A participant at a workshop this week (let’s call him Person A) showed exasperation describing an important client (Person B) – someone he has known for many years, who appears to value his advice, yet frequently charges off in the opposite direction.
From Person A’s description of what occurs in their interactions, it appears that Person A tends towards the risk averse/”away from” end of the spectrum while Person B tends towards the opportunity-focused/”towards” end of the spectrum. Person A sees himself as in the centre of the spectrum. Person B would mostly likely see themselves the same. (The other often appears as extreme from our perspective.)
What is the web that binds these two? Could it be that they are subconsciously influencing the other’s position? I believe so. This means that people’s positions are changeable. What seems like a fixed point of view may in fact be quite susceptible to change.
During interactions between A and B, B will appear overly-optimistic, lacking due caution and attention to detail. To B, A will appear negative, having tunnel-vision, blind to the opportunities and lacking trust. To bring the balance, each swings to the other extreme. The exasperation of Person A as he anticipates impending disaster may be experienced by Person B as negative and doubting his ability. Person A may experience Person B as blind to the obvious and putting the business at risk. As the risks are very evident to Person A, he can’t understand this behaviour. As Person B is seeing opportunity that Person A is not focused on, he wonders why Person B is ignoring what to him is a revenue opportunity, waiting to be tapped.
The strange factor in these transactions is how quickly people change their position when talking with others similar to themselves. Put Person B with a group of other optimists, and they may quickly swing to the other end of the spectrum, asking what the risks are and scrutinising the details of the proposed strategy. It is almost as though when the voice of optimism is being heard, the voice of caution needs airing and someone in the group will ensure this happens. And vice versa.
The best way to enter a dialogue duel is through the position of the other person. If you take their position, they will vacate it, and then you can have a dialogue that considers both sides of the argument. This may sound a bit like reverse psychology, but really it is demonstrating empathy with another’s position, seeing the world through their eyes and talking their language. This means they don’t need to guard this position.
This does require that you vacate your position and let go of any annoyance and frustration. These negative emotions often accompany a strong position, and the duels that follow.
Yes, it would be easier for me if the other changed their position. But why should they if I am not prepared to change mine? The moral of the story: Change me to change we.
This is how you resolve those ding-dong duels. Give it a go!