Better decisions, avoiding blind spots, stimulating new thinking, and strengthening personal commitment are just a few of the benefits of cultivating dissent in your conversations. But it isn’t always easy to do. Here are three things that can help:
𝟏. 𝐃𝐨 𝐫𝐞𝐠𝐮𝐥𝐚𝐫 “𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐜𝐤-𝐢𝐧𝐬.”
When discussing important issues, go around the room or video screen to check in with each person. You might preface the check-in with questions like these:
• 𝑊ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝑤𝑒 𝑚𝑖𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑛𝑔 ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒?
• 𝑊ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑒𝑟𝑣𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛𝑠 𝑑𝑜 𝑦𝑜𝑢 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑎𝑏𝑜𝑢𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑑𝑖𝑟𝑒𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑜𝑟 𝑑𝑒𝑐𝑖𝑠𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑤𝑒’𝑟𝑒 𝑑𝑖𝑠𝑐𝑢𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑛𝑔?
• 𝑊ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑤𝑜𝑢𝑙𝑑 𝑏𝑒 𝑖𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑤𝑎𝑦 𝑜𝑓 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑓𝑢𝑙𝑙𝑦 𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑚𝑖𝑡𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑦𝑜𝑢𝑟𝑠𝑒𝑙𝑓 𝑡𝑜 [𝑤ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑤𝑒’𝑟𝑒 𝑡𝑎𝑙𝑘𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑎𝑏𝑜𝑢𝑡]?
Keep in mind that these questions are meaningless if you aren’t genuinely interested in folks’ responses, no matter how different they may be from what you expect or want to hear. When dissenting views 𝘢𝘳𝘦 expressed, instead of defending your views or arguing with theirs, try shifting into inquiry and getting curious. Mine the differences like gold.
𝟐. 𝐏𝐮𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐟𝐢𝐫𝐬𝐭, 𝐛𝐞𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐲𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐞𝐥𝐬𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐨 𝐢𝐭.
Deliberately ask folks to poke holes in your own assumptions or thinking. And then listen attentively to really understand what they’re saying. Assume they see things you’re blind to.
𝟑. 𝐅𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲, 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐦𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐥𝐲, 𝐠𝐞𝐭 𝐜𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧.
Is your desire to encourage dissenting views stronger than your discomfort at having your own views challenged? Dissenting perspectives may seem to threaten your objectives or your public identity, or both. Sincerely inviting dissenting views requires humility, courage and patience (it can take longer to hear and explore each person’s views). It’s hard to do unless you’re absolutely clear that its benefits outweigh the discomfort.
Recognize that when people express dissenting views, they usually do so because they want to contribute, not out of apathy or spite. Dissenting views are often much more valuable than unexamined agreement or presumed consent.
Even if it’s coming from a disgruntled place or not expressed perfectly, dissent can transform our thinking and performance if we treat it with respect.