Understand before challenging. (If you don't see how they can believe it, you probably won't change their mind.)

Musing for:

Understand before challenging.

Your colleague just made the most ridiculous assertion you’ve ever heard. You know that if the company acts on their guidance the results will be disastrous, and you can’t imagine how any intelligent person could possibly believe what they just said. Somebody needs to speak up.

Careful. You’re about to frustrate yourself.

Years ago, I noticed a pattern that showed up whenever I couldn’t see how someone could possibly believe something. One of two things always ended up being true.

1️⃣ Sometimes I found out that I had completely misunderstood what they believed or what they were saying.

2️⃣ Other times I found out that they knew something that I didn’t, and that something made their position believable.

Learning enough to understand the other person’s position doesn’t necessarily mean that you learn to agree with it. It just means that you’re finally ready to hold a useful discussion about where and how you disagree.

As long as you can’t understand how they can believe their position, you’ll just end up talking past each other in any dialog. You won’t make any meaningful progress.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” is how Stephen Covey worded the fifth of his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Only when you understand how someone can hold their position will you have a hope of helping them change that position.

And if you frequently find yourself up against people holding positions you can’t understand, let’s talk. One of my skills is representing an underrepresented position in a conversation, even when it’s a position I don’t personally agree with. Visit https://stevedwire.com/connect for a complimentary conversation to help you see things from a different perspective.

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