22. What is an Objection Really?

This page is part of the Holacracy Habits series.

Today’s lesson gets at the heart of objections. The word “objection” sounds harsh, but the clarity it provides is critical.

As you practice the habit, “encourage objections,” remember the objector can always soften it by saying, “I think I have an objection,” or, “Yeah, I’d like to try an objection.” It conveys the objection round isn’t a competition. It’s more like asking a friend to play devil’s advocate.

Yet new circles often find themselves testing away valid objections, either because the Facilitator mistakenly pushes the objection out or the objector unknowingly says the wrong thing.

This happens because the type of highly technical, rigorous thinking required during objection testing isn’t the way we have to think most days. The questions are very precise. They are trying to get at something abstract, but very specific.

Today is a broad view of objections in general to help you understand what the process is really all about.

So, let's start with the basics: What is an objection?

In Holacracy, an objection is a reason the proposal causes harm. Each element in that sentence is important, but let’s dig in on the first part: What is a reason? In this context, a reason is an argument that can be evaluated purely upon its logical meaning without relying upon experience. For example, the argument, “I’m hungry therefore I need to eat,” is logically consistent, even though you have no idea whether or not I actually feel hungry.

A reason connects the dots between a cause and an effect. This is what we mean by the Facilitator “not judging” the arguments. The Facilitator is not judging whether or not the reason matches reality, but whether the reason, as presented, is sound. The Facilitator can’t really know whether an objection is valid or not, they can only test how things are expressed. They are not testing whether or not harm will be caused, but rather if the objector believes harm will be caused.

Remember the golden rule of objections: It’s far better to keep an invalid objection and integrate it than to exclude a valid one. If you integrate an invalid objection, you are just processing two tensions at once. If you incorrectly test away a valid objection, now you've actively introduced harm into the system. So, even though you may sense an objection is invalid, if the objector provides a reasoned argument then accept it and move on. Save energy from testing and put it into integration.

An objection, just like any other tension, is more feeling than thought. Your body tells you when you have one. When you see the proposal, does it spark some resistance? Then raise an objection.

But at the end of the day, an objection doesn't exist until it's expressed. So, even if you sense harm, you need to make an argument. That's really what an objection is.

Stay open to the possibility that there is an even better argument out there, but remember you might be the only person in the room seeing something... and if you don’t call it out, no one will.