We hear it all the time…don’t talk politics or religion with family, coworkers, or even friends. It never ends well. It will spur anger and damage relationships.
Instead, we pursue opportunities to engage with like-minded people. We discover the media sources consistent with our view. We join online groups and forums that support our thinking. And, if we step out to engage dissenting opinion, it is done through anonymous, online debate where concise and witty assertions are a poor substitute for nuanced discussion.
Perhaps, the problem is not ‘what we discuss,’ but rather ‘how we do it.’ When is the last time you entered a political discussion with the genuine intention to learn and better understand the perspective of another’s view? Unfortunately, most of us enter such conversations with one simple objective…to win. We prepare our defense and engage for battle.
I’m not suggesting that you encourage political debate around the office water cooler. However, I do challenge leaders to consider how our tendency to avoid, or our approach to engage, in difficult conversation impacts the culture of the organization. Do you and your coworkers pursue ideas with the sole objective ‘to win?’ Do employees avoid difficult conversations out of fear? Have ‘cliques’ of like-minded employees formed?
If you desire a collaborative culture that values diversity of ideas, I encourage you to create a ‘safe space’ for difficult conversations and dissenting opinions in your organization. Consider the following to set the example:
Invite ideas and opinions that may be counter to your own.
Approach such conversations from a perspective of ‘inquiry’ rather than ‘victory.’
Control and refrain from judgment and immediate emotional responses.
The practice of these simple habits can have a profound impact on the culture, and success, of your organization. And, while you may not always agree with your colleagues, you will build a reputation as an empathetic listener and trusted leader.
I have to wonder what the world would look like if we brought this same approach to our conversations with family and friends. Try it out. Engage someone with a dissenting political or religious opinion in a thoughtful dialog without judgment or critique. Ask sincere questions, control your emotions, open your mind, and ‘CEEK a Better Way®.”