Ever start what begins as a reasonable political discussion with your parents… and 15 minutes later find yourself hip-deep in a mucky, confusing swirl, dreadfully off-topic and surprisingly upset?
This doesn’t just crop up at the dinner table, on the telephone, or with your family. Sometimes it happens smack in the middle of your team’s budget review.
I recently stumbled on a post that really got my attention, about people’s ability to hold a point of view – even when there’s strong evidence to contradict it. This post, by Lane Wallace of the Atlantic, talks about how our very identities are wrapped up in our points of view. Wallace gives compelling explanations of why people feel so threatened when others challenge their viewpoints (research shows they even dig their heels in stronger when confronted with opposing facts and data). This is power-packed insight for anyone who seeks to influence or lead others (or just plans a visit to the in-laws).
OK, then: people have a remarkable ability to hold their point of view, even when there’s compelling evidence to the contrary. But what can one do about that?
At On Your Feet, we’ve had some pretty remarkable successes moving past entrenchment within teams and between individuals. Check out a few of our techniques to create emotional ahas (through story, experience, and anything else we can think of). Emotional ahas seem to leapfrog the push-me-pull-you that leaves both parties unchanged. Maybe the secret is that, by letting people experience those ahas themselves, the change comes from within. And when that happens, their perspectives on related issues, too, are changed – without sacrificing self-identity or “losing” anything. (Bonus bedtime reading: John Kotter’s The Heart of Change, a great source of digestible, practical examples of the role of emotion in organizational change.)
Can you think of a time you had a strongly held belief or opinion – about what was best for the future of the country, your child, the environment, success at work – and then it changed? What was it you thought was true? What changed your belief?