I'd rather be the entertainment than the main course!

Try a mental exercise for a moment. Imagine everyone you talk to is correct. You are correct as well of course. Everyone is. Imagine all that you try to do when ‘arguing’, in directing people to the ‘right’ way of thinking, is actually, try to get them to see the problem the way you see it.  All that arguing, cajoling, persuading, is not about right or wrong, black or white, up or down – Just a way of making sure the world sees things the way YOU see things.

Can you imagine what a terrible place the world would be if that were the case? Only one way of doing something. No different perspectives. No arguments, debates, discussions. No contention, no tension. In short – NO WAY OF LEARNING ANYTHING NEW.

Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing

Every argument you have, is an opportunity to learn something you previously didn’t know.

Does THAT change your perspective?

Instead of beating your ‘adversary’ into submission with your flawless logic, imagine instead encouraging the creation of a reality where both your view points hold equal value? It’s an old debate, but lets revisit for moment with some pretty extreme examples. I’m not condoning any particular perspective here by the way, just making the point.

1. Adolf Hitler is arguably the 20th Century’s most evil and detested dictator. From our perspective looking back – For sure, you’d be hard pushed to find any ‘right’ thinking person to disagree. But go back to 1938/9 and you see a totally different person. A politician that impressed other leaders and captured the will of the people and single-handedly gave a nation its pride back, particularly difficult given the outcomes of the ‘Great War’. At what point did the architect of a new, confident and modern Germany lose his status as a folk hero and become the most hated man of all time? After he lost?

2. Argentina and the Falklands. Back in the news at the moment, Mrs. Thatcher saved her political bacon a few years back by deciding to stand by the islanders that, while never having been here, identify with being British as a birth right. What would have prompted Mrs Thatcher and the government to accede to Argentina’s perspective back then? What if they had offered to ‘buy’ back the islands rather than have taken them by force?

3. Marketing v. Selling – which is most important? As you’ll see from this blog from a few months back, it’s an unanswerable question. Unless you know different!

4. Apple Mac v. Windows p.c. – which is best? You’ll go round and round on this one too, forever. Apart from the fact the answer is Mac. It’s always Mac 😉

See what I mean? It’s all about perspectives. I read once, that the way to deal with these situations is to stand on someone else’s ‘hilltop’ to enjoy the view from where they are standing, before coming to any conclusions. I think that’s great advice. But more importantly, you must learn that you don’t necessarily hold the answer. No one may. Or put another way, as I mentioned, perhaps everyone does.

It’s my way, or the highway

It’s the curse of the ‘compromiser’. Suggesting one solution to the group, given that their particularly empathetic senses have picked up on a unuttered consensus, only to be forcibly told that the solution absolutely won’t work. So they suggest another way. Then another. Each brilliantly crafted to give ground to all / most view points and move the group forward as fairly as possible.

Except we aren’t interested in fair are we? Only with what is right. As in, I’m right, and you’re not. Therefore I cannot countenance any deviation from my set of values. We see this all the time, every debate, argument, political discussion, product comparison etc. Big issue or small, we are all trying to establish the zenith. The pinnacle. The optimum, correct way to progress. Except there isn’t one. There is ONLY your perspective. The way you see the problem, is the problem.

Simply put, seeing a certain ‘situation’ as an oppoprtunity gives one a totally different perspective to when one sees a situation as a problem. It’s not for me to decide which view-point would be correct (!) but I would certainly advocate taking a moment to genuinely try to see them both. It’s a very powerful skill to develop.

Paralysis by Analysis

And perhaps even more importantly, try to apply the lesson to more general situations. There is always another side. Whether it’s an argument or opportunity, Whatever the type of situation, its worth viewing it in the round to get the fuller picture. There is (of course!) another side to this, and that occurs when you become so aware of the other perspective, you actually can’t move forward at all. Working too hard on this idea you are so keen to take everyone’s view into account, there’s no way to move forward.

I guess this is where we get to human beings, and turn to leadership to show us the way forward. Someone able to either distill the essence of the group requirement and create consensus, or someone with enough leverage to bring dissenters along too.

Its a little like selling. Providing a compelling argument, or vision, to enable the individual or group to follow your path. Even if that path is at odds to their own. But what I am saying, is that one must achieve this while maintaining the validity of the other perspective, even temporarily, rather than ignoring, or worse, undermining the other, sometimes to the point of destruction.

Because no matter how sure you are, how strong your logic or convincing your evidence is, the other person is right too. At least from their perspective.

So whats YOUR perspective? Am I talking nonsense? Or am I bang on? Let me know in the comments section below!

  1. strategyaudit
    strategyaudit says:

    You are right.
    The essence of marketing is to do two things:1. see something from another’s perspective, and 2. Being able to project forward and see something with the “benefit of a logical hindsight” informed by a rounded view of the forming/driving characteristics of the present.
    This skill also adds hugely to a capability to conduct a negotiation.