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By Michael Angier

The Power of Having a Veto

We had a good trip home from Florida last weekend. From Clearwater to Burlington requires 24 hours of steady driving. Depending on which route you take, it's 1,450 or 1,550 miles. We took the longer mountain route home and drove 11 hours the first day and 14 hours the second. We arrived tired but safe with Dawn, myself and Rex the cat very happy to be home in the Green Mountain State.

For the first time, we're experiencing three springs: one in Florida, another on the way back in the Carolinas and the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and spring is just beginning here in the Champlain Valley.

But something happened on the way back that caused Dawn and me to create a new ground rule for our relationship. And I think the idea has value for any team, partnership, personal or professional relationship.

We respect and appreciate each other's driving ability. We're both good drivers with excellent driving records. We DO have different driving styles but rarely have a disagreement about the other's driving. We did in South Carolina.

Our first day, we ran into a thunderstorm, and it rained as hard as I'd ever seen it rain. Visibility was so poor that many drivers pulled into the breakdown lane, creating an added hazard. I slowed down as much as I dared and got off I95 at the next exit.  

We sat out the worst of the downpour and after it let up some, I wanted to begin driving again. Dawn disagreed. She wanted to sit it out longer. But I wanted to put as much concrete and asphalt under us as we could that first day.

It was the first upset we'd had in over four months. We had some cross words, and we both felt a little hurt and misunderstood.

But a few miles down the road, a good discussion took place as to how it had happened and how we could prevent an upset over something similar in the future.

What we decided was that when it comes to our personal safety or risk to personal property, either one of us has veto power as to what we do or don’t do.

Veto power is the right to reject a course of action. Early in our relationship, we agreed to veto power in financial decisions. We set a limit as to how much we each could spend without the other's approval. It started with only $100 and then as our trust and our incomes grew, we raised it to $500 and now it's $1,000. What's interesting is, in ten years of marriage, I can't remember either of us exercising our veto. It was enough just to know it was there.

Even though it had worked well for us in finances, we never thought about it in other areas—like driving a car—or soon—a motor coach.

Veto power is a ground rule that can be agreed upon ahead of time. And it can prevent hurt feelings because agreements are made when all parties are calm and rational rather than stressed, tired or upset. There's a comfort in knowing your partner has to gain your approval in certain situations. AND that you are frëe to make decisions yourself EXCEPT in those situations.

It's clear, it's fair and it works.

Action Point
Set ground rules for your discussions. Agree ahead of time what is acceptable and unacceptable in a disagreement. Decide in advance what decisions require agreement by both parties. And agree upon what constitutes a veto. It makes for much smoother sailing—and driving.





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Last Updated 05/04/2005