with a new relationship will have consequences. You might feel vulnerable for a while. You might have an urge to slip back into old ways of thinking and feeling. You may give up something important to you. It may be wildly successful despite your doom and gloom predictions and then you might feel embarrassed.
Step 5: Be persistent by identifying non-negotiable boundaries and making a new commitments. Know what your ultimate boundaries are, but don’t set impossibly high standards that doom the process from the start. Be willing make and follow through on new promises so that you are trustworthy. Then do it.
Step 6: Be open by taking stock of the emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual stress that you are experiencing. Taking someone off your naughty list is an act of courage, faith, and humility. Don’t compartmentalize your feelings or try to be a hero. It’s OK to name them and experience them.
Step 7: Repeat steps 1-6. As many times as it takes.
Moving toward diplomatic relationship with Cuba will be a long journey with no guarantees. Taking a client or co-worker off your naughty list might be a more realistic goal for today.
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