Thursday, 29 November 2012

Conquest or Consensus?

I drive a certain type of person nuts.

But that's okay, cause they drive me even more nuts.

How long has it been since you flirted with someone?  Know what's interesting about that kind of interchange?  If you think about it, it's adversarial.  It's me vs. you.  A power play - you're trying to jostle for position - who's the wittiest, who can make the other blush, who can take it closest to the line without crossing, or who can cross the line the furthest and get away with it.  I mean, it's all friendly, of course, but it's an eye contact, person to person style of conversation.

Ever worked with or been friends with a person who had to be right?  Every conversation is an argument to be won.  They are not to be outdone.  They will not concede their opinion for the sake of moving forward in the conversation?  You feel like you walk away from any chat you have with them as the loser, even though you weren't trying to play a game.  This is another conversation style that is by definition adversarial.  You're staring someone in the face, and SOMETHING's gotta give. 

Who's gonna look away?  Who's gonna do it?  Loser.

There's probably a time for those kind of conversations.  But I daresay it's a lot more rare than it needs to be.  I mean, if you need to prove to your dog that you have the authority to tell him he can't pee on the area rug, sure.  But dude.  I'm a smart, confident, capable adult, who has a valid opinion.  Do. Not. Try. To. Defeat. Me.

I had an experience today, where I was in one of those eye-to-eye conversations, and we kept on bouncing off each-other.  Then something really cool happened.  Somehow a change happened - slight redirection of the topic, and suddenly we weren't nose to nose, we were shoulder to shoulder, on the same side of the argument, in agreement.  And the tension dissipated like someone opened a window and let a breeze blow it all away. 

This is a tactic we use at work from time to time.  When we have to disappoint a client, we find whatever way we can to approach it from their side.  To promise them that we will work with them against those circumstances that led to their expectations not being met. 

Anyone out there who likes getting beaten down?  Maybe it's my inability to see it from the other side (it's the opposite of my personality type), but it seems like a no-brainer that you will get farther in life by joining people on their mission and rowing a couple strokes with them than you will by conquering them. 

You may or may not be able to recognize your own conversation style.  We're pretty good at justifying our approach, without even really thinking about what our approach is.  But I bet you can pick out other people's style.  And what you could do is start to proactively approach conversations from beside someone instead of in their face.  When you see the great results, I bet you'll start to displace your old habits pretty quickly.

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