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Working with, not against

I'm pulling a blog post out of my archive as a result of a conversation with one of my clients today. This particular client is a gifted relationship builder. And there are times when even the best relationshippers have some trouble with some people.


This post is from July 13, 2010.

I had the pleasure of some organizational development training from OD guru Thom Walters. This is a tidbit I wish I practiced more often.

There are two positions we function out of at any given moment: the position of trying to be right and the position of trying to understand. Our current culture is ingrained in the right vs. wrong mentality. In our business it really doesn’t ever matter who is right or wrong. What matters is that we work together to create an amazing outcome both internally, as well for our clients and customers.

Core idea: When we are in the posture of being right, we are making someone else wrong. This leads directly to tension and defensiveness, causing a polarized situation. We end up all being wrong because we lost our effectiveness to resolve the situation and move the project forward.

When we are in the posture of understanding, we are not necessarily admitting anything or accepting a particular behavior or situation. We are not giving in. We are getting to the bottom of what motivated someone to do what they did, or why they are taking a certain position. The best result is to move people out of defending their position and onto solving the needs of the project and the team.


After reading this original post, I thought I'd add a few phrases or actions that I've used that could help you when dealing with someone that is digging in on being right:

  • "Help me understand why you feel so strongly about..."

  • "I don't think this is the way you intended this, but what you are saying is making me feel....."

  • If they are just dug in and want to rant or vent, imagine they are a train and step aside until the train (their strong emotion) has passed. Then reengage. There is nothing good that will come from confronting them while they are in the heat of things. With a train, stepping in front of a moving train would be disastrous, so give them time to cool down.

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