A few years ago, I enjoyed conducting leadership workshops with a friend and colleague named Herb. One of our favorite simulated conversations was one in which he asked me to watch his house while he went on vacation. Our conversation demonstrating what happens when you do not negotiate Conditions of Satisfaction took place after his return. It went something like this:
Herb: Thanks for watching my house while I was gone. I really appreciate it.
Lyn: You are very welcome. Happy to help.
Herb: How did it go? Did you water the plants?
Lyn: Well, no. You didn’t mention that, and they looked like they were doing OK…maybe a little brown, but OK.
Herb: Did you take in the newspapers?
Lyn: Uh, no. There were only a few, and they were not very obvious from the street. After a day or so they seemed to disappear. I guess the neighbors helped themselves.
Herb: Well, how about the mail? Did you take it inside?
Lyn: Well, no. That didn't seem necessary since the mailbox was closed.
Herb: So, what about the dog? Did you feed and water him.
Lyn: Oh?! You have a dog?
This is an extreme case, of course, but you get the picture.
Offers and requests take place every day. The person who makes the request has one idea of his conditions of satisfaction; the person who will provide the service has a completely different idea of what the agreement means.
Conditions of Satisfaction is a legal term, but it is important in personal and professional interaction also. When holding a transactional conversations that results in a promise to do something, it is easy to jump to conclusions about what the promise entails. Without a thorough discussion of what the person making the request wants and what the provider understands, misunderstandings will ultimately occur. This leads to loss of trust, hard feelings and even broken relationships.
That is why it is essential to discuss conditions of satisfaction... the requester's expectations and the provider's understanding of the request. These include where, what, how, when or how often, who, etc.
Consider requests you have made in which the provider did not meet your expectations. Did you fully negotiate your conditions of satisfaction? Did you think through what you really wanted before making the request?
Consider requests you may want to make in the future. What are the factors that will make the transaction satisfactory for you?
Just as in the conversation above, serious consequences can result when conditions of satisfaction are left to chance.